Intelligence and Wisdom

A few days ago I finally figured out something I’ve wondered about for 25 years: the relationship between wisdom and intelligence. Anyone can see they’re not the same by the number of people who are smart, but not very wise. And yet intelligence and wisdom do seem related. How?

What is wisdom? I’d say it’s knowing what to do in a lot of situations. I’m not trying to make a deep point here about the true nature of wisdom, just to figure out how we use the word. A wise person is someone who usually knows the right thing to do.

If wisdom and intelligence are the average and peaks of the same curve, then they converge as the number of points on the curve decreases. If there’s just one point, they’re identical: the average and maximum are the same. But as the number of points increases, wisdom and intelligence diverge. And historically the number of points on the curve seems to have been increasing: our ability is tested in an ever wider range of situations.

The wise are all much alike in their wisdom, but very smart people tend to be smart in distinctive ways.

— Is It Worth Being Wise?

— Paul Graham

2015.07.03 Friday ACHK