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Riding the Wheel of Samsara

September 23, 2014

Dozens of comments following Omer’s post, which confirmed the closure of the lab, would make you believe that it was a magical place where amazing things happened. And indeed, it was. But it was also more than just a place – the lab was a community with its own values, identity, voice and will. In short, it was a living being.

Since the news broke on Thursday, I’ve been searching for a right model to apply to the lab’s sudden demise: Shall we sit shiva? Hold a wake? Eulogize? Stumble through denial, anger, bargaining, and depression towards acceptance? Different cultures deal with a loss in remarkably varied ways. Which one is the most applicable to ours? Reflecting back on the history of the lab that by some accounts goes back more than thirty years and spans several companies, I realized that the right answer had been staring at me all along: the document authored by Naughton and Taylor that beautifully summarized the main principles on which our lab was founded was called “Zen and Art of Research Management” [1]. How very true! One cycle of many reincarnations and rebirths has just completed.

Buddhists process loss in a manner that may look insensitive and heartless. Instead of grieving they celebrate the chance for a new beginning. Even if no one entity may eventually claim to be MSR SVC’s rightful heir, its spirit of cross-area collaboration, mutual respect, commitment to fundamental research and support of technology transfer will live on.

I am truly grateful for the opportunities afforded to me by 11 years with MSR SVC, the most cherished of which is the list of collaborators that includes dear friends, bright Ph.D. students, some of the strongest minds in CS, and all around excellent fellows. Thank you and good luck!

[1] Elaboration of Naughton and Taylor’s principles in a piece by the last lab director Roy Levin can be found here.

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