Albert Einstein in 1999 was named by TIME magazine as Person of the Century.
He in the course of his career had turned mankind’s understanding of the physical world on its head. From his overthrow of Newtonian mechanical model of universe to proving quantized nature of light to energy mass equivalence, to prediction of black holes/wormholes he was the ultimate monarch of the mind. He made professional mistakes as well as in his opposition to quantum mechanical model of sub atomic world, however from the challenges he mounted on quantum mechanics, others were able to prove our universe is connected at the quantized level or that it is non local.
Recipient of Nobel Prize for physics in 1921, his name today is synonymous with genius. As a wit remarked, if you want to appear intelligent or if you want no one to dispute your assertion, attribute it to Einstein.
To bring his ideas and ideologies to life here then is a time traveled interview that I conducted with him yesterday. The year I landed in is 1953, two years before his death, and we are seated in his office at Institute of Advanced Studies , Princeton, New Jersey. He looks weary with his celebrated hairdo ruffled but the twinkle of his eye is undiminished. His impish energy though is still contagious.
The questions below are mine. The answers recorded here are in his own words. So I start by asking him:
Vikas: Mr Einstein, thanks for your time today. We know time is relative hence this back—dated interview. I want to start off by asking you what is your current understanding of our reality.
Einstein: Reality is merely an illusion though a very persistent one.
Vikas: Ok and if this is so, how should one live in it.
Einstein: There are two ways to live: you can live as if nothing is a miracle or you can live as if everything is a miracle. The way to do the later is never to lose your holy curiosity. Also if you want to live a happy life, if that is what you are asking me, tie it to goal and not to people and objects
Vikas: You have been called a genius and no body has been as lionized as you for their mental gifts. How do feel about that
Einstein: Actually I have no special talent. I am only passionately curious. Since I believe that once we accept our limits, we go beyond them so knowing I’m not so smart, it’s just that I stay with my problems longer. In fact to tell you the truth I used to go away for weeks in a state of confusion.
Vikas: Surely you are being modest Mr Einstein. You are known as one of the most intelligent man who walked on this planet. In fact after you death when they surreptitiously extracted your brain and preserved it for future neuro-scientific study, they found that your visuospatial cognition, association cortex, were especially large. Also that your corpus callosum which connects both brain hemispheres was more spread out than other control subjects that they tested on. That they have been trying to locate neural correlates of your intelligence in future is one thing however in your view what in a human being, constitutes intelligence.
Einstein: The true sign of intelligence is not knowledge but imagination. Aligned with it, is creativity, which is intelligence having fun. On the others side is foolishness where you do not use any imagination at all. So insanity is when you keep doing the same thing over and over again and expect different outcome.
Vikas: What about analytical intelligence or logical infrencing?
Einstein: Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere. So the gift of fantasy has meant more to me than my talent for absorbing positive knowledge.
Vikas: Are you are referring to your thought experiments where you imagined that you were riding a light beam to discover the laws of special relativity and going in a falling elevator for laws of general relativity.
Einstein: See, there is no logical way to the discovery of these elemental laws. There is only the way of intuition, which is helped by a feeling for the order lying behind the appearance and I am enough of an artist to draw freely upon my imagination.
In fact if I were not a physicist, I would probably be a musician. I often think in music. I live my daydreams in music. I see my life in terms of music.
Vikas: Oh so you are saying that basic idea of intelligence is to let your imagination roam under the tutelage of your intuition. Now how can we school this process. Talk to me about your thoughts on education and how should young people be trained today into intelligence.
Einstein: Firstly let me clarify, everybody is a genius but if you judge a fish by its ability to climb trees it will live its whole life thinking it is stupid Secondly education is not the learning of facts but training of mind to think.
As about training kids to be intelligent, here is a small cartoon that I am sharing with you which you can share further with your readers.
Vikas: And what about teaching?
Einstein: Since most common sense is a collection of prejudices acquired by age eighteen so the supreme art of any teacher is to awaken joy in creative expression and knowledge.
Vikas: You are a known pacifist so I cannot resist asking you a futuristic question. World in early 21st century (from where I come) seems to be in a state of siege around two core issues of religion and nationalism. What do you think about these subjects?
Einstein: I am not only a pacifist but a militant pacifist. I am willing to fight for peace. Nothing will end war unless the people themselves refuse to go to war. It is my conviction that killing under the cloak of war is nothing but an act of murder.
Now the road to perdition has ever been accompanied by lip service to an ideal. Of the two ideals that you mention, the first nationalism, is an infantile disease. It is the measles of mankind. You cannot simultaneously prevent and prepare for war.
As about religion I do not believe in the God of theology who rewards good and punishes evil. I believe in Spinoza’ s god who reveals himself in the orderly harmony of what exists.
Vikas: Thanks for that exposition and I know you must be busy as life is short, so I will let you go however before returning to where I come from do finally share with me if there is anything you are fearful of.
Einstein: It has become appallingly obvious that our technology has exceeded our humanity.I fear that day when technology will surpass our human interaction. The world will have a generation of idiots.
Overall I think, we shall require a substantially new manner of thinking if mankind is to survive.
Thank you Mr Einstein for your time today. We hope you will be fine and enjoy your well deserved immortality.