Genius is unevenly distributed in history. Why were certain periods such as Socratic Athens and Renaissance Florence blessed with so much of it?
Saying that Shakespeare was a "genius for all time, but he could only have existed in his time: his genius was unleashed by his age," Jonah Lehrer argues that those eras, to which he adds Elizabethan England, featured successful "meta-ideas", which "include concepts like the patent system, public libraries, and universal education."
Elizabethan England made a concerted effort to educate its middle-class males, which is how William Shakespeare—the son of a glover who couldn’t sign his name—ended up getting free Latin lessons. We need to emulate these ingenious eras and encourage rampant experimentation in the education sector, whether it’s taking the Khan Academy mainstream or expanding vocational training. As T. S. Eliot once remarked, the great ages did not contain more talent. They wasted less.
Lehrer identifies diverse societies that attract immigrant talent and "institutions that encourage risk taking" as catalysts for the flourishing of creative expression and the lasting benefits that follow. As for the risk-taking institutions we have in this time and place:
Bill James, the pioneer of Moneyball-style statistical baseball analysis, points out that modern America is already very good at generating geniuses. The problem is that the geniuses we’ve created are athletes.
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