Have you ever noticed a group of people chanting nonsense, and wondered where the intelligence or wisdom went. Individually our intelligence is very similar. However, when we come together there is a Venn Diagram effect that takes place. Each person becomes a circle in that diagram. Differences are sorted out until there is a common ground that everyone in the group can relate to, or understand. The common ground is much smaller than the complete diagram. Therefore, it demonstrates how a group can be narrow-minded. This revelation brought up a thought. If there was a choice between having wisdom or having intelligence, which would be favored? To start, let’s define each in order to have a fundamental idea of what these two items are.
Dictionary.com defines intelligence as “capacity for learning, reasoning, understanding, and similar forms of mental activity, aptitude in grasping truths, relationships, facts, meanings, etc.” In short, intelligence is the ability to learn and comprehend information. There is something amazing that takes place when a person reads a page and gains insight into the world around. It is something that we take for granted. Understanding the fundamentals of fire brought us forges. This, in turn, allowed for metal works. As we gained knowledge of different metals and how to improve them, we began to build taller building and soon skyscraper emerged. Cities were built and the age of the metropolis was born. All of this started with understanding that the more oxygen a fire is fed, the hotter the fire will burn.
How does this compare to wisdom? Using the same reference we find wisdom is defined as “the quality or state of being wise, knowledge of what is true or right coupled with just judgment as to action, sagacity, discernment, or insight.” Simply stated, it is knowing what is true. A lot of our wisdom comes from experience. With each generation that passes, we learn what works and what doesn’t. But more importantly we learn what is good for us and what is not. We all want to live a happy life. Ever met a person who wanted to be miserable? Wisdom allows us to understand why some actions are better than others. Just because something is good, doesn’t make it right. Building cities for people to live and work in is good because it provides shelter and jobs. However, as we expand our cities, we decrease our land for agriculture. This is not a wise thing to do.
Wisdom and intelligence have a symbiotic relationship that allows for us to advance our technology without harming ourselves. There has to be a balance. An over application of wisdom may result in stagnation. If we over emphasize what works and what is safe, we end up with a “but we have always done it like this” mentality. As a culture we need to change and grow. History has shown us that cultures that refuse to change, stop growing and start dying. However, changing without regulations can result in catastrophe as well. Without regulations there is no structure, and without structure there is nothing to build onto.
So to answer the question “would it be better to have intelligence or wisdom”, the answer would be both. It would be foolish for us to prefer one over the other. We need to question “why”. We are driven to discover the solutions to life’s mysteries. Nevertheless, to do it without a concerning ourselves with the effects of such discoveries would be reckless. We as a human race have come so far, and we have a long way to go. This is why it is important for us to pace ourselves and take the time to digest the knowledge that we consume, and avoid the Venn Diagram trap. Never follow a group blindly over a cliff. In asking “why” also ask “should we”. You’ll be glad you did.