“Knowing how something originated often is the best clue to how it works.”
— Terrence Deacon
The good news: IQ levels are higher today than they were 100 years ago—and continue to increase.
The bad news: Higher IQs aren’t making us smarter.
From Flynn’s perspective, this lack of reading makes us ripe for an Orwellian dystopia. “All you need are ‘ahistorical’ people who then live in the bubble of the present, and by fashioning that bubble the government and the media can do anything they want with them.”
He’s right. George Santanaya wasn’t joking when he said, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
Then there’s this quote, also from that BBC interview:
“Reading literature and reading history is the only thing that’s going to capitalise on the IQ gains of the 20th Century and make them politically relevant.”
Let’s take politics out of it and focus in on the individual.
Even at the very basic level, as in considering your personal career goals, being “ahistorical” is a recipe for disaster.
As we’ve spent more time on this site discussing the development and sharing of creative work, emails have continued to stream in from individuals, requesting Steve mentor them, that Steve take a look at their project, that Steve introduce them to people who can help them, that Steve tell them how to fix their personal lives, and so on . . .
I used to blame Laziness for these emails. While Laziness ain’t completely off the hook, Rational Ignorance is the better hook on which to hang their cluelessness.
Just as I haven’t learned how to fix my washing machine, because the investment of time and money spent learning how to fix my washing machine outweighs simply paying a specialist to fix it, individuals e-mailing Steve think that the investment of time and money spent learning their desired trade outweighs the effort to simply ask Steve for help.
These individuals don’t realize that they’re screwing themselves. Rather than asking someone else the answer to 892 + 1297, or using a calculator to figure it out, they’d benefit from knowing how to do simple addition themselves.
And, if they continue to resist learning how to do something themselves, the answers to most of their questions are already out there.
We live in the age of information. “Content” is flying at us from all direction. The answers are on the record.
The e-mails keep coming in.
Back to Flynn.
During the BBC interview, it sounds like Flynn gave the interviewer grief for not knowing about the Thirty Years War.
I’m not taking it that far.
I’m keeping it basic.
Start with your own life.
Stop e-mailing and asking others for an “in.”
Understand the history.
Know the players.
Master the business.
Do the work yourself.
Tomorrow you can hit the Thirty Years War.