Rickover Series #2: A Talented Mind - Opportunity & Obligation

Rickover Series #2: A Talented Mind - Opportunity & Obligation

The rarity of a good mind

A good mind is rarer than a full bank account.

The bank account can be taken away from you.

But a good mind is a secure possession capable of miracle-like feats.

Nobody can take it away from you

The origin & limits of intelligence

However, intelligence shouldn't be a cause for pride

Intelligence is mostly a natural asset

It takes birth merely in a potential form.

Intelligence on its own doesn't guarantee any sort of success.

Intelligence must be translated to achievement

A good mind is like gold dispersed deep within the soil.

To produce gold that is valued all across, we need to:

  • recognize its existence
  • labour to mine
  • labour to refine
  • give it attractive design & form
  • present to the world

All of this involves tons of work & some luck.

Thought experiment:

If Einstein was born in Australian Aboriginal tribe, would he have reached the intellectual heights he reached?

Einstein succeeded partly due to the early & continued nourishment he received from European society.

The secret to actualize a potential intellect

What does a potential intellect need to actualize itself in the world?

Not rest.

Not pampering.

Not praise.

What it requires is: "exercise in meeting diverse and difficult challenges".

Challenge converts intelligence into achievement.

For the potential intellect, financial lures and easier jobs are a distraction.

Ultimately, such distractions if pursued will lead to deep dissatisfaction.

A human can only be satisfied when they fulfill their potential.

Let nothing distract you from developing capabilities.

The intellectual life has its advantages

What are the advantages of taking up an intellectual life?

Your standing depends mainly on your accomplishments, merit.

You don't have to harm anyone to achieve.

The following factors of chance barely matter:

  • personal background
  • position
  • connections
  • favors

The dire need for powerful minds

Society & its various components are getting more complex by day.

Managing the complexities of modern society is not possible without strong intellects.

Every major field of human activity is crying for help from powerful minds.

Brain power is so potent that it can overcome many glaring shortcomings.

Brain power can defend a nation's dignity, ensure its survival & thriving.

A trained mind increases the sovereignty of a group.

They can create new materials, address diseases, build infrastructure, etc.

Intelligence is a requirement for wisdom

More than technical capabilities, wisdom is necessary to tame human excesses.

Wisdom is borne of intelligence; it is a necessary requirement in modernity.

The most difficult problem is helping people improve their habits.

Only the intelligent can accomplish this task for the many.

Addressing unemployment through intelligence

The intelligent men and women can solve the disastrous problem of unemployment upto an extent.

Through new ideas and innovations, new industries can be created.

For displaced people, due to new machinery & technologies, the intelligent can create alternatives.

A rough calculation:

For each PhD, at least 10 engineers can be employed profitably (on average).

With improvements in training & upskilling, 1 PhD can oversee the efforts of 100 engineers
You want high percentage of PhD for per capita of population.

The dangers of "practical men"

As the economy advances, higher-order thinking is needed for proper management.

"Practical men" from business schools may lack sufficient background to make the right decisions.

This will lead to disasters.

*The practical man thinks short-range, and works for private ends.

The intellectual approach is broad, long-range & public.*


Practical man: Efficient deep-sea fishing can free the entirety of oceans off all commercial fish & whales. The practical man wouldn't mind!

Intellectual: The marine scholar "gets" the short-term, but they can visualize long-term dangers. They can propose proper regulation, so that fishing & whaling can be done without destroying the ocean's ecosystem.

Nature strikes back to "practical" abuse in many areas already.

Some problems already created due to "practical" approaches:

  • Careless use of dangerous pesticides & weed killers
  • Pollution of rivers & lakes -> Ecosystem collapse -> No recreation, lower water quality
  • Ugly landscapes to live in
  • No natural place for children to play in

The trained people must develop courage & address problems who nobody else can solve.

How the intelligent person can help

The intelligent person's assets are:

  • Analysis
  • Clarity of thought
  • Logical reasoning

The uneducated will argue that the scientist has no competence in other areas. But this is false.

An exceptional intelligence is distinguished by:

  • Ability to apply to a broad range of problems
  • Catholicity of interests

With efforts, the intelligent person can contribute to many broad and pressing problems.

Intelligence must be respected

Due to such great potential for impact, intelligence and talent must be respected.

Intelligence & Talent must not go to waste.

There could be political equality, legal equality, but this is not true for intellectual equality.

The intelligent person must see the potential in these truths, and must act on it.

By fulfilling their potential, both the intelligent person & society benefits.

And as technology & economy advances, intelligent contribution becomes more important than ever.

What do you think?

I'll be posting more from Rickover in the future.

What do you think of Rickover's views on intelligence?

What do you agree/disagree with?

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