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Opinion | The Secrets of Jewish Genius - The New York Times
By Bret Stephens
Opinion Columnist

Dec. 27, 2019

** “Genius & Anxiety," by Norman Lebrecht.
An erudite and delightful study of the intellectual achievements and nerve-wracked lives of Jewish thinkers, artists, and entrepreneurs between 1847 and 1947. Sarah Bernhardt and Franz Kafka; Albert Einstein and Rosalind Franklin; Benjamin Disraeli and (sigh) Karl Marx — how is it that a people who never amounted even to one-third of 1 percent of the world’s population contributed so seminally to so many of its most pathbreaking ideas and innovations?.....The common answer is that Jews are, or tend to be, smart. When it comes to Ashkenazi Jews, it’s true. “Ashkenazi Jews have the highest average I.Q. of any ethnic group for which there are reliable data,”.....the “Jews are smart” explanation obscures more than it illuminates. Aside from the perennial nature-or-nurture question of why so many Ashkenazi Jews have higher I.Q.s, there is the more difficult question of why that intelligence was so often matched by such bracing originality and high-minded purpose. One can apply a prodigious intellect in the service of prosaic things — formulating a war plan, for instance, or constructing a ship. One can also apply brilliance in the service of a mistake or a crime, like managing a planned economy or robbing a bank.........But...Jewish genius operates differently. It is prone to question the premise and rethink the concept; to ask why (or why not?) as often as how; to see the absurd in the mundane and the sublime in the absurd. Ashkenazi Jews might have a marginal advantage over their gentile peers when it comes to thinking better. Where their advantage more often lies is in thinking different.
Where do these habits of mind come from?

There is a religious tradition that, unlike some others, asks the believer not only to observe and obey but also to discuss and disagree. There is the never-quite-comfortable status of Jews in places where they are the minority — intimately familiar with the customs of the country while maintaining a critical distance from them. There is a moral belief, “incarnate in the Jewish people” according to Einstein, that “the life of the individual only has value [insofar] as it aids in making the life of every living thing nobler and more beautiful.”

And there is the understanding, born of repeated exile, that everything that seems solid and valuable is ultimately perishable, while everything that is intangible — knowledge most of all — is potentially everlasting.
These explanations for Jewish brilliance aren’t necessarily definitive. Nor are they exclusive to the Jews......At its best, the American university can still be a place of relentless intellectual challenge rather than ideological conformity and social groupthink. At its best, the United States can still be the country that respects, and sometimes rewards, all manner of heresies that outrage polite society and contradict established belief. At its best, the West can honor the principle of racial, religious and ethnic pluralism not as a grudging accommodation to strangers but as an affirmation of its own diverse identity. In that sense, what makes Jews special is that they aren’t.

They are representational

The West, however, is not at its best. It’s no surprise that Jew hatred has made a comeback, albeit under new guises. Anti-Zionism has taken the place of anti-Semitism as a political program directed against Jews. Globalists have taken the place of rootless cosmopolitans as the shadowy agents of economic iniquity. Jews have been murdered by white nationalists and black “Hebrews.” Hate crimes against Orthodox Jews have become an almost daily fact of life in New York City. Jews of the late 19th century would have been familiar with the hatreds. Jews of the early 21st century should recognize where they could lead. What’s not secret about Jewish genius is that it’s a terribly fragile flower.
19th_century  20th_century  Albert_Einstein  anti-Semitism  books  Bret_Stephens  capitalization  genius  heresies  high-minded  human_capital  human_intelligence  IQ  Jewish  mental_dexterity  originality  outsiders  purpose  smart_people  talent  think_differently 
december 2019 by jerryking
Da Vinci code: what the tech age can learn from Leonardo
April 26, 2019 | Financial Times | by Ian Goldin.

