I mean, the great majority of the main technological advances of the past 20 years have generated by American companies (and more often than not by US-educated entrepreneurs).
Anti-intellectualism might indeed be a problem (maybe?) but to say that tech has been adversely affected is, imo, untrue.
Modern thinking on financial optimization has destroyed the spirit of work.
>> The best engineers I've worked with (by far) have been US-educated
GP's statement does not preclude your experience. For example, all US engineers could have great expertise but there could be only a few of them.
Also, top schools emphasize athletics and other aspects beyond intellectualism. Not saying that's a bad thing, but the emphasis on extracurricular activities seems greater than other parts of the world -- something also observed by Hofstadter.
I'd argue that USA has lots of high quality tech workers mostly thanks to brain drain and its size.
For example, our web standards are ill-fitted for productivity-oriented business applications, creating a lot of wasteful busywork. If new standards came along to address that, many coders would be let go.
And I'm sure there's an AI bubble at play. The PE ratios of AI companies are not realistic: they can't carry themselves from revenue alone. When the crutch of investment money dries up, they'll fall like dominos. If you are in AI, have a Plan B career.
Edit: dlp211 inspired me to find a source, and it confirms his suspicions - US education seems reasonably good: https://www.theguardian.com/news/datablog/2010/dec/07/world-...
Even so, a few doubts remain. Could the US have good students on average, but fail to fully utilize its more talented students?
It was funny and sad to see standards getting set, then reduced. We know what is required. Various states set graduation requirements at that, with a test to be passed, and then backed off when they realized that many would not graduate. Since it isn't politically acceptable to deny graduation to anybody, we have no standards.
If you look at it that way, I think the solutions are much more akin to better motivating students, creating better environments (if they don't have them at home).
Motivation is both from showing better job opportunities to be had (higher salaries, employability), the practical value of intellectual and scientific education (to daily life decisions, participating well in democracy -- which cannot work without well educated citizens), and finally an intrinsic value of education -- showing how beautiful intellectual fields are, from a fun approach to mathematics education, to literature, etc.
Environments is making sure the school and classmate interactions are positive, possibly making available study spaces outside regular class time, elective extracurricular activities (programming classes, etc), etc.
Both of those probably go through investing heavily in teacher salaries and adequate teacher education. It's a societal commitment, really.
This isn't controversial and it's not xenophobic. The NYT has many op-eds covering this issue:
See also the criticisms on wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/H-1B_visa#Criticisms_of_the_pr...
I’ll play along. I’d say Ireland, Scotland, Netherlands, Germany, France, Sweden, Japan. Societies of continuing celebration of poetic, philosophical, artistic, and scientific achievement.
(That’s a short list, and a fast-thought out one that is shorter than it should be. Don’t crucify me for it. There are entire ranges of the planet I’ve skipped)
I think pro-intellectual culture is one that values thoughtful questioning, including of the status quo. Opinions are required to have a good argument; dogma (religious, political, technical, or otherwise) is not acceptable. It's G.K. Chesterton and C.S. Lewis instead of fundamentalists; it's The Federalist Papers instead of "the free market fixes all problems"; it's original Agile instead of process-Agile; it's real Hungarian notation instead of MS-docs-"Hungarian" notation.
An important point that is being almost universally ignored here.
The history of a modern, organized US is about 150 years old at this point. Anything prior to the Civil War is a baby-level of development, hopeful, maybe, could be, nation just learning how to crawl. It's rather absurd that the US is being browbeaten in this thread against cultures that have existed for many hundreds of years or more; in some cases a thousand plus years.
The US has shifted from being ~80% white European-descendant culturally to being 55%-60% (in real terms, as the US has ~25 million illegal immigrants that are never net leaving, and they contribute culturally to the pool) in the span of 40x years, with a massive injection of Asian and Latin-American-Hispanic cultures since the early 1970s. With the point being, the US isn't even remotely close to being a settled, well established cultural structure. Who knows what it will or won't become in 200 more years.
* The US is still 70+% white: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Race_and_ethnicity_in_the_Unit...
* The number of undocumented immigrants is much lower than that: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/11/27/us/illegal-immigrants-pop...
* I don't see any reason to believe nobody has more than one "cultural identity."
* Race is really more about culture than biology too. Maybe less so, but if for some reason you were motivated to come up with some categorization of people based on their biological ancestry, the races that we talk about wouldn't make a ton of sense. When you hear people saying that race is "socially constructed," this is what they're talking about. The Irish weren't considered white a century ago, and it's not like the change came about due to some scientific breakthrough.
The history of the Irish is a good example of how ethnic groups change and assimilate over time.
I had a similar experience when I visited Finland for the first time after knowing of it only as a country with high achievement in schools and free university education. Most of the Finns I knew abroad came from these highly educated backgrounds. But when I visited the country, suddenly I came face to face with school dropouts mopping floors and alcoholic layabouts, just like in any other country on earth.
