Wisdom is not the same as knowledge, and so it seems odd it has attracted the attention of science. There is such a thing as “wisdom studies” now, and in his book Hall talks to researchers and neuroscientists in a search for the latest information about wisdom. Scientists treat wisdom the way they treat anything else. They break it down into its smallest components to identify and test, and they attempt to figure out how it works, how to obtain it, and what it is. [Hall says:]
To be wise is not to know particular facts but to know without excessive confidence or excessive cautiousness. Wisdom is thus not a belief, a value, a set of facts, a corpus of knowledge or information in some specialized area, or a set of special abilities or skills. Wisdom is an attitude taken by persons toward the beliefs, values, knowledge, information, abilities, and skills that are held, a tendency to doubt that these are necessarily true or valid and to doubt that they are an exhaustive set of those things that could be known.
According to Hall and the researchers he has spoken to these are the eight “attributes of wisdom”:
In the commencement speech he delivered to the graduates of Stanford’s School of Medicine earlier this year, Atul Gawande eloquently (as ever) examined the state of modern medicine (in the U.S. specifically, the world generally), the problem with specialism, and the problem of specialists trying to fit into a system not necessarily designed for it.
The experience of a medical and scientific education is transformational. It is like moving to a new country. At first, you don’t know the language, let alone the customs and concepts. But then, almost imperceptibly, that changes. Half the words you now routinely use you did not know existed when you started: words like arterial-blood gas, nasogastric tube, microarray, logistic regression, NMDA receptor, velluvial matrix.
O.K., I made that last one up. But the velluvial matrix sounds like something you should know about, doesn’t it? And that’s the problem. I will let you in on a little secret. You never stop wondering if there is a velluvial matrix you should know about.
[Vaclav Smil] is (almost) resigned to the fact that our great debates about energy and the environment are largely pointless, because they are hugely distorted by politics and sadly uninformed by basic facts. We are a culture of scientific ignoramuses. [â€¦]
“We are structurally cooked,” he recently explained. “Every new technology takes 40 to 50 years before it captures the bulk of the market. [â€¦] That’s why “we’re going to be a fossil-fuel society for decades to come.” [â€¦]
As someone who was rigorously schooled in all the sciences, he regrets people’s widespread ignorance of science, technology and basic economics. As he told energy writer Robert Bryce, “Without any physical, chemical, and biological fundamentals, and with equally poor understanding of basic economic forces, it is no wonder that people will believe anything.”
Truth is, the great value in most MBA and JD programs can be boiled down to 5 to 10 talks, presentations, classes and conversations that changed the way you experienced the world.
Following up on this comment, Jonathan Fields presents The Seven Keynote MBA: seven keynote speeches, from a diverse group of people, that together Fields believes will provide you as much real-world advice as an MBA.
I’m particularly fond of the final two topics and this, from Why is Greater Than How:
This complex world has made us over-emphasize How-based thinking and education. Once the tools are understood, understanding why to do certain things becomes more valuable than how to do them. How is recipes, and learning a craft is more than following instructions.
How is important for new practitioners focused on avoiding mistakes. Why is for those who wish to push, are not risk-averse and seek to improve. How is coulda, Why is shoulda. How is finishing tasks, Why is fulfilling objectives. How usually results in more. Why usually results in better.