While Leonardo is recognised principally for his artistic genius, barely a dozen paintings can be unequivocally attributed to him. In life, he defined himself not as an artist but as an engineer and architect......History does not repeat itself, but it rhymes. The Renaissance catapulted Italy from the Medieval age to become the most advanced place on Earth. Then, as now, change brought immense riches to some and growing anxiety and disillusionment to others. We too live in an age of accelerating change, one that has provoked its own fierce backlash. What lessons can we draw from Leonardo and his time to ensure that we not only benefit from a new flourishing, but that progress will be sustained? When we think of the Renaissance, we think of Florence. Leonardo arrived in the city in the mid 1460s, and as a teenager was apprenticed to the painter Verrocchio. The city was already an incubator for ideas. At the centre of the European wool trade, by the late 14th century Florence had become the home of wealthy merchants including the Medicis, who were bankers to the Papal Court. The city’s rapid advances were associated with the information and ideas revolution that defines the Renaissance. Johann Gutenberg had used moveable type to publish his Bible in the early 1450s, and between the time of Leonardo’s birth in 1452 and his 20th birthday, some 15m books were printed, more than all the European scribes had produced over the previous 1,500 years.

..as Leonardo knew, and the Silicon Valley techno-evangelists too often neglect, information revolutions don’t only allow good ideas to flourish. They also provide a platform for dangerous ideas. The Zuckerberg information revolution can pose a similar threat to that of Gutenberg.

In the battle of ideas, populists are able to mobilise the disaffected more effectively than cerebral scientists, decently disciplined innovators and the moderate and often silent majority. For progress to prevail, evidence-based, innovative and reasoned thinking must triumph.
.....Genius thrived in the Renaissance because of the supportive ecosystem that aided the creation and dissemination of knowledge — which then was crushed by the fearful inquisitions. Today, tolerance and evidence-based argument are again under threat.
accelerated_lifecycles  architecture  broad-based_scientific_enquiry  capitalization  cross-disciplinary  cross-pollination  curiosity  dangerous_ideas  digital_economy  diversity  engineering  evidence_based  Florence  genius  globalization  human_potential  ideas  immigrants  Italy  industry_expertise  Johan_Gutenberg  lessons_learned  Leonardo_da_Vinci  Medicis  medieval  physical_place  polymaths  observations  Renaissance  Renaissance_Man  Silicon_Valley  silo_mentality  tolerance  unevenly_distributed  visionaries 
april 2019 by jerryking
Welcome to the 5 a.m. Club - The Globe and Mail
HARVEY SCHACHTER
SPECIAL TO THE GLOBE AND MAIL
PUBLISHED JANUARY 3, 2019

Robin Sharma wants you to join the 5 a.m. club.

The Toronto-based leadership coach and author of the bestseller The Monk Who Sold his Ferrari says that in a time-starved world, we need at least an hour first thing in the morning to refuel, grow and become healthier people. And that should come at 5 a.m., a time when many top performers have started their day, from John Grisham to Ernest Hemingway, Georgia O’Keefe to Frank Lloyd Wright, Beethoven to Mozart. In his new fable The 5 a.m. Club, he explains that hour fits the concept of capitalization expounded by psychologist James Flynn, which reminds us that natural talent only carries us so far. The key to success is the extent of the potential that we actualize. “Many of the finest athletes in the world had less innate skills than their competition. But it was their exceptional dedication, commitment and drive to maximize whatever strengths they has that made them iconic,”
capitalization  Harvey_Schachter  books  early_risers  time-strapped  Beethoven  Mozart 
january 2019 by jerryking
Lost Einsteins: The Innovations We’re Missing -
DEC. 3, 2017 | The New York Times | David Leonhardt.

societies have a big interest in making sure that as many people as possible have the opportunity to become scientists, inventors and entrepreneurs. It’s not only a matter of fairness. Denying opportunities to talented people can end up hurting everyone.

.....Raj Chetty....is a Stanford professor who helps lead the Equality of Opportunity Project.... considered among the most important research efforts in economics today.....The project’s latest paper, out Sunday, looks at who becomes an inventor — and who doesn’t. The results are disturbing....The key phrase in the research paper is “lost Einsteins.” It’s a reference to people who could “have had highly impactful innovations” if they had been able to pursue the opportunities they deserved.....children who excelled in math were far more likely to become inventors. But being a math standout wasn’t enough. Only the top students who also came from high-income families had a decent chance to become an inventor.

