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Olduvai III: Catacylsm
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Wisdom, Experience and Just-In-Time Thinking

Wisdom, Experience and Just-In-Time Thinking

I try to remind myself each generation considers itself smarter than the previous iteration. If you follow the bouncing logic ball, this means the next (younger) generation believes itself smarter than its present day cohort. In essence the millennial generation of today feels superior to those older than them while simultaneously inferior to the pack nipping at their heels.

Call it a superiority/inferiority complex, though admittedly the superior portion leads the inferior since we are all immortal gods at that age. Soon enough that wears off, usually around 30ish when we begin to recognize vulnerabilities already present and obvious to all but ourselves.

Ultimately smartness or intelligence is a relative measuring tool. There is no doubt my nineteen year old college student rocket scientist is much more adept at deciphering mathematical equations or manipulating genomes than I am. But can she determine which way a tree will tend to fall before cutting it, or smell snow in the air long before it begins to fall?

I’ve written before about the tendency of a technological culture to breed, and reward, specialists while dismissing generalists out of hand as the decaying fossils of our time. And while those who pontificate such wisdom are not exactly wrong, neither are they precisely right.

Obviously I understand with complexity comes specialization. I get it. The company designing and manufacturing the latest central processing unit (CPU) essentially the ‘thinking’ brain of a computer, cannot expect one person to understand and execute the thousands of steps involved in creating the finished product. Efficiency and economy demands a better way forward and, for now at least, that way is via specialty.

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Is Obedience to Authority the Explanation?


QUESTION: Marty, your point is well taken that we instinctively seek a guru be it in forecasting or politics. We have to understand we are doing that in order to escape responsibility and are really followers. Do you have any idea why we do that so instinctively?


ANSWER: No. Perhaps it stems from the same concept that, as they say, if God did not exist, man would create him. Being a guru implies that you know everything about everything. It seems that the general expectation of a guru, appears to be defined as having some special access to some inner source of all-seeing, all-knowing, wisdom that, if mere mortals could only get close to, then all would be well. This does seems to have infected both analysts and politicians. Even in politics, society applies the same guru stupidity. Once a politician says one thing, they cannot possibly change positions. They will search someone’s statements 30 years ago to argue that was he real view. The press imposes this standard or never reversing a thought. It is curious.

Yet, it is strangely evident that we all change our opinions with time, for as time passes we gain experience and that is the foundation of knowledge. Perhaps we just do not want to think. Religion is an overpowering factor that often stops people from critical thinking and applying logic. If all religions assert that killing is a sin, then why is it OK if you are working for government as a policeman or a soldier as long as some higher-up orders you to do kill someone? The Germans put on trial after World War II said they were just following orders. Perhaps this is really just the “Obedience to Authority” as discovered by Stanley Milgram, whoi was inspired by those Germans saying they were just following orders.

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Wisdom: Re-Tuning for a Sustainable Future

Mankind achieved civilization by developing and learning to follow rules that often forbade to do what his instincts demanded…Man is not born wise, rational and good, but has to be taught to become so. Man became intelligent because there was tradition (habits) between instinct and reason…

Friedrich Hayek
The Fatal Conceit, 1988

Gross National Product does not allow for the health of our children, the quality of their education, or the joy of their play. It does not include the beauty of our poetry or the strength of our marriages, the intelligence of our public debate, or the integrity of our public officials.

Robert Kennedy
Speech, University of Kansas, March 18, 1968

Below is a slightly adapted excerpt from The Well-Tuned Brain: Neuroscience and the Life Well Lived by Peter C. Whybrow, MD.


It is abundantly clear that humanity must shift its modern view of progress and relationship with nature if we are to have any hope of living sustainably on this planet. But in completing the jigsaw essential to reimagining progress, and regaining balance within the natural ecology, it is necessary to understand the roles that biological and cultural evolution play. In our social evolution as a species, biology and culture run on parallel tracks, but they do so at different speeds. Thus biology, quickly and disruptively, can be outpaced by cultural change. As I have detailed in The Well-Tuned Brain, a significant number of the challenges that we face in the developed world are rooted in this mismatch.

To better grasp how this puzzle comes together, I take you back to a primary source of knowledge about evolution. In the Pacific Ocean, straddling the Equator approximately 600 miles off the coast of Ecuador is found the Galápagos archipelago. This remote collection of volcanic islands, as Charles Darwin described them when he traveled there, is “a little world within itself.”

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Olduvai IV: Courage
In progress...

Olduvai II: Exodus
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