The Law Of Accelerated Intelligence Applies To Every Area Of Modern Life


In the Law Of Accelerated Intelligence: Why Being Great Is So Much Harder Than People Realize, I make the case that the minimum amount of learning required to thrive in one's career is increasing:

As our amount of accumulated knowledge increases exponentially, the minimum amount of learning we need to do in order to productively participate or be a top performer in society increases. In other words, accelerated societal change necessitates accelerated intelligence.

In 5-Hour Rule, I further make the case that the minimum dose of learning per week needed in order to thrive in a modern career is five hours per week.

More recently, after reading In Over Our Heads: The Mental Demands of Modern Life by Harvard researcher Robert Kegan, I realized that the Law Of Accelerated Intelligence applies across more areas of modern life—not just career. In his book, Kegan makes the case that the increased demands also apply to...

  • Parenting
  • Marriage
  • Citizenship (living with diversity)
  • Self Psychotherapy
  • Adult Learning

Below are excerpts from the book of how the demands in each of these are increasing according to Kegan. I conclude the article with the implications.

The Increased Demands Of Parenting

  • Take charge of the family; establish rules and roles
  • Institute a vision and induct family members into it
  • Support the development of the young within and away from the family
  • Manage boundaries between generations
  • Set limits on children, ourselves, and those outside the family

The Increased Demands Of Marriage

  • Be psychologically independent of our partners
  • Have a well-differentiated and clearly defined sense of self
  • Transcend an idealized, romanticized approach to love and closeness
  • Set limits on children, selves, extra family involvements to preserve couple
  • Support our partner's development
  • Listen empathetically and nondefensively
  • Communicate feelings directly and responsibly
  • Have an awareness of how our psychological history inclines or directs us

The Increased Demands Of Work

  • Be the inventor or owner of our work (rather than see it as owned and created by the employer); distinguish our work from our job
  • Be self-initiating, self-correcting, self-evaluating (rather than dependent on others to frame the problems, initiate adjustments, or determine whether things are going acceptably well)
  • Be guided by our own visions at work (Rather than be without a vision or captive of the authority's agenda)
  • Take responsibility for what happens to us at work externally and internally (rather than see our present internal circumstances and future external possibilities as caused by someone else)
  • Be accomplished masters of our particular work roles, jobs, or careers (rather than have an apprenticing or imitating relationship to what we do)
  • Conceive of the organization from the "outside in," as a whole; see our relation to the whole; see the relation of the parts to the whole (rather than see the rest of the organization and its parts only from the perspective of our own part, from the "inside out")

The Increased Demands Of Living In A Diverse Society

  • Resist our tendencies to make "right" or "true" that which is merely familiar, and "wrong" or "false" that which is only strange (contravene our tendencies toward ethnocentrism and gendercentrism)
  • Be able to look at and evaluate the values and beliefs of our psychological and cultural inheritance rather than be captive of those values and beliefs.
  • Be able to recognize our styles (how we prefer to receive stimulation and energy, prefer to gather data, prefer to make decisions, and how spontaneously or structured we prefer to orient to our lives; our orientation to separateness or connection) as preferences (rather than as superior apprehensions)

The Increased Demand Of Self Psychotherapy

  • Perceive our standards as based on our own experience (rather than upon the attitudes or desires of others)
  • Perceive ourselves as the evaluators of experience (rather than regard ourselves as existing in a world where the values are inherent in and attached to the object of our perception)
  • Place the basis of standards within ourselves, recognizing that the goodness or badness of any experience or perceptual object is not something inherent in that object, but is a value placed on it by ourselves
  • Transform our energies from manipulating the environment for support into developing greater and greater self-support
  • Learn to stand on our own feet emotionally, intellectually, economically
  • Learn to stop reindoctrinating ourselves with the unwholesome philosophies of life, or values, we imbibed and taught ourselves in youth
  • Learn to challenge and question our own basic values, our own thinking, so that we really think for ourselves
  • Take responsibility for our lives
  • Learn the psychological myths or scripts that govern our behavior and reauthor them (rather than just use insight for better understanding of why the script is as it is)

The Increased Demand Of Learning

  • Exercise critical thinking
  • Examine ourselves, our culture, and our milieu in order to understand how to separate what we feel from what we should feel, what we value from what we should value, and what we want from what we should want
  • Be a self-directed learner (take initiative; set our own goals and standards; use experts, institutions, and other resources to pursue these goals; take responsibility for our direction and productivity in learning)
  • See ourselves as the co-creators of the culture (rather than only shaped by culture)
  • Read actively (rather than only receptively) with our own purpose in mind
  • Write to ourselves and bring our teachers into our self-reflection (rather than write mainly to our teachers and for our teachers)
  • Take charge of the concepts and theories of a course or discipline, marshaling on behalf our independently chosen topic its internal procedures for formulating and validating knowledge

Exploring The Implications Of The Law Of Accelerated Intelligence

Kegan's book was published in 1994. If anything the demands have only become larger. Since then...

  • We've seen the rise of the Internet and social media.
  • Billions of people are creating content in multiple mediums and sharing publicly.
  • Humanity's knowledge is at our finger tips.
  • Our minds are constantly being distracted by targeted advertising and media that is designed to be addictive.
  • Hundreds of millions of students and their parents learning and working from home for the first time because of COVID-19.
  • Many new jobs are being created that are more cognitively complex.

Bottom line: People who don't have a consistent, deliberate learning routine as an adult will see themselves passed over by deliberate learners and overwhelmed by the demands of life. Societies that don't have deliberate learners are at risk of losing their democracies. Previously, bold statements like this would have to be taken on faith. But, in today's world we can see their truth unfolding before our eyes. We must not forget...

“Liberty cannot be preserved without a general knowledge among the people, who have a right … and a desire to know.” — John Adams