The boy who knew too much: a child prodigy

This is the true story of scientific child prodigy, and former baby genius, Ainan Celeste Cawley, written by his father. It is the true story, too, of his gifted brothers and of all the Cawley family. I write also of child prodigy and genius in general: what it is, and how it is so often neglected in the modern world. As a society, we so often fail those we should most hope to see succeed: our gifted children and the gifted adults they become. Site Copyright: Valentine Cawley, 2006 +

Friday, February 10, 2012

Who is significant in the modern world?

Today, by chance, I noticed something which gave me pause to reflect on what it means to be significant, as a person, in the modern world. I began to type a word on Google, that began with "LEO...". Immediately, Google guessed what I was going to type. I was appalled at its suggestions. Can you guess what I saw, without actually checking for yourself, first?

So, what do you think I saw?

Well, the first suggestion was Leonardo Dicaprio. The second was Leo Burnett. The third was Leonardo da Vinci. I found this ordering of choices unsettling, for many reasons.

What sort of world puts Leonardo da Vinci - perhaps the single most creative person ever to have lived - behind an actor and an advertising agency? Why are they ordered in such a way? Well, I assumed this must have something to do with their relative fame in the modern world. Perhaps, I thought, Leonardo Dicaprio gets more Internet searches than Leonardo da Vinci. Perhaps the world is not so aware of Leonardo da Vinci, as his modern namesake. So, I checked on Google Insights. Guess what I found?

Leonardo da Vinci is four times more famous than Leonardo Dicaprio when measured by Internet search density around the world - and infinitely more famous than Leo Burnett. The search bar for Leonardo da Vinci was four units long. The search bar for Leonardo Dicaprio was one unit long. The search bar for Leo Burnett was ZERO units long.

So, this presents a big puzzle. The world's Internet searchers are four times more interested in Leonardo da Vinci than in Leonardo Dicaprio - and vastly more interested in him, than in Leo Burnett, yet, still Google puts Leonardo da Vinci after the other two. There is something sad in this. One of the world's greatest geniuses overshadowed by a film star. It isn't right. I am left to wonder whether this ordering of search results is a function of a computer algorithm or hand ordering by a human. If it is a computer algorithm, is it biased towards more recent events? If it is a human is it overly impressed by fame and commerce? (Dicaprio and Burnett.)

Whether it is a human decision or a computer decision to place Leonardo da Vinci third in the list, the effect is the same: to judge genius as less significant than celebrity and commerce. So, our world seems to value (or those behind this ordering, anyway), familiarity and money, over intellectual and creative substance. Yet, this ignores the data found in Google insights - that the world's Internet searchers are four times more interested in Leonardo da Vinci, than in Leonardo Dicaprio.

My response to this is to propose a test, which I hope some distant readers, in future times, might be able to conduct. It is quite simple really. Leonardo da Vinci's time was about five hundred years ago. My question is this: will Leonardo Dicaprio and Leo Burnett be as famous in five hundred years time, as Leonardo da Vinci is, now? So, I invite my future readers in the twenty sixth century (if the Internet still exists and Blogger is still hosted), to Google (or the equivalent) "Leo..." and see what is suggested. Does it suggest Leonardo Dicaprio above Leo Burnett, above Leonardo da Vinci? Does it even suggest Leonardo Dicaprio at all? My guess is that Leonardo da Vinci will still be one of those suggested, but that the other two will have been replaced by new "Leos" of some kind. So, the present prominence of Leonardo Dicaprio over Leonardo da Vinci is likely to be a temporary phenomenon. Google is not measuring true worth by its search results. Were it doing so then Leonardo da Vinci would be the top result for Leos...and would be likely to stay that way, even in another five hundred years time.

Anyway, please conduct the test at the appropriate time. I may not be around to hear the results...but I can at least make the suggestion that you do so. Thank you.

Posted by Valentine Cawley

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 4:29 PM 


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