How Genius Gets Around…

Written by Sven Eberlein

Einstein on a bike February 6, 1933.

Came across this photo as I was biking an errand and stopped for lunch at a local biker favorite.

Turns out it was taken on February 6, 1933 by a Caltech trustee named Ben Meyer at his home in Santa Barbara.

I often wonder what Einstein would think of our contemporary obsession with growth, gratuitous wastefulness, and addiction to fossil fuels.

For example, what would he think of this highway interchange in Atlanta that is the same size as the entire city of Florence, Italy?


Left: Renaissance Florence, Italy – Right: Atlanta interchange (both at same scale) via Steve Mouzon/

I found a few quotes that give a hint at the answer…

“It has become appallingly obvious that our technology has exceeded our humanity.”

“We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.”

“Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius — and a lot of courage — to move in the opposite direction.”

Technological progress is like an axe in the hands of a pathological criminal.”

We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.”

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Sven Eberlein

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  • Nice post. Having trained as a transportation engineer, I appreciate the example of the highway interchange as a symbol of speed, size, growth, access control, standardization, dependence on oil and other markers of high-tech civilization.

    My favorite Einstein quote: “The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift.”

    • I love that quote. There are so many good ones. I find it quite ironic that almost all the memorable quotes by the person western industrial society celebrates as the smartest man to have ever lived are about the limits of science, rational thinking, and technology. As my former geography professor was wont to say, “we celebrate what we obliterate,” for if we were actually following Einstein’s advice, we would never be so slavishly technocratic as a society. Perhaps another Einstein quote explains these seeming paradox: “Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds.”