It is not even wrong!
They were once deemed as the smartest kids of their generation when they aced the very first resumed national college entry exams that were put on hold for thirteen years in China’s cultural revolution history.
On top of that, back then China had been cut off from the outside world completely for thirty years.
So, when their scores were made public in their provincial news and some even in the national news for the first time, the entire parental population still held one perception that was thirty years frozen in time: the smartest kids in China should go to the department of physics of THAT university and that university only for their college studies.
There they were sent and they met, most of them were less than seventeen years old some even as young as fourteen years old. And some of them found out for the very first time in their young lives that there were kids even smarter than them on this planet. And few carried out that revelation with severe psychological damage for the rest of their lives.
Fast forwarded forty years later, they planned a big reunion on campus to celebrate their life-long friendship.
They flew back from all over the world, most of them from the Silicon Valley of the United States, had a big party that lasted three days long. Then, they were pulled into a big bus and sent to a temple that was about fifty miles away from the Forbidden City for a sleepover then hiking trip.
After the dinner of the temple’s special earthy food, they were asked to go around about the homework they were assigned a few months ahead of the reunion: talk about their next decade’s life plan.
One boy-faced-olive-skinned-very-fit guy stood up and started the presentation.
“I have written up a few versions of my next decade plan but never been satisfied so tonight I will not do the presentation of the one I submitted but just talk about the content not made into the slides.” He started so typically scholarly, like many of this pack of friends did in their daily conversations.
It turned out this boy-faced guy went to Princeton University to finish his master’s then Ph.D. in Physics. After that, he continued his post-doc studies at Stanford and then went back to become a salaried researcher at Princeton’s most prestigious Institute of Advanced Study where Einstein worked till his death. It was then he realized he hit a wall spiritually and professionally. Spiritually meant that he was losing the faith of becoming a devoted scientist in a field with very little left to be practically applicable. Professionally means that staying in this field implied he would be stuck in a lifestyle that was merely above the national poverty line.
Then he was approached by the wolves in Wall Street across the Hudson River. After he reported back his salary, the headhunter replied with a pleasant voice:” We definitely can do better than that. How about five times better?”
“So, I sold my soul to the dark forces and went to Wall Street.” His voice still sounded guilty and despisal thirty years later of that fateful decision.
He exceeded in his twenty years in Wall Street and eventually rose to become one of the partners of a hedged fund with assets of more than a couple billion. That’s when he decided to retire.
He traveled intensively around the world during his retirement years and eventually got bored again.
He searched his soul and realized that it was only his old profession as a theoretical physics scientist would give him the most rewarding satisfying feel intellectually.
He set up a small goal for himself: picking up and making sense again for those dozens of articles he published through his Princeton and Stanford years.
“I am pleased to report back here that I made some satisfying progress in the last twelve months or so. I could finally reach a level to ridicule my old articles. And most importantly, I think a few of them were even less than mediocre because it is not even wrong!”
“It is not even wrong!” This boy-faced-olive-skinned-very-fit-Princeton-Stanford-IAS-WallStreet guy repeated his last sentence with an expression a bit shocked, a bit angry.
His life-long college friends first got a bit set back and then burst into hearty laughter that echoed in the midsummer midnight in a temple that was more than a thousand years old.
He wrapped up his talk by outlining his next decade life plans: number one, taking good care of his aged parents who now live with him; number two, going back to his old profession and picking up a few topics that deemed unsolved yet and trying to come up a few exploratory theses either right or wrong; last not least, continue to travel.
“Never ever to publish any thesis that is not even wrong.”