Thursday 6 August 2015

We don't have geniuses any more - so, what do we have instead?

There have been two things going on.

The genius-type was an Endogenous personality^ - which I have defined as both highly intelligent and inner-directed, inner-evaluated, inner-motivated (in other words, with some aspects of the Psychoticism trait as described by HJ Eysenck).

Intelligence has declined a lot, so there aren't many people nowadays with the extremely high intelligence which was characteristic of geniuses 150-200 years ago. I think that the decline has been considerably more than one, and perhaps two standard deviations or (very approximately) 20-30 modern IQ points.

In practice, this lower average intelligence means lower peak intelligence, which implies that the modern genius would be less of a genius than in the past - this can be seen in both the arts and sciences.

But the modern genius and the social selection mechanisms have also changed so as to exclude the
genius personality type.

This is due to factors both deliberate and accidental. Deliberate, because the Endogenous personality was usually a man of European descent; and inadvertent because of trends such as increasing the length of formal education, increasing the required number of educational certifications, allowing more cheating in educational evaluations; and more committee decisions regulating the workplace, more and more-complex bureaucracy, and the expansion of the public sector with domination of the state.

So, what has replaced the genius of yore? At best, we still have geniuses, but just on a smaller scale.

More often we have people who among the most intelligent of the population, but externally-directed, socially-orientated and using established evaluative criteria - in sum, people who are utterly lacking in real creativity, but clever enough to fake it by extrapolation, selection and recombination. Thus we get fashions rather than breakthroughs.

Mixed-in are a few charming psychopaths, who may be intelligent or not - but they are out-for-themselves, and have too short an attention span ever to achieve anything original

So that is what we now have instead of geniuses, to replace geniuses: careerist drones and plausible con-men.



Odin's Raven said...

In place of genius we have celebrity.

Wade said...

"Mixed-in are a few charming psychopaths, who may be intelligent or not - but they are out-for-themselves, and have too short an attention span ever to achieve anything original"

I am a Donald Trump enthusiast mainly because I'm absolutely fed up with Political Correctness and the Republican establishment.

Be that as it may I've been deeply troubled that The Donald may be a little like the sort of person you describe in quotes above than one of our traditional heroes. What choice do I have though?

Glengarry said...

I wonder to what extent the educational system itself suppresses genius. Even in the best case, it's often enough the intellectual equivalent of tilling the fields until you're 24, or older.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Glengarry - I agree that this is a significant factor: This may be of interest:

Glengarry said...

Thank you kindly; interesting and provocative as always. In a sense, it seems science has now become too important for society to allow breakthroughs or genius anymore.

One might also ask where the genius personalities end up, if no longer at university. Unless we also have selected them away, of course. How many children had Darwin again, compared to the top men of today?

Thus at her felt approach, and secret might,
Art after Art goes out, and all is Night.
See skulking Truth to her old Cavern fled,
Mountains of Casuistry heap'd o'er her head!
Philosophy, that lean'd on Heav'n before,
Shrinks to her second cause, and is no more.
Physic of Metaphysic begs defence,
And Metaphysic calls for aid on Sense!
See Mystery to Mathematics fly!
In vain! they gaze, turn giddy, rave, and die.
Religion blushing veils her sacred fires,
And unawares Morality expires.
Nor public Flame, nor private, dares to shine;
Nor human Spark is left, nor Glimpse divine!
Lo! thy dread Empire, Chaos! is restor'd;
Light dies before thy uncreating word:
Thy hand, great Anarch! lets the curtain fall;
And Universal Darkness buries All.