In Jewish religion, erudition is held in high regard, and in some Jewish communities that carries over to intellectuals as well; but - in some, it's the other way around, i.e. intellectualism is considered straying from focus on religious studies to pursuing Gentile (non-Jewish) thought and life.
... and that's not to speak about the anti-Intellectualism Israel is rife with, these days.
Could you explain your rationale here?
India absolutely has one of the longest poetic traditions and it fascinates me endlessly.
I’d have been remiss to say that’s all that qualifies in my mind. That’s why I said it was not at all the end of what I’d consider an intellectual society.
I’m hesitant to bring present-day Russia into it as I qualified with “continuing”. I say this as someone who studied Russian literature when I was younger.
Again, please don’t discount my qualifiers above. It was by no means a survey list—just meant to illustrate my main point with societies I do have experience with.
I could only conclude that reading and the intellectual life was the pursuit of only a small minority, but because of India’s huge population, even that small minority was large enough to be self-sustaining and make its impact, even if it was rather hidden away from sight.
My gut says that "any country if given the same economic opportunities could produce equal achievement". Obviously, that's in a completely idealized world.
As it stands in actual, real life across human history, I do think that India, Russia, and China are more notable than most countries if we look at those criteria across history, but with "extra weight" given to modern day (e.g. Greece would not qualify with the "extra modern day weight" scale, but would be highly ranked if we only looked historically).
All 3 belong in an "unranked top 5". Just my personal opinion.
Rough guess of share of present day intellectual production by country (I like to make stuff up):
Western Europe: 30%
CIS countries: 5%
He had an audience - admittedly not a huge audience, but he certainly wasn't being ignored. There aren't many places that would happen.
Francophone cultures - and especially in Paris and Montreal - seem more comfortable with people who are clever, thinky, maybe creative, and a bit unusual, than Anglophone cultures.
The UK and US have their own version, but access is controlled more by class rather than raw talent. France is hardly class-free, but it seems more open to blue sky philosophy than the US, which seems to be impressed primarily by thought leadership in a corporate context, or social and academic theories with dogmatic authoritarian overtones - even among progressives - than in knock-about philosophical experimentation for the sake of it.
The suggestion is that this is less likely to occur in an American city.
I can apply your statement to other celebrity academics: scientists, astromoners, physicists, etc. And for all of those professions I have a hard time believing that any "celebrity" (i.e. Steven Hawking, Brian Cox, Noam Chomsky) that emerges from them produces a "toxic atmosphere of fraud" or undermines the work of other professionals in the field. But it may depend on who you consider a "celebrity".
That aside Latour was infamously an originator of the "Post Truth" and his support for utter nonsense. It is true that social aspects affecting what science is considered, achieves mindahare, is funded, and catches on and progresses. It is undeniable as seen by the derth of statistics and genetics papers from the USSR when both were declared bourgeoisie pseudosciences. It affecting what is actually right? Hell no. Although at least to his credit he realized what a monster he had created.
Philosophy isn't neccessarily bad but it isn't neccessarily good either. Given that it is often defined via its independence from the real world there are many spaces to explore. Which includes the potential to be absolute pseudouintellectual or antiintellectual nonsense. That makes it different from the other examples - they are verifiable and it is possible to call bullshit and outright prove them wrong.
"Celebrity philisopher" may just mean that it flatters preconceptions without the ability to be countered via hard proof that "no the moon is not and cannot be made of cheese".
The CCP leadership is intellectual and is pro intellectual for its own cadres. But are they pro populace intellectualism?
Same for the Bolsheviks.
And to be honest, I think GWB's anti-intellectualism is as much a problem as is disconnected intellectualism who take it upon themselves to do what's "right" for the population at large.
While if we're giving more credit to historical influence than modern day, Germany would make the list, I think they fall off if you give weight to the modern day. Nothing wrong with them, they're simply no longer a remarkable, intellectual nation on 2019's leaderboard.
Russia, China, and Japan I'd agree with, although I am not a big fan of the "brand" of intellectualism the first two adhere to.
Korean culture definitely venerates academic achievement, even if those achievements shouldn't include upheavals in social philosophy, and even if there is a strict social order for determining who is allowed to have creative license. Simply learning the lessons of the past, and skillfully transmitting them to future generations, is a more important social function than making new advances.
I would go so far as to say that one of the causes of American anti-intellectualism is the fetishization of groundbreaking discovery to the extent that being a skilled teacher is looked down on. An intellectual community can't survive across multiple generations without a respected class of specialized teachers who also deeply understand the topics they are tasked with passing on to children. The dominant attitude in America is that teaching is for failures; the saying goes, "those who can't do, teach."
what about success within traditional academic institutions?
In fact, your point about academic intellectualism only gives more credence to the point I was making in the first place.
