As people devote more and more intelligence to specialties, how do the general “all-around” smarts come out at the end of the day? With the bulk of the effort concentrated on such thin slices of reality, the time – or energy – to gain and maintain awareness and competence in other areas can’t help but fall behind.
There are attempts to reduce the isolation. Universities are combining specialties to combat the silo effect, but it’s unlikely the net result will be enough to balance things out.
As the roads to knowledge continue to divide, the common pool of information we all count on to learn from is over-loaded. The basic skills people share with the rest of Earth’s creatures – the ones nature develops to allow survival unaided in the world – are somewhat flexible. The environment is subject to change, and it seems the capacity to adapt is built in. But we don’t get to choose which features change, or how long it takes – so far.
Luckily people have the special option of adding to basic competency without waiting for nature to morph us. We make use of this feature quite a bit. But substitution, rather than addition, has become typical. How many are there left who’ve learned well enough to maintain as nature designed? And we’re adding more layers to this dilemma. Concern is growing. Are some technologies – and attitudes – interfering with learning how to use the skills we count on to learn in the first place?
What Builds Brain Power?
Literacy lit a fire under ingenuity. This more effective way to share knowledge and improve understanding spread across the globe. But these days, it’s being crowded out in favor of scanning, viewing, listening – methods of information intake with quite different effects on the brain and learning. What the result will be isn’t clear, but it might be time to remind ourselves :
There’s nothing yet discovered nearly as complex as the human mind.
Only the barest beginning has been made in exploring this potential.
We hear all about advances in artificial intelligence. But where do we find out about effective ways to improve on our own? Incessant sensationalizing is usually featured with news of the clever machines – along with bashing human intelligence. And what’s left out of the up-sell?
Human minds are so different from machine imitations, there’s no way to compare.
People use their minds to invent and refine some really useful tools, but the real action is between our ears.
And … finding out how to do the absolute best with what we have must be moved to the top of the research pile.
De-specialize, Adapt … or Something More?
We learn continuously, even if we don’t much notice. But the call is to do it more consciously, since it has so many benefits. At the very least, it seems to be the equivalent of exercise. Use it or lose it, applies to more than just our muscles. Some work out by trying to keep up with all the specializing going on … but there must be easier options.
Maybe it isn’t so much the subdividing of learning we should be concerned with. It’s a huge universe. Just keeping up with investigating ourselves and the planet could take millions of thinkers. A way around specializing doesn’t seem possible, given what we know at the moment, anyway. So what can be done to make important information readily accessible and understandable for specialist and non specialist people alike?
Maybe we take communication too much for granted but it’s central to clear thinking. Plain, direct and accurate terms would go a long way to improve cross-talk between specialties. To help the general audience stay in the loop, we have to insist those responsible for reporting, do it … responsibly.
It’s no secret that current news spreading habits have serious deficiencies … sensationalizing is just one unwelcome pain-in-the-brain to be rid of. Halting the endless spin-doctoring that’s choking our primary learning channels would be an awesome move forward. Imagine sitting down to a smooth, uncomplicated time-out to catch up with what’s really going on. Wouldn’t this be a refreshing change? It might even be healthier for us.
Sure, the mental equivalent of slogging through a swamp full of nonsense in hope of finding something of substance is exercise. But would anyone just exercise one leg or one arm? By the time we’ve dug through all the useless – and too often misleading – verbiage, there isn’t much energy left to go hunting for something worth bothering with. And the kind of thinking that needs the work-out the most doesn’t even get a warm-up!
The distinction between entertainment and reporting new information has become almost non-existent in every form of media. It’s time to demand it’s return. Reports don’t have to be boring, but do need to stick tight with reality. When most of the information is only included to create the immersive experience, there’s no room left for the news!
Junk-free access to information is just a start on improving communication and understanding. But as the trash disappears, under-served ways of thinking regain their share of the juice. And with this, more ideas for adding improvements come along. Once these settle in, even more ideas have the chance to appear. In time, pumping-up-the-mind moves towards a self-sustaining, balanced routine of aware, continuous learning.
It’s often said, What we can imagine, we can achieve. It might not be entirely the case, but with the potential we have just hanging around, fretting about limits could be a little premature.