Remembering with gratitude

29-12-2020 | Posted by Joaquín Martí


I still remember the times when we visited clients in their offices, went about without facemasks, dined at a restaurant, or travelled abroad for holidays. All those things start to sound anachronistic, as we become more used to the new normal.

Confinement invites retrospection. And I remember writing in 2003 a decalogue for our young engineers, four of whom are still in Principia, even if they are a bit less young. Indeed, the recollection of the catalogue had already materialised in the talk that I prepared for our XXIII Users’ Meeting… which the pandemic forced to cancel.

The decalogue was oriented to the practice of numerical analysis in our consulting work and some of its points remain valid today. Its leit motiv was that the enormous and growing power of our analysis tools does not reduce, rather increases, the responsibility of the mind controlling them.

As a curiosity, I recall some below:

  • Quality does not end with careful documentation; above all, it requires ensuring that the results are correct. After getting a result, try seriously to shoot it down, to see if it holds; if you do not know how, get somebody to do it.
  • Results are not simply accepted, one must understand them, identify with them. Otherwise, they are unacceptable.
  • Think. Think. Think. As automata, we already have the computers, which are better than us at that task.
  • No numerical problem is attacked without a prior approximation by hand. No numerical result is incorporated without revisiting the hand approximation.
  • It is essential to be familiar with the order of magnitude of the basic things. It is not a problem of memory, as they are few, but one of knowing which are basic.

And other similar ones. I must state, loud and clear, that we have a fascinating job, both in the consultancy and the software areas. And we perceive distinctly the role that our clients play in our success, providing the finances and, also, the problems, varied and captivating, that we then do our best to solve.

As once stated by Whitehead, co-author with Russell of “Principia Mathematica”: No one who achieves success does so without the help of others. The wise and confident acknowledge this help with gratitude.” I therefore take advantage of this recollection of the decalogue to recognise that it is to our clients that we owe the luxury of a fascinating profession and to offer them our sincere thanks.

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