March 18, 2009

Roger Bacon, the great English scholar and teacher of the thirteenth century, wrote that a person would need thirty to forty years of study to master mathematics as then understood. Today the math he was talking about—calculus hadn’t been invented—is taught routinely to millions of high school students. No one thinks anything of it, but consider what this means. The intellectual content of the material is the same, and people’s brains aren’t any different; seven hundred and some years isn’t nearly enough time for a broad upgrade in human brainpower. Instead, just as in sports, the standard of what we do with what we’ve got has simply risen tremendously.

– from Talent is Overrated by Geoff Colvin

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