Monday, August 24, 2009

Is high IQ a curse? - Hacker News

From a question posted on Hacker News Is high IQ a curse?

Potential problems:
* unrealistic expectations of what you can accomplish
* difficulty in dealing with average people
* more likely to question things and annoy people in the process
* less likely to accept traditions
* less likely to enjoy the simple pleasures of life
* less likely to find a job as an employee rewarding

I first responded:
If it is a curse to you, then you probably have other specific difficulties. I am a high-functioning autistic with an IQ of 156; I have trouble with all but the last 2. In fact, working as an employee helps offset my problems with "unrealistic expectations" since my biggest problem with that is lack of focus, and when employed my employer provides the focus. Unfortunately, since my last good employer died in 2001, I have been bouncing around between low level jobs ever since. I cannot work closely with others more than briefly, so I either have to work alone, which is what I mostly did in the 1990s, or switch jobs every few years, and with the economy and the torture looking for work is for me, I have been mostly out of work since last October.

Then in response to a suggestion that maybe I didn't really need a job, I responded:
That's my biggest problem, I don't have any particular passion. I NEED an external source of focus; when I'm not working I read and study more or less at random when something catches my attention. I have tried all sorts of things to try to maintain a single focus, but so far nothing has worked at all. And I need income even more, I'm already in debt, I just have to take whatever I can get for work.

I came back to the site after taking a nap, thinking that maybe I came across as too whiny. After rereading what I wrote, I wanted to edit it and add more useful content, but it was too late to edit or delete it, so I decided to add to it here, where it will be easier to maintain. (Finding HN entries after they've left the front page can be a bit tedious.)

I am going to respond more specifically to each point:

unrealistic expectations of what you can accomplish
If this is a problem for you, then you probably just aren't as smart as you think you are. You just need a more realistic self-assessment. My problem here is that I can accomplish a lot in a day, but staying focused for a sustained effort is impossible without help.

difficulty in dealing with average people
Being autistic, I have real trouble with this one, but I have learned and can deal with normal people in a relatively structured setting, where I know the parameters of the interaction in advance (I did okay working a Greyhound bus agency for a couple of years), if taken unawares I still can't. I also can't deal regularly with the same people for very long, since no one seems to learn from their mistakes, they keep doing the same stuff over and over and it gets on my nerves very quickly. To avoid this I usually work alone, night stocking in Walmart produce worked pretty well, but the best I had from this aspect was I spent the entire 1990s working for an architect and landscaper who dealt with the clients, then left me alone to get the work done.

more likely to question things and annoy people in the process
If you can't learn to keep your mouth shut, you really aren't very bright at all. I learned this very early in life, getting your ass kicked on the way home from school almost every day will do that.

less likely to accept traditions
Maybe not just because they are traditions, except that Friedrich Hayek, Thomas Sowell, and many others have pointed out that traditional knowledge may not be optimal, but it has survived the test of real world use, sometimes over substantial periods of time. (As a side note, many "traditions" aren't very old, despite what some seem to think.) Questioning traditions is good, just don't throw them out until you understand why they exist and have something better to replace them.

less likely to enjoy the simple pleasures of life
This depends too much on your definition of the "simple pleasures", but from what I have seen there is little difference, and what there is goes the other way; more intelligent people are generally more capable of enjoying "the simple pleasures", and indeed any pleasures.

less likely to find a job as an employee rewarding
I don't understand this one at all. Just as when you are doing independent contracting or have your own small business, you are providing a service to someone that the other values enough to pay you to do. In many ways, doing a job as an employee can be more rewarding if you like what you are doing, because you don't have to deal with the parts you may not like, such as collections, paying other employees, renting workspace, and the hundreds of other details needed to operate a successful business.

Some of the books by Thomas Sowell I have read and definitely recommend:
A Conflict of Visions: Ideological Origins of Political Struggles
How to understand the fundamental difference between American liberals and small government conservatives. Does not defend Republicans nor the Judeo-Christian Socialists that have more recently been mis-labeled "conservatives".

Knowledge And Decisions
This is the single best book on the role of knowledge in the economy, and why planning does not work. Not as theoretical as some, but with more examples.

The Vision of the Anointed: Self-Congratulation as a Basis for Social Policy
Sequel to A Conflict of Visions above; I do not recommend the third book in the series The Quest for Cosmic Justice. But even though I think it's weaker than the others, it is equally highly ranked on Amazon, so maybe you'll get more out of it than I did.

I've read and recommend others by Sowell, but these are the ones that bear most directly on the value of traditions. Hayek's books are more formally written, but I don't really think they are better than Sowell's in any real sense.

The single most accessible for general readers and referring to the value of tradition is The Fatal Conceit: The Errors of Socialism (The Collected Works of F. A. Hayek). Individualism and Economic Order is a collection of essays, and is harder reading, but I think it worth the effort.

1 comment:

  1. The Vision of the Anointed: Self-Congratulation as a Basis for Social Policy

    When I read this I had a good laugh. Penquines.

    I feel it is important to recognize PRACTICE in this as it can be easily thought to be the same as tradition. Tradition requires little in the way of a robust intuition where practice does.

    For some the difficulties arise from the failure to constrain themselves. A lack of discipline can bring on serious consequences.