You may forget your toothbrush next time you go away but you can’t leave your microbes behind. Millions of bacteria hitch a ride with you, making themselves comfortable wherever you go. Within only a few hours, they will have colonised a hotel room; give them 24 hours and they can take over an entire house.
These are just some of the results from the Home Microbiome Study, the first attempt to trace the path of microbes from our bodies to our built surroundings, and vice versa. “We know that some microbes can increase our weight, we know that some can influence our neurological development, we want to know where those bacteria come from,” says Jack Gilbert from the University of Chicago, who leads the work.
The cells of our bodies are outnumbered 10 to 1 by the microbial cells that call our bodies home. Every time we breathe, sneeze or cough we leave traces of these microbial hangers-on. Others are left behind as we shed skin cells or touch surfaces. Given how much time we spend there, most of this microbial shedding is done at home. Despite this, we know surprisingly little about the interaction between our bodily microbes and those in our houses.
To shed some light, Gilbert and his colleagues mapped the microbial signatures of seven human families, including three that were in the process of moving house. The families came from different parts of the US and were from different socioeconomic backgrounds and ethnicities. Over a period six weeks, the team took repeated swabs of the 18 family members’ feet, hands and nose. They also took samples from door knobs, floors, light switches and kitchen counter surfaces, as well as from any pets.
By amplifying and sequencing the genetic material in these swabs, the team isolated more than 21,000 different microbial species. Each family had its own distinct microbial signature that could be used to identify them. This signature was quickly transferred to the family’s living space, overwhelming the microbes already there. For example, one of the families moving house temporarily stayed in a hotel room. According to Gilbert, it took just 3 hours for their microbial signature to swamp the room, and less than 24 hours after they moved in to their new house for it to resemble their old one microbially.
Unsurprisingly, microbes transfer most commonly between hands and doorknobs, light switches and kitchen counters, and between floors and feet. Floor samples differed most between families. The smallest microbial variation between people was found between those in regular close contact, like couples, or parents and young children. There was greater variation between separate adults, for example, unrelated flat mates, and teenagers and their parents.
Young children, or people whose gut microbiota have been compromised by antibiotic use, for example, readily “accept” the microbes of others. Household pets were particularly good microbe “donors” – which persuaded Gilbert and his wife to buy a dog to increase the exposure of their family to a greater diversity of microbes, because this has been shown to reduce vulnerability to allergies.
The bugs are watching you
Gilbert says the research could be used to chart people’s movement around a house, and monitor their interactions. “We could tell how many individuals live there, and the relationship between them,” he says.
He recounts one case where a couple shared their home with a male lodger. Through analysis of the microbial samples from different parts of the house, the researchers could tell that the two men shared a bathroom, but the woman used another – a fact confirmed later by the couple. Theoretically, Gilbert says, analysis of microbial swabs could be used to detect a new relationship or uncover a cheating partner. If a database of people’s microbial profiles was ever created, a microbial signature or “fingerprint” could perhaps be used to identify criminals.
In the shorter term, such work could be used to recognise the presence of burglars in the house from an influx of unfamiliar microbes, or recognise alien microbes left on the skin of a homicide victim by the perpetrator – something that Gilbert is now working on in collaboration with the police department of Hawaii. [x]
Aside from a few facebook “likes”, “shares”, and my one “comment” that said “I am disgusted. So very, very disgusted” in response to this fb post: When You “Fit the Description” by Charles Belk, I have avoided expressing my thoughts about the heightened awareness of racism due to the murder of Michael Brown and consequent riots and tactical militance in Ferguson, MO. This is noteworthy because I am a student of Critical Race Theory, Structural Racism, Racial Disparities, Social Justice, Human Rights, and the like. Who I am, the lens through which I view social experiences and interactions, are all shaped by these things.
