Different types of intelligence
How exactly do the forces in the universe work? For example, you are just made up of atoms. Why do you not break apart? But wait a minute, why do some bodies that are also of atoms break apart? And what about light? There are no atoms in light. So is it different from us?
Understanding and explaining the physical universe is a mindblowing task. And generation after generation of physicists have tried to do so.
Among the most influential, Max Planck. Even if you are not familiar with physics, Planck doesn't really need that much of an introduction. This was the man who is widely considered the father of quantum theory - how atoms and sub-atomic particles interact and work.
Planck was also the man who immediately recognised Einstein paper on Special Relativity, and in fact, improved upon it. Without Planck, Einstein might never have gotten the influence need to push through his other ideas. Einstein himself had this to say: “Planck's work is the basis of all 20th-century research in physics and has almost entirely conditioned its development ever since.”
One last thing about Planck. He was a true scientist. He believed in facts and rejected speculation. But when new research proved him wrong, he would change his mind and support it fully, no matter how revolutionary the idea was. Fellow Nobel Prize Winner Max Born said this about Planck: "he was, by nature, a conservative mind; he had nothing of the revolutionary and was thoroughly skeptical about speculations. Yet his belief in the compelling force of logical reasoning from facts was so strong that he did not flinch from announcing the most revolutionary idea which ever has shaken physics."
There was however one big problem that confounded this brilliant but open-minded scientist. Not all of his colleagues were the same. In fact, Planck observed, what is now known as Planck's Principle, that:
"Science progresses one funeral at a time.
A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents
and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents
eventually die and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it"
While Planck could wrap his head around the most challenging problems known to man, and he himself was open-minded to accept new scientific findings even when these contradicted his own views, he could not persuade others to do the same. He solved some of the hardest problems, but could not solve the problem of how to convince others to accept new facts.
We now introduce our second character, Dale Carnegie.
Carnegie was born to a farming family, but what he was really good at, was understanding how to communicate with people. From a young age, he also developed an interest in debate and public speaking.
His first real job out of the farm was in sales, and he was very successful. He had that knack of convincing others to buy his products. But what he wanted to do was public speaking, which he eventually went back into, starting at the YMCA. Again, he was a popular public speaker.
Where he really found tremendous success was as an author. In particular, his book, "How to win Friends and Influence People", despite being written 84 years ago, is one most-read books of all time, selling over 30 million copies.
I confess that I had resisted reading the book for a long time. I thought it resembled the sort of overly-positive, scientifically blasphemous, over-simplified, and manipulative book that everyone bought because everyone else had bought it.
But having finally read it, it matches what neuroscientists have known, or as Carnegie puts it:
"When dealing with people, remember you are not
dealing with creatures of logic, but creatures of emotions".
The essence of the book is very simple. Don't just think of what you want and don't want in a negotiation or a relationship, because everyone else is innately inclined to do the same. Instead, if we can just manage to be interested in the other party, think from their perspective, and appeal to the innate biases and emotions of people, this would lead to far better outcomes.
Dale Carnegie had an intuitive sense that to convince people, it is not about how accurate our facts are, but people's reactions to it.
Our favourite little rider on the big wild elephant analogy comes in useful here: the little rider is our conscious reasoning, and the big wild elephant is all our unconscious intuition and emotions. The mistake we make is that we often think the little rider is the one in charge and we try to engage, when really what we should be doing is to first appeal to the big wild elephant.
So here we have 2 giants who demonstrated tremendous intelligence in 2 different areas.
Max Planck was able to pull humanity forward in the realm of theoretical physics, a very difficult area of work.
Dale Carnegie on the other hand, showed us a way to tackle another very difficult area - how to convince people.