Sunday, November 02, 2008

I want to be a knowledge engineer!

The best thing about being a student is that your job is to learn. Except it isn't really a job at all, since I'm the one paying the university, not the other way around.

The sad thing about being a student, is that it cannot last. Once you've done enough learning, you're expected to go out there in the industrial world and use that knowledge. My current plan is to work in the mornings, raising enough money to pay for my classes autonomous learning (I'm a grad student) in the afternoon. I prefer this to filling out grant application forms.

But I've stumbled upon this fiction-sounding job title, "knowledge engineer", which sounds too good to be true. According to that article, a knowledge engineer acts as an intermediate between domain experts and programmers. So the domain expert does the hard job of finding and reading papers and arguing with other experts and performing experiments and keeping up with the latest research. This process apparently turns experts into brains floating in a vat of brains, thereby losing their ability to communicate with the outside world.

Somewhere in this outside world lies a programmer, who is also a domain expert, an expert in program construction. Thus he lives in his own vat, separate from the domain expert's. The programmer vat is equipped with wheels, and it travels from vat to vat trying to simplify the jobs of the other brains. Many of them perform dull and automatable tasks everyday without realizing that a computer could do it for them, freeing them to do more arguing and reading and experimenting. So the programmers offer to write them useful new tools and the experts agree to explain all of the little details which the programmers could need, and the experts blabber on and on and on and the programmers can't take it anymore. I just need to know whether measuring an increased atmospheric pressure leads to predicting a higher or a lower temperature! Who cares about the details of the moving air masses and the process of cloud formation and the reason altitude messes with our measurement?

I do. I mean the knowledge engineer does, I just wish I was a knowledge engineer. When the programmer vat approaches the expert vat, the knowledge engineer's brain jumps from one vat to the other, and begins to ask questions. He does care about the process of cloud formation because he's naturally curious, and maybe it's not going to help with the problem at hand or maybe clouds, pressure and temperature are all intimately linked in some complicated way which the knowledge engineer just can't wait to discover. Then he jumps back into the programmer vat and explains the parts which turned out to matter to the problem at hand, using words which make sense to the programmers, because at the bottom of his heart, he's one of them. The programmer vat is his own travelling home, the one with the cables floating everywhere and the squeaky mouse-like wheels. Domain experts just love the knowledge engineer, because he cares about their stuff, and programmers also love the knowledge engineer, because he talks their language.

Anybody out there who wants to love me?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Yes I also love to be a knowledge engineer! But don't know what I should possess to be a one!Appreciate your help!