“I am not a speed reader. I am a speed understander.”
Isaac Asimov


One of my biggest gripes with the world is its obsession with intelligence. This gripe gets compounded with society’s traditional assessment of intelligence tied to traditional education, books read, accomplishments, degrees, awards, etc – and IQ of course. The entire intelligence discussion seems based on the assumption that intelligence is fundamentally intrinsic exposed by being goal-directed, i.e., a feature in and of the individual. We tend to view intelligence as a box everyone walks around with. But what if it isn’t? What if intelligence is subservient to the environment?

Which leads me to speed understander.

It was Alvin Toffler who said “the illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.” In other words, literacy is an ability to absorb learning, and understanding, and adapt. So maybe you don’t do it at ‘speed’ , but you are an evolving understander. And then this is where speed comes into play. I do not believe the world is actually moving any faster than it has ever, even in business, but I will say that the faster you understand something; the faster you can do something. So the only reason the world may appear to be moving faster is that with the ubiquity of most information, the ones who ‘speed understand’ just move faster. Circling back to my opening question, the reality is that their intelligence is contingent to the environment.

Which leads me to reasoning.

‘Reasoning at speed’ is a skill, art and is the fulcrum of bad or good decision making. The human issue isn’t really making decisions, it is more about reasoning. We are always in a finite predicament of having fixed finite limits on our cognitive resources. Sure. Computers and technology can actually augment our cognitive resources (most typically by absorbing some of the data information mashing), but ultimately any speed understanding an individual is capable of isn’t constrained by their intelligence, its constrained by their cognitive limits. Go beyond your cognitive limits and even by reasoning, you can be wrong. This doesn’t mean that we should abandon reasoning, but rather understand the limitations of what we call reason as well as understand the limitations of our, or an individual’s, ability to reason. I tend to believe everyone can reason given enough time, but there will be a spectrum of reasoning abilities based on different time constraints. Circling back to my opening question, the reality is that their intelligence is contingent upon time.

Which leads me to reality.

Reality is unlikely to be as we believe it to be which means that we should approach everything with just a bit of skepticism. When someone says “I understand” maybe we don’t immediately assess intelligence over that. Maybe we see intelligence as a shifting objective as well as shifting asset. Maybe we accept there is a spectrum of ‘understanding’ in that at its most foundational level it is an understanding that the logic ability simply must satisfy the minimal inference condition. Reality IS understanding. In fact, understanding kills false perceptions uncovering reality (which I could argue we need in today’s world more than ever). In fact, understanding is at the core of, well, intelligence because intelligence cannot be captured in any IQ, intelligence is excellent reasoning applied in reality. Circling back to my opening question, intelligence is contingent to reality.


The world is complex and it most likely will not get any less complex and no matter how much we attempt to analyze the complex system hoping to attain some version of singularity (some true alignment) I seriously doubt we, or anyone, will get there. It seems like the best path forward is to increase our diversity of knowledge and skills necessary to adapt in a dynamic, often emergent, fashion. In other words, increase our ability to understand. I do believe the world will be run by speed understanders at some point. Not the speediest, per se, just a spectrum of speed understanders. The people with the ability to absorb emerging knowledge and information which reshapes what they THOUGHT they understood and shapes a new ‘understanding’ which begets some choices, actions and creates progress. But. That’s me. Ponder.


“People think of education as something they can finish.”
Isaac Asimov

Written by Bruce