I am reading Tyler Cowen’s book ‘Average is Over’ because I was intrigued by a ThoughtCatalog posting entitled ‘6 Imperative Things You Need To Know About The Global Economy’ and especially one of the summations of the short global economy scarcity indices in the form of ‘Quality labor with unique skills’.

I got a copy of the ebook from my sister, who was equally interested, and I am now 31% through it according to my eReader.

I intend to write a series of posts on the subject, this being the first.

I don’t know the page number – it’s an eReader in the form of the 1st gen Kindle – but it’s at the 31% finished point where the author states” If you test your ability to calculate against the computer and continue to do so over years, you’ll get a lot better at calculation and you’ll learn to transcend some of the natural tendency to rely on intuition.” Hmmm.

On the previous page where he sums up analytic people, intelligence and decision making in the workplace he says “Be skeptical of the elegant and intuitive theory.”

Now I have some disagreement there as I happen to love elegant solutions and also believe that when we talk about intuition in a serious way what we are really talking about is leveraging pre-existing information that resides in the subconscious mind.

But he made a point earlier for which I am willing to forgive his rather blithe disregard for elegance when he said that “…we humans  – even at the highest levels of intellect and competition – like to oversimplify matters.”

But then he infuriates me where in the next sentence he says, “We boil things down to our ‘intuitions’ too much.”

[Following] Intuitions is not about shooting from the proverbial hip, going off all half-cocked and making irrationally based decisions. The author is taking the meaning of the word intuition and is applying it incorrectly. To say it again, the sub-conscious mind stores all kinds of little details that the conscious mind ignores. This might be a crude example, but someone properly hypnotized is able to remember all kinds of details, some seemingly useless, like colors and makes and models of cars that drove by their front porch on some summer morning years ago. And there are those who upon arriving home sense that something (however subtle) is amiss with their front door and rightly know that their apartment has been violated. Why/how? Because that previous information of what was still exists in the subconscious mind. Highly intuitive people have readier access to their subconscious than people who don’t.

So apart from the sloppy application of the word intuition I am willing to forgive him because the point that he is really trying to make in that paragraph is tied to the fact that “We (humans) like pat answers and we take too much care to avoid intellectual chaos.” Meaning, like he said earlier, we have a tendency to oversimplify things. And I agree with that.

But the reason why I felt an urge to make a comment at the 31% mile-marker is just how much in contrast his opinion on the relative valuelessness of intuition is with that of the great Sufi mystic, Rumi who said “Sell your cleverness and buy bewilderment; cleverness is mere opinion, bewilderment is intuition.”

So I have to say early on that I disagree with the author about the future in that machine enabled analytics totally displace qualities like elegance and the importance of the mostly misunderstood notion of intuition. Even yes, in the workplace.

PS – Do you want to know why the CIA as an organization is such a failure as an implementer of American foreign policy? It is because all of the people that they hire all fit the exact same mold. No criminal records. Good grades from a good school. Good credit scores. In short, they hire people who play it safe. They don’t hire risk takers. They don’t hire people who use their intuition. Creative thought and elegance is not part of their corporate creed. Instead the institution breeds bureaucrats. Enough said.

PPS – If you want to read a very comprehensive history on the positively world-class bungling CIA, I urge you to pick up a copy of Derek Leebaert’s brilliantly researched  ‘The Fifty-Year Wound: How America’s Cold War Victory Has Shaped Our World’.

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