There’s No Algorithm For Wisdom.

December 7, 2020

There’s No Algorithm For Wisdom.

May 29, 2023

“Who needs wisdom when we have such exquisite algorithms?” A young data scientist asked me this question when I was at Airbnb. I could tell he was half-serious, so I pulled out a pen and paper and drew this pyramid (if you know me well enough, you know I have “pyramid-envy”).

While we may live in an era awash in data, information, and knowledge, what we desperately need is understanding, insight, and wisdom. Part of the reason we created both MEA and Wisdom Well was to elevate the value of wisdom and explore how we might cultivate and harvest wisdom individually. It is in this spirit; I offer four nuggets of wisdom you may want to check out.

  1. Brain Pickings. Maria Popova’s blog is one of my most welcome emails each week (twice a week). You can start with “Wisdom in the Age of Information,” a four-minute animated rumination on the ethereal yet essential value of what’s at the peak of this pyramid.

  2. How to be Wiser According to 5 Remarkable Quotes. This post offers some memorable advice from David Brooks, Frederick Nietzsche, and Robert Greene. Perfectly suited to be written down and posted on your bathroom mirror.

  3. How Psychological Scientists Found the Empirical Path to Wisdom. Yes, it’s heady but well worth the effort. It’s written by a friend whose podcast, On Wisdom, I was on earlier this year. I love this article as it proves psychological science can now measure and nurture wisdom, superseding the speculations of philosophy and religion. And, while it’s a deep dive as an article, one of the key messages is that wisdom is more accessible than you think. (We do an exercise on transitions during our Sabbatical Sessions in which we ask people to write a short personal story starting with “Once Upon a Time…” and then see where this storytelling takes you when it comes to your own path toward transition. Based upon this article, it’s clear this kind of objectifying of what feels too-close-for-comfort helps us to be wiser just like we were giving a friend some sage advice.).

  4. Rebel Wisdom. This website is close to my heart, especially because their main philosophy suggests that society's wisdom will likely come from the weirdos, rebels, and renegades who pioneer new ideas and are not hemmed-in by conventional thinking or an abundance of information.

The best things in life—meaning, self-actualization, purpose, wisdom—usually happen at the peak of the pyramid. I see my role (and maybe you do as well) as being a sherpa who helps people in my community to traverse the mountain to the peak. In other words, to make wisdom more accessible to the world.

After all, we should all enjoy the view.

Thanks to MEA alum, Michael Heumann, who has an alternative pyramid of wisdom.

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