Books,  Excerpts

Excerpts from “Models of My Life: The Remarkable Autobiography of the Nobel Prize winning Social Scientist & Father of AI” by Herbert A Simon

My March 2021 book! Have heard so many things about Prof. Herbert Simon on CMU campus, was always curious about his life, this book satisfies my curiosity about his childhood, teenage, UG days, Ph.D. life, Nobel Prize Laureate, etc. I first read the Chapter 9 “Building a Business School: The Graduate School of Industrial Administration” called as GSIA on campus, renamed to Tepper School and then rest of the chapters. Was lovely to read about CMU in many chapters 😛

[Page xix] I have been a scientist, but in many sciences. I have explored mazes, but they do not connect into a single maze. My aspirations dod not extend to achieving a single consistency in my life.

[xxix] Some speak of search for their roots. But that is a false metaphor. For these strands that we trace backward through time have no root tips.

[39] “I attended very few classes.” 😀

[39] I resolved to major in economics, until I learned that it required an accounting course. I switched to political science, which has no such requirement. (A strange beginning for someone who was later to be founding father of a business school and a Nobel Laureate in economics.

[41] The great enemy of foreign language learning is a sense of shame, an inability or unwillingness to become a child again and to let one’s in adequacies show.

[69] The arrogance (or is it only confidence) of the young can be impressive. But mine survived my youth. Even today, my knee-jerk response to referees and other critics is the same: How can they be so foolish? I sometimes need a cooling-off period of hours or days before I can make a rational reply.

[72] For Ridley, the gras was always greenest on his own side of the fence. watching him, I came to understand that well-managed organisations are powerful instruments for achieving socially important goals, and not yokes around the necks of their members.

Defining academic entrepreneur.

[142] Prudent businessmen, like prudent educators, always follow alexander Pope’s precept: “Be not the first by whom the new are tried; nor yet the last to lay the old aside.” The problem of the entrepreneur is not persuade someone to go first; the others will follow readily enough.

[144] At first I did not recognize that when you are in a position of authority you cannot debate freely with people in your organization without some of them believing that they may endanger their careers if they disagree with you too vigorously. Perhaps they are right — I like to think not in my case, but self-deception is easy. People who agree without you are apt to seem a little more intelligent than those who don’t. Power does corrupt.

[147] Only people who believe deeply and almost fanatically in a dream — as many of us in GSIA [Business school at CMU] did– can struggle so hard without inner doubt and conflict, and without losing in the presence of frequent disagreement on particulars, a deep sense of common purpose and mutual respect.

[148] High aspirations, common sense, and responsibility for getting results. It seems simple enough.

[153] From observing Elliott Smith I learned that being a decent person is terribly important, but being a “nice guy” is not important at all.

[157] The liberal arts tradition (if not always the practice) is one of extreme decentralization. In its limiting form, a faculty is a collection of individuals, each expert in his or her own field and each possessing an autonomy called academic freedom.

[233] My account aims, rather, at understanding why and at what times particular meteors fall from heaven with a terrific crash while others slip silently and unnoticed into the sea.

[248] I had only one reservation: He [Dick Cyert, future president of CMU] seemed to enjoy power too much, a worrisome trait in a leader. (Leaders should exercise power, but enjoying it is another, and more dangerous, matter.)

[251] Campus politics and administration need to be guided by two goals: excellence and innovation.

[252] Innovation means not simply generating ideas but disseminating them. Ideas can be disseminated by talking and writing, and the dissemination.

[306] Let me state the Travel Theorem precisely, and then say how I came to discover it. Theorem: Anything that can be learned by a normal American adult on a trip to a foreign country (of less than one year’s duaration) can be learned more quickly, and cheaply, and easily by visiting the San Diego Public Library.

[334] With a little more ability to say no, and with the aid and forbearance of my graduate students, I will be inclined to move more and more of my efforts into research.

[335] My very first trip abroad with Dorothea, the visit to India in 1959 at the request of the Ford Foundation, was a “diplomatic” mission, to survey business education in India and make recommendations to the Foundation for a program to strengthen it.

Comments Off on Excerpts from “Models of My Life: The Remarkable Autobiography of the Nobel Prize winning Social Scientist & Father of AI” by Herbert A Simon

Professor @ IIIT-Delhi