Brilliant People & Long-term Planning

I have discovered 2 themes this weekend that truly draw me into media. The first is that the story focuses around or relies heavily on a brilliant person, or was written by one. Sherlock Holmes, Hari Seldon, Julian “Bean” Delphiki, Andrew “Ender” Wiggin, Paul “Muad’Dib” Atreides, C.S. Lewis. All of these people have hyper-focused awareness and intelligence and I am drawn to it like an arrow to its target. As I have discovered this theme I wondered why I am drawn to it and I have come to 2 conclusions. The first is that I aspire to be that brilliant. Second, that I feel like I am closer to them than others.

Now this sounds completely conceited and probably is, let me explain though. I know that I am in no way as smart as these people are. But I do recognize that I am truly intelligent in several ways. I absorb data and can often cite it back at will, I think several steps ahead, I truly enjoy learning, etc. However I also connect with these people because they all are a little less-social than normal. Holmes is a downright sociopath, Bean has difficulty making friends, Muad’Dib’s “friends” were all 20 years older than he, and C.S. Lewis spent a good chunk of his time befriending God. I can connect with the “loner” component of each of these people and that is why I am drawn their respective stories.

The second theme I have discovered this weekend is that most all of these stories have a long-term plan, with the exception being Holmes. I do not know if this is because I have read these books, or if it is something that has drawn me to them. Take Hari Seldon from Isaac Asimov’s Foundation series for instance. Hari Seldon is a psychohistorian who uses probabilities of large numbers of people to predict the future of the galactic empire for the next 10,000 years. He then used this to insert a plan to prevent 100,000 years of anarchy by creating a foundation designed to limit the anarchy to several thousand years. He is all about making difficult decisions based on long-term aims.

In the Ender’s series the population of planets across the solar system is designed to prevent long-term damage and takes many steps to create. In the Dune series, the Jihad is controlled to perpetuate the human race instead of destroy it, and in Narnia you can see Aslan’s guiding hand through it all.

As I said before, perhaps this is something I was drawn to or perhaps it is something I have adopted but I am beginning to further hate short-term thinkers and the problems they create. We have a terrible economic problem in regards to Social Security because Congress has dipped into the trust fund of Social Security & Medicare/Medicaid for years instead of letting it stay solvent and not touch that money, now we are facing a crisis of how to pay for it all such that people my age are not expecting a Social Security check when they retire and if they get one, that is just extra. This is why this quote from Claude Pepper has always stood out to me:

If more politicians in this country were thinking about the next generation instead of the next election, it might be better for the United States and the world.

We could be 50+ years more advanced in our technology had AT&T not thought only about the short-term bottom line. Why? Because AT&T labs discovered how to have voicemail back in the early 1900’s (I think 40’s but my book is packed away right now). Voicemail would have been recorded onto magnetic tape much like a cassette tape. If you think about the hard drive of the computer you are reading this from 99% chance it is using magnetic tape and the technology derived from it. It wasn’t until the 80’s that an AT&T worker discovered an old lab notebook and decided to introduce the concept of storing data in magnetic tape into the mainstream. Why did AT&T not release the technology back in the day? Because they thought it would hurt their bottom line with people having to talk less because of voicemail. AT&T didn’t have anywhere near the vision of Hari Seldon.

This photo shows a similar thought process taking place in front of us. FedEx Kinkos is claiming that printing without a computer is the future. I am sorry but 1st off that capability has been around for a while, and secondly as we become much more of a screen literate people, paper will shift even further out of use. Not books, but the concept of printing directions to the store, or even printing a contract (I signed my offer letter with Google digitally).

This is a long post already, but these themes have shaped my desire to work in both innovation and politics. I believe that I am intelligent and I hope for long-term planning and vision instead of a series of stop-gaps that ultimately resemble a wall with more patches than original construction.

To my friends, if you find books that have these themes, please send them my way. I’d love to create my own little echo chamber.