Focus: Is the end of genius near?

In today’s society, priority is often given to efforts that produce quick, quantifiable results. But, can every contribution to society be evaluated on those lines? To foster innovation, to make space for genius and to allow society’s intellectual elite to work on the future requires money and space. But these are luxuries that society appears reluctant to afford. Join our debate. Post your comments on our Facebook page or write to us at readers@gulfnews.com

Compiled By Huda TabrezCommunity Web Editor
00:00 August 3, 2013

5:09 Gulf News: Drive for quantifiable results is making it impossible to foster truly innovative thinking. Is the end of genius near?

5:12 John Katsos: I don’t agree that the end of the genius is near. I do believe that society values creativity, but not the creative process. The creative process is often the opposite of competition. Yet society — and especially business — tries to use creativity for competitive advantage.

5:12 Varunya Venkatesh: I strongly believe that economic pressure as well as society’s shortsightedness is not robbing us of the contributions of these masterminds. I disagree with the statement that drive for quantifiable results is making it impossible to encourage and value innovative thinking.

5:14 Rayan Al Moghrabi: I believe that this drive for quantifiable results makes it difficult for genius to be recognised, as they are set by people who think in a standardised way. Geniuses have a different way of thinking and they need to be given the freedom to do so.

5:14 Rema Menon: The International Baccalaureate programme in schools that fosters enquiry and reflection has become even more popular the world over. With such curricula, young minds and geniuses will be nurtured. Genius is a God-given gift that will shine through, no matter what. It is extremely shortsighted to only look for short-term gains.

5:17 Varunya Venkatesh: It isn’t the quantifiable results that affect innovative thinking, but appreciation of such innovations that bring in these results. Innovation leads to results. Initial results and forecasts don’t stop the force of a creative mind.

5:15 Gulf News: Is the global education system built to recognise talent? A common criticism is that it does not foster such talent. Would you agree or disagree?

5:20 John Katsos: I agree. The education system is built as a competitive system. That competitiveness does not allow people the freedom to think in different ways. Thinking differently is, in most systems, punished. This is why we see great minds in the modern world dropping out of the educational system. For example, Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg.

5:20 Varunya Venkatesh: I would argue the opposite. If the aspect of competition is removed completely from the educational system to foster free thinking, it would eradicate any scale of measure. Innovation is essential, but it’s also important to know where one stands in terms of the basic know-how required to sharpen that thinking process.

5:20 Rema Menon: Whatever the doomsday predictors may say, those that have a spark will shine through.

5:21 Rayan Al Moghrabi: Though education systems promote individuality and encourage students to think differently, they have a single standard to assess everyone, regardless of their abilities. There is a system in schools that separates students at different levels. Maybe they should include a system that is trained to recognise and develop true genius.

5:22 Varunya Venkatesh: If a true genius is identified, and provided special treatment, it eradicates the primary purpose of basic education, which is to provide everyone with the same basic knowledge. The differentiation of a true genius is in the application of that knowledge.

5:24 John Katsos: To discuss Varunya’s point, how can you measure a genius’ contributions against any pre-determined standards? Geniuses have the remarkable ability to innovate and create new standards, markets and products that have not been thought of or discovered. How could any pre-designed system identify that?

5:26 Rema Menon: Philanthropists and other agencies looking at the greater good will come forward to foster the spirit of enquiry and give gifted people an opportunity to showcase their talent.

5:30 Varunya Venkatesh: To respond to the point raised by Mr Katsos, if getting an A+ distinguishes a student as being excellent, I believe it does help identify extra potential. There are various other forums that provide a platform to a genius to set standards.

5:28 Gulf News: Will technological development affect future progress? Will it take the advantage away from the genius minds that may be part of the under-developed world? Is technology being given precedence, by society, over other fields of thought — art, sociology or philosophy?

5:33 Rayan Al Moghrabi: I don’t think technology will take anything away from geniuses because machines in the end are programmed to perform in specific ways and can’t develop ideas on their own. They might be able to do a lot of an ordinary person’s tasks, but they can’t replace a genius’s mind. In fact, technology assists them.

5:34 Rema Menon: Yes, measurable results are necessary to gauge a person’s ability, but unless we give free rein to creativity, we will deprive our youth. Technology is a necessity but cannot replace art, literature or culture.

5:37 John Katsos: Technology, by definition, is a set of systems constructed by human beings. To work, people need to put in information that the system can understand and compute. Geniuses, by definition, operate outside of existing standards to create new things and help rediscover forgotten things. Measurements simply cannot take this into account.

5:38 Varunya Venkatesh: Technology has become an integral part of our lives, and that is because of the innovations made by geniuses. In a business, profits cannot be neglected. However, innovation plays a huge role in this success.

5:38 Rema Menon: I strongly feel that in our greed for quick-fix, money-making ideas, we tend to forget the richness of art, literature and culture.

5:43 Rayan Al Moghrabi: Unfortunately, those quick-fix, money-making ideas are not even genius ideas. Such as Apple, with all its glory and reputation as being innovative. Most of these innovations are largely popular because of great marketing efforts and not because the ideas themselves are groundbreaking.

5:43 Rema Menon: To conclude, I wish to reiterate that as long as humans exist, we will see innovation, creativity and geniuses prevail.

5:47 John Katsos: The creativity of geniuses has been suppressed by systems before, often for hundreds of years at a time. One has only to compare the differences between Europe and the Middle East from AD800-1300 to understand this. Encouraging genius is about allowing for adequate freedom of thought, expression and creation. As a globalised society, we are going in opposite directions. In one direction, we want to ensure quality through disciplined measurements. In another direction, we want to create new and interesting solutions to the problems we face. The way forward may be somewhere in between.

5:48 Varunya Venkatesh: Geniuses take in the basic knowledge provided to everyone, but innovate. Thus, the education system that is constantly being modified for improvement is doing its best to help them. Being a genius is not only about creating ideas, but also making it available to the public against all odds. In that sense, this world is not running short of genius minds but is producing more of them, who come up with innovative ideas.

5:48 Rayan Al Moghrabi: To wrap up, I only wish that we will soon be seeing a change in our education system to help recognise difference in students and help them develop their own abilities, not the abilities we want them to have. We see proof in our everyday lives that it is not always the children who got the highest grades that end up being most successful. They are those who went out there and did things differently.

— Compiled by Huda Tabrez/Community Web Editor