TED Talk: Trial, error and the God complex

A conversation with the father/grandfather of family friends was about the need of intellectuals in politics. If he meant intellectual as in a natural philosopher which we typically refer to now as scientists, then I would agree. Then again, I really like the flow of try, analyze results, and determine if successful or not. Also, the idea of double blind testing and other measures to achieve objectivity. These are all things rarely seen in politics.

But then again, some people want a leader who is certain. Someone whose bearing means to them they have a handle on the situation to improve things. Never mind that confidence under pressure does not equate to making well reasoned or even successful decisions.

Smart Boys

George and I talked about this some last night.

Nature vs Nurture… I tend to think of both as bottlenecks for human development. The debate about which does more to me makes as much sense as debating which is better for a web application: Apache or MySQL? Both are involved and affect the end results. The debate should be about how to leverage the synergy of both, but that is another blog post.

We humans have 46 chromosomes. 23 from each parent which come in pairs. Males have an XY pair. Females have an XX pair. Brain Rules was the first I’ve read that ~1500 brain-related genesย are on the X and ~100 on the Y (and losing ~5 every million years). So the X chromosome is quite important for determining brain development.

For boys, the one X they have comes from the mother. Girls inherit an X chromosome from both her mother or father. To set up the strong potential of great genes for boys, look to women who are really intelligent. That tells you there is a 50% shot for the boy to get a good X. If both of the woman’s parents are intellectuals, even better.

Be smart about it though… Don’t make an IQ score for the parents part of a prenuptual agreement.

My mother has occasionally said things I enjoy remind her of her father. That’s a biased sample.ย 
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Intellectuals and Politics

The Age of Enlightenment ended over a century ago. It was known for producing a number of intellectuals. Are intellectuals a dying breed?

According to Wikipedia, “An intellectual is one who tries to use his or her intellect to work, study, reflect, speculate, or ask and answer questions about a wide variety of different ideas.” It seems of late scientists, lawyers, engineers, and doctors have become specialized into a myopic anti-utopia. I am encouraged by mathematicians and physicists working together to create Superstring Theory or cross breeding academic areas like Georgia Tech’s Threads. Specialization may reflect the difficulty of keeping up with many bodies of knowledge growing extremely quickly. Intellectuals are exceptional people. The Age of Enlightenment ended in the first years of 1800s which is just before the dramatic increases upon which we benefit today. It was centered in Europe. I think Europe misses it. Certainly the founding fathers, Adams, Jefferson, Hamilton, and Franklin were all intellectuals.

Education, in attempting to cover as much material as possible, answers well the questions: Who? What? When? Where? How? The question, “Why?” deserves the most attention. As its the most complicated, it takes the most time to answer. People can cut the most corners with Why than any other question.
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Would an intellectual run for President of the United States today? We like to think politics are dirty today. The founding fathers played the same trash talking about their opponents as happens today. The change has really been the perception of what is honorable. We don’t trust politicians today like we did even fifty years ago.

During the Cold War we needed a President who would be decisive. Smart individuals could not be trusted to make resolute decisions. They would waffle, look at nuances, and fail to make us comfortable that we are being led. Their advisors would be the intellectuals. Only the advisors have become more and more specialized. We need an intellectual capable of providing us the vision. I especially do not want someone who has all the answers before they have even seen the question. I want someone who loves learning and wishes to serve society by helping to shape our society for improvement.

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