Can Awards lead to premature death?

Adolfo Neto
1 min readAug 8, 2017

From Maryam Mirzakhani by Terry Tao:

After she won the Fields medal in 2014 (as I posted about previously on this blog), we corresponded for a while. The Fields medal is of course one of the highest honours one can receive in mathematics, and it clearly advances one’s career enormously; but it also comes with a huge initial burst of publicity, a marked increase in the number of responsibilities to the field one is requested to take on, and a strong expectation to serve as a public role model for mathematicians. As the first female recipient of the medal, and also the first to come from Iran, Maryam was experiencing these pressures to a far greater extent than previous medallists, while also raising a small daughter and fighting off cancer. I gave her what advice I could on these matters (mostly that it was acceptable — and in fact necessary — to say “no” to the vast majority of requests one receives).

When I read that, it reminded me of Alfie Kohn’s Punished by Rewards: awards are bad for everyone, according to Kohn.

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Adolfo Neto

Associate Professor at UTFPR. Interested in programming (Elixir), logic and Deep Work.