2016-11-04 07:47:37作者:权珍雅来源:本站原创

The MacArthur Foundation late last month announced its latest crop of “genius grants”, and once again you thought maybe, just maybe, this was your year.

And why not? These days, we’re all geniuses. We might be “marketing geniuses” or “*culinary geniuses” or “TV geniuses”. We have so *diluted “genius” that it’s fast joining the company of “natural” and “mindful”, words rendered inert through overuse and misuse.

Admittedly, the word is tough to nail down. Sometimes we equate genius with raw intelligence. But many of humanity’s greatest breakthroughs were achieved by those with only modest IQs.

Sometimes we think of the genius as someone extremely knowledgeable, but that definition also falls short. During Albert Einstein’s time, other scientists knew more physics than Einstein did, but history doesn’t remember them. That’s because they didn’t *deploy that knowledge the way Einstein did. They weren’t able to, as he put it, “regard old questions from a new angle”.

The genius is not a know-it-all but a see-it-all, someone who, working with the material available to all of us, is able to make surprising and useful connections. True genius involves not merely an *incremental advance, but a conceptual leap. As philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer put it: Talent hits the target no one else can hit; genius hits the target no one else can see.

We’ve lost sight of this truth, and too often *bestow the title of genius on talented people hitting visible targets. A good example is the much-*ballyhooed announcement earlier this year that scientists had, for the first time, recorded the sound of two black holes colliding, a billion light-years away. It was a remarkable discovery, no doubt, but it did not represent a *seismic shift in how we understand the universe. It merely confirmed Einstein’s general theory of relativity.

As Plato observed, “What is honored in a country is cultivated there.” What do we honor? Digital technology, and the convenience it represents, so naturally we get a Steve Jobs or a Mark Zuckerberg as our “geniuses”, which, in point of fact, they aren’t.

The iPhone and Facebook are *wondrous inventions. In many ways, they make our lives a bit easier, a bit more convenient. If anything, though, a true genius makes our lives more difficult, more unsettled. William Shakespeare’s words provide more *disquiet than *succor, and the world felt a bit more secure before Charles Darwin came along. Zuckerberg and Jobs may have changed our world, but they haven’t yet changed our worldview.

We need to reclaim genius, and a good place to start is by putting the brakes on Genius Creep.