Internet and polymathic minds….

Are Polymathic minds dangerous for our world?


Over the past few months – I’ve become curious about the concept of a “polymath.” One who is essentially very well versed in a broad variety of topics and disciplines.

This word used to describe mental greats such as da Vinci, Galileo, etc.

But today – and thanks to our glorious technological friend called the internet – almost anyone would consider themselves polymathic to a degree.

Polymath then vs. Polymath 2016

What fascinates me with the accumulation of knowledge “back in the day” is that true genius and excellence usually was a by-product of hard work, study, dedication, and perseverance. Someone who was driven to soak up knowledge – and gain that treasure-trove of information via practice, actual experience, and more.

Today – we have something we call the internet – that essentially puts the polymathic “ability” at the reach of almost anyone who has the curiosity to perform a google search.

Sure, information was quite a bit harder to come by centuries ago, but still.

But do Google search results create polymaths?

Hmmm. You can say on the “surface,” sure. People are fairly well informed about “stuff.” Smart asses to a degree. Propaganda victims is probably more accurate.

One acquaintance of mine recently said that about a six-year-old he knew who was dropping weather terminology to him (i.e., a “know it all” because he read it). Junior parrots.

Dangerous are “know it alls” who may not know the truth

not-according-to-wikipediaWe’ve mentioned this in the past regarding “misinformation.” But today’s “click and search” populous – a dangerous characteristic has emerged.

Those that somehow believe things purely because they “read it” somewhere.

Or they keep seeing similar memes. Or that their peer group talks about the same things.

Sure, some and even many “sources” may be at least partially accurate. But the amount of either misleading, purposely inaccurate and flat out WRONG sources out there is a recipe for disaster.

Because with all these close-minded “know it alls” roaming the terrain – it has become a mental clusterfuck. No one has any patience to study, contemplate, or learn anymore.

They just have beliefs.

There is no conversation to be had anymore. The true aspect of gaining knowledge has been lost. “Connecting the dots?” A thing of the past.

Old Polymath vs. New Polymath

The “official” dictionary definition of a polymath is as follows:

(noun) a person of great learning in several fields of study; polyhistor.

I’d suggest that they either RE-WRITE the definition – or create a second definition for modern times (i.e, “Polymath post-internet,” and “Wannabe Polymath,” etc.)

The 2016 “Polymath post-internet” (a true polymath) is:

  • Someone who still possesses fundamental basic skills (manual tools, physical labor, engineering, physics, logic, common sense, etc.)
  • Someone who can exhibit signs of true observation, contemplation, patience.
  • A person who can sift through the misinformation available everywhere. Test and prove theories.
  • One with “big picture” and holistic skills, frequently asks “cui bono?”

type-a-know-it-allAs well as the 2016 “Wannabe Polymath:”

  • A person who can effortlessly parrot talking points, but cannot elaborate beyond them.
  • A person, when their beliefs are challenged, resort to name-calling or a “moving goalposts” conversational strategy, and often crying and whining.
  • Someone who is functionally useless without an internet connection or mobile device. Prone to panic attacks, anxiety.
  • Often seen at liberal protests, and keen on dabbling in all sorts of “charity” causes.

Coincidentally – acclaimed author Nassim Taleb has been thinking along the same lines lately – penning an article regarding what he coined the “Intellectual-Yet-Idiot” class of people.

“The Intellectual Yet Idiot (IYI) is a production of modernity hence has been accelerating since the mid-twentieth century, to reach its local supremum today, along with the broad category of people without skin-in-the-game who have been invading many walks of life. Why? Simply, in many countries, the government’s role is ten times what it was a century ago (expressed in percentage of GDP). The IYI seems ubiquitous in our lives but is still a small minority and rarely seen outside specialized outlets, social media, and universities?—?most people have proper jobs and there are not many opening for the IYI.”

While Taleb has a slightly narrower perspective than we do – it’s a similar wavelength.

Is there a solution?

The vast availability of nearly instant information (both accurate and false) has created this conundrum.

Information flows at almost light speed compared to just 100 years ago. And while that has proven to be positive in many instances, possibly more negative outcomes have resulted.

Keeping “up to date” with the world is addictive to many. The drama. The adrenaline rush (whether real or perceived) is hard to let go of. Avoiding News is one great first step – along with disconnecting from the social media scene is also good.

Getting further away from the urbanized cities certainly wouldn’t hurt either.

Simplifying life is a super idea, pruning friends lists, and focusing on what is most important in your and your family’s life sure beats the mental frenzy many folks find themselves immersed in.

So – are all these newfound “smart” people true polymaths – or just way OUT OF THEIR LEAGUE?


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