A pretentious title that has caught on in the high-tech industries, referring to the most senior person in the company who works with the company's technology (as opposed to the big cheese, the top bean counter, and other high-muckety-mucks of management).

While they are certainly knowledgeable of the technology used by their industries, perhaps getting their hands dirty or perhaps just being the idea man, they are not (in general) scientists, simply because what they do is not (in general) science. Some companies, or individuals, use Chief Technology Officer to describe the head geek (though there may be legal or other reasons to avoid that if the person is not an officer of the company); that term is not objectionable.

Unfortunately, the term science (and scientist, by derivation) has become synonomous with work involving technology or mathematics. But,

Do I detect umbrage? Do I hear the raising of hackles? To say that a field of endeavor is not science is not to denigrate it; it simply means that the practitioners do not follow the scientific method in achieving their goals.

The scientific method consists of

  1. Observing the workings of a system of interest
  2. Constructing an hypothesis to explain how and why it works the way it does
  3. Performing an experiment that will support the hypothesis or contradict it
  4. Preferably, using the hypothesis to predict other properties of the system not yet observed, then performing other observations or experiments to test the predictions
  5. Discarding the theory if a later observation contradicts it

Because the "chief scientist" at SGI (just to pick an example; nothing personal) revolutionizes the application of computing to the making of movies, does not make him engaged in science.

Amusingly, a player of some kinds of computer games is engaging in scientific research when, for instance, e uses the scientific method to discover the rules involved in building a civilization starting with just stone knives and bearskins. The results don't have to be significant or useful, but the process must be scientific!

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