Early this morning, however, something changed. I woke up annoyingly early on a Saturday morning because of a disturbing dream. I pulled up facebook on my phone to shift my thoughts. I was…we’ll say “surprised” to see a post on my News Feed that said:
This isn’t the first time that I read something “untoward” about the emotional response that Americans of all races have expressed regarding the ongoing differences experienced by African Americans in comparison to other racial groups in this country. However, it was the first time that I read it from someone I knew and who works in law enforcement. To put it plainly, I was pissed that this person would minimize the breadth of the problem of racism within the criminal justice system. I was pissed that “the African American” was accused of exemplifying “racism at it’s worse” and for “starting” it. I was pissed at his proclamation that “One day things will change and [we] will need [them]“. I was pissed at his insinuation of moral superiority because “[they] will still help because that’s [their] job”. I was pissed at the virtual finger-in-your-face “remember that”. Deep breath.
My fingers were shaking with pure pissed-off-tivity as I clumsily typed my comment:
My blog is about self-power–standing in it regardless of what is happening around us. I believe that we choose the ways in which we allow (or disallow) what is happening around us to penetrate our being. My worldview is that racism is everywhere, both overt and insidiously woven within laws, institutions, systems, attitudes, beliefs, thoughts, interactions, and choices. Racism is one of those things for me that provokes a range of emotions (from dismissive to rage) based on the context and characters. For others, aspects of health, exercise, literature, filmmaking, political science, vegetarianism, animal rights, finance, homemaking, education, social welfare may be one of their things. There are varying perpectives on each of these things, and the degree to which our emotions are provoked can challenge whether or not we choose to stand in our power.
As it relates to the “surprising” post on fb this morning, I stood in my power by responding…once. I chose not to respond any further after reading his additional posts about mass incarceration being a result of more crimes being committed by African Americans (he apparently hasn’t read the FBI Statistics on this), Black-on-Black crime, and looting in Ferguson, blah blah blah… Sidenote: Do incarceration rates reflect actual crimes committed, or do they more significantly reflect the successful arrest, prosecution and punishment of an individual (guilty or not), inequitable sentencing, and the structural factors that have positioned groups of people to make life-limiting choices? For some reason, I don’t think that’s covered in police academy training, media training, or in the court of public opinion, and I did not think that an additional facebook “comment” would likely change his deeply rooted beliefs. Plus, I also saw further down on his timeline where he had a picture of a badge with Darren Wilson’s name imprinted on it–you know, the “good” cop who murdered Michael Brown because….(why did he murder him again?)–anyway, the picture said, “We support you”. “We” don’t support you, dude. “We” don’t support what I perceive to be my fb compadre’s ridiculous stance on “The African American” and crime. Naaah, another comment was just not worth the blood-boiling energy that was starting to rise within me. Standing in my power was realizing that I’m just not that into you(r post), dropping the mic, and walking away. [h/t]
A blend of funk classic and not so classic selections blended the way I do it! This is a REAL mixtape (no funny rapper shenanigans) for lovers of good music. Done from vinyl with a touch of Serato I promise you can’t front.
Talib Kweli and activist Rosa Clemente shed light on the injustices occurring in Ferguson, Missouri in a discussion with producer Aaron Maté for Democracy Now. The interview follows a confrontation with police at the top of this week that found thousands of protestors including Kweli, Clemente and poet Jessica Care Moore on the ground with guns pointed at their faces. Kweli and Clemente describe the circumstances of their encounter with police as well as other details of their experiences on the ground in Ferguson since the killing of unarmed teen St. Louis teen Michael Brown initially prompted them to travel to Missouri to support the community in their time of need. Kweli’s visit is punctuated by a recent blog post in which he describes the ongoing protests as “one of the most important human rights struggles of our time.”
Those standing up against police brutality and state repression in Ferguson, Missouri are leading one of the most important human right struggles of our time.
In the context of the history of Sundown Towns in that region, which legislated that people of color had to leave white towns by sundown, the imposition of a curfew and deployment of the National Guard by the governor represents a racist suppression of the right to self-defense and a gross violation of the freedom of assembly. Its message is clear: the people most likely to rebel against injustice have to be controlled, their right to protest quashed, and the absolute power of the police state restored.
