Have you ever wondered why the less "pure" a scientific field is, the less progress we've made?

The more abstract a subject is, the easier it is to reason about and therefore make progress on. That's why we've made a lot more progress in math and physics than any other subject. The problem became more salient recently as some of the perceived scientific progress made in the less pure sciences -- psychology, medicine, economics -- is being nullified in a widespread "replication crisis" where many scientific studies are failing to reproduce.

One way to get more abstract is to take the meta view of a subject. Programming Language Theory (PLT), for example, is the study of programming languages and their features and characteristics. While a lot of progress has been made in PLT, rarely does this translates into features in languages used in the real world. There's often decades-long gap for some form of a PLT idea to make to the industry because programming is messy and complicated and full of human problems that PLT researchers don't bother studying.

I have a lot more respect for people who stick to the base game, avoiding getting sucked into the much more comfortable metagame. While we need researchers and scientists to go meta, they should remain tethered to the base-game and work closely with practitioners.

I've first noticed this problem in the startup world where you see famous people that sell books, talk at conferences, and tweet advice to founders, but when you take a closer look, they've never done much founding themselves. They're like the "entrepreneurship" professor that never built a business. They're experts in the metagame -- they're polished speakers, engaging writers, and thought-leadering tweeters. The problem, though, is that they're not judged by customers, the market, or nature, instead they're judged by their peers. I call them metapreneurs.

This is an instance of what Nassim Taleb calls "The Expert Problem" -- when other experts and meta-experts judge experts. Eventually the lack of contact with reality will corrupt the field. In the sciences, that lead to the replication crisis and the absurdities of the humanities.

If you find yourself going to a lot of conferences, opining too much on the latest fad in your field, and talking more about doing the thing than doing the job itself, then you, my friend, are getting sucked into the metagame.