This fact may be the starkest: Low-income students who are among the very best math students — those who score in the top 5 percent of all third graders — are no more likely to become inventors than below-average math students from affluent families:

....“There are great differences in innovation rates,” Chetty said. “Those differences don’t seem to be due to innate ability to innovate.” Or as Steve Case — the entrepreneur who’s now investing in regions that venture capital tends to ignore — told me when I called him to discuss the findings: “Creativity is broadly distributed. Opportunity is not.” [or life’s basic truth: Talent is universal, but opportunity is not.]
innovation  equality_of_opportunity  Steve_Case  Albert_Einstein  achievement_gaps  affluence  high-income  low-income  mathematics  capitalization  human_potential  inventions  inventiveness  inventors  creativity  quotes  unevenly_distributed 
december 2017 by jerryking
Keeping America's Edge
Winter 2010 | National Affairs | Jim Manzi.

.....One of the most painful things about markets is that they often make fools of our fathers: Sharp operators with an eye for trends often outperform those who carefully learn a trade and continue a tradition. ...First, To begin with, we must unwind some recent errors that fail to take account of these circumstances. Most obviously, government ownership of industrial assets is almost a guarantee that the painful decisions required for international competitiveness will not be made. When it comes to the auto industry, for instance, we need to take the loss and move on. As soon as possible, the government should announce a structured program to sell off the equity it holds in GM. ....Second, the financial crisis has demonstrated obvious systemic problems of poor regulation and under-regulation of some aspects of the financial sector that must be addressed — though for at least a decade prior to the crisis, over-regulation, lawsuits, and aggressive government prosecution seriously damaged the competitiveness of other parts of America's financial system ........Regulation to avoid systemic risk must therefore proceed from a clear understanding of its causes. In the recent crisis, the reason the government has been forced to prop up financial institutions isn't that they are too big to fail, but rather that they are too interconnected to fail......we should therefore adopt a modernized version of a New Deal-era ­innovation: focus on creating walls that contain busts, rather than on applying brakes that hold back the entire system.....Third, over the coming decades, we should seek to deregulate public schools. .....We should pursue the creation of a real marketplace among ever more deregulated publicly financed schools — a market in which funding follows students, and far broader discretion is permitted to those who actually teach and manage in our schools. There are real-world examples of such systems that work well today — both Sweden and the Netherlands, for instance, have implemented this kind of plan at the national level......Fourth, we should reconceptualize immigration as recruiting. Assimilating immigrants is a demonstrated core capability of America's political economy — and it is one we should take advantage of. ....think of immigration as an opportunity to improve our stock of human capital. Once we have re-established control of our southern border, and as we preserve our commitment to political asylum, we should also set up recruiting offices looking for the best possible talent everywhere: from Mexico City to Beijing to Helsinki to Calcutta. Australia and Canada have demonstrated the practicality of skills-based immigration policies for many years. We should improve upon their example by using testing and other methods to apply a basic tenet of all human capital-intensive organizations managing for the long term: Always pick talent over skill. It would be great for America as a whole to have, say, 500,000 smart, motivated people move here each year with the intention of becoming citizens.
social_cohesion  innovation  human_capital  Jim_Manzi  immigration  immigration_policies  recruiting  interconnections  too_big_to_fail  economic_downturn  outperformance  capitalization  human_potential  financial_system  regulation  under-regulation  too_interconnected_to_fail  systemic_risks  talent  skills  innovation_policies 
august 2017 by jerryking
Self-Driving People, Enabled by Airbnb
JULY 26, 2017 | The New York Times | Thomas L. Friedman.

Airbnb has a different goal: enabling what I call self-driving people.

And that’s why I won’t be surprised if in five years Airbnb is not only still the world’s biggest home rental service, but also one of the world’s biggest jobs platforms. You read that right. Very quietly Airbnb has been expanding its trust platform beyond enabling people to rent their spare rooms to allowing them to translate their passions into professions, and thereby empower more self-driving people.....To see what’s growing, go to Airbnb’s site and click not on “homes” but on “experiences.” You’ll find an endless smorgasbord of people turning their passion into profit and their inner artisan into second careers....Airbnb’s “experiences” site has grown tenfold this year.

Tourists visiting a foreign country try to understand the culture by going to a museum and viewing “art by dead people,” noted Chesky. “Why not learn how to make art yourself, taught by a living artist in that culture and immerse yourself in the artist’s world? These are experiences you can bring back with you!”

