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.
Tonight in Paris, at dinner with @loic @geraldine and @ninavarsavsky, we spoke about attitudes towards failure in USA and Europe. In Europe it’s still terrible to fail and that is bad because failure is an essential part of success (think of all the sperm that fail to make a child). But in Silicon Valley, failure is becoming too much of the opposite: too accepted, people are not trying hard enough, too many start ups are getting funded as if VC’s knew there were bound to fail but went ahead anyway. In Europe now we are more like in Silicon Valley in 2006 when Fon got funded. Back then it was not that easy to get started. And that may not be all that bad. Failure has to be accepted, but not encouraged!