While under the Soviet Union intellectual pursuits were more appreciated among the general population than in other countries (though naturally there were significant restrictions on what topics could be breached in art and literature), a lot of that culture disappeared in Russia after 1991. You don’t see many commuters reading belles lettres on the metro any more, chess still has its fans but nowhere near like in the socialist era, and Russian television today is as garish and sensationalistic as anywhere else.
One of the reasons that there was such a book culture across the Eastern Bloc is because books were extremely cheap by local standards, but there was little other media to consume or few other products to spend one’s money on. After the fall of Communism, books were no longer as cheap because the state no longer artificially set their prices at low levels, and there was an explosion of new, free television, radio, and magazine media that the population could consume instead, and there were new consumer goods to spend money on (when one had money, as there were some rocky times).
Personally I think intellectualism consists of a few components. The first is pure, raw "intelligence" or "brilliance", neither of which is particularly well defined, but it is my main criteria. For a nation, this is is essentially the power of science, invention, technology, etc.
Next would be something like "diversity of thought" and "beauty of art". This includes both how "free" the people are, as well as how meaningful the creative, artistic, philosophical works of the nation are. This includes art, poetry, scripture, books, TV, music, theater, etc.
Finally, I use a "modern day weighting" system. This means, if there was some hypothetical country that was historically a powerhouse, but was not remarkable in modern day, they'd be ranked equally to a country which was a world leader today, but inconsequential historically (or didn't exist until recently).
With these criteria, I believe a country like China has sheer intellectual power and the artistic contributions which outweigh the (quite terrible) conformity of thought; Korea, on the other hand, is "too conformist" given the weight of its contributions.
For instance, Kaledin says, to an extent greater than is usually emphasized, Tocqueville thought “populism would gradually lead to an anti-intellectual culture and to mediocrity in political leadership.”
I don't think you could come up with a better summary than "mediocrity in political leadership" to describe the current climate.
> I don't think you could come up with a better summary than "mediocrity in political leadership" to describe the current climate.
But when I re-read it, it seems more likely to have been a "pox on all their houses" sort of comment. If that's what you meant, I'm sorry for misreading you.
That said, "a pox on all their houses" does come pretty close to reflecting my views on many political issues. :-)
If anyone wants to crunch the numbers, I would be excited to see the percentage of US Congresspeople with serious educational attainments vs Japanese, French, German, Canadian, or any other similar body.
But from a population standpoint, the two are certainly correlated. The number of congress people should be large enough to assume population level statistics unless there's some serious biases _against_ intellectuals running for or winning political races.
And you don’t cheapen what you treasure.
It's not a uniform sample. In fact, it's not even sampling from the same population - it's a set of samples of size 1...
However I was trying to respond to the parent commenter’s point about mediocrity. I was trying to craft a simple metric which would speak to mediocrity. It’s an imperfect metric for sure.
Do you notice it though, when you have a Brezhnev, or a Qin Er Shi, or a Louis XVI? Napoleon was so much cooler than Czar Nicolas II. We don’t remember those other folks as much, and sometimes the effect of their rule isn’t immediately or decisively felt.
In America, there's a somewhat different divide. Academia teaches evolution and almost never mentions religion. Churches and mosques are the places you would learn about religions. Government seems neutral. But if you dig around, you can find a lot of religious materials. You can meet people who openly expresses their religious beliefs. In some ways, science feels suppressed and has to compete with religions.
But this anti-intellectualism may make science better. Rather than agreeing with science, we constantly question it.
It's like how competition tends to make companies provide better service, even if the competition never actually steals a single customer away. The fact that it could changes the incentives in a way that makes you do your job more rigorously.
If anything we've started seeing the clear opposite, where the climate change deniers or anti-vaxxers have been outright suppressing scientists and reports that disagree with their skepticism.
Anti-intellectuals by definition don't possess the intellectual curiosity necessary to contribute to science, rather, they fear and mistrust such curiosity, and any result of it more complex or less intuitive than high school algebra.
The myth that science is just slavish dogmatism is pushed by the anti-intellectual crowd, and by people who want to discredit scientific theses like evolution, climate change, parts of physics and astrophysics, mainstream medicine or vaccines. Science already has a process of constantly questioning itself - that's literally what the scientific process is. That constant questioning by science of its assumptions and revising them in the face of new evidence has led iteratively to models of reality which have proven fairly robust against criticism, and appear to accurately describe and predict the universe.
The anti-intellectuals, meanwhile, just scoff derisively at the "globalist elites" in their "ivory towers" with their "mumbo jumbo."
Sometimes the mumbo-jumbo is bullshit or dangerous.
By mentioning "deplorables and bitter clingers" you're admitting that much of the motive for such questioning among anti-intellectuals is rooted in politics and tribalism - and the premise that "intellectuals" are of the opposite or enemy tribe (leftists, liberals, feminists, Jews, atheists, pick your poison) and that therefore their work is inherently fraudulent or meaningless.