Chesky believes that the potential for Airbnb experiences could be bigger than home-sharing. ....“The biggest asset in people’s lives is not their home, but their time and potential — and we can unlock that,” he explained. “We have these homes that are not used, and we have these talents that are not used. Instead of asking what new infrastructure we need to build, why don’t we look at what passions we can unlock? We can unlock so much economic activity, and this will unlock millions of entrepreneurs.”...In America, though, there is a surplus of fear and a poverty of imagination in the national jobs discussion today — because “all we are focusing on are the things that are going away,” said Chesky. “We need to focus on what’s coming. Do we really think we’re living in the first era in history where nothing will ever again be created by humans for humans, only by machines? Of course not. It’s that we’re not talking about all of these human stories.”....Indeed, the beauty of this era is that you don’t need to wait for Ford to come to your town with a 25,000-person auto factory. Anyway, that factory is now 2,500 robots and 1,000 people. The future belongs to communities that learn to leverage their unique attributes, artisans and human talent.

There is no Eiffel Tower in Louisville, Ky., but there are amazing bourbon distilleries popping up all over, creating myriad tourist opportunities; there are no pyramids in Detroit, but there is a bountiful history of Motown music and all kinds of artists now creating boutique concerts and tours for visitors to experience it.....We have to do 50 things right to recreate that broad middle class of the ’50s and ’60s, and platforms like Airbnb’s are just one of them. (Having universal health care to create a safety net under all of these budding entrepreneurs would be another.) But you have to be inspired by how many people are now finding joy and income by mining their passions.

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“A tourist is someone who does things that locals who live there never do,” said Chesky. Airbnb’s experiences platform is now enabling visitors to live like locals — even though they’re guests and, in the process, enrich the local community and create new employment. Any town can play.

So much of what companies did in the past, concluded Chesky, “was unlocking natural resources to build the stuff we wanted.” Today’s new platforms are unlocking human potential to “be the people we wanted.”

....
Airbnb  artisan_hobbies_&_crafts  capitalization  entrepreneurship  experiential_marketing  gig_economy  human_potential  intrinsically_motivated  job_creation  middle_class  passions  platforms  self-actualization  self-starters  Tom_Friedman  tourism  unimaginative 
july 2017 by jerryking
Good Schools Aren’t the Secret to Israel’s High-Tech Boom - WSJ
March 20, 2017

Israel’s shadow education system has three components. The first is our heritage of debate—it’s in the Jewish DNA. For generations Jews have studied the Talmud, our legal codex, in a way vastly different from what goes on in a standard classroom. Instead of listening to a lecture, the meaning of complex texts is debated by students in hevruta—pairs—with a teacher offering occasional guidance.

Unlike quiet Western libraries, the Jewish beit midrash—house of study—is a buzzing beehive of learning. Since the Talmud is one of the most complex legal codes ever gathered, the idea of a verdict is almost irrelevant to those studying. Students engage in debate for the sake of debate. They analyze issues from all directions, finding different solutions. Multiple answers to a single question are common. Like the Talmud itself—which isn’t the written law but a gathering of protocols—the learning process, not the result, is valued.

The second component of our shadow education system is the peer-teaches-peer model of Jewish youth organizations, membership-based groups that we call “movements.” Teenagers work closely with younger children; they lead groups on excursions and hikes, develop informal curricula, and are responsible for those in their care. As an 11th-grade student, I took fifth-graders on an overnight hike in the mountains. Being given responsibilities at a young age helped shape me into who I am today.

The third component is the army.
Israel  ksfs  education  high_schools  schools  Jewish  Talmud  protocols  Judaism  books  religion  coming-of-age  technology  science_&_technology  venture_capital  innovation  human_capital  capitalization  struggles  convictions  tough-mindedness  rigour  discomforts  cultural_values  arduous 
march 2017 by jerryking
Episode 04 :: Revisionist History Podcast
“Carlos Doesn’t Remember” is the first in a three-part Revisionist History miniseries taking a critical look at the idea of capitalization—the measure of how well America is making use of its human potential.
Malcolm_Gladwell  social_mobility  capitalization  podcasts  human_potential 
july 2016 by jerryking
The middle class is good politics but a curious crusade
Aug. 03 2013 | The Globe and Mail | Konrad Yakabuski.

