Across wildlife parks, we find notices telling people not to feed the animals. It sounds funny or unfair, and many people sneak to give the monkeys and gorillas bananas.
A wildlife attendant once took care to explain why feeding the animals is discouraged: When visitors feed the animals during summer, two things happen. First, some animals die waiting in winter for the tourists to come and feed them. Second, some animals become dependent on tourists for food and die having lost the capacity to hunt for themselves.
While in school, we learnt a lot of things from first principles: we learnt how handy formulae like the almighty formula for quadratic equations are derived. We also learnt technical drawing using Tee Squares and drawing boards before we began to get on computers.
This felt like the natural sequence of things, and we built good structures on the foundation of first principles.
Now, things have changed! DOS was replaced by Windows, drawing boards by Computers. Driverless cars are said to be safer than the conventional; and one frightfully wonders, “What else?”
Now, I see that pastors who grew up running campus fellowships now set up churches in those same campuses, denying the incumbent students of the hands-on experiences that helped them build their own muscles. Then we complain about the quality of products.
We see men and women forged in the furnace of hardships deny their children such hardships. Could that explain why wealth does not endure to every generation of wealthy families?
In the words of Algamish who mentored Arkad, the Richest Man in Babylon, “My sons think only of spending and give no thought to earning.” Yet it was this same Algamish who taught Arkad to be rich.
In the same book, Hadan Gula did not even know that his grandfather was a slave who worked extra hard to earn enough money to buy his own freedom. He thought, “Work was made for slaves,” and that “Alas, of us, nether has his gift. Father and myself know not his secret for attracting the golden shekels.”
The same secondary schools in which we did all the work there was to do and still graduated with flying colours now hire labour to do the work for today’s students.
Is it still important to learn from first principles?
Aren’t we providing too much?