Nikola Tesla testing his Tesla Coils. Source pic via Wikimedia Commons
Nikola Tesla – The Ascendance of Absolute, Unrivalled Brilliance
By Sean Kernan
Every generation brings a few one-in-a-billion geniuses. Nikola Tesla was one of them.
He was a full order of magnitude above the line at which genius is defined. As a child, he memorised entire books and flew through the hardest academic subjects. Throughout his life, he mastered 8 languages. You will not find a long list of people who were smarter than Nikola Tesla.
He paid a steep price for his brilliance. He was unable to relate to others. He never had a romantic partner and his mental health was a massive problem (Mental illness is far more common as you approach the horizon of possible human intelligence; it’s theorised that a person will eventually succumb to madness before they reach it).
Tesla wasn’t commercially minded. He didn’t monetise his 700+ patents, though many others got rich off his ideas.
His inventions (alternating currents, remote controls, induction motors, and many more) had a lasting effect on engineering. Many of the things you use are extensions of his innovations. You wouldn’t have them without Tesla.
Beyond his ability to invent and understand the most complex concepts, he had one ability that separates a super genius from your “normal” genius: he could see far into the future. He was a visionary.
Tesla made one of the most accurate and detailed predictions that any human has ever made.
He said this of technology in 1926.
“When wireless is perfectly applied the whole earth will be converted into a huge brain, which in fact it is, all things being particles of a real and rhythmic whole.
We shall be able to communicate with one another instantly, irrespective of distance. Not only this but through television and telephony we shall see and hear one another as perfectly as though we were face to face, despite intervening distances of thousands of miles; and the instruments through which we shall be able to do this will be amazingly simple compared with our present telephone.
A man will be able to carry one in his vest pocket.”
Sound familiar? And yet many people thought he was crazy.
Don’t be afraid of big bold ideas from really smart people. History has a habit of turning madmen into geniuses.