Why Men Fail

David Brooks, The New York Times:

To succeed today, you have to be able to sit still and focus attention in school at an early age. You have to be emotionally sensitive and aware of context. You have to communicate smoothly. For genetic and cultural reasons, many men stink at these tasks.

Yesterday I had the pleasure of watching The Imitation Game. There are many historical inaccuracies in the movie, as do most movies “based on a true story”, but this is true: Alan Turing was instrumental in breaking the Enigma code, an encrypted communications method the Germans used during the Second World War. He and Gordon Welchman designed a rotor-based mechanical computer to rapidly test likely letter combinations. Turing et al. saved millions of lives.

Did Turing succeed? From a secular point of view, he did, brilliantly. Could he succeed today? If I were a betting man Turing probably did not sit still and focus attention in school at an early age. Math and science teachers must have suffocated his mind. Was he emotionally sensitive and aware of context? Probably not, not more than the average man, and most likely less. And finally, did Turing communicate smoothly? From what I have read, not likely. By these standards Turing would be a failure in today’s world. But imagine if today our world needed brilliant computer scientists to break an unbreakable encryption code used by a ruthlessly destructive enemy.

Let us not narrow our minds to think only those with a particular set of characteristics will succeed in our world.