Sunday, June 12, 2016

Feynman's letter to Wolfram: You don't understand ordinary people; what is RFP;ht?

I saw Richard Feynman's letter to Stephen Wolfram: You don't understand "ordinary people". In the bottom of the letter I saw "RPF;ht". I was curious to understand this abbreviation. RPF is Richard P Feynman and "ht" is Helen Tuck:
'ht' is Helen Tuck, the secretary at Caltech's Theory Group for many years; that mark indicates she typed the letter. I was there many years after Feynman passed away, but I have fond memories of Helen and some of the stories she had to tell about the "old days". -kscaldef
Here is an article about Helen Tuck's retirement
The letter was in reply to Wolfram's letter seeking advice from Feynman on starting a new institute for complexity research to overcome the inhibitions imposed by his existing environment.

Needless to say Wolfram didn't heed his advice and the next year founded UIUC's Center for Complex Systems Research; then, in 1987, he formed Wolfram Research, the company responsible for releasing Mathematica in 1989 and, more recently, Wolfram Alpha. - Letters of Note
Feynman suggests, rather bluntly, Wolfram does not understand ordinary people:
You don’t understand "ordinary people." To you they are "stupid fools" - so you will not tolerate them or treat their foibles with tolerance or patience - but will drive yourself wild (or they will drive you wild) trying to deal with them in an effective way.
He further advice him to try to stay away from ordinary people as far as possible with one exception, to fall madly in love.

Here is the letter in full:

CALIFORNIA INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY
CHARLES C. LAURITSEN LABORATORY OF HIGH ENERGY PHYSICS

October 14, 1985

Dr. Stephen Wolfram
School of Natural Sciences
The Institute for Advanced Study
Princeton, NJ 08540

Dear Wolfram:

1. It is not my opinion that the present organizational structure of science inhibits "complexity research" - I do not believe such an institution is necessary.

2. You say you want to create your own environment - but you will not be doing that: you will create (perhaps!) an environment that you might like to work in - but you will not be working in this environment - you will be administering it - and the administration environment is not what you seek - is it? You won't enjoy administrating people because you won’t succeed in it.

You don’t understand "ordinary people." To you they are "stupid fools" - so you will not tolerate them or treat their foibles with tolerance or patience - but will drive yourself wild (or they will drive you wild) trying to deal with them in an effective way.

Find a way to do your research with as little contact with non-technical people as possible, with one exception, fall madly in love! That is my advice, my friend.

Sincerely,

(Signed, 'Richard P. Feynman')

Richard P. Feynman

RPF;ht

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