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  1. #16
    Registered User JunkMonkey's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Laer Carroll View Post
    Studies linking Asperger's or any other mental illness to intelligence are suspect.

    I would be wary about calling Asperger's a 'mental Illness'. Asperger's is a neurological disorder, on the Autistic spectrum. It is a disability, and though it is true people with autism are more likely than the majority to suffer mental illnesses - partially due to communication issues making them hard to diagnose - Autism in itself is not a mental illness.

  2. #17
    LaerCarroll.com
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    Studies linking Asperger's or any other mental illness to intelligence are suspect.
    Quote Originally Posted by JunkMonkey View Post
    Asperger's ... and Autism [are not] not mental illness.
    Some psychologists would agree and some disagree. This reflects the fact that "modern" psychology is still a very primitive science. It is very much a work in progress. This frustrates some practitioners but challenges others.

  3. #18
    Fulgurous Moderator KatG's Avatar
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    Laer, I think we're done with this part of the conversation. Let's move back to doing genius characters of various kinds.

  4. #19
    LaerCarroll.com
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    Another myth about highly intelligent people is that they are more often "instant calculators" able (for instance) to multiply two 20-digit numbers in a fraction of a second in their heads. In fact, this ability is randomly distributed, giving rise to the label idiot savant.

    Nowadays most knowledge workers such as scientists and engineers don't value this ability very highly. There are a couple of reasons why.

    Most obviously, machines are much more capable of calculation than any organic intelligence. Your average smart phone can do over a million such calculations in a second. And does when you use it to play video games.

    Your average engineering workstation or high-end desktop computer is easily a hundred or even a thousand times as fast. Modern supercomputers capabilities are measured in petaflops: a MILLION MILLION floating point numbers per second.

    The second reason is that knowledge workers value much more the ability to see patterns in numbers.

    Most of us have this ability to some extent. You likely would notice if in two columns of numbers pairs of them were either both low or both high, and the in-between pairs intermediate in value. And you'd not be surprised if you were told they represented heights and weights of people.

    And when the sets of numbers go in opposite directions, you'd likely guess that one set is something like the price of an item and is other set is how many of them sell in a time period.

    When the number of sets goes beyond two most people, no matter how bright overall, depend on various visual and math tools to analyze and report on them. Weather reporters use maps where parts of an area are labeled with colors, "cooler" colors such as blue for cool temperatures, "hotter" numbers such as red for hotter temps. Scientists, engineers, business analysts, and so on may use calculus and matrix maths to find patterns.

    We may hold in awe the abilities of the highly intelligent. But when we get to know them we'll usually find that they are not that different from the rest of us. Myths about them get in the way of our realizing this. And they really get in the way of us as writers to craft tales which tell universal truths.

  5. #20
    Registered User Vinegar Tom's Avatar
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    As it happens, I come from an extraordinarily intelligent family. My grandfather was one of the few people to have total recall and also have a job other than being a freak - in fact he was a professor of mathematics. And if it isn't too much of a cliché, he was a lightning calculator too. He could casually tell you the square root of your phone number, and then demonstrate that he really had memorized the first 1,000 decimal places of pi by sheer intellect rather than with a "photographic memory" by reciting any 50 of them. Backwards. Seriously.

    Though he did have a certain amount of trouble with everyday life. His brain became so cluttered with abstract mathematical things he couldn't forget that he once lost track of the endless complexities involved in every aspect of trying to buy a hat, and just put one on his head, paid for it, and walked out of the shop. Of course, it was a terrible hat, and far too small. Apparently the only way he could remove all this clutter was to imagine it being written on a blackboard and erased manually with a duster. Of course, imagining this took far longer than memorizing whatever it was that had just come to his attention, so he never really caught up. That sounds absurd, but coping mechanisms often are, and I promise you it's true (by the way, I'm not young, and my family tend to reproduce late in life, so my grandfather was around so long ago that blackboards were a thing, and "computers" was a very obscure word sometimes used to refer to human beings paid to do arithmetic in offices).

    Speaking personally, if anyone with an IQ greater than 140 is a "genius", then I'm your man! I don't actually know what my IQ is, since the test I took only went up to 160. Og course, being prey to a young man's vanity, I joined MENSA just because I could. Now here's a thing. Have you ever wondered why, if a high IQ is such a great thing to have, MENSA haven't yet conquered the world for the good of all you poor misguided ape-men? The truth is, being "smart" in that particular area isn't really all that useful, unless you like doing crosswords to an excessive extent (naturally I'm very good indeed at crosswords, but once you've won more pens with gold shafts and platinum nibs than you have hands, the novelty wears off rather quickly).

