Wednesday, 21 November 2012

What can be done about the Genius famine?

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I seem to have evolved such a distinctive view of the nature and effect of Creative Genius that I don't suppose anyone else holds any similar views...

And, in the end, I am ambivalent about Genius. Clearly Genius is such a powerful weapon that it can scarcely be trusted in the hands of a fallen Man.

Genius is thus more likely to lead to harm than good, for the same reason that any machine will usually do more harm than good.

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But if the modern world has been necessarily based on the work of relatively few Geniuses - as I believe it has; and if Genius is disappearing fast - as I believe it is; then what would be a rational response of a pro-modernizer to the situation.

What is actually happening is not rational, because in fact the modern world has become (and is becoming more so) hostile to Genius; so that the relatively few who emerge are usually kept from having any chance of influence.

This happens passively by bureaucracy and actively by Leftism (pretty much all of the Leftist 'moral' priorities will have the net effect of making it harder, or impossible, for a Genius to get into any position of influence or be taken notice of).

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So on the one hand there is a 'famine' of Genius - which afflicts the science, technology, the arts, politics, philosophy, law... pretty much everything with very few people of that sort within the fields

But on the other hand, there is near zero awareness of the rapid and (from a modernizing perspective) catastrophic decline in Genius.

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Take classical music. There are essentially zero geniuses operating in composing Western classical music nowadays, although there used to be many; and this has been the situation for many decades; and indeed the kind of people who might potentially do work of genius are utterly absent from these social systems - yet nobody ever talks about this.

Or in academic scholarship. In the vastly bloated British university systems, not only is there essentially nobody doing work of Genius (I can think of just one); but there is probably nobody who would even be capable of having a shot at Genius-level work: the people are just the wrong kind of people altogether.

In the first place, they are not even trying to do the best work of which they are capable - so it is not going to happen,

In the second place they have the wrong personality type: conscientious, obedient, empathic, following of established rules...

In the third place they are of lesser intelligence compared with the past.

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Nothing much can be done about the demographic decline in intelligence; and the process continues.

However, it would, in principle, seemingly be possible to compensate for this - for a while - by a better 'search process': a more effective way of unearthing more individuals from the declining pool of potential geniuses and giving them a better chance of coming through to a position where they might attain the best work of which they were capable - and then taking some notice of it.

Yet, to write that paragraph is to see that it will not happen, and also perhaps why it will not happen.

How could a society which is root and branch hostile to the kind of person who might (but probably wont) become a Genius, do anything of the sort?

And there is the paradox of organizing society to encourage the emergence of the disorganized and disorganizing and disruptive.

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But if something of the sort was actually put into effect (and this might well be a plot for a science fiction novel, perhaps by Philip K Dick), then it could happen by means of a program of psychological profiling and testing rather like the process which already exists for discovering talent in musical performance.

That is, a multitude of individual coaches, teachers or Maestros who would take on promising youngsters for training; and a variety of competitions aimed at evaluating both achieved performance and (more important) potential.

The framework is that what is happening is that talent is being discovered then developed to a point where the talent can take-over its own development.


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The apprentice would need to find, and trust, a Master.

The Master would need to want to find, and work with, the best apprentices. 

The Masters would be in control of the system.

Because only the Masters can see what is going on. 

But aside from that, there is no 'system'. No formal requirements. No standard progression. No accreditation of any significance.

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Very individualistic, very elitist, very esoteric.

It sees talent and the potential for Genius as essentially innate.

If you haven't got it you can't do it; and if even you have, you probably won't.

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The only place I think anything of this sort continues (at least until recently) in the scholarly world is mathematics in some countries - where there exists a system of competitions for sifting the general population, identifying then developing the small number of kids who show special mathematical talent.

If modern society was concerned with its own continuation - which very clearly it is not, instead being devoted to its own extinction - then something of this kind would need to occur to locate and empower sufficient numbers of Geniuses to maintain the frequent and relevant breakthroughs necessary to enable continued growth in efficiency and capability.

But instead we have public relations which convinces everybody who matters that everything is fine and getting better. 

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1 comment:

Valentine Cawley said...

I am sure that pockets of genius remain. I am equally sure that society, as a whole, will do all it can to make sure such pockets remain unexpressed, undeveloped and uninfluential. I would agree with your general view that society is hostile to genius (though dependent on it in a way it does not acknowledge). Any person with even a smattering of genius about them, feels the effects at work, in society, to hamper their progress and climb to any position of any influence of any kind whatsoever. As you have observed of Universities - they are not places of genius, at all...and boy are such places hostile to anyone with a mere echo of genius about them.

I am presently nurturing a child, who most definitely has the key characteristics of genius about him. You just would not believe the troubles we have had to go through, to get him access to even the basics of his educational needs. We even had to emigrate, with the whole family in tow. It shouldn't be this way. So much time has been wasted along the way, getting him what he needs, to grow. It is easy to see that most parents, in the same situation, would simply give up. The modern world really, really doesn't want geniuses to flourish...or perhaps is blind to what it is doing to them. We live in dull times, Professor Charlton...dull times...and long shall we continue to live in such times, if our experience of what it is like to raise a child of promise, is at all common.

Thank you for raising this issue on this blog. Long have I thought so, of this issue.