The militarized repression on display in Ferguson is a reflection of a world in crisis. Although separated by thousands of miles, the plight of the people of Ferguson and the Gaza Strip share too much in common for people of conscience to ignore. Michael Brown, an African American youth, could just have easily been a Palestinian youth mercilessly shot by an Israeli soldier.
Democracy Now released the interview today with a description of the latest developments in Ferguson, Missouri and the circumstances of their discussion with Kweli and Clemente – both impassioned and emotional as they recount the harrowing confrontation with police from inside of Ferguson’s Greater St. Mark Family Church, where citizens have reportedly been taking refuge from the effects of tear gas.
Kweli traveled to Ferguson with Rosa Clemente, a longtime activist, journalist, scholar, and former director of the Hip-Hop Caucus. In 2008, Clemente made history as part of the first all-women-of-color presidential ticket in U.S. history, running as the Green Party’s vice presidential nominee, along with former Democratic Rep. Cynthia McKinney, who ran for president. Kweli and Clemente joined the protests in Ferguson just before a massive march planned for Saturday in their hometown of New York City. Thousands are expected to rally on Staten Island for justice in the case of Eric Garner, the African-American man who died in a police chokehold last month.
Democracy Now! producer Aaron Maté caught up with Kweli and Clemente this week at Ferguson’s Greater St. Mark Family Church. The church has been used as a meeting point and as a safe haven for protesters hit by tear gas.
Listen to the full interview with Talib Kweli and Rosa Clemente below. Get up to date information on the ongoing protests in Ferguson, Missouri and watch footage of the full interview via Democracy Now! [x]
The small city of Jennings, Mo., had a police department so troubled, and with so much tension between white officers and black residents, that the city council finally decided to disband it. Everyone in the Jennings police department was fired. New officers were brought in to create a credible department from scratch.
That was three years ago. One of the officers who worked in that department, and lost his job along with everyone else, was a young man named Darren Wilson.
Some of the Jennings officers reapplied for their jobs, but Wilson got a job in the police department in the nearby city of Ferguson.
On Aug. 9, Wilson, who is white, killed unarmed black teenager Michael Brown after Brown and a friend had been walking down the middle of a street.
Wilson, 28, has completely vanished from public view. He has not explained publicly what happened in that brief, lethal encounter.
His lawyer did not answer phone calls or e-mails. The police union is mum.
His ex-wife is publicly silent. His friends aren’t speaking out.
His mother is long deceased, and there is no sign of his father or either of his stepfathers.
Wilson is under the protection of the Ferguson Police Department, which has chosen from the beginning of this case to opt for obscurity rather than transparency. The department did not reveal Wilson’s identity for nearly a week after the fatal shooting of Brown. By that time, his social media accounts had been suspended.
But everyone leaves a record, and Darren Dean Wilson is no exception.
People who know him describe him as someone who grew up in a home marked by multiple divorces and tangles with the law. His mother died when he was in high school. A friend said a career in law enforcement offered him structure in what had been a chaotic life.
What he found in Jennings, however, was a mainly white department mired in controversy and notorious for its fraught relationship with residents, especially the African American majority. It was not an ideal place to learn how to police. Officials say Wilson kept a clean record without any disciplinary action.
The job in Ferguson represented a step up and likely a significant salary increase.
Wilson has had some recent personal turmoil: Last year, he petitioned the court seeking a divorce from his wife, Ashley Nicole Wilson, and they formally split in November, records show.
Wilson won a commendation this year after he subdued a man who was found to be involved in a drug transaction, and he was honored in a ceremony in the Town Council chambers.
He seemed to be doing pretty well as a police officer — until shortly after noon on that Saturday when he passed two young black men walking down the middle of the street, put his police cruiser into reverse and said something to them.
Problems at home
Wilson was born in Texas in 1986 to Tonya and John Wilson, and he had a sister, Kara. His parents divorced in 1989, when he was 2 or 3 years old.