>Sometimes the mumbo-jumbo is bullshit or dangerous.
But anti-intellectuals tend to consider everything they don't understand, or anything that's part of the "establishment", to be "mumbo jumbo." If they had a credible, rational basis for their criticisms, rooted in an understanding of the domain they criticize, they would no longer be "anti-intellectual."
While, anti-vaxers, et al, are raised as examples of the harm anti-intellectuals can cause, many great harms have been caused or celebrated by intellectuals over the ages.
They really don't, though. At least, not a productive space. Intellectuals are quite capable of getting that traction on their own, and doing so on the basis of fact and evidence, rather than anger and a nihilistic mistrust of order and complexity.
You're putting a lot of effort into painting a heroic narrative of anti-intellectualism and of the harms of "the establishment" and intellectuals "over the ages," but that's a political stance, and one that assumes the anti-intellectuals are filling a necessary role in the ecosystem that intellectuals, themselves, cannot.
I put forth that there is no value to anti-intellectualism. Skepticism, yes. Questioning of authority? Yes. Opposing bad ideas? Yes. None of those are the particular domain of anti-intellectualism. Rather, those are all hallmarks of intellectualism.
The anti-intellectuals are the ones burning down the observatory so this never happens again. They're not helping.
Climate change denial in particular isn't a product of outsiders seriously questioning the scientific consensus on any grounds; it's a manifactured controversy, founded on outright lies by companies that stand to benefit if we don't do anything about it.
The reasons for anti-vaccine ideas are more complex, but they aren't the product of a serious engagement with the other side of the argument.
The problem is although technical excellence is a benefit, intellectuals form their own class and have slightly abstract demands. As a body their first priority is not the material betterment of ordinary people, although individually there are intellectuals who punch well above their weight in that regard.
There is a well known story, when Stalin met with Vavilov¹ to hear his concerns about issues related to genetics, and was ridiculing his ideas, making fun of him, saying that all he does is "playing with pestles and stamens". Vavilov died of starvation in prison. I don't call such regimes intellectual.
Most academic libraries in the West keep Soviet academic publications from the Stalinist era in the closed stacks, because no one ever asks for them. There is a reason for that: the level of scholarship is poor, and the author feels compelled to praise the “Great Leader” (вождь) even if he was writing on something so removed from the modern Soviet Union and Communist ideology as e.g. 3rd-century CE grave finds. However, from the Khrushchev era on, Soviet scholarship in many fields was as strong as in the West and, as I said, some of those works are standard references for the field regardless of where on earth you live and work.
I would consider the late Soviet Union a fairly “intellectual” culture, because even as in the West the attraction of many such academic careers declined in the 1970s and 1980s (i.e. the belief that such degrees were useless and there was no way to make a living from them), in the USSR it was still very respectable to enter such fields. Naturally, however, that was only possible under an overall planned economy that turned out to be deeply flawed and inhuman, and as I mentioned elsewhere here Russia’s intellectual culture declined after the fall of Communism, but still.
No, it is more nuanced than that. Those scientists only had their positions because the state chose to allocate resources to keep them employed. With the fall of Communism, when academia was exposed to market forces, those departments were often gutted.
Also, certain fields gained considerable state support precisely because the regime felt they served its own foreign policy goals. For example, the USSR was a powerhouse for the study of the Iranian language family. This was not only because a number of Iranian languages were spoken within the USSR, but also because the USSR wanted good Central Asian areal studies so that it could better extend its influence over Iran and Afghanistan. The same is true of many of the Third World nations where the USA and USSR were fighting for influence: name a language in Africa or Asia, and there is often a very well-written Soviet-era grammar or lexicon that linguists everywhere still cite today.
If you want examples of how government officials handled progress, see:
The above catastrophe occurred, due to government disregarding safety warnings and pushing personnel to do the test before some official anniversary event.
So I'd differentiate between scientists themselves and the regime, which was hardly intellectual.
I don't think they were much of an outlier in this. Some of the greatest accomplishments of the US were done either to compete with the Soviet Union, or to make better weapons.
My uncle - an engineer born in communist Poland - is to this day frustrated by the way he was treated by the system.
Interestingly my father - also an engineer - had no such issues, although this might be explained by the fact that he was a son of a military surgeon.
I'll point out what seems obvious to me here - if "pro-intellectualism" means identifying a class of people, labelling them intellectuals and giving them a systemic advantage than that isn't a good idea. That is class warfare. If it means philosophically believing that rationalism and science are the keys to a better future then that was trialed in Soviet and Chinese systems of thought. It wasn't the only thing going on at the time and I agree it didn't work out very well - better to let people do what they want than to enforce that they believe 'good ideas'.