Sunday, February 19, 2006

Developing One's Evolutionary Quotient

How travel makes us smarter

Some of my friends on the Opera Community have been posting maps of the various countries they have visited. Having done a little bit of travel myself, I decided to make a few maps of my own, courtesy of Douwe Osinga's excellent map generators (see links below).

visited countries map
create your own visited countries map

visited states map
create your own visited states map

I haven't lived in most of those places for very long, which is a shame. Brief visits are nice, but I think you have to live somewhere for at least a month to start getting a real sense of familiarity. It took me a full year of living in Seoul before it felt like home, and now I miss it a lot.

I am reminded of Timothy Leary's Evolutionary Quotient (EQ), developed while he was in exile in Switzerland in the early 70's. EQ is a simple but not widely disseminated idea. I could barely find anything written about it on the web, and it's only discussed briefly in the notes for Chapter 37 of Leary's autobiography.

Very simply, one's Evolutionary Quotient is the number of one's mailing addresses divided by chronological age.

So, for example, I've had a total of 12 mailing addresses in 29 years, which makes my EQ = 12/29 = .41

I'm not counting the addresses of places that I spent less than a month at, and you shouldn't count business or school addresses (unless they were your primary place of residence).

Dr. Leary's point, of course, had to do with how our understanding of the world evolves in response to changing environments. The more places we have lived, the more likely it is that we've met different types of people with different ideas, knowledge, and value systems. It's a concept that celebrates pluralism. The more places we experience and the more people we meet (with tolerance and respect), the smarter we get.

The differences we encounter when living in a new place provide a sort of psychic shock, the intensity of which allows us to change and grow.
I'll miss the sea, but a person needs new experiences. They jar something deep inside, allowing him to grow. Without change, something sleeps inside us and seldom awakens. The sleeper must awaken. - Duke Leto Atreides from Frank Herbert's Dune (the movie)
More than ever before, it can be argued, people move freely around the world, but even for those who can't, the internet provides many new opportunities for belonging to multiple communities and interacting with a broad range of people

Those who say that people only congregate with like-minded individuals online miss the simple fact that those who belong to a community surrounding a web browser, for example, are not likely to share exactly the same political views, tastes in entertainment, family values, etc. Online community diversity varies depending on the topic of the community. Anime fans online are a pretty diverse group. Big game hunters might be less so.