I saw a T-shirt once that said, "The nerd you beat up in high school reads your e-mail," or something like that. I thought it was comical, because as I was graduating high school, I don't think we fully appreciated the role that computers would play in our lives, let alone that we'd carry them around and stare at them constantly. I think the spirit of the shirt was more about the fact that it was never cool to be smart, but the smart kids grew up to eclipse everyone else in terms of "success" or wealth or whatever.
Is it intelligence that really separated the nerds from everyone else? I don't think that's what it was. While I appreciate more than ever the developmental differences between humans, I think that curiosity and a desire to separate fact from fiction is what makes you "smart." I've certainly met very wise people who could barely send an e-mail, successful in most conventional ways, just as I've met people who are the opposite. Maybe I'm conflating wisdom and being smart. My only real point is that I don't think it's straight up intelligence.
Critical thinking, however, is a huge factor, and frankly I think that all people are capable of it. I believe that it is a learned behavior, but it's likely a choice, too. What I find so odd though is that our society seems to not only devalue those who engage in critical thinking, but treat critical thinking as some kind of weakness, or domain of the elite.
How the hell did we get here? As a kid, I revered scientists, doctors, teachers, engineers. They were the people that carried our society forward, and they inspired me to want to do something like they did. (Until puberty, when I decided to be a DJ, but I eventually came around on that.)
Perhaps the worst part is that society seems to have abandoned critical thinking, and those who engage in it, and replaced it with willful ignorance and cognitive dissonance, led by ideologues and demagogues. If you look at the best people in history that moved us forward, they were the critical thinkers. The worst of the worst? The ideologues and demagogues. Every time.
We've gotta stop doing this. We're still stuffing the nerds in lockers, and they're reading your e-mail. How do you think that's going to work out?