Friday, December 5, 2008

Gone - The Golden Age Of Great Genius? Maybe Not.

A recent Yahoo article poses the question of whether Einstein was the last great genius , citing the formation of large institutions as making it harder for individuals to make "stroke of genius" advances.  Me, I'm not so sure the great geniuses have vanished.  I think they've just moved to those large institutions.

If I had the choice of living on the bones of my arse with a laboratory made of collected scrap plumbing and the machinery from the old closed-down chip factory up the road, or living on a government grant, with a salary, a lab full of modern equipment, and half a dozen colleagues to bounce my ideas off, I know for sure it wouldn't take me a flash of genius to work out where I'd rather be....

I also say that except for a few rare individuals who work better in solitude, having a "support network" of colleagues is better for the creative process, so our geniuses these days are more likely to be found in collectives of very talented individuals.  That would tend to make them stand out a bit less, which might also give the impression that we're all out of genius.

Most of those solitary geniuses came out of a vastly different educational system, one less geared towards churning out average students and more likely to foster individualism.  That's not to say that genius can only flourish under such an educational system, of course.  If there's one thing we know about human spirit and intellect, it's that it will express itself under any conditions.  But the individual expressing it may these days be less averse to company than their counterparts under the less socialising system.

And of course, there may well be countless thousands of very intelligent people bordering on genius - but with today's surfeit of communications and magazines and peer reviews and blogs and websites and TV spots, they may well be singing in the wilderness for all the notice the world is taking of them, and their light shall, indeed, be hidden beneath bushels...

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