I read a sentence as below

Now, these results are not quite as bad as they sound. Although such adversarial examples are common, they're also unlikely in practice. Nonetheless, it is distressing that we understand the theory so poorly that this kind of result should be a recent discovery. Of course, a major benefit of the results is that they have stimulated much followup work.

This paragraph comments on an experiment of the theory. This theory works very well for most (i.e., more than 98%) examples, but fails on some so-called adversarial examples. People don't understand why the theory fails on them, because people thought they are easy examples.

I have a shallow feeling about the meaning of the sentence:

We understand the theory very poorly. This fact is distressing.

First, I don't understand why this kind of result should be a recent discovery can emphasize we understand the theory poorly. Then, I'm not clear why should be is used here. What is the difference between should be and is in this context ?

  • Hmm, can you provide nearby sentences for additional context? Maybe that would help clarify the author's intentions. As-is, the sentence could be rewritten, "This kind of result should have been discovered recently because we didn't understand the theory well. This fact is distressing." The meaning certainly isn't clear. – Jake Reece Apr 21 '19 at 15:15
  • @JakeReece Thanks for comments. I've added more nearby sentences. I replaced two words which are a bit technical and hopefully not relevant to my question. – Hua Apr 21 '19 at 15:26

I'm convinced that this is just a poorly worded sentence. I think the author means:

Nonetheless, it is distressing that we understand the theory so poorly that this kind of result was discovered only recently. That is, it should have been discovered a long time ago.

I think that the author's usage of "should be" was a failed attempt to (unnecessarily) complicate the sentence. Academic papers often do this.

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