Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Why I am Dumber Now Than I've Ever Been in my Entire Life

Years ago, sometime in my early thirties, I read somewhere that the human brain is at its best for raw computing capacity at around age 24.  This was depressing to me.  (Sorry....I've forgotten the reference here, but it was legitimate, trust me....this was before Facebook.)
Obligatory picture of Enistein from Wikipedia

I'd known at that time that I wasn't as accurate and quick with my math skills as I used to be, but I chalked that up to just being too stressed with starting a winery or short on sleep due to young kids and being tired or focusing on a million other things.  There was no way in hell I was getting slow at age thirty-four.

(Note beside: in hindsight, that was the year in my life that I was at my peak physically as measured by the amount of pure labor I was able to's been downhill ever since.....may this be a warning to all you thirty-three year old males out there!)

Now, we've all been told that as we get older our wisdom increases.  What does that mean?  I like to think of intelligence as the ability to know how to use something, much like using it as a tool.  Wisdom, in my analogy, is knowing how it works.  Very different.  It has to do with the underlying factors out there.

But, you'll say, I was twenty-two and I knew how an internal combustion engine works, so what the hell am I talking about?

It's more about the structure of things, how things interconnect.  And more importantly, why they interconnect.  The first inkling I got about wisdom was when I figured out Jerry Maguire was's all about the me the money....follow the money.  (Money being a very dirty term for any kind of currency, be it monetary, goods-oriented, or anything intangible like attention or affection.)

I thought that was wise at the time, and in many senses it was.  But seeing the forces that act on behavior in an internal personal realm, human societies, or even the natural world, is what I call wisdom.

From somewhere on the interwebs:
home winemaking at its simplest.
It's even found in winemaking.  Anyone can make wine.  Any one.  Yes, you, too.  Hell, grapes want to become wine (with the help of ever-present yeast.)  The problem is that without human intervention, wine quickly becomes undrinkable (vinegar).

The bare mechanics of fermentation are easy to understand.  Start with a substratum of liquid with sugar.  Introduce yeast.  Fermentation occurs.  Wine results.  Congratulations, you're a winemaker!

But that's not really "wise" winemaking, nor is it really "intelligent" winemking but we'll let that pass for right now.....  It's winemaking, sure, but there's no thought about an end product.  Or at least, there's no real thought about where the wine will end up.  There's always a need to have a goal for winemaking.  Goal-less winemaking is all about luck.  An old boss of mine once said, "Even a blind squirrel finds a nut sometimes."  True.

Winemaking with wisdom is knowing where a wine should be going, and even more importantly knowing where it can't go and and when not to push it.  That's because I am starting to understand the interconnections of winemaking, perhaps getting closer to "wise" winemaking.  Unfortunately or forutnately as the case may be, I feel like I "know" less these days than I ever used to about winemaking--more of an uncertainty than anything else--and yet the wines seem to be better.  At least that's what I tell myself.

Am I dumber than I've ever been?  Yes, the further away from that magical age of twenty-four I referred to earlier.  Am I wiser than I've ever been?  Sure!  Every year that goes by is one where I like to think that I gain in wisdom.  But this brings up an important point, one probably best illustrated by a graph.

(Graph and data by the author)
Since intelligence and wisdom both can be related to age, we can plot them versus time.  Intelligence decreasing over time and wisdom increasing over time.
As you can see, intelligence goes up over time till twenty-four then starts to slide.....We naturally start with zero wisdom, but I see that function as exponential (or at least I am hoping it is.....)  What I find is really important is that there is one point where the two lines intersect at a trough point.  I've empirically determined that point to be at the age of 46.

Strangely enough, the data I have from 2012 shows that trough to have existed at that time at around the 42 year point.  Even more strangely is that in 2009 my data shows the deepest depression around age 39.  This phenomenon continues to boggle my mind.  I can't for the life of me figure out how the scale seems to slide with each passing year, matching perfectly with my own age.  Extrapolating from these anomalies makes me guess that the depression point next year will be around age 47......

....which is why I am dumber now than I've ever been in my entire life.