Monday 30 July 2012

The potential-genius is intrinsically psychologically unbalanced


Most potential geniuses do not become 'recognized' geniuses - in fact, nowadays approximately none of them do.

And the reason is that - as a type - the potential genius is psychologically... unbalanced.

I use 'unbalanced' to refer to a range of abnormalities - because there is not one type of genius.


A potential genius must be highly intelligent, and creative - and it is this matter of creativity which introduces the imbalance.

I am here assuming that potential genius (P-G) is a way of thinking (which sometimes, in some societies, leads to things like supreme artistic attainment and scientific/ technological breakthroughs) and I am trying to examine this in detachment.

I am assuming that P-G is a qualitatively-different way of thinking which enables its possessors to do things which those who lack this way of thinking cannot do.


Studies of people with very high IQ find that many of them are more 'successful' than average in terms of health, life expectancy, wealth and status and indeed most things (except for fertility).

But among very high IQ people, there are the 'normal' ones who are apparently socially well-adjusted and 'successful', and there are those 'maladjusted' who Grady M Towers termed 'The Outsiders'.

It is an interesting observation that P-Gs are more akin to the Outsiders than they are to the mass of 'successful' high IQ types.


So - most very high IQ people are docile, conscientious, friendly, socially-adjusted types (typical graduates of modern highly selective colleges, typical high status professionals in elite jobs) and consequently utterly lacking even the slightest spark of creativity. Their minds run fast and smooth along pre-determined paths towards acceptable goals.

These intelligent-uncreatives have, of course, re-defined creativity in terms of what they themselves can do - which is to make (or assert) socially-acceptable novelty (generated by standard procedures such as random permutation, pick and mix recombination, inversion etc).

But when intelligent-uncreatives encounter real creativity, they are actively hostile - they sense its alien-ness, its uncanny abnormality, its intrinsic unpredictability and uncontrollability - which accounts for the fact that P-Gs are now excluded from elite discourse with unprecedented efficiency - and that virtually no potential geniuses become recognized geniuses.


As IQ rises, so the variation between cognitive abilities increases - i.e. the correlation between the sub-tests of IQ decreases - so that extreme ability tends to be relatively more specific than moderate ability.

In sum, extremely-intelligent people are less often all-rounders than those of moderate intelligence.


Intelligent un-creatives are, I think, those relatively-few all-rounders among high IQ people: those high-IQ individuals with balanced abilities - including a pro-social (compliant, docile) personality .

Whereas P-Gs have a significant element of unbalance, such that extreme abilities in one or more domains are not balanced by extreme abilities in other domains.

Therefore, in potential geniuses extreme high abilities are not held in check but are instead given free-rein.


This means that potential geniuses are all, more or less, unbalanced - at least by the standards of most people; and this unbalance can come out in terms of (more or less severe) psychotic symptoms (such as a tendency to hallucination, delusion, loose associations of thought, trance states), or psychopathy (selfishness, emotional coldness), or an impulsive and willful personality, or prone-ness to intoxication (as a cognitive self-manipulation), or extremely narrow interests, or a refusal or an inability to do what is required or expected...


There is no single pattern of unbalance - but I think it probable that all genuine P-Gs (and all true recognized geniuses) are qualitatively different from the norm as an intrinsic consequence of being unbalanced (unbalanced abilities being necessary to that creativity which makes them a recognized or potential genius).

They are all significantly oddballs in some way or another - eccentrics, mavericks, irritating, unreasonable, nutters, nasties... not team-players.

Recognized geniuses come from potential geniuses which come from those with specialized high abilities that are significantly un-checked and unbalanced; and such people are troublesome to have around, predict and control.

At any rate, the current ruling elite have implicitly decided to exclude such people from organized power - so while modern society has some potential geniuses, we have no actually recognized geniuses. 



dearieme said...

I assume that you treat even someone like Freud as a creative genius. I mean, being wrong about everything doesn't cost Freud that status, does it?

Bruce Charlton said...

Being wrong about some things is normal for geniuses, in the trivial sense that it is inevitable - and also that it has often been a genius which has derailed and destroyed a field of human endeavor.

So yes I would say Freud was a genius, and Jung, and Karl Marx - although they did much more harm than good (especially Marx, of course - and Jung did less harm than Freud).

It could be said that the early 20th century geniuses such as Picasso, James Joyce, TS Eliot, Schoenberg and Stravinsky all had the effect of destroying their subjects.

Maybe Charlie Parker too?

Thomas said...

So potential geniuses are not included in the circle of rule in favor of maintaining status quo. Instead, humans are easily manipulated are favored - given favor in media, pandered to by politicians, given special benefit programs. Quantity over quality. I think NASA cancelling the Space Shuttle Program serves as an apt metaphor for all of modern society's direction.

dearieme said...

Larkin agreed about Parker - Parker, Pound and Picasso were the three he pointed his finger at.

Anyway, I must announce a huge advance on identifying top-drawer, civilisation-making levels of genius. I've just found out about a so-called Religion of Humanity in the nineteenth century, which - conveniently for you to investigate further - had a Church in Newcastle-upon-Tyne. They were inspired by Comte, and held Shakespeare, Homer and Dante to be on a par with Moses and St Paul. In their revised calendar they had a month called Shakespeare, which fell in the autumn, between the months of Gutenberg and Descartes.

I do feel you should pursue this breakthrough insight.

Cantillonblog said...


Why do you conflate unbalanced with creative?

Very highly able people may tend to be unbalanced in their abilities for reasons you discussed in a previous post. But there seems no reason the people that fit well within modernity should be necessarily the balanced types. Quite the contrary, given modernity's tendency to break tasks down into pieces and have people specialise in particular fragments.

For example, I suggest that the highly quantitative people in finance (who are not always so able or well educated in non quantitative areas) fit rather well into the banking system - something that has today become part of the system of modernity. So these well-adjusted types are far from balanced. Similarly many verbally astute types (but who lack other kinds of skills) end up slotting in very well too. I think that actually it may well be the all-rounders who struggle to find satisfying work in modernity. Look at Feynman, for example.

Is not creativity more about latent inhibition, dominance, ego strength, and introversion?

I appreciate the attraction of reduction to make the problem more manageable. But is this true?

Bruce Charlton said...

@CB - Yes, I am leaving out all these other matters to explore this aspect of intelligence becoming more specialized and unbalanced at higher levels - but also that people who are all rounders in terms of ability and personality do not seem to do much more than extrapolate whatever happen to be the trends of their time. They pick up whatever is in the air and run with it. They are the culture vultures.

Bruce Charlton said...

@dearieme - "Larkin agreed about Parker "

Yes, he would, because I stole it from him...

dearieme said...

The first few minutes of this might interest you, Bruce.

Anonymous said...

I'd say Ed Witten is probably considered a "Recognized Genius." I also think his influence has been bad for the physics community, but that's another story.