His mother then married Tyler Harris, and they lived in Elgin, Tex., for a time, records show. Tyler and Tonya Harris had a child named Jared.
The family later moved to the suburban Missouri town of St. Peters, where Wilson’s mother again got divorced and married a man named Dan Durso, records indicate.
Wilson attended St. Charles West High School, in a predominantly white, middle-class community west of the Missouri River. He played junior varsity hockey for the West Warriors but wasn’t a standout.
There were problems at home. In 2001, when Wilson was a freshman in high school, his mother pleaded guilty to forgery and stealing. She was sentenced to five years in prison, although records suggest the court agreed to let her serve her sentence on probation.
She died of natural causes in November 2002, when Wilson was 16, records show. His stepfather, Tyler Harris, took over as his limited guardian, which ended when the boy turned 18.
A family friend, who spoke on the condition of anonymity out of fear of threats, said Wilson sought out a career in law enforcement as a way to create a solid foundation in his life that he’d been missing.
“He had a rough upbringing and just wanted to help people,” the friend said. In Wilson’s childhood, “there was just no structure.”
After going through the police academy, Wilson landed a job in 2009 as a rookie officer in Jennings, a small, struggling city of 14,000 where 89 percent of the residents were African American and poverty rates were high. At the time, the 45-employee police unit had one or two black members on the force, said Allan Stichnote, a white Jennings City Council member.
Racial tension was endemic in Jennings, said Rodney Epps, an African American city council member.
“You’re dealing with white cops, and they don’t know how to address black people,” Epps said. “The straw that broke the camel’s back, an officer shot at a female. She was stopped for a traffic violation. She had a child in the back [of the] car and was probably worried about getting locked up. And this officer chased her down Highway 70, past city limits, and took a shot at her. Just ridiculous.”
Police faced a series of lawsuits for using unnecessary force, Stichnote said. One black resident, Cassandra Fuller, sued the department claiming a white Jennings police officer beat her in June 2009 on her own porch after she made a joke. A car had smashed into her van, which was parked in front of her home, and she called police. The responding officer asked her to move the van. “It don’t run. You can take it home with you if you want,” she answered. She said the officer became enraged, threw her off the porch, knocked her to the ground and kicked her in the stomach.
The department paid Fuller a confidential sum to settle the case, she said.
“It’s like a horror story in my mind. I never thought a police officer would pull me off my porch and beat me to the ground, for just laughing,” Fuller said in an interview.
The Jennings department also had a corruption problem. A joint federal and local investigation discovered that a lieutenant had been accepting federal funds for drunken-driving checks that never happened.
All the problems became too much for the city council to bear, and in March 2011 the council voted 6-to-1 to shut down the department and hire St. Louis County to run its police services, putting Lt. Jeff Fuesting in charge as commander.
Fuesting, who overlapped for about four months with Wilson during a transitional period, described him as “an average officer.”
“My impression is he didn’t go above and beyond, and he didn’t get in any trouble,” Fuesting said.
He said of the department during its difficult period: “There was a disconnect between the community and the police department. There were just too many instances of police tactics which put the credibility of the police department in jeopardy. Complaints against officers. There was a communication breakdown between the police and the community. There were allegations involving use of force that raised questions.”
Robert Orr, the former Jennings police chief who retired in 2010, said of Wilson: “He was a good officer with us. There was no disciplinary action.”
The structure of policing in these small St. Louis communities, as in many places in the United States, is innately combustible.
Officers rarely stay in the same police force for a long time, much less for an entire career. This means police and residents are typically strangers to one another — and not simply from different social, ethnic or racial backgrounds.
Ferguson is an example of a police department staffed predominantly with white officers, many of whom live far away from, and often fail to establish trust with, the predominantly black communities they serve. Policing can become a tense, racially charged, fearful and potentially violent series of interactions. Distrust becomes institutionalized, as much a part of the local infrastructure as the sewers and power lines.
A newly released report by a nonprofit group of lawyers identifies Ferguson as a city that gets much of its revenue from fines generated by police in mundane citations against residents — what the group calls a poor- people’s tax.
