Associate thinking is so cool. That moment when you can connect the dots with seemingly different topics is kind of mind-blowing.
This semester I’m in a special topics CS class. I would not consider myself a particular fan of CS or computers or coding or programming or any of that, however, our professor is an advisor of mine which is how I found out about the class and why I knew I had to take it. Sometimes I jokingly call it my fake CS class so that people don’t confuse it with one of the required CS course where we learn a coding language. In this special topics class though, it’s all about computer architecture and the current process, history, and structural components involved with trying to make faster computers.
Today our professor decided to let us just have a fun Q and A day where we could ask him any question we wanted to about computers and he would try to give his best answer. We ended up talking a lot about his research in particular, because we were all curious about what exactly he does, and it turns out he’s been a huge leader in the process of trying to fundamentally change computing.
Like I said, computers aren’t really my thing, but what made this class particularly interesting to me was the fact that I could relate it so multiple other conversations I’ve had at different points in my learning journey.
Turns out a lecturette on neuromorphic computing (essentially the computing involved with trying to model the brain which is the essential technology behind machine learning; self-driving cars and all that jazz) is shockingly similar to a leadership session about defining versus distinguishing while at a conference around shifting the current education paradigm. Both are about the fundamental elements of learning and how our brain or a computer brain model is taught to distinguish elements like a cat from a raccoon.
Then we started talking about quantum computers, and I realized that last time I really had an in-depth conversation about quantum computing was the summer after 10th grade while at nerd camp (Duke TIP) taking a course called spy 101. Yet even though it was a good few years ago, I remembered the basic concepts still because that class to this day has been one of my favorites that I ever took; this was because the course was entirely interdisciplinary. We talked about the mathematical side of different kinds of codes and how they work, and modular arithmetic (all math I’ve only started to even see in college), and on top of that we talked about the history of coding and it’s role in World War 2 and then also hypothesised and explored the future of computing with the science behind quantum computers. It was an amazing course, and one I remember better than a lot of my high school classes in terms of content.
Interdisciplinary learning just makes so much logical sense to me. In my experience, it just makes learning more memorable and more relatable in general. Meanwhile, I have classes like today in linear algebra and physics where in my linear class we spent the whole time talking about a topic we learned week one in physics, and in physics, we talked about a topic we learned early on in linear. When I get stuck in classes like that I honestly tune out a great deal no matter how much I know I should pay attention because things just get boring when they’re too repetitive without a new spin or learning connection.
My big wish is that there would be more interdisciplinary courses for credit in the education system. There are starting to become a lot of classes available that are interdisciplinary in nature, but they still are only being allowed to count as a “free credit” or something to the extent that basically means the material you’re learning can’t actually keep you on track for graduation with helping you receive required credits. It’s really frustrating sometimes to be honest.