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Even Geniuses Can Be Wrong

August 12, 2015

My two heroes in life are Mickey Mouse and Albert Einstein. einstein1_7Mickey reminds me to not take life too seriously and Al reminds me to question everything. While Einstein was a genius in the world of science, he seems to have missed the mark in predicting the future.

In reading Einstein’s writings, it’s interesting to see how people turned to him for advice on a variety of subjects outside of science. He thought it strange, but rarely hesitated to give his opinion. Since he approached life logically, as he did science, his responses were often illuminating for their simplicity.

In the book “The World As I See It”, Enstein addresses critics as a profession, definitely showing his since of humor.

“To see with one’s own eyes, to feel and judge without succumbing to the suggestive power of the fashion of the day, to be able to express what one has seen and felt in a snappy sentence or even in a cunningly wrought word – is that not glorious? is it not a proper subject for congratulation?”

In this same collection he addresses the condition of the world (1933) and looks forward to a better future. He states, free development“In my opinion, the present symptoms of decadence are explained by the fact that the development of industry and machinery has made the struggle for existence very much more severe, greatly to the detriment of the of the individual.” He does, however, foresee a brighter future when he says, “A planned division of labour is becoming more and more of a crying necessity, and this division will lead to the material security of the individual. This security and the spare time and energy which the individual will have at his command can be made to further his development.”  He goes on to say, “…we will hope that future historians will explain the morbid symptoms of present-day society as the childhood ailments of an aspiring humanity, due entirely to the excessive speed at which civilization was advancing.”

While this prediction is optimistic nothing has changed.  This could be written today and be as accurate in its observation. We have developed even more machinery to simplify our lives but have allowed our lives to be increasingly complicated. He foresaw a future where people could spend more time in the arts, literature, and the pursuit of helping his fellow man. Instead, we seem to spend more and more time keeping up with technology.

The world, or life in general, is  better now than in 1933. We have more labor saving devices, better living conditions in developed countries, and more free time. The speed at which new things are brought about is astounding, and it becomes hard to remember how we survived without the conveniences we so easily take for granted. But can we honestly say that we’ve bettered ourselves?

We read about the hours people spend glued to the boob tube, how we need to unplug from all the devices we now use as extensions of our appendages, and we do not need to look very far to see those in need around us. The spare time and energy Einstein was hopeful about, have been used more to promote the individual and less to the collective benefit of all.

One condition that Einstein notes is the lack of great men, leaders, in proportion to the rise in population. He felt that this would be corrected as the world found itself better off. We now have three times as many people in the world and far fewer great men and women. The current slate of presidential candidates as Exhibit 1.

So for all his abilities in the realm of science, Einstein fell short as a predictor of the future. His hopes were noble but he forgot how as much as industry and machinery may change, the human race does not.

He was also appalled at how, “in two weeks the sheep-like masses can be worked up by the newspapers into such a state of excited fury that the men are prepared to put on uniform and kill or be killed, for the sake of the worthless aims of a few interested parties.” Maybe he wasn’t as far off the mark as I think!


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