Intelligence is not only the ability to reason; it is also the ability to find relevant material in memory and to deploy attention when needed.Daniel Kahneman, Thinking, Fast and Slow
Without knowledge, it's hard to be curious. We need reference points to make connections and inspire deeper thinking.
Give a teenager a car and a detailed Google Map, but unless they've got some training, they are going to increase the likelihood of an accident.
Give a kid some crayons and some looseleaf paper, but without any guidance on how to draw, the results will be comically abysmal.
Experience puts the bones in the goose. It is only then can we teach ourselves to be safer and more creative.
We’re all created equal but we’re not all experts.
Experts are the hedgehogs, the servants; they do one thing well. They’re indispensable like doctors. Yet, the internet came along and unleashed a free for all of know-it-alls.
Our friends and family members, even ourselves, opine on subjects where we have voice but no mastery, not even of the fundamentals. We’ve given people a microphone, a platform, and they produce garbage, demonstrate ignorance, and bask in mediocrity.
Says Tom Nichols in his new book The Death of Expertise: The Campaign Against Established Knowledge and Why it Matters:
“Having equal rights does not mean having equal talents, equal abilities, or equal knowledge. It assuredly does not mean that ‘everyone’s opinion about anything is as good as anyone else’s.’ And yet, this is now enshrined as the credo of a fair number of people despite being obvious nonsense.”
We need practicians. We need the ideas. But we really need people we can trust. It’s no surprise that our experts are usually the ones with most humility and eagerness to learn.
Generalists know a little bit of something about everything. They are curious and use their vast references to combine ideas. Generalists make good cratediggers.
But when it comes to goal-setting, generalists tend to be depressed. They struggle to specify exactly what they want and instead opt for the abstract.
Meanwhile, specialists excel at doing one thing. They tend to be confident yet defined. They only know what they know right now and can only see something as it long it connects back to their area of expertise. This is why accountants are matter-of-fact thinkers and creators can't justify formulas.
The reality is that one has to be both expert and liberal arts student. The world admires interesting people with just enough flair for a good conversation.
Good knowledge is half-baked. It’s fragile enough to manipulate yet purposeful enough to help make decisions.
A world of facts is too predictable. Facts affirm the right way to go yet impede the will to experiment and try something different.
Why repeat the same old things even if they work? The canvass starts blank because everything deserves to be explored.