    Let me put this is perspective. With a 160+ IQ, I am vastly more "intelligent" than Albert Einstein (141), and roughly on a par with Aleister Crowley (168). Those of you familiar with the cultural achievements of those two gentlemen will observe that, while one of them was considerably more diverse - poetry (bad), novels (not quite as bad as the poetry), chess (pretty good but nothing amazing), mountaineering (debatable to say the least!), inventing one's own religion (spectacularly failed, in terms of what he truly had in mind), having amazing magical powers (er... well, let's put it this way: given the well-documented magical duel to the death between himself and the equally gifted MacGregor Mathers, the fact that neither of them suffered any ill effects apart from dying of old age many years later speaks for itself), and getting a great deal of sex (OK, I'll grant him that one!), as opposed to merely being focused on one thing and using a vastly inferior intellect to actually - y'know, change the world...?

    Admittedly, only one of them was on the cover of Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. But then again, only one of them got off with Marilyn Monroe (probably). And when you think about it, for a pre-sixties guy who happened to be an über-geek, Einstein got an amazing amount of tail! Just like Crowley, except without inventing magical powers that didn't really exist, or having men too in a confusedly guilty but obstinately rebellious sort of way. Or indeed becoming a hopeless junkie remembered almost entirely by goth kids who basically want to buy the T-shirt. Incidentally, speaking as somebody with roughly the same IQ as Crowley, I can safely say that intelligence isn't what you're missing if you find his magickal writings incomprehensible. What you're actually missing is a quality called "not being Aleister Crowley".

    Want some more MENSA luminaries? Well, how about Sharon Stone? It's true that she gives the lie to the cliché (mentioned earlier in this thread) that all sexy blonde Hollywood actresses are spectacularly dumb (incidentally, do you have the slightest idea how many languages Jayne Mansefield could speak?). But I think it's equally true to say that her stardom owes surprisingly little to her brain. How about Kate Bush? She's obviously no dumb broad, and "Wuthering Heights" had vastly more intelligent lyrics than your average pop hit, but she seems to think that Wilhelm Reich's orgone theories are scientifically correct, including that business about changing the weather by pointing metal tubes at it. Oh, and Sir Jimmy Saville. You'll have seen him in the news this week. Smarter than Einstein. Almost as smart as Aleister Crowley. And me.

    So, really, in terms of portraying a very high intelligence in fictional terms, you can go pretty much where you like! But if they're actually supposed to be a genuine Einstein-type genius, it might be an idea to include the concept, not necessarily in an unsubtle bumping-into-things way, of being disconnected from everyday reality because the human mind cannot handle absolute everything without sacrificing something. Ye gods, look at Tesla! I could give you some even more spectacular examples of high-IQ humans who literally burned their brains out, but we'd be getting into specialized areas - has anyone heard of a mathematician called Cantor who came up with something called Transfinity, which may or may not have short-circuited both his mind, and that of the only other person ever to seriously address the fatal aspect of it? I have seen it seriously suggested that this mathematical equation measures the absolute upper limit of human intelligence, and being smart enough to halfway comprehend it tears your sanity apart because our species cannot make the intellectual leap, and no extraterrestrials smart enough to get it could possibly explain it to us, because the One Hand Clapping stops at the wrist. Grok that, Grasshopper!

    Intelligence equals complexity. Plus of course the ability to make sense of what you know. Fictionally, your True Genius should display absolute commitment to his chosen field. Not necessarily moral or even conscious commitment - just that instinctive ability to know what truly matters (even if it's wrong). Now, your half-genius - he's the classic jack of all trades and master of none. I should know. I really am this smart, and without the focus, it's little more than a distraction from - y'know, being less distracted by random crap?

    Though for fictional purposes I should point out that, whether we actually have a use for it or not, us high-IQ people just LOVE complexity in any form. I'm not personally a big fan of Bach, but I can see the same complexity, and arguably more creativity, in late Beethoven. Charlie Parker from pretty much any period, and Captain Beefheart at any time when he truly had it. Smart people are eclectic!

    Seriously, I am much more intelligent than the vast majority of you will ever be, and it's completely irrelevant. At least 95% of you reading this are better off than I am. Not because intelligence in itself is bad, but because raw intelligence, creativity, and the real world are three things that aren't necessarily connected with each other at all. Now, a True Genius would need to score in spades in at least two of those. Me, I can maybe manage one. Unfortunately it's the coldly logical one that reminds me that telling people I'm God is kinda stupid. All, the same, I'm good at crosswords.

