How to be smart

I’m usually disappointed by smart people. At first,  I meet them, I think they are awesome, I want to be friend with them. And then I realize it was just a show (or plain bullshit) and it takes a lot to actually be smart. That’s when I’m disappointed.

I used to think that knowledge was this thing that make you a smart guy. It’s not. Knowledge is the show. Knowledge was important before, not anymore. Because knowledge is free, thanks to google, wikipedia and your public library. You want to know something: use google, wikipedia or your public library. You can just gather knowledge from there when you want. Right now if you are reading this and you wonder how to change the belt in your dryer, you can google it. You may not be as quick or as a repair guy to figure out how to do it. But if you do it for you, for your neighbour and for your aunt, chances are you’ll be as smart as the repair guy in terms of dryer belts. And then you’ll be known as dryer belt smart.

For instance: I’m good with computer. It’s following me everywhere. I don’t even have to advertise it, it’s like people already know. They ask me where to buy their new laptop, if I can have a look at their printers, change the time on their bluray player, transfer music on their ipod, install or worse: “boost” their old Windows Millenium computer … Yesterday I was sitting in a mall doing absolutely nothing. I was just waiting. I was not trying to give any hint. An old man came to ask me how he could connect his laptop to the free wifi! I’m telling you, it must be written “I’m a fucking computer engineer. Ask me anything” on my forehead. So yes, I’m computer smart. That’s one thing.

How did I become computer smart? Google, wikipedia and public library… I also studied computer science during 5 years in college but what I learned was: be good at finding information, that’s what I did. That’s it. I have a nice paper saying that I studied 5 years for that. If you can figure how to use google, wikipedia or the public library before going to college, you’ll save 5 years of your life. When I have a computer problem, I google it. That’s it. When I ask people I help if they tried to google it, they say no.

I was talking with some friends the other day. We were wondering how many people live on Prince Edward Island. We all had smartphones. But I was the only one to google it. The reaction was “Wow, it’s wonderful what we can do with technology now!” Are you kidding me? Everybody has access to internet almost 24/7. It’s not even new, it has been years. You pay 60$ per month to have access to the whole internet in your pocket, what is your excuse for not using it? Candy crush saga? You’re “too old”? I feel literally blessed to live in a world where information is free. We should all be so glad for it… It’s insanely awesome, how can we not enjoy it?

Now a lot of people are smart because they went to college and they memorized a lot of stuff. I know people who can literally recite some equations. They can give you the exact definition of “fuzzy logic” or “computer-aided manufacturing”. The guys were always first at my engineering school. They used to piss me off… But these are the same people who asked me if I can help them set up their new computer. See what I mean? They were trying to be wikipedia but no one needs another wikipedia or another google. If you can recite a super complicated programming algorithm but you’re not able to install the computer it’s going to run on, you have a problem.

Knowledge is just the surface of things, it has nothing to do with how things work. Worse, knowledge is constantly changing, it’s changing fast. Memorizing stuff like a monkey only makes you good in the past. Too bad, you are not living in the past.

What really matters is your capacity to adapt and figure out a solution to a problem. Basically being smart is trying that at least…

If you can’t find the answer on google, wikipedia or at the public library, it doesn’t mean there’s no answer. It means it’s your turn to figure it out. It means you are on the right path.

This is where you can really make a difference.