The civil unrest that followed the shooting of Michael Brown suggests a deeper problem with the city’s police department, said Geoffrey Alpert, a University of South Carolina professor of criminology who has studied police shootings for decades.
“In order for a police department to weather a storm like that, it has to have social capital. And this police department didn’t have social capital in that community,” he said.
The Ferguson shooting became a national story in part because of what happened in the days afterward, when the country witnessed street protesters chanting “hands up, don’t shoot” as they faced heavily militarized police units in armored personnel carriers. The images shocked Americans across the ideological spectrum and prompted President Obama to order a review of federal programs that supply military weaponry to police departments.
The protests have grown smaller, and the looting and street violence that flared late at night have subsided, and so the community is renewing its focus on the original Aug. 9 incident and to the question of how the criminal justice system will handle Wilson’s use of deadly force — six bullets fired in a matter of seconds — against 18-year-old Michael Brown.
Grand jury reviews evidence
Behind closed doors, meeting once a week, a grand jury has been hearing evidence about the shooting from St. Louis County Prosecutor Robert McCulloch. He has said he does not expect the grand jury to finish its deliberations until October.
Meanwhile, the FBI is interviewing witnesses as part of a Justice Department investigation that could potentially lead separately to federal civil rights charges.
There are two competing narratives about what happened Aug. 9.
Dorian Johnson, 22, was walking with Brown when, he said, Wilson instigated a confrontation by pulling up to the pair in his police cruiser and telling them to get out of the middle of the street. Johnson said Wilson pulled up so close to Brown that when he opened his car door, it bumped into the teenager.
According to Johnson, Wilson reached out, grabbed Brown by the throat and then grabbed his shirt as Brown tried to move away. At that point, Johnson said, he saw Wilson pull out a gun and shoot Brown in the chest or arm. Johnson said the officer hit Brown with another round as he was running away and fatally gunned him down after he stopped and raised his hands in surrender.
The police have given few details of what happened, but Thomas Jackson, the Ferguson police chief, said in a news briefing that the side of Wilson’s face was swollen and he was treated at a hospital.
The Ferguson Police Department quickly ceded the investigation to the St. Louis County police. St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar said Brown “allegedly pushed” Wilson back into the car and physically assaulted Wilson. There was a struggle over Wilson’s gun, which was fired once inside the car, Belmar said. The only person to fire the gun was Wilson, he said.
Autopsies showed Brown was shot six times.
A St. Louis County Police incident report says the incident occurred at 12:02 p.m. and that county police were called in to investigate at 12:43 p.m. The body remained in the street for four hours.
Experts on police shootings say the investigation, including the grand jury deliberations, will focus on whether Wilson had a reasonable perception of being threatened with bodily harm. The experts say it does not matter how many bullets Wilson fired. Police are trained to shoot at the center of mass and stop the threat.
“If it’s an imminent threat of serious bodily harm, yeah, you become the judge, jury and executioner,” said Alpert, the University of South Carolina criminologist.
Richard Rosenfeld, a University of Missouri at St. Louis professor of criminology, adds, “It’s not simply that the officer perceives that he or she is under threat. It must be that the perception is reasonable. That term ‘reasonable’ is so legally freighted.”
Many African Americans here have little trust that the system is capable of reaching a fair decision. McCulloch, the prosecutor, is particularly controversial. His father was a police officer killed by a black man in 1964. He has resisted calls to recuse himself from the case.
“Why is it always in the African American community that it must be the victim’s fault if he got killed?” said Charlie A. Dooley, the county executive of St. Louis County and someone who has called for McCulloch to give way in favor of a special prosecutor. “That is just not right, and it’s not equal justice. African Americans are saying, ‘How dare you? We’re fed up with that. We fought for this country, too.’ ”
Dooley continued: “This is bigger than Mike Brown. What happened in those few seconds on Canfield is illustrative of how little value black men’s lives are worth. The message is clear: Police can kill a young black man and get away with it.”