  6. #21
    LaerCarroll.com
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    IQ tests

    Quote Originally Posted by Vinegar Tom View Post
    Have you ever wondered why, if a high IQ is such a great thing to have, MENSA haven't yet conquered the world for the good of all you poor misguided ape-men?
    There are icons for LOL. Is there one for "snicker, followed by wry acknowledgement"?

    IQ tests have been a field of research for more than a century. They've caused a good deal of angry and excited argument by those whose pet oxen have been curried and/or gored.

    Here are the basic facts. They are easily given and scored attempts to measure intelligence. They are useful if the users understand their limitations, and use them as only one of many ways to measure people.

    The standard IQ tests are pretty narrow. A good deal of research has gone into measuring other kinds intelligence, such as creativity, critical thinking, social intelligence, practical intelligence, and other kinds of smarts. The resulting tests (like IQ tests) are all pretty crude, but are useful as long as the users understand their limits.

    The best "tool" to measure intelligence in someone is still to give a very wise and experienced person a good chunk of time with that someone. Unfortunately, this tool is very hard to procure. It's even harder to use when you get your bloody ruthless organizational paws on them. They tend to leave that organization in bleeding and burning ruins!

  7. #22
    Not being a genius, I have only a rather limited idea of how genii differ from the rest of us. One characteristic may be that they don't often get sidetracked. Clearly, the obsessions associated with Asperger's Syndrome will give focus but that is not the only way to be focused. I suspect that most apply to themselves and sometimes to their co-workers Moltke's “mercilessly high standards” to keep everyone focused on an objective.

    In most cases, this works unobtrusively and most genii seem to be nice guys. I know of one example of disaster where two genii were together for most of a year with Margaret (to be?) Thatcher in Dorothy Hodgkin's laboratory. This was apparently a nightmare with very little science done and endless political arguments.

    I can see that Feynman's willingness to get involved with very many things seems to be a counter example but when he started to look at something, he was willing to spend enough time to reach a conclusion. For example, many of us look at spinning plates but he tried to understand what he was seeing http://www.stuleja.org/vscience/osp/...nmanPlate.html.

    One other observation is that sometimes, but rarely, a genius can go wrong. For example, Fermi did not discover uranium fission although he did discover that uranium absorbed neutrons. He believed that transuranic elements were being formed and even rejected the suggestion of Ida Tacke that fission might occur.

  8. #23
    LaerCarroll.com
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mostlyharmless View Post
    Not being a genius, I have only a rather limited idea of how genii differ from the rest of us.
    The basic point of my posts is that there is no us and them division. Very bright people aren't uniformly exceptional mentally in all ways.

    They are bright in some ways and dumb in others. Someone can score high on an IQ test (which measures mostly math and verbal facility) but score low in creativity. And vice versa. They can be high in social intelligence, low, or in between. Their practical IQ may be high, low, or in between.

    The same goes for the other aspects of bright human beings. They are all over the maps of physique, emotional maturity and resilience, and so on.

    What this means for us as writers is that we have an enormous variety of characters we can use in our stories. We are not stuck with stereotypical humans, but real humans, who experience all the rich rainbow of human experience.

  9. #24
    Registered User Vinegar Tom's Avatar
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    May I second what Laer Caroll has just said? I am, according to certain definitions, a genius. I am better at certain types of mental activity than more than 99.9% percent of the people reading this. Does this make me better than you? No, of course not. I'm smart enough to understand that concepts like "basic human decency" have very little to do with intelligence. Indeed, the knowledge that I am intrinsically more "intelligent" than almost all of you might suggest to a stupid person that I am in a position to dictate your morals because I am better than you, which is basic proof of stupidity.

    If I were to believe such a thing for a moment, I would be very stupid indeed. I think the appropriate phrase is probably "half-smart". And I happen to be sufficiently smart to understand that I am not perfect. I am a flawed human being who happens to be good at certain types of problem-solving tasks. In the grand scheme of things, I am approximately as "superior" as a soldier ant who has bigger jaws than a worker.

    That being said, I am completely incapable of accepting that people below a certain level of intelligence belong to the same species that I do. I constantly find that I have to limit my vocabulary so that people actually get it. Draw your own conclusions.

  10. #25
    I suspect that we are being confused by two different but overlapping ideas of genius. There are people who score highly on various tests and there are people who do things like winning Nobel Prizes. The second group is distinct from some of us in that they choose an important problem and are willing to make the effort needed to solve it. Thus there is likely to be a seriousness of purpose at the core of most such characters.

