Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Is the Future Cognitive?

Everyone agrees that to make it in the modern world you need to work on your cognitive intelligence.  Conservative libertarian Charles Murray has developed this message in The Bell Curve, Human Accomplishment, and Coming Apart. Barack Obama agrees.
“You want to be a doctor, or a teacher, or a police officer? You want to be a nurse or an architect, a lawyer, or a member of our military? You’re going to need a good education for every single one of those careers.”
So much for all the other folks in this world, writes John Derbyshire.
So much for mechanics, gardeners, fishermen, glaziers, loggers, athletes, barbers, truckers, cooks, butchers, roofers, miners, crane operators, manicurists, linemen, dancers, cameramen, steel fixers, personal trainers, carpenters, brewers, florists, ranchers, masons, potters . . . The hell with them!
It's natural for all of us chaps in the cognitive elite to privilege our own skills, the ability to muck around in the written world and the math world.  Thus is makes complete sense that "Somehow we have arrived in the 21st century with a class of rulers so bereft of imagination they cannot conceive that anyone would wish to be less educated than themselves."  Of course we have.  We are ruled by the sons of the educated elite of the late 19th century, and an educated elite naturally thinks that the most important thing, the only thing, is education.

This despite the fact that the dominant learning method among humans is learning by doing.

There's no doubt that cognitively intelligent people are an extremely important resource in today's world.  But.

But I suspect that the really important people are those that bring people and things together.  People like Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Michael Dell, and Ronald Reagan.  I'm not sure that people like them excel because of their cognitive brilliance.  I think that their brilliance is more their middle-man skills, getting in the middle of things and getting cognitive people to produce.

Anyway, I think that we really need to stop privileging the cognitive elite and erecting barriers to people with more hands-on skills.  Because if we don't ease up the hands-on people might some day decide that they have had enough of truckling to the cognitive nerds and take things into their own hands.

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