The USS Quad Damage

You can't play basketball against Ninjas

Why is wisdom different to intelligence?

I have a tenuous relationship with the concept of wisdom. On the one hand, I accept that it exists (hell, if D&D thinks it exists, then it must, right?), and have even got some feeling about what it is. On the other hand, “Wis” in D&D only makes you good at being a cleric (who can’t actually heal people IRL), so the whole concept sounds like a lie. Also, it reeks of the bullshit of “you can only get wisdom through experience”.

The same arguement is used for project management. The “real truth” about PM is that “project management of one form or another is better than no project management at all, but we can't measure what works, and why.” (sorry I can’t attribute that quote, but I think it was from a lecturer at uni teaching project management. It’s also paraphrased. In any case, the assertion is that you “learn from experience”. The reason I don’t like that idea is that:

* There’s no guarantee that you’ve actually improved with experience, you might just have learned to play the metrics. * You can say that about anything - "We could teach you software engineering, but there’s really no effective way of doing that, so why don’t you just learn from experience." It sounds like they’re just too lazy to pull out the intelligence from the wisdom, or the information from the data, if you will...

In any case, one of the big problems with “wisdom” as an idea is: how do you measure wisdom? Is it by being really good at trivia? If that’s the case then bring out any trivia master (e.g: the master on the Australian quiz show) and pit him up against little kids, asking questions about cartoons or video games. Ergo, kids are “wiser” than the master, which may not be a contradiction, but it’s certainly counter-intuitive.

However, I have always believed that “knowing the path is different to walking the path”. An example is the statement “You can't play basketball against Ninjas”. This comes from a game, Mario Hoops 3 on 3 and I’ve heard this little nugget multiple times. If you read it without having played the game it’s “intelligence”. The statement is almost a direct logical consequence, practically meaningless - “Well der, of course you can't play basketball against ninjas”. However, after having played the game, I’m sure it’ll mean a lot more. It then becomes “wisdom”. The act of having tried to play basketball against ninjas (and inevitably failed) has taught you... something.

How’s about another analogy: Intelligence is like a system, in which the whole is bigger than the sum of it’s parts. With intelligence, everything you know can be combined to create something better than each of the individual things you know. Wisdom might be like an anti-system, in which the whole is smaller than the sum of it’s parts. The reason it can’t be taught is that it’s practically useless (to tell, not to live). You might be able to fold it up into an entertaining story, but the story is just for the telling. It doesn’t actually contain anything that you can learn from. It may not even be possible to make the story interesting. However, it does give you an illumination on the whole that’s impossible with the crystallised intelligence found in textbooks.

And that’s why you’ll never understand the joys of monkey physics...