    On the intelligence of actresses, the case of Hedy Lamarr might be of interest http://www.inventions.org/culture/female/lamarr.html.

  11. #26
    LaerCarroll.com
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    "Genius" is a general term meaning great intelligence. Some dictionaries include a definition which adds a phrase such as "especially of creative or original work."

    Most of us in this forum are very familiar with creativity, its nurturing and problems. It is the stock in trade of writers. Though we also know that Edison's "1% inspiration and 99% perspiration" describes what is needed to make that inspiration a reality.

    Oftentimes it takes two or more creative thinkers to accomplish that. In our case authors and their agents, who must also have a mind creative enough to recognize creativity. (The "it takes one to know one" principal.)

    In my specialty for 40+ years, engineering, I've found that most engineers are creative to some degree; indeed, it's a basic ingredient. Engineers go back millennia to when some people were especially needed to create and build engines of war, such as makeshift bridges over water or an abyss. Today an engineer might create a new kind of kitchen appliance, or an especially creative version of an already existing one. Or a piece of software - such as Angry Birds!

    In the general public and in SF it's a common idea that a brilliant new idea will automatically and instantly achieve success. Alas! Writers know well that is not so. The new always encounters resistance, some of it hostile but most of it simple laziness. Or the practical understanding that no new idea is perfect, and it always costs time, effort, money, and more to make it real.

    A perfect example of what it takes to bring a genius idea to reality is PostIt notes. Today it's a billion-dollar industry and different versions of PI notes are so common it seems it would be obvious to even dummies that PI notes are a great idea. But this is not so. Sometimes you might want to read how they came into existence.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Postit_note

    The basic story is simple. A chemist trying to make a better glue instead made an inferior one. His stroke of genius was that this inferiority could have merit: he'd created a glue which could make undoing its bonding effect easy.

    He struggled to sell this product idea for five years. Luckily a colleague of his finally agreed with him and took over the effort of selling it. He persuaded a group in their company to launch a cheap trial effort by selling it in a few stores and giving free samples to some residents in a large city. PostIt notes proved popular. But it took a few more years for the product to catch on and go big.

    Which might be a lesson to us struggling authors. So you've created a brilliant and entertaining book or series of books. Don't expect instant success. Most of those "instant" success stories we read about took time for the snowball to become a juggernaut.

  12. #27
    Registered User Ensorcelled's Avatar
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    If y'all are seriously interested in this, I recommend the work of Daniel Tammet, a modern-day 'savant'. He's published a number of books on various topics, but Embracing the Wide Sky is a good place to start out if you're trying to get a perspective on geniuses (or 'genii' if you're really pedantic) and autistic savants.

    Just my 2 cents.

    Interesting thread though!

  13. #28
    G.L. Lathian G.L. Lathian's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ensorcelled View Post
    If y'all are seriously interested in this, I recommend the work of Daniel Tammet, a modern-day 'savant'. He's published a number of books on various topics, but Embracing the Wide Sky is a good place to start out if you're trying to get a perspective on geniuses (or 'genii' if you're really pedantic) and autistic savants.

    Just my 2 cents.

    Interesting thread though!
    I've seen this guy in a few videos. Very amazing and worth checking out.

  14. #29
    Registered User Vinegar Tom's Avatar
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    Might I suggest Dancing Naked In The Mind Field by Kary Mullis? Since it's the autobiography of somebody who won the Nobel Prize for chemistry, it's safe to assume that the author is fairly bright. But... Well, it's possible that the whole thing is a wind-up. But if it isn't, either he has incredible occult superpowers and has been abducted by space-aliens, or he's insane. Whatever the truth may be, this has to be the biggest load of nonsense ever written with a straight face by a really intelligent guy who wasn't Aleister Crowley. Anyway, it's a great example of a very intelligent man writing incredibly strange things, either because he's pulling everyone's plonker, or because he's lost it completely. I really couldn't say which. Though if he actually means it, he's living proof that it's possible to win a Nobel Prize while simultaneously believing that Whitley Streiber writes non-fiction! If you want to know how a truly eccentric genius talks in his own words, look no further than this book.

  15. #30
    Peckish hippokrene's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Laer Carroll View Post
    In 40+ years of working and socializing with scientists and engineers, some 1000+ of them, I never saw a case of Asperger's or obsessive-compulsive or any other kind of mental disorder. The reason is simple - those maladies weed their victims out of academia and business.
    Right.

    Your description of genius is based on a group you admit 'weeds out' people based on social factors.

    Would it be more correct to suggest that you're describing college-educated white men in a social, competitive field?

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