A “thriving middle class” won’t come from new programs hatched in Ottawa. It will come from the innovators and entrepreneurs who harness Canada’s abundant human capital and natural resources to create wealth.

as TD Economics has shown, Canada has not experienced the same wage polarization that has led to rising income inequality south of the border. Social mobility is higher here and our tax system is more progressive. The after-tax income of the top 10 per cent of Canadians was 4.1 times that of the bottom 10 per cent in 2010. The U.S. ratio was 6 to 1.

There is no doubt that globalization and technological change have rendered thousands of middle-class Canadian jobs obsolete. But there is no reversing this trend, no matter how much would-be federal policy-makers aspire to meddle. Besides, globalization’s upsides outweigh its downsides. And Canadians, among the best-educated people on the planet, stand to benefit.

“Rewards to education, to innovation and to creativity are higher than they have ever been,” notes Princeton University economist Angus Deaton in The Great Escape, his forthcoming book on the history of inequality. “Perhaps the greatest escape in all of human history, and certainly the most rapid one [is] the reduction in global poverty since 1980 … The world has done much better than the pessimists predicted.”
Konrad_Yakabuski  globalization  Chrystia_Freeland  obsolescence  middle_class  technological_change  social_mobility  Toronto  expatriates  inequality  books  income_inequality  capitalization 
august 2013 by jerryking
In Palm Beach, The Old Money Isn't Having a Ball - WSJ.com
May 20, 2005 | WSJ | By ROBERT FRANK |
Rich vs. Richer: Influx of New Wealth Sparks Spat Over Red Cross Event; Inheritance's Smaller Role; A 1930s Landmark Is Razed

The number of superwealthy in the U.S. has surged, with 430,000 households now worth more than $10 million. That's up from 65,000, adjusted for inflation, in 1989. In 2001, the top 1% of Americans ranked by net worth controlled 33% of all personal assets. As the nouveaux riches buy their way into high society, they're increasingly clashing with an older elite that largely lives off inherited money.

A study of the Forbes 400 list of super-rich Americans by Arthur Kennickell, senior economist with the Federal Reserve in Washington, D.C., found that about half the people on the 2001 list weren't on the list in 1989. For the nation's richest 1%, inherited wealth accounted for only 9% of their net worth in 2001, down from 23% in 1989, according to a study by New York University economist Edward Wolff.
[Simon Fireman]

The rapid shift in the composition of the tiny sliver of wealthiest Americans is striking because the amount of U.S. class mobility overall hasn't significantly changed for the last three decades, according to economists. The chance that a poor child will make it into the upper-middle class -- or that a rich child will fall down to the middle class -- has stayed about the same, and some studies suggest mobility in the U.S. is less than in continental Europe and Canada.

It's not that the old rich have become appreciably poorer, although taxes, inflation and offspring take their toll. Rather, the new wealth among entrepreneurs has leapfrogged inherited money. Bill Gates's $48 billion net worth is more than twice the Rockefeller family's current fortune.
high_net_worth  Robert_Frank  entrepreneurship  social_mobility  capitalization  The_One_Percent  old_money 
august 2012 by jerryking
Book Review: "Start-Up Nation" - WSJ.com
NOVEMBER 23, 2009 | Wall Street Journal | by JAMES K.
GLASSMAN. Israel is the world's techno-nation. Civilian
research-and-development expenditures run 4.5% of the gross domestic
product—half-again the level of the U.S., Germany or South Korea—and
venture-capital investment per capita is 2½ times that of the U.S. and
six times that of the United Kingdom. Even in absolute terms, Israel has
only the U.S.—with more than 40 times the population—as a challenger.
One important question that "Start-Up Nation" raises is: Why Israel and
not elsewhere? The authors dispose, a bit too blithely, the argument
from ethnic or religious exceptionalism, dismissing "unitary Jewishness"
or even individual talent as major reasons for Israel's high-tech
success. (George Gilder, in a recent book treating some of the same
matters, "The Israel Test," disagrees: "Israel today concentrates the
genius of the Jews.")
Israel  technology  science_&_technology  venture_capital  cultural_values  innovation  book_reviews  Jewish  human_capital  capitalization 
november 2009 by jerryking

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