I want to speak of hope. Not “hope” hope, but real hope.
The good news is that these days, thanks to the internet, it is a lot easier to be smart, and a lot harder to be stupid. As human beings, intelligence is our great gift, our great advantage, our key to survival. It’s not claws or fangs or the ability to run fast, it is the ability to think.
How well our brains function is a matter of exercise and experience. You can strengthen your brain, and you can neglect it. Your ability to think can get stronger, and it can get weaker, just like your muscles. Use it or lose it.
Because of the internet, it is a hundred times easier to be smart. With a few taps of your fingertips, you access the knowledge and opinions of tens of thousands of people—dire warnings to the contrary notwithstanding. Some have said that instant access to information will make us a hundred times lazier in gathering it.
The physical process of thinking by the brain is based on the ability to store information, and transmit it. “Grey matter” stores the information, “white matter” transmits it. Grey matter is composed of neurons, and is the outer layer of the brain. Neurons gather, store, and release bits of information.
White matter is composed mostly of axons and dendrites. These are the nerves that connect the neurons, and allow the neurons to communicate with their neighbors, and with more distant neurons. White matter comprises the inner layer of the brain.
An intelligent person has a physical brain that tends to have quantitatively more neurons. The grey matter in their brain is thicker, and of greater mass. Intelligence is also facilitated by the way in which information is channeled and transmitted most efficiently by the axons. The uber-axon, the corpus callosum—the bundle of nerves that connects the two hemispheres of the brain—has been found to be a critical element in exercising intelligence.
Both neurons and axons contribute to the intelligence of the individual.
In the world, each individual human can be likened to a neuron. We are nodes that receive, store and share information. Our connections with others can be compared with axons in the brain. We communicate locally and distantly.
The world as a whole can be described as a very large brain, with seven billion macro-neurons—us. Our intelligence as individuals is greatly aided by the availability of information on the internet. Our intelligence as a whole is greatly enhanced by our vastly improved communication network.
We are smarter as individuals, and we are smarter as a whole. World Brain. We are better able than ever to deal with the multitude of challenges we face, as individuals, as groups, and as a whole.