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analyze, speculate, dream, resolve, and do things for at least 1,000,000,000 years without once repeating a single action pattern of his brain. And it is highly probable that you might do so for a billion billion years. So it seems to me that even if all of you keep your health as long as your stomachs and hearts can stand the strain, you haven't a ghost of a chance of using your brain power to its limit. Man is born to trouble. But the trouble resides, not in your brains, but in your bodies. Man is wonderfully devised above the ears. He is much less marvelous below them. It is this enormous discrepancy between the central nervous system and the rest of the human constitution which leads so many of us to think of "mind" as something totally different from "body." In speed of action, in the amount of effort needed to achieve results, in the variety of behavior, and in general efficiency, "mind" is so superior to "body" that the difference seems to be an absolute and metaphysical one.
In consulting on this matter with the president of the Philosophers' Union, I learn that one of the worst plagues of the Western peoples has been the tendency of the brain to run away with the body. Intellect has been exalted, chiefly by the intellect itself. Socrates held that virtue is nothing more than knowledge. Plato believed in Ideas pretty much as the Christian Scientist of to-day believes in Mind. Aristotle held that the highest good consisted in pure contemplation of pure Being, or God; and he thought slaves were everlastingly necessary and divinely ordained to do all the work except head-work.
This self-glorification of the intellect and this contempt for the toiler have continued down into our own day, though some progressives like to boast that we have outgrown it. Our "best" young men prefer any kind of a poorly paid job requiring head-work to any well paid position involving strenuous manual labor. Colleges pander to the pernicious cravings of the central nervous system. Language is taught as a mental play with words, not as an instrument for saying what you have to say. Mathematics is taught as a psychic jugglery in which cosines and tangents serve as billiard-balls and parasols serve the Japanese magician. Politics is taught as somebody's theory of government, not as an art and a technique of managing Dubuque, Iowa, or Fresno, California. College professors talk. Students take notes. Examinations test the memory. The degree of A.B. means so many hours of head-work, regardless of its practical value. There are exceptions, of course. But they are brilliant and few.
Now, our leaders in education, hygiene, and culture have been striving for many years to deliver you from this bondage of the intellect and its false culture. They have consciously aimed to train children so as to make them fit for the world they are going to live in. To this end, they consider the nature of this world before they decide on the schooling. They see no sense in drilling deafmutes in the history of music; or blind men in optics; or the Georgia black in the hic, hæc, hoc of the Latin instead of the gee, haw, and buck of the mule-driver; or the Minnesota farm boy in the history of ethics from
Socrates to Dewey; or the Massachusetts mill-hand in calculus. Each babe is born somewhere and sometime. His life will be spent in the environment of his age and country. His happiness will depend upon how well he gets what he wants out of those surroundings. Hence, to plan his culture, the wise man will study the babe's traits in their relation to Things as They Are thereabouts; he will strengthen by practice the traits which aid the babe in mastering his environment; and he will, as far as possible, shape the environment so that it will not deal too harshly with the babe in other respects. This is the clear trend of modern social reform, of modern hygiene, and of modern education.
But the Biological Bloc disapproves of it. It insists that we must not make the environment easier, and that we must concentrate on breeding bigger and better brains. This, I declare, is reactionary. This is a cry of literati who find their ideals in the past. This is the latest form of mental measles. It is a disease peculiar to the primitive and to the adolescent Best Mind. It is no more scientific than a college yell.
What are minds doing right now? They are scheming, inventing, devising, and planning a thousand times faster than they can execute. And they are discovering facts ten thousand times faster than anybody can assimilate them. Mind advances in a super-geometrical progression, but body proceeds at best in arithmetical. Each fresh invention and discernment brings ten more in its train. But in business management and in social administration we can add only item to item, one by one, day by day. For Time enslaves our bodies.