‘We are Darren Wilson’
On Saturday, Wilson supporters staged a “Support Darren Wilson” rally at Barney’s Sports Pub, which is frequented by current and former officers.
“The people here don’t know him, but law enforcement is family,” said Rhea Rodebaugh, the bar’s owner and a former sheriff. “The poor guy is in hiding. He was doing his job.”
About 100 people, most of them white, showed up. A table held stacks of navy blue T-shirts for sale, each with a police badge on the front and the words “Officer Darren Wilson We Stand By You 8-9-14.”
Several in the crowd had connections to law enforcement, including one who said he knew Wilson from working in private security — and got a call from him on the night of Aug. 9. He said Wilson called to say he couldn’t make it to work because of the shooting.
“Really surprised me that he would think to notify somebody to cover a position that he was responsible for after being involved in what he was involved in,” the officer said.
The officers voiced their unhappiness with Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon, who called for a “speedy prosecution” in the case, a comment that his office later attempted to retract, saying he meant a “speedy investigation.” The cops said they aren’t buying it since it was from a prepared statement, and they worry about the effect it may have on the community if Wilson is not prosecuted.
“That just sets us up for riots,” said one of the officers, who spoke on the condition of anonymity out of fear for his safety.
As the day wore on, a counterprotest evolved across the street, growing from two young women to a group of 20 by 6 p.m. — seven hours after the pro-Wilson rally started.
Motorists began driving by and honking in support of people on both sides of the road, largely dividing along racial lines.
“You are disgusting!” screamed one protester at the Wilson supporters.
The person who started the counterprotest, NaKarla Rimson, said they began with two people, and that as motorists drove by, they parked their cars and joined them. It was hard to keep things peaceful, but she said she tried to tell people to “allow everyone to have their opinion.”
Tempers flared on the other side of the street, too, with some people screaming and making rude gestures of their own. By 8 p.m., the pro-Wilson organizers had moved their tables and chairs inside.
“We are trying to get everyone inside to calm things down,” said one of the organizers, who declined to give her name.
Achenbach reported from Washington. Chico Harlan, DeNeen Brown, Sarah Larimer and Krissah Thompson in Ferguson and Alice Crites and Julie Tate in Washington contributed to this report. [x]
Award-winning horror writer David Nickle has been repeatedly frustrated in his attempts to have a frank and serious discussion of HP Lovecraft’s undeniable racism; people want to hand-wave it as being a product of Lovecraft’s times, but it is inseparable from Lovecraft’s fiction.
Nickle’s novel Eutopia is a chilling horror story about the American eugenics movement, which Lovecraft embraced. As he persuasively argues, Lovecraft’s belief in eugenics was not mainstream by any means, even in his day, and it is infused through Lovecraft’s work — what would “Call of Cthulhu” be without the “eugenically unfit denizens of the bayou or ‘primitive’ island cultures whose religious practises amount to a kind of proactive nihilism”?
Some manage to keep closer to Lovecraft’s more specific anxieties, without embracing Lovecraft’s awful conclusions. Catalan author Albert Sanchez Pinol, in his 2002 novel Cold Skin, delved into the same dank eugenic chambers as did “The Shadow Over Innsmouth”—dealing this time not with the progeny of a racially-mixed marriage, but with the inter-racial sexual politics between the potential parents, as his narrator-protagonist finds an uneasy erotic union with a female creature of a species very similar to Lovecraft’s amphibious Deep Ones. It is, if you will, a xenophillic novel, with a dash of post-imperialist critique.
For me, the xenophobia angle remains the most interesting, and perhaps the most relevant. The legacy of racists like Lovecraft is still very much in play in contemporary society, from the Obama birthers to the Ferguson cops and most points between… and the discussion as to how to contain that legacy is far from over. In a perverse way, Lovecraft’s retrograde and perverse views on race may be his most socially relevant contribution to 20th century weird literature… not as an advocate of his views, not by any means, but as an example of where we’ve been and what too many of us still share, an opportunity to critique those views through the lens of cosmic horror and alien gods.
