Bob F. Y. Kuo is a professor of information systems at National Sun Yat-sen University
Why do smart people suffer from "intellectual autism"?
According to research conducted by modern management guru Chris
Argyris, many clever people get this disease after their successful
climb to the top.
Argyris surveyed graduates from top US
universities, including Harvard, as well as senior executives from
Fortune 500 companies. He found that these people can talk about things
they know nothing about and often do things which they should not, thus
creating "skillful incompetence."
In other words, these people's
words often sound brilliant while their actions reveal otherwise. They
are unaware of their own contradictions and are able to skillfully play a
leadership role while being inefficient policymakers.
The same is
true with Taiwan's politicians. Most elite politicians are either
graduates from Taiwan's top universities or famous doctors and scholars
with diplomas from foreign schools. They have created pandemonium in
Taiwan politics for the past year, and refuse to accept that they are
It is understandable why smart people in Taiwan
suffer from intellectual autism and become self-defeating. First, they
have one thing in common -- they are good at taking exams. In other
words, they are good at memorizing words written in books and then
reproducing them onto test sheets. Having gone through such training,
they are able to make good use of words. Faced with any situation, they
are easily able to invent brilliant arguments. They can even support or
oppose a particular matter with the same argument.
stay indoors and do not know what's going on in the outside world. This
does not mean that they have magical powers. After achieving both fame
and success, these isolated, lonely, smart people have lost not only
true friends but also channels of learning. They obtain information by
watching TV or reading newspapers rather than through life experiences.
But what they learn is often irrelevant in the real world, often vague, sensational and exaggerated.
smart people inevitably degenerate intellectually, but they still try
to pander to the media and end up becoming their slaves.
culture which attaches much importance to "face," these smart people in
high positions never want to admit that they -- or their opinions --
are often insignificant.
As a result, they shut their minds and then develop intellectual autism.
the "Peter Principle" (that people tend to be promoted until they reach
their level of incompetence) eventually applies to them. When a smart
person faces too many difficult challenges, is eager to show off and has
too much pride, he or she becomes very ordinary and even incompetent.
is a strange culture. It prefers people who are proficient at taking
tests to lead the nation, and tends to accept good scholars into
politics. Taiwan's government officials therefore inevitably end up with
"smart people's intellectual autism." Our laws are great but
impractical. Our legislators often open their mouths simply to ask
others to shut up or resign.
Our leaders have to deal with a host
of problems every day, but they do not have enough time for
comprehensive thought. Most politicians are used to playing word games,
and seem to think that they should be worshipped. Eventually, when
encountering frustrations, they will try to make those who comply with
them prosper and those who resist them perish.
intellectual autism is not limited to politicians. Some high-ranking
people in the media vow to serve the people, but instead serve the
one-party communist dictatorship of China, or a minority of politicians
who make a killing from "black gold."
When the media is seen as
the source of social disorder, it does not conduct self-criticism but
avenges itself on its opponents. Classic cases of intellectual autism
can be found among the media.
Perhaps the illness is inevitable in
Chinese culture. In the past 1,000 years, China has been conquered by
the Mongols, the Manchus and Western powers due to its internal
failings, but the Chinese pass the buck to others. Chinese also praise
themselves as "the most superior people in the world." If they were
really intelligent people who didn't suffer from serious intellectual
autism, they would never praise themselves in such a way.
If Taiwan wants to see a promising future, it has to get rid of such a culture!