An obscure drug clerk hits upon a new method of disinfecting which, in a few years, alters hospital practice and a dozen pharmaceutical industries. A little mechanic in a dark corner of a country garage figures out a new method of atomizing gasoline and revolutionizes the carbureter business. A hatter who makes a hobby of microscopical research finds a new way of peering into inframicroscopic spaces, and straightway a dozen techniques are transformed. These men are not great geniuses. They rise only a little above the average, usually too in some one respect and not in others. But the multitude of them is shaking the very foundations of society.
"It is no longer a question of what we can do in electrical development,' one of the leading electrical engineers in the world said to me recently. "The one problem is: which thing is most profitable to do next?"
"No sooner do we spend several million dollars on a new invention,' remarked another engineer at the head of an immense corporation, "than some young stranger saunters
into our office and shows us a still more revolutionary device he has just doped out. Were we to adopt each new device purely on its own merits, we should soon wreck the business. Each new adoption would cause us to lose all the millions previously spent in other devices."
"Right now," remarked one of our greatest captains of industry a few months ago, "two of our largest manufacturing corporations are gravely perturbed. They have, in their own laboratories, perfected certain devices which I am not free to name even vaguely. These inventions, based on remarkable discoveries in physics and electrochemistry, are so radical and of such far-reaching importance that the companies owning them fear to undertake their commercial development. Business advisers assert that, were the devices placed at once on the open market, hundreds of millions of dollars, now invested in less efficient products, would be lost irrevocably. And the injury of such a colossal failure might, for a period of many years, exceed all the benefits accruing from the new devices."
"I should not be surprised," said a Pacific Coast banker to me not long ago, "if the great Pacific war were brought on, not by any of the influences which have been so widely portrayed by writers and diplomatists, but rather by the man who invented artificial silk. Nearly half of Japan's population depends largely on natural silk in one way or in another. The mulberry-tree and the silk-worm stand between millions of Japanese peasants and starvation. Let Europe and America build fifty more of these enormous rayon fac
tories which spin a silk substitute out of chemically treated cellulose, and the age-old industry of Japan may be undermined. Starvation will ensue; and then the heir apparent of starvation, War."
"The world is in reality growing poorer, because production is outrunning consumption faster and faster." This is part of the thesis of a recent book by a distinguished Wall Street financier. "Our economic system is unsound as a result of the stupendous increase in the potential output of modern machinery. Manufacturers in many lines now have on their factory floors equipment which is either idle much of the time or else grinding out goods that glut the market and lead to a financial slump as a result of unsettling prices and values. Inventors are increasing the rate of mechanical production much faster than education or publicity can increase the amount of buying by the average consumer. This fact constitutes the gravest peril in our present economic system."
"There are thousands of mechanically correct and commercially sound inventions in the automobile field," said a prominent automotive engineer at a recent scientific convention, "which will go to the scrap-heap untried. Carbureters better than any now in use. Timing-gears superior to standard makes. Preheating devices, gear-shifts, differentials, and what not. Manufacturers must refuse them, sometimes because they involve a redesigning of entire engines which would eat up millions of dollars for new factory equipment, and sometimes because the inventions would involve changes in the
fuel or oil or standard parts now supplied to the automobile trade by other companies."
"The retail radio business in small towns," remarked a man in this trade not many weeks ago, "consists largely in selling, at ten cents on the dollar, equipment which became obsolete in the very month it was first placed on the market."
"Technique in surgery,' " said a great surgeon last year, "advances more swiftly than surgeons can. No matter how nimble the surgeon's wit, no matter how fast he can read and take in new ideas, there isn't a chance in a thousand that he can learn half of the new methods he comes upon in the journals and in the clinics."
"I used to go regularly to meetings of the American Mathematical Society," an eminent mathematician told me. "But I rarely go now. I cannot understand what most of the men are talking about there. I do not even understand the words they use. Nor their symbols. It is embarrassing."
