April 20, 2015 by Liberty
Have you ever been in a room where you feel like a two year old compared to the geniuses standing around you?
It’s quite intimidating to be surrounded by people with high a high intelligence. By intelligence, I’m referring to IQ. I’m not referring to knowledge. Knowledge is that stuff that you learn in school. It’s the stuff you can memorize. Personally, I’ve never found being surrounded by knowledgeable people very intimidating. There is a fundamental difference between knowledgeable people and intelligent people.
Extraordinarily intelligent people, might as well be speaking their own language. If you’ve ever been in that situation, you might know the feeling I’m talking about. It’s a little hard to explain. (Maybe I’m just imagining it?) I feel like the words they speak are more precise and require a little bit of translation. Sure, part of that is them speaking with knowledge I don’t know but in general, even when the words make sense, I tend to require twice as long to get the point.
Knowledgeable people don’t seem to have the same language barriers. On top of that, it’s usually not all that intimidating because knowledge is a more accessible goal than IQ. Any time I want, I could study and become knowledgeable. I can’t just study and add 10 points to my IQ. (Okay. Fact checking proved that’s not completely true but IQ increases are not big and don’t last without constant stimulation.)
On top of that, knowledge tends to be a tight category. For example, every time I go to a mechanic I get talking to people that are dramatically more knowledgeable than me, in the category of cars. If we were to start talking about European history, there is a good chance I’d be more knowledgeable. IQ is more a general ability to think.
In this article, I’m mostly going to be focusing on knowledgeable geniuses. Some of this applies to knowledgeable people. I’m also going to be completely ignoring geniuses that aren’t knowledgeable because I would feel the need to make fun of their fast food careers. (Seriously, I have a lot of trouble understanding geniuses that aren’t trying to change the world. Maybe I’m just too dumb to get it.)
Geniuses And Idiots
I’m sure you’ve seen the cliché of the genius with absolutely no social skills. Heck, I’m sure you probably have even seen that cliché in real life. (I’ve certainly known a few.) Television likes to show really intelligent people as really crappy at dealing with people. I can’t say whether or not that specific problem holds much truth but it shows a wider issue that needs to be considered.
Great things don’t come from well-rounded people.
History has repeatedly shown geniuses to be very troubled people in one way or another. Einstein was obsessive about his work. Socrates was a passive aggressive dick. (Yes. I think that’s fair. You don’t think so. WELL… You must be soooo smart. Please enlighten me with your great knowledge you god among men. Passive aggressive 101.) Heck, go down the list of really important geniuses in history and you’re going to have a list almost full of complete a-holes.
More importantly than the lack of a balanced psychology, to become great at anything, you can’t afford to be well balanced. A great painter can’t spend all day writing novels. The painter needs to invest tons of hours into it. That’s a limited example because painting is “artistic.” Artistic genius is subjective.
Think about any field where objective genius can shine. In a science, to make progress in many fields, or to even understand accidental progress, you need to become one of the smartest people in that field of knowledge. See, maybe I could accidentally write E=MC Squared on a sheet of paper but it doesn’t mean anything unless I have the knowledge to connect it with the rest of physics. To connect it thoroughly, I need to have at least a basic understanding of everything in that specific field. I’d also need a seriously deep understanding of a few specific things.
Just like the mechanic I talked about earlier. Geniuses, to make a serious impact on the world, need to become specialized machines. (Perhaps not so much in Da Vinci’s days. Now it’s a must.) If a genius wants to push boundaries, he or she needs to push their own knowledge to the extreme in a very specific field of knowledge.
That is why geniuses aren’t known for their social skills. That’s also why someones general intelligence can’t be trusted outside of their specific field of knowledge. The more densely a person is invested in a specific field of knowledge, the less you can trust their knowledge in something unrelated.
What do I mean by that? If a person spends 13 hours a day in a laboratory working with and studying chemicals, and is seriously knowledgeable in the field. You should probably trust their opinion on politics or Scandinavian dance traditions less. Of course, if they happen to have a history dancing however Scandinavians dance then that assumption is wrong.
Changing The World
I’d like to note that I am seriously biased in favor of people with high IQ’s. I’m trying real hard to let my biases not kick in here.
Fundamentally, idiotic geniuses change the world. People that are obsessive in a single field of knowledge are the people that gain enough knowledge to push that field forward. That field of knowledge getting pushed farther is the drive that is bringing amazing improvements to our world. People are living longer, better, and more effectively everyday.
This is pure arguable speculation but I believe technological advances are going to be how we create a more peaceful world.
I am rooting for more of these people. If I had a few points higher IQ myself, I’d probably try to be one of these people. Science is one of the most noble careers I could possibly imagine. These people sacrifice their lives to gain specks of knowledge. Many of these people spend their whole career with the failure of never making anything big but they eliminate options for future generations to make the big advances.
The vast majority of scientists end their career never seeing any improvements to the world despite trying for advances everyday. Society will look at these people like failures but they’re risking themselves to permanently improve human knowledge (and help themselves, of course, but that’s a given.)
Science is a seriously under-appreciated career choice.
Why Does Any Of This Matter?
Most libertarians are smart. Sure, there are some of those cliché gun totting conspiracy theorists that are sometimes out there (I still love you guys, personally, I think you’re a ton of fun,) but compared to the major political parties, libertarian’s take the IQ prize.
The appeal to authority fallacy is one of the easiest fallacies to fall for because expertise is generally significantly more limited than most people could possibly understand. Climate sciences is one field where this limitation is reasonably visible.
I’m going to avoid taking a side mostly because it’s a scientific field that I could barely touch on. I have opinions about certain aspects (specifically governments attempted interventions) but they’re irrelevant to my point.
What is an expert is climate science?
Well… Being an expert in earth sciences would teach you a little about it. To get a little broader knowledge you need to be in physical geography. What’s the difference? Beats me… That’s part of my point. An earth scientist could tell me he’s an expert and I’d have little but a shrug to respond with. But… it gets deeper too. You should be in atmospheric sciences to be a “climate scientist.” In the general public, virtually no one could tell the difference.
On top of that though, today, climate sciences include a significant amount of oceanography. So… heck, a well versed oceanographer could convince me.
Does an oceanographer know enough about climate change to be a reasonable authority to appeal to? Maybe. That’s the hard part about avoiding bad appeals to authority.
(If climate change is a sensitive subject for you, consider this. A number of engineers have signed a petition for further investigation into the 9/11 attacks. 9/11 theorists can appeal to those engineers. That being said, an engineering degree doesn’t mean you understand skyscraper collapses after large collisions. It also doesn’t mean you understand high explosives or anything. Again though, this is a science field I’m definitely not qualified to take a side on.)
Don’t underestimate your own knowledge until you actually have some proof backing up someone else’s expertise. General scholarship can often lead to a better understanding than specific study of something semi-related.
Final Note: Consider a career in the sciences if you’re really looking to change the world. You’ll have to sacrifice general knowledge but you’re significantly more likely to change the world than in any other field. Even a life of failed experiments improves future science.
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