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Technical Universities in Europe: a Recommendation Thread

-6 Post author: Ritalin 21 November 2012 06:25PM

I wish to transfer to a university in Europe, to complete my engineering formation. I thought it might be the opportunity to initiate a discussion on the merits of European technical schools, given how many people here have a STEM background, and have experienced the first-hand.

 

Which ones do you think are best at teaching? Which provide the best starting point, professionally? Which have the most productive, idealistic mood among the studentship? If you've been to several of schools, how do they compare to each other?

 

The floor is yours.

Comments (23)

Comment author: RobertLumley 21 November 2012 08:57:15PM 7 points [-]

Better suited to the open thread.

Oscar_Cunningham

Comment author: JoshuaZ 21 November 2012 08:57:46PM 5 points [-]

This may make more sense in the open thread. Also, to a large extent your question as phrased encourages people to use personal experience and anecdote which are less than accurate for getting good information and consensus. It might help also if one stated what type of engineering was going into and what one wanted to do after one has the degree.

Comment author: Ritalin 21 November 2012 10:36:26PM 2 points [-]

I find that aggregate anecdotal experiences give me a better sense of an atmosphere than hard statistic data.

For instance, I've achieved a much firmer grasp of the subjective experience of being a black person from Richard Wright's personal accounts, Franz Fanon's case studies, and the (occasionally inaccurate) Roots.

I am also more interested in the subjective insights of like-minded rationalists than I am in a hypothetical statistical study of how students feel on average (of course, such a thing would be welcome, but I do not know of its existence, and, in fact, hardly expect it to exist).

I'm a general engineer, jack of all trades and master of none. I wish to specialize in trains. My goal is to use that knowledge to help develop ecologically sustainable infrastructures in the Third World; the planet cannot sustain nine billion cars, even if they were electric. This is intended to be my personal contribution to fighting existential risk. Making some money along the way would be nice, too.

I phrased the post vaguely because I would like to know more about the general picture of engineering in Europe in general and Germany in particular. I find it rather more difficult to gather information on engineering than on science. I suspect that the problem of industrial secrecy might be involved somehow.

I didn't know there was such a thing as an open thread. I'll make sure to use it mroe often. However, I posted this in "discussion" because I thought the end result would be a gathering on information that new lesswrongers might find useful in the future, and would like to find easily. That said, do you still think it would be better to do this discussion on the Open Thread?

Comment author: Vladimir_Nesov 21 November 2012 10:58:45PM *  3 points [-]

My goal is to use that knowledge to help develop ecologically sustainable infrastructures in the Third World; the planet cannot sustain nine billion cars, even if they were electric. This is intended to be my personal contribution to fighting existential risk.

This doesn't contribute to fighting existential risk in any way that I can see. If "intended to be my personal contribution" means that making a contribution is a motivating factor, rather than a perceived side effect that happened to be a property of the decision taken for other reasons, then there are probably career choices that are much better in that respect. (Most notably, personal philanthropy may allow more impact, in which case the career should be optimized for money and fuzzies.)

Comment author: Ritalin 21 November 2012 11:11:00PM -1 points [-]

This doesn't contribute to fighting existential risk in any way that I can see.

Poor countries are growing rich. There are many people there. These people will want to move around. They might be tempted to do it using cars. That would be bad in terms of resource consumption, energy consumption, and, for a while, carbon emission. Trains represent a much more energy and resource-efficient solution. Such solutions are good for the sustained existence of humankind at population levels close to the current one.

then there are probably career choices that are much better in that respect.

I am quite open to suggestiona. Reduction of existential risk is the most important thing in the world to me, at least when thinking in far-mode.

Comment author: Vladimir_Nesov 21 November 2012 11:40:05PM *  4 points [-]

Such solutions are good for the sustained existence of humankind at population levels close to the current one.

This is not what "existential risk" means. If some disaster was guaranteed in wiping out 99.9% of all population, but not more, it poses no existential risk at all (assuming it's possible to rebuild eventually). For this reason, it doesn't seem likely that things like global warming or resource scarcity pose existential risk.

Comment author: Kaj_Sotala 22 November 2012 07:54:54AM 4 points [-]

Though note that Bostrom actually does list "Resource depletion or ecological destruction" as one possible type of x-risk in the linked article.

Comment author: JoshuaZ 21 November 2012 11:53:55PM 4 points [-]

For this reason, it doesn't seem likely that things like global warming or resource scarcity pose existential risk.

In so far as unstable societies make for dealing with existential risk much more difficult this contributes to existential risk. There's been some discussion also of whether in general rebuilding is possible given how much we've consumed in easily accessible, non-renewable resources in order to bootstrap our way to our current tech level. CarlShulman and I discussed this here a while ago, with Carl arguing that it wasn't much of an issue.

Comment author: drnickbone 22 November 2012 08:44:07AM 3 points [-]

I think the general point is that a big population crash may well leave a remnant which is unable to re-industrialise (too few to make key inventions, too scattered, too many other problems). Or the remnant may have strong cultural pressures against re-industrialising, given it was such a disaster last time. The small residual population would eventually go extinct from natural causes, or evolve into something non-human. So the crash is an existential risk.

Comment author: Ritalin 22 November 2012 01:12:51AM 1 point [-]

That aside, what are the occupations you would suggest for an engineer with a wish to adress existential risk? Did you have anything specific in mind when you said "then there are probably career choices that are much better in that respect"? Name three of those.

Comment author: Vladimir_Nesov 22 November 2012 01:30:38AM *  2 points [-]

Did you have anything specific in mind when you said "then there are probably career choices that are much better in that respect"?

No. My observation was that this particular choice seems to be of no value for existential risk reduction, that if there are some choices that provide some value, that's much better than no value at all (actually, this is faulty step, as even if a "better" choice is much better in relative value, its absolute value may still be low, so that it does almost no good), and that there probably are some (saying which ones can be expected to be useful and are plausible choices for a career needs considerably more research than I can think up for a comment, and I don't know of a reference that already answers this question). If you go with professional philanthropy, optimize for money. This is generally an easier choice, as you can switch donation target without retraining and based on future knowledge about which organizations and kinds of activities become effective.

Comment author: D_Alex 23 November 2012 07:07:04AM 1 point [-]

What languages do you speak well enough to fully benefit from instruction in those languages?

Comment author: Ritalin 23 November 2012 10:57:58PM 0 points [-]

French, English, Spanish, Catalan, German, Arabic, and I can easily understand Portuguese and Italian.

Comment author: Risto_Saarelma 22 November 2012 06:45:44AM 0 points [-]

How many people are there even going to be here who have spent long enough in several different European technical schools to be able to do a meaningful comparison between them?

This might be a good starting point for how to aim high for an academic career.