These days, its easy to think that with all the exposure you can get with the push of a few buttons, it is easy to for a ‘genius’, to become known to the world. For people to find out about hidden prodigy’s left right and centre. This is true to a certain extent.
However, it is also untrue. Let me explain. If I asked you to name me some creative pioneers from the last 100 years. You may mention names such as Shakespeare, Beethoven, Charles Darwin. Any you would be right. But one thing is fundamentally different to the time when they lived. And that is, we now live in the information revolution. Exposure is worldwide. If you release work today, the whole world are able to see it. If you write a book, its in digital format. It’s then copied. If your release a song, its in digital format. It’s then copied. If you release a product, its advertised all over the world-wide web, it seen by everyone. It’s then copied!
When Beethoven and Mozart crafted their works all them years ago, people were lucky to hear it. People were lucky to witness Shakespeare’s work. People were lucky to get their hands on great books. What does this mean exactly? It means that when these works were seen, nobody took them for granted. It was so rare to see a genius in action, so word quickly spread. But that didn’t mean that everybody was able to experience it first hand. Most people only the Beethoven was one of the greatest pianists to ever live, because of word of mouth. And word of mouth is powerful. How many people have actually read Shakespeare? How many actually know Einsteins works?
Now, if you say somebody is a genius today – the whole world rush to see what the fuss is about – and sometimes its worth it, most times it isn’t. This is because we have become accustomed to seeing amazing things on a daily basis – because we are so connected with each other.
And because we are so connected, work is very quickly scrutinized and deconstructed. Criticism flows as fast as praise.
Another important thing to recognize is that we are exposed to many other things that were unknown many years ago. So as there are so many more fields for geniuses to exist, it becomes even harder for a genius to actually stand out.
Effectively what is happening is not the disappearance of the genius, but the acceptance of that individual as a genius is becoming rarer. Which in a certain way, is causing the disappearance of the genius!
To further emphasize my point, I’ll give you an example:
Say a violinist wants to get her work out to the world. Her family know she is a great, she is a one-of-a-kind player. Her friends know. Her teachers know. Her neighbourhood knows. So word spreads after she releases some tracks, maybe she does some local events. Word spreads across the world, and yes everybody acknowledges – she is a genius. But to what extent is it actually recognized? Maybe the talk of the music world is all about this violinist, for a few days, a couple of weeks at most.
Very quickly, another ‘genius’ is being spoke of. Other great work is being done by a singer, or there may even be a better violinist! Now, this would not have happened back in Beethoven’s time. Even as recently as 20 years ago, before the world was a network. Folks would have seen they were witnessing a great. They would have paid attention. The name of the violinist would have been cemented in history. Today, not so.
Now, all of this is not to say that it can’t happen anymore. Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, Larry Page, Elon Musk, Richard Branson, Stephen Hawking…. The list could go on. These are all names that we known, and pay attention to. Their works are great. Their talents are undeniable.
AS you can see, for a genius to be seen as a genius today, is almost impossible. People get compared to Beethoven’s, Einsteins, Mohammed Ali’s, Shakespeare’s. But there will never be another instance of these names. Because they made there names in a different time. Until we acknowledge this fact, it is very hard to see truly great work for what it really is. But it’s also not impossible…
What is your definition of a genius?