September 13, 2007

A man's got to know his limits

Interesting discussion going on over here at Vox Populi about the plusses and minuses of high intelligence. The comment thread is large so I haven't read them all, but I found that this particular comment by Vox really hit home:

It's always interesting to witness the blindness of the 2 SD crowd, who don't seem to understand that 3-4 SD intelligences see them as being every bit as stupid as they view normal people. I'm not a gambling guy, but I would bet $500 that Dawkins has an IQ below 3SD.

I had the benefit of knowing two people in the 5 SD+ range pretty well, which is one reason why I never got overly carried away with my own intelligence.

I've long been used to being the smart nerdy kid, getting flogged for that little bit of social outcastery many times growing up. I always knew that I was brighter than most of the dicks who took delight in pummeling me. Even surrounded by other nerds in college who also majored in physics, I felt that intelligence were a footrace, I could keep them in sight. A couple of them might be way ahead, but none of them would disappear from view. And then I reached graduate school, whereupon I was reminded of just how smart someone really could be, and how stupid I was by comparison: I met Bo.

Let me state for the record that I came to know just how inferior in intelligence that I could be to another person. I was completely outclassed in every way in terms of raw, native intellect. If our brains were in a footrace, I wouldn't have even laced up my shoes before Bo would have accepted the trophy, gone home, taken a nap and then come back to run again. And he would have finished first, second and third against me. With only the two of us running. It was a completely humbling experience. However, everyone should experience such a thing once in while to remind you that no matter how good you are, there's always someone faster, stronger and much much smarter.

Posted by Physics Geek at September 13, 2007 11:47 AM | TrackBack StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble It!

I stopped with a BS in Eng Phys. I was sitting in a 400 level Solid State class when I realized, compared to everyone else in the class, I was too stupid to live, let alone be in the class with them. If I went to grad school, I would make a piss poor physicist but I also knew I was already damn good engineer... so now I work as a fairly well regarded engineer (well regarded by everyone but my boss... you can't win them all) It's tough on the ego but after I got married, had a few kids and started driving a Minivan, I realized I didn't have much ego left so screw it. Might as well have fun losing the "footrace" as long as I can teach my boys to shoot rockets and integrate to find the area of "Farmer Bob's field." My wife says I'm making little clones of myself... but I hope they will exceed me by quite a lot.

Posted by: ryan at September 13, 2007 03:24 PM

But exactly how do the outliers live, from day to day? I'll bet that they have betrayed their dreams and potential too. Is every aspect of their daily life lived to it's utmost?

- Is their house messy?

- Do they have food at the back of their fridge that they have forgotten about?

- Are they fat? Exactly how many calories do they eat per day? How many calories have they burned while exercising? Are they doing the right kind of exercise?

- Do they have a fancy home theater system? Maybe, but do they use it to watch trash? High definition endless repetition of explosions and flabby actors in trench coats pretending to shoot fake guns. Dialog that sounds like it was written by high-school students.

- Do they have mold in the grout of their showers? Do they have dust on the top edges of their baseboards?

- Do they have any way of observing and recording the environment around their home? Or do they come home and cocoon themselves off. Do they have an observatory dome on their home? Do they have IR cameras recording the fauna around their house and then playing it back throughout the day?

- Do they work someplace meaningful? Are their workplace victories simply used to increase the profit margin of their employer, or pad their CEO's outrageous salary?

Posted by: Some guy at September 14, 2007 01:39 PM

To continue...

- Do they have any way of avoiding having their noses rubbed into popular trash culture at the supermarket checkout line? I was just behind some old guy who couldn't resist peering at photos of facelifts and adultery. I hate to see that. They should have the Feynman Lectures On Physics or Martin Gardner's puzzle books at the supermarket checkout counter. Or how about any of the fine titles listed here:

Posted by: Some guy at September 14, 2007 05:30 PM