Evolving Intelligence

If we must remain happy, healthy, humane and productive, we need to aspire to become improved versions of ourselves

Though the year-end is four months away, let me tell you honestly: I often think how 2021 has arrested a moment in time in the history of humanity. How philosophers, scientists, technologists, educationists, writers, entrepreneurs and leaders are grappling with this moment, which has been disorienting and distressing in turns.

Yet, it has also been revelatory in many ways, showing us the extent to which the human spirit can either crumble or conquer during a crisis. For our own sake, to be able to confront the post-Covid working realities and beyond, I would like to focus on the conquering bit. Historically, we have had many instances of individuals having pushed the envelope and creating new ways of thinking and shaping behaviours, especially during a crisis. It is a single-minded determination, undeterred focus, discipline and faith. It’s never easy staying motivated by such past inspirational tales alone. But when we are put through a test, we have a choice to decide how we respond to it. This year has been a prolonged test and it’s here to stay for a while.

All this leads me to think that even Ps & Qs need to be re-created. Success may come to those who, of course, demonstrate elementary etiquette, but go far beyond that. We need a new order, a new energy source that we can build and re-build within ourselves, without depending on any external agents.

As esoteric as this sounds, my view is this: If we must remain happy, healthy, humane and productive, we need to aspire to become improved versions of ourselves. We need to define the new homo sapiens; evolve our own intelligence to prosper in the ages to come.

So here are a few questions I’m currently asking myself: What is intelligence? Why are we considered homo sapiens (intelligent or wise species in Latin)? Can I redefine Ps & Qs to contribute to our intelligence? How do we develop this so-called wisdom?

I certainly don’t have all the answers. But I’ve had interesting conversations around intelligence recently and here are three insights I gained from those:

1. Being intelligent is controlling your intelligence: Our thoughts are powerful. And when we don’t control them, they tend to overpower us. When stress-inducing or overtly negative thoughts take over, a useful trick that works for me is to acknowledge them, but quickly replace them with reassuring ones. I have just started on this exercise.

2. Creating time to think and nourish our minds every day — the best method for me has been to read inspiring literature and then perhaps apply that to everyday life — to the extent possible. You could even write down a question to which you have not yet found an answer.

3. Listening, questioning, debating. Listening is perhaps one of the most difficult things to do. Our intelligence can draw from others’ experiences and insights too. Listening to those in humility; yet questioning them politely can become enriching in more ways than one.

The new order of Ps & Qs and etiquette encompass all of the above, as I continue to seek evolved definitions of intelligence. It is an on-going process of course but there’s one insight I will always remember. It’s simple, no-nonsense, thoroughly practical and something an uncle of mine mentioned in passing recently. As an accomplished doctor and an ex-Armed Forces professional who has experienced combat first-hand, he should know: “Do your duty, do not expect anything in return”.

Perhaps intelligence begins with accepting one’s duties and fulfilling them quietly. From there, perhaps, stems the realisation that all we can do is control our response to a crisis (or to any situation, for that matter), instead of letting it control our minds. What are your definitions of intelligence? Our collective wisdom could come in handy for our successors — the species after homo sapiens.

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