Business People vs. Academics

Is the world of business intellectually stimulating? This is something I’ve struggled with and continue to contemplate.

How about a more concrete question: If you wanted to give your brain a work-out and also have a good time, would you rather hang out with professional academics or professional business people?

In an email exchange, Arnold Kling, who’s been both an internet entrepreneur and an academic, writes to me:

I think that business people live more interesting lives. They face more interesting decisions. They deal more directly with incentive systems. They have much more challenging interpersonal issues. They have to handle a wider range of people and issues. The have to adapt more quickly. They make more frequent and dramatic changes.

Academics also tend to hyper-specialize, and hyper-specialists tend to be less interesting.

If you had to put me in a cocktail party, I’d opt for a group of business people who have unusual range and intellectual curiosity over a group of academics who are unusually grounded in real world events.

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