Yesterday, the Nobel Prize winning mathematician and economist John Nash Jr. and his wife died in a taxi accident. From the NY Times obituary:
Receiving his bachelor’s and master’s degrees at Carnegie, he arrived at Princeton in 1948, a time of great expectations, when American children still dreamed of growing up to be physicists like Einstein or mathematicians like the brilliant, Hungarian-born polymath John von Neumann, both of whom attended the afternoon teas at Fine Hall, the home of the math department..
We’re still in that era today, of millions of young people aspiring to be great geniuses, except nowadays many want to be app developers, tech billionaires, stock traders, economists, and coders, but the intellectualism is still there, it’s just in new fields. Right now, among many 20-somethings, some of the most admired men are Warren Buffet, Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg, and Bill Gates, who are not only geniuses, but creating empires and becoming immensely wealthy in the process. But that doesn’t mean that today’s smartest generation doesn’t look up to purely academic/theoretical geniuses, and this is especially evident by the Dr. Nash beatification on Reddit, somewhat akin to Catholics grieving over the death of Pope John Paul II. In the span of just a couple hours, at least a couple dozen threads had been created eulogizing Dr. Nash’s accomplishments, each of these threads getting hundreds of or thousands of comments, with each comment lavishing more praise than the preceding one. In the post-2008 era, intellectuals, particularly in STEM fields, have become the equivalent of ‘patron saints’ for a generation of high-IQ empirically minded atheists and agnostics, and with the millennials being the largest and quite possibly the smartest generation ever – that is a lot of people worshiping at the alter of intellect. In a highly up-voted and 2x gilded reply, one Reddit user went so far as equating Dr. Nash to a father and family figure, amidst some heavy-duty sappy prose:
It takes a slightly malfunctioning mind to see what others cannot.
It takes a mountain of intelligence to tame the beast of mathematics.
And it takes a raw courage to trek through the unexplored, forging ahead through the woods while others lounge in the open field.
We are very lucky, as a civilization, that John Nash was all of these, and born just as humanity’s technological development went exponential.
The loss to humanity today is difficult to express properly, but it is most assuredly vast. It is not an overstatement to say that without John Nash many of our lives would be very different right now. His contributions to the world simply would not have been possible by anyone else.
Instead of focusing on a senseless death, we should instead focus on a long and cherished life, filled with a loving partner, and the peaks of accomplishments that most of us can only dream of.
And from this moment, we need to understand and take with us the realization that our global family has a void in it now. There was a time in history when only deaths in your immediate family affected you profoundly: mother, father, sibling.
Great humans passed away and left a horrific gap in the mesh that bound your group. This is no different, just a difference in magnitude.
Coincidentally, as a result of some of John Nash’s work, the Internet has expanded our definition of ‘family’ and ‘tribe’. A father is not longer a single male that grew up in the same household with you. Indeed, we are all family now as a result of the unprecedented power of the Internet.
And we have lost a father.
We can only cherish his memory, and realize what all sons have been forced to reckon with throughout history: when the father passes away, the time for childhood is over.
The family must go on, and someone must step into his shoes.
So we speak with loving respect for his body of work, because like all good fathers, his memory will be cherished in invincible and revered tones. At the same time, we sling the tools of his craft over our back and vow to do our best to carry on in his absence.
Though the task seems impossible, we must still forge on ahead through the dark forest ahead. One or more of us will inevitably ascend the same stairs of progress that John Nash graced, and perhaps the world will weep at our deaths as well.
The time has come for the sons of mathematics to step into the shoes of the father. They deserve their moment to mourn, but their primary duty is to keep the family moving through the difficulties and challenges ahead.
We owe you an impossible debt John Nash, and though we cannot ever repay you, we promise to pay it forward to the next generation.
Damn that is intense. I don’t think I’e ever felt that strongly about a person. Half the word count of this post came from that passage alone. So much for America ‘dumbing down’ or not appreciating intellectuals. Hardly.
Not only does this tie into my earlier post about the rise of the STEM celebrity, but also is evidence that being socially awkward is the new ‘normal’ or ‘cool’, and few people optimized social awkwardness like John Nash Jr., as anyone who read Sylvia Nasar’s biography of Dr. Nash would attest. This is also why I think the Red Pill may be putting too much emphasis on being ‘alpha’, especially when nerds like Dr. Nash are the ones that keep rising to the top economically and get all the praise and adoration. The NYT concluded his obituary:
Friends described him as charming and diffident, a bit socially awkward, a little quiet, with scant trace of the arrogance of his youth.
Considering his friends were probably also introverted geniuses, to say he was a ‘bit’ socially awkward is probably an understatement; to outsiders of normal intellect, he probably seemed outright bizarre. And that’s OK—and, in fact, encouraged in our increasingly competitive, technological, financialized, high-IQ economy of stocks going up all the time, as intellect and social awkwardness are equated with competence , introspection, and authenticity. Despite his long mental illness, few ever questioned Nash’s competence. And one could further argue that his illness arose from the struggle of having to deal with a world full of less-competent, less intelligent people, further adding to his authenticity. And that his delusions were manifestations of this struggle that we weren’t smart enough to understand or appreciate. And he was rocking the lumberjack/neckbeard long before hipsters.
It kinda makes me wish I were half as smart as him…maybe then I’d have more traffic to this blog, more accolades, and the warm, glowing feeling of personal accomplishment that comes from being the smartest and best in a competitive, celebritized, highly-vaulted field like mathematics (theoretical physics is another one). They say, ‘be yourself, but what if ‘yourself’ ain’t that great?
Working out, but more specifically, working out and posting pictures of it on Instagram or writing about it, has become the new American pastime. Among today’s gym-faring 20 and 30-somethings, cardio, such treadmill and ellipticals, is ‘out’ and strength training, such as squats and deadlifts, is ‘in’. Bigger is better, not just economically, but physically, too. But at the same time, this is compatible with the rise of the beta/MGTOW culture, of people who choose not to work out as often, but hold many of the same values of the PUA/Redpill movement. Self-improvement, both physically and mentally, is a big deal these days, especially in an economy that rewards merit and individualism more than ever. But it’s not self-improvement through extraversion (social activities, with the possible exception of dating for the PUA crowd), but by personal, more cerebral endeavors – be it stock trading, coding, being more empirically minded, healthier eating, financial & economic literacy, strength training, intellectualism…etc. For today’s smart generation, the the pursuit of truth and the empirical data supersedes trying to spare feelings. Political correctness is becoming obsolete, and the great outpouring, especially in the man-o-sphere and other smart communities, over DR. Nash’s death is evidence that people are seeking truth and reality from scientists, specifically mathematicians, coders, quants, statisticians, and physicists, over leftists who espouse divisive class warfare.