I was trying to understand why most people who are incredibly intelligent never amount to much and I came up with this conclusion. Intelligence is like a sense. It’s the ability to reason, to organize ideas according to principles. But just as being able to see, does not guarantee that you will actually discover something new, or good vision does not necessarily lead to significant observations, having tremendous intelligence does not necessarily mean that you will come up with some groundbreaking work.

When I think of the most intelligent people I knew in college, they all did well, but few did any kind of truly innovative work. That work, came from other types. From unexpected candidates. From odd thinkers.

What moves civilization forward is in a way, similar to what moves our genes forward, something akin to evolution. What we need is not just intelligence, it’s mutant intelligence, mutant thinking, mutant thoughts. We need to combine the ability to reason with the ability to “morph” a thought into a whole new proposal. And then this new idea has to withstand scientific enquiry, colonize thinking and prevail, like a new species. And as it happens with mutations, most of these new thoughts will be useless, foolish and lead to knowledge oblivion. But some of this mutant thoughts will cross the fine line between folly and brilliancy and make us all more knowledgeable and better off.

Follow Martin Varsavsky on Twitter: twitter.com/martinvars

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