Posted by: zyxo | March 20, 2010

Our intelligence follows our mistakes.


Atomic bombing of Nagasaki on August 9, 1945.
Image via Wikipedia

If only we were smarter. So what ?

  • Would we not make those mistakes any more ?
  • Would we not have to look for a solution to an old problem that was already solved a dozen times before in our enterprise ?
  • Would we we work more efficiently ?
  • Would our managers treat their “human capital” more as humans in stead of capital ?
  • Would we not make money out of all those products to discover afterwards that they are a real danger for humankind ?
  • Would we not smoke any more ?
  • Would we not drink alcohol any more ?
  • Would we limit our family to two children or less ?
  • Would we limit our meat meals to once a week ?
  • Would we …

Learning takes time

Two things struck me during my professional life

  1. Young people have a lot to learn when they start in the company. This means that in the beginning they make mistakes, they take a tremendous amount of time to do a simple job (simple for an experienced co-worker). So learning takes a lot of time.
  2. When older co-workers are replaced by younger ones, a lot of intelligence leaves the company. No offense to the youngsters, but the old ones too needed a lot of time before they were experienced

This all means that we do not really build a lot on history. Procedures, methods, ways of working are all invented over and over again. When a division gets a new boss, his creativity often results in projects or initiatives that were started 5 or 10 years before with no result whatsoever. History repeats itself!

Once in a while some really smart/inventive person finds a new solution, has a new useful idea which is put in practice. Everyone it thrilled. Everyone sees the future benefits. All is put in place, the organization structure is changed, the new product is put in production and in the market … until something begins to go wrong and someone, possibly the smart inventor, says : “damn, why didn’t I think of THAT consequence ? ”

Examples : rifles, canons, atomic bombs, combustion engines, alcohol, tobacco, artificial fertilizers, chemical plants, religion.
All those things are made and used by intelligent people, but not intelligent enough to foresee the long-term consequences.

What if we were smarter ?

My opinion is that the level of intelligence does not matter. As a sportsman can reach a top level, whatever level of intelligence can provide for “top” inventions, just within its reach. The problem is that the long-term consequences of these top inventions are always beyond our reach. We only see them afterwards, when they manifested themselves and it is to late. Then we have to clean up our mess.

Perhaps not all those longterms negative consequences are the result of a lack of intelligence. Some are caused because we only live a handful of decades and when we are young and full of energy, we do not care about the second half of our lives, and certainly not about those who come next ?

Read the article that inspired me to write the present musings : Philippe Verdoux : if only we were smarter and do not hesitate to tell me your own point of view.

Enjoyed this post ? Then you might be interested in the following :
– human intelligence = human rights ?
– Are men and women different ?
– Human evolution : the future of men
– Solar power ring : enough energy to fry the earth
– Runaway Ecosystems : species extinction or accelerated evolution ?

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