Innovation needs free and rational minds

It was neither in the apple nor in any element at the centre of the earth that the law of gravitation was discovered. It was in the mind of Sir Isaac Newton.

Innovation needs free and rational minds

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It was neither in the apple nor in any element at the centre of the earth that the law of gravitation was discovered. It was in the mind of Sir Isaac Newton. The falling of the apple gave only a suggestion to Newton and he studied it in his own mind. The rearrangement of previous thoughts in his mind gave birth to the law of gravitation. This unique narration is given by Swami Vivekananda who asserted that knowledge is inherent in mind. “No knowledge comes from outside; it is inside”.

He further said: “Like fire in a piece of flint, knowledge exists in the mind. Suggestion is the friction that brings it out.” The Eastern philosophers always advocated that the goal of mankind is knowledge. We too propagate these days to build up a knowledge society for better living. Knowledge has become fundamental to economic development and technological advancement. The greatest resource of all economic development is the mind. In the words of E F Schumacher: ‘..the key factor of all economic development comes out of the mind of man.’ [Small is Beautiful]. Education is the most effective tool to act as an external suggestion to bring out knowledge stored in the mind. It acts as the friction needed to fire the flint.

It gives power to ordinary people to cope with the problems thrown up by life. The more modern the society, the more intricate its problems are. That is why every ordinary person aspires for education. The uneducated parents desire and work hard to get their children educated. They do not want their children to be brought up the way they were. Man believes in the power of education; it makes us wonder, and can change lives for the better. Even uneducated villagers sit before an erudite person to listen with rapt attention to what he says.


Education is the instrument through which we look at the universe, interpret it and experience the world. When we think, it is with specific ideas already filled in the mind. The aggregate of ideas of the people impacts the value and ethics of society. “What matters most is the tool-box of ideas with which, by which, we experience and interpret the world” [Small is Beautiful]. Research found that an average person can process up to approximately 60,000 thoughts per day. The thoughts range from mundane daily tasks to deeper philosophical views about life and the world around us. But what is truly concerning is that 75 per cent of these thoughts are negative and 90 per cent are repetitive. The negative thoughts surely impact our lives adversely.

They may result in insecurity, anxiety and depression. The negative thoughts can be dislodged only by conscious efforts on the basis of experience and good education. However some of the ideas are fixed and are inherited by man without any effort. These universal and large ideas of the time are deep rooted in culture, habit and custom, integrated into lives. When people ask for education they do not merely ask for training or for information or facts but for ideas that will help them develop intelligent and logical explanations of happenings of the world.

People often simply take ideas and follow them. This is more comfortable than to build up one’s own unique idea or a value judgement. If the mind cannot bring in powerful ideas, life may appear as a chaos, dull and disorderly. In civilised society nobody wants to live an unintelligent life. After all, every human being has a brain and every brain works wonderfully. The quest for knowledge is in every one. The task of education therefore would be the transmission of ideas of value, of what to do with our lives. Today’s highly digitised society demands more education. Every aspect of life is becoming dependent on technology. One can learn and use the rapidly changing technology in daily chores if one has basic education.

She therefore may not feel estranged from society. Education institutions are the most powerful institution of society. Education is compulsory and a fundamental human right in our country. The mind-altering effects of education extend to all spheres of life. The first dividend of education is literacy. Literacy is the foundation of the rest of education. Educated people are enlightened, rational, and peace-loving. They are law abiding citizens and contribute to economic development of the country.

Often education leads us to unlearn too; such as the vulnerability of superstations, child marriage and quackery. But a question often being asked now is why human beings are appearing to be losing their minds. Why are rationality and critical thinking retreating? It resembles a rejection of reasons and logic. It is well accepted that application of reason improves quality of life irrespective of one’s social status. It was once believed that scientists, teachers, philosophers, economists, professors, authors, doctors, engineers i.e. the erudite persons of society, occupy centre stage and set goals for mankind. They contribute to innovation immensely.

They are undoubtedly respected as the superior class of society and as the torch-bearers. They have the capacity to discover and accept the canon of rationality. But the situation has changed radically. The geopolitical movements coupled with business activities now come to occupy centre stage. Mediocrity has engulfed everything. Massscale corruption, dishonesty, lies, intrusion into private lives and atrocities on beliefs and disbeliefs of individuals have reached an alarming scale. ‘Freedom after speech’ is also at stake. People try to avoid propagating rational thinking or logical arguments with the fear that it might lead to a conclusion that will not satisfy their interest. They may lose money, power or dignity. People feel it necessary to regulate their arguments in such a manner that it will augur well to a predetermined and favourable conclusion. This may not raise the arguer’s wisdom.

However it might remind us of the concept of ‘motivated reasoning’, propagated by psychologist Ziva Kunda in the 1990s. It states individuals tend to accept information that coincides with their existing beliefs and reject any new information that contradicts them, although relevant. Free thinking, counter arguments, open debate and exchange of ideas are the essential prerequisites of a vibrant society. If brain power is not allowed to function freely no new innovation will come up and it will stall progress, both material and moral.

The 2024 Edelman Trust Barometer Report, the annual online survey in its 24th year among 28 countries with over 32,000 respondents of 1150+ from each country, has been published. The report reveals that people have less trust on governments than on business and NGOs. Media is least trusted. Innovation is in peril. India is no exception.

The survey suggests people’s perception that rapid innovation offers the promise of a new era of prosperity. But there is decline in trust on institutions responsible for steering us through change towards a more prosperous future. The concern revealed is that politics has too much influence on science. An irrational or biased decision might lead to a war killing hundreds or thousands of people. A decision without critical thinking might result in a climate disaster causing loss of several lives.

The theory of Einstein i.e. Ego = 1/Knowledge seems to have occupied a predominant position nowadays. An inflated feeling of pride in superiority to others defies reality. Irrational, illogical, biased thinking along with authoritative oppression in the long run will one day culminate in disaster in society in the form of a threat to democracy and halt in the progress of economic growth. Common people and future generations will be the worst sufferers. (The writer, a Cost Accountant, is a former General Manager of a state power utility.)