How Smart People Got Too Powerful and Why That Might be About to Change

Wednesday, 27 March 2019, 4:00pm - 5:30pm, IWM library
There is one overarching explanation for current political discontents that is hiding in plain sight: cognitive ability—that hard to define ability that helps people to pass exams and then process information efficiently in their professional lives—has become the gold standard of human esteem. People with higher levels of cognitive ability—what one might call the cognitive classes—now shape society. And they do so broadly in their own interests favouring openness, autonomy, mobility and a social fluidity that they find easy to navigate.

Fifty years ago the people who ran government and business were generally brighter and more ambitious than the average—as they still are today. But it was a time when skills and aptitudes other than cognitive-analytical intelligence attracted greater recognition. Today those other qualities like character, integrity, experience and willingness to toil are not irrelevant, but they command less mainstream respect. Without us really noticing it, something rather fundamental has got out of kilter. A good society needs a proper balance between aptitudes based on Head, Hand and Heart.

David Goodhart is a British journalist, political analyst and author. He is founder and former editor in chief of Prospect magazine and Head of the Demography, Immigration and Integration Unit of the Think Tank Policy Exchange. Currently he is a guest at the IWM.

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