"It is physically impossible for the most competent psychologist living to keep up with the literature in all branches of psychology to-day." This from a distinguished psychologist. "When you consider that an all-round psychologist ought to follow also the leading journals in neurology, general physiology, psychiatry, and even biology, you can see into what a hopeless mess we are drifting. We are all becoming learned ignoramuses."
I might cite half a hundred other authorities, all to the same end. Man's brain is evolving plans infinitely faster than flesh-and-blood
men can adopt them and profit by them. What the Biological Bloc fails totally to comprehend is that, while one mind may spend only a hundred hours or so and half a horse-power of energy in inventing or discovering something socially valuable, the world at large may have to spend millions of dollars and millions of hours in reorganizing business and society so as to use the new idea profitably. The Bloc does not realize that theory is swift and travels light, while practice is ponderous and heavily burdened. They think that the sluggishness with which the world advances is due to the poor brains of its inhabitants; but the truth is that it is due to the tens of thousands of readjustments which have to be made in the lives and fortunes of hundreds of millions of people.
As Herbert Hoover and others have often remarked, every business interlocks so extensively and SO subtly with every other nowadays that no man living can perceive the consequences of any important change in any single field. Who among you, for instance, would ever suspect that the growing popularity of seaside vacationing has injured the soap business? Or that the new fashions in women's wear would seriously injure the baggage-transfer and express companies? Or that a sudden increase of rainfall on the coast of Chile would deliver a factory in Oregon from bankruptcy? Yet these things happen, and thousands more like them. And it is these which must be discovered and reckoned with cautiously before we dare change the ways of business or law. The greater the number of interacting forces, the greater the number of
upsets likely to be caused even by some slight rearrangement. Hence the seeming paradox: the faster our Best Minds deliver new ideas and projects, and the faster these are accepted and built into our civilization, the more slowly-relatively at least-can each subsequent idea or project be adopted. Hence, the higher our civilization rises, the fewer the ideas and projects, relative to all those which are at a given moment ready for use, which can be adopted per day, week, or year. To be sure, we adopt more inventions and technical projects now than ever before; and we shall continue to increase the number. But at the same time we shall leave untried an ever growing multitude. More and more our Best Minds will suffer the humiliation of seeing their finest efforts ignored by statesmen, business men, and engineers.
This trend will be intensified greatly by the increasing efficiency of superior people. In an army of morons everybody is a general. In a society of the Best Minds only one man leads. In a crude democracy, which is intermediate, being partly moron and partly superior and partly genius, we never manage to follow a single leader; nor do we sink to the level of the opera-bouffe Central American army in which there are ten officers for every private. We muddle along somewhere between these extremes. But as we progress in our organizing skill and in our understanding of the benefits of teamwork, we train men more and more effectively to manage affairs on a grand scale.
Now, it requires no more brains to think in terms of millions than to
think in terms of hundreds. It simply requires more time, more patience, more physical energy, and better support from a staff of subordinates. A central nervous system good enough to run a small farm successfully is good enough to run the largest bank in Wall Street. It is only very simple people who imagine otherwise. Several intelligence tests lately made, notably one at Roger Babson's Statistical Institute and one at Purdue University, bring this out clearly. It appears that men who have achieved high rank in manufacturing, banking, engineering, and general business score only a trifle higher than the normal adult in their mental abilities, especially in those which we commonly regard as "intellectual." These men surpass the ordinary citizen conspicuously only in their spontaneous energy, in their buoyant self-confidence, and in their initiative. In the main, these traits are not the product of a superior central nervous system; they arise from perfect digestion, a high metabolic rate, and probably certain little understood tonic effects of superior endocrine glands. Not better minds, then, but better bodies!
Give a high-grade executive a well devised program, and he can apply it to ten million people as well as you or I could to a hundred. He can manage a thousand factories in as many cities just as deftly as he can manage one under his nose. See how this is transforming the world right now! All business and all politics and all manufacturing are rapidly being centralized. The chain-store is pushing the local merchant off the map. The chain-theater has already exterminated the individually owned