It’s a telling thing in our little community of weird fiction afficionados, that as much as we fetishize those immense and indestructible beasts and beings of the Cthulhu Mythos, the one monster that we cannot bring ourselves to face is the frail and fearful one who put it all together.
There seems to be wide support for the idea that we are living in an “age of complexity”, which implies that the world has never been more intricate. This idea is based on the rapid pace of technological changes, and the vast amount of information that we are generating (the two are related). Yet consider that philosophers like Leibniz (17th century) and Diderot (18th century) were already complaining about information overload. The “horrible mass of books” they referred to may have represented only a tiny portion of what we know today, but much of what we know today will be equally insignificant to future generations.
In any event, the relative complexity of different eras is of little matter to the person who is simply struggling to cope with it in everyday life. So perhaps the right question is not “Is this era more complex?” but “Why are some people more able to manage complexity?” Although complexity is context-dependent, it is also determined by a person’s disposition. In particular, there are three key psychological qualities that enhance our ability to manage complexity:
1. IQ: As most people know, IQ stands for intellectual quotient and refers to mental ability. What fewer people know, or like to accept, is that IQ does affect a wide range of real-world outcomes, such as job performance and objective career success. The main reason is that higher levels of IQ enable people to learn and solve novel problems faster. At face value, IQ tests seem quite abstract, mathematical, and disconnected from everyday life problems, yet they are a powerful tool to predict our ability to manage complexity. In fact, IQ is a much stronger predictor of performance on complex tasks than on simple ones.
Complex environments are richer in information, which creates more cognitive load and demands more brainpower or deliberate thinking from us; we cannot navigate them in autopilot (or Kahneman’s system 1 thinking). IQ is a measure of that brainpower, just like megabytes or processing speed are a measure of the operations a computer can perform, and at what speed. Unsurprisingly, there is a substantial correlation between IQ and working memory, our mental capacity for handling multiple pieces of temporary information at once. Try memorizing a phone number while asking someone for directions and remembering your shopping list, and you will get a good sense of your IQ. (Unfortunately, research shows that working memory training does not enhance our long-term ability to deal with complexity, though some evidence suggests that it delays mental decline in older people, as per the “use it or lose it” theory.)
2) EQ: EQ stands for emotional quotient and concerns our ability to perceive, control, and express emotions. EQ relates to complexity management in three main ways. First, individuals with higher EQ are less susceptible to stress and anxiety. Since complex situations are resourceful and demanding, they are likely to induce pressure and stress, but high EQ acts as a buffer. Second, EQ is a key ingredient of interpersonal skills, which means that people with higher EQ are better equipped to navigate complex organizational politics and advance in their careers. Indeed, even in today’s hyper-connected world what most employers look for is not technical expertise, but soft skills, especially when it comes to management and leadership roles. Third, people with higher EQ tend to be more entrepreneurial, so they are more proactive at exploiting opportunities, taking risks, and turning creative ideas into actual innovations. All this makes EQ an important quality for adapting to uncertain, unpredictable, and complex environments.
3) CQ: CQ stands for curiosity quotient and concerns having a hungry mind. People with higher CQ are more inquisitive and open to new experiences. They find novelty exciting and are quickly bored with routine. They tend to generate many original ideas and are counter-conformist. It has not been as deeply studied as EQ and IQ, but there’s some evidence to suggest it is just as important when it comes to managing complexity in two major ways. First, individuals with higher CQ are generally more tolerant of ambiguity. This nuanced, sophisticated, subtle thinking style defines the very essence of complexity. Second, CQ leads to higher levels of intellectual investment and knowledge acquisition over time, especially in formal domains of education, such as science and art (note: this is of course different from IQ’s measurement of raw intellectual horsepower). Knowledge and expertise, much like experience, translate complex situations into familiar ones, so CQ is the ultimate tool to produce simple solutions for complex problems.
Although IQ is hard to coach, EQ and CQ can be developed. As Albert Einstein famously said: ““I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious.” [x]