October 29, 2007


Well it had to happen- a management consultancy has come up with a list of geniuses for us to marvel at. Save of course, once you examine their methodology more critically what they seem to have done is to have worked out who were the most famous clever people in the world and come up with a list of them and then given them points on an arbitrary list and come up up with a list of the world's top geniuses. There is something slightly imperfect about this- a hole that gapes open before the idiots who did this survey- and that is quite simple. Knowledge has become so specialised that it is hard even for those who have completed undergraduate studies in an area to be accurately aware of the merits of work done by their academics or by specialists. As a historian moving from undergraduate to graduate work I observed this. And furthermore in subjects that I know little about- mathematics or physics I have no clue about how to compare the intelligence say of a Feynman and a Bohr or even whether they would play in the same league! This list furthermore is a disaster when it comes to art- many of the great artists of a particular period only acquire recognition later. Judging the world's literature and say putting Dario Fo in the top ten, when you don't have a panel that can read all the world's languages and tell us about them seems equally foolish. To publish a list like this furthermore implies that you only need to engage with ten people to engage with the whole world, like lists of the greatest novels or the greatest music, this is intellectual suburbanisation- if you only tackle this and this you have become learned. Sorry that's not true- lets put this list with all the others on a pyre and let the smoke carry a signal out that learning doesn't stop at the margins of a list, but begins with a canon and heads through canon after canon, on an everlasting quest for an eternally unreachable comprehension of everything of worth ever done or discovered.


Richard Havers said...

So often these days people confuse genius and celebrity

sky banacek said...

Methinks that you confuse those things that are aimed at the world of mass 'news entertainment' with things that matter. Still, I was intrigued to find Albert Hoffman at the top of this genius list. Very counterculture and not at all what I was expecting from a firm of management consultants.

Winchester whisperer said...

Ummmm....OBL a genius?

Gracchi said...

Sky- and you'd deny me my little rant!

Richard yup agreed completely

Whisperer yes that slightly stumped me as well!

Ruthie said...

Maybe they could have hired a genius to compile the genius list?

But how to find said genius?