Tuesday, 15 July 2014

The lop-sided genius summarized


The typical genius is of:

1. Very high intelligence, and

2. This very high intelligence is channelled into a specific ability, and

3. Motivation is also channelled into that specific ability.


Genius is rare because this situation is unusual. These three things must occur together.

High ability - but not all-round ability but instead that ability channelled narrowly, and motivation also channelled into that ability - rather than being spread across a range of activities.

In particular, most humans' interests for most of the time are social and reproductive - but this is not the case for geniuses


Most humans - in ancestral conditions - aim to be esteemed by other humans; to have status and power; in other words to optimise their reproductive potential - typically this is achieved indirectly and implicitly via sexual instincts, and so on.

But geniuses generally do not behave in ways that optimise their reproductive potential, and they do not want to. Geniuses want to do what they excel-at-doing even when this is low status and leads to problems. In fact, geniuses will do what they excel at doing, unless they are actively prevented.

Consequently the average reproductive success of a genius is very low.

In other words, considered at the level of the specific person: genius is pathological, an illness, an impairment. 


More exactly, what makes geniuses work so hard and for so long at that thing in which they excel is that they have relatively impaired social and reproductive motivations.

The channelling of abilities and motivations away from reproduction and into a specific ability is a result of genetic impairment caused by mutations which weaken or close-off the usual social and reproductive lines of development.

Because genius is reliant upon mutations, there is no specific pattern to genius - it is extremely varied what a specific genius is good-at and interested-in. Rather the specificity comes from what the genius is not good-at, and not interested-in.


So, genius is a pathology which occurs occurs in a person of very high intelligence. (Anything which damages average reproductive success is a pathology.)

Yet the occurrence of geniuses seems non-random in the sense that the rate of occurrence of geniuses varies widely between places and at different times. 

Furthermore, although genius is a pathology at the level of the individual; geniuses are sometimes massively adaptive in terms of enhancing the reproductive of their group.

Even a single genius can change the world. For example, a genius who invents a new tool or weapon may allow his 'tribe' of relatives to expand greatly. If that tool or weapon spreads widely, it can change the world. This probably happened many times in history - although usually the inventor's name is forgotten as with the stone axe, the spade, the wheel, the arch, the stirrup, and many other breakthrough innovations.


Therefore, it is possible that some populations may be selected (by their specific circumstances) to facilitate genius by allowing the kind of genetic pathology which leads to an increased frequency of geniuses.

(Mutations will happen spontaneously, this is merely a matter of passively allowing them to happen - it is a matter of mutations removing or impairing some of the mechanisms that regulate and repair certain genes or types of genes.)

Of course, most individuals who experience mutations in the genes which support abilities or motivations in the social and reproductive domains will not be geniuses; they will just be pathological, ill, impaired. These will die or leave behind no offspring.

(Most historical human populations were under very strong selection against mutations by extremely high child mortality rates - so the wrong kind of pathology or pathologies of excessive severity would be filtered out by this mechanism.) 

Only among some of the most highly intelligent individuals will the pathology have the desired effect of channelling developmental resources into useful but non-reproductive abilities and motivations.



Haile Selassie said...

No - I can't think of examples, but, many of the greatest geniuses were interested in /everything/.

Bruce Charlton said...

@HS - There are some exceptions - especially geniuses who have colossal energies. But the great majority of geniuses are lop-sided.

Anonymous said...

The genius is rare because it is one of the gene products that randomness is the process of anomalous lateralization. The opposite of genius is severely retarded. The same processes unusual wiring of the brain that produces all types of low mental capacity also produces high mental capacity.
Cognitive overspecialization is what happens inside the brain when some areas are much more active than others. This generates passion and obsession. The polymath genius is an optical illusion, since the genius is often surprisingly good, to connect remote ideas. This passes an idea of elasticity of functions, when it is most likely that it uses the same hyperactive brain regions for different subjects.
I think in a normal brain, like a brain where the energy flowing through our bodies is distributed regularly, while for the brain of a genius I see the reverse process, where a large flow of energy is distributed in some specific regions. This explains the over-specialization.

Bruce Charlton said...

I think you are saying more or less the same as me. But there are two opposites of genius - the low intelligence mentally handicapped, and the highly intelligent, all rounder Head Girl type


Anonymous said...

Yeah I think the same thing. I think the reason for this is especially true because of studies of Terman, in the '20s, he found that his termites exhibited the opposite characteristics of creative geniuses. From this, the society has worked to find the geniuses where they often are not.
I'm now reading the book of Cesare Lombroso. The geniuses not only come from families with significant dysfunctional tendencies, but they also they were often extremely dysfunctional. Absolutely the opposite of the results of the Terman study in the 20s.


This book clearly shows that there is a significant relationship between extreme intelligence and creativity with psychopathology in a visceral way, as when he reports cases of mentally retarded patients who after an attack of fever, developed for a few moments, extreme capacity for example, a highly significant improvement of vocabulary and make decent quote from a philosophical genius.

I think creativity is the opposite of intelligence, not in a quantitative sense, but qualitative and by style. The intelligence promotes convergent development, and most often, the maintenance and replication of this knowledge. Creativity promotes the breakdown of this knowledge, in other words rudest, the destruction of this knowledge to the development of another. Imagination search creating what does not exist, while maintaining and improving intelligence search of what exists.

Currently there is a psychological term for the group that most resembles the characteristics of the true geniuses of the past, twice exceptional. Someone with a disability combined with high skills.

Creativity and intelligence are like opposites that cancel each other out when in extreme manifestation. People of very high iq are exceptionally intelligent, but rarely innovative. This is my impression. Exceptionally creative people would be as high functioning mad. His extreme creativity cancel its convergent thinking, but creativity is still a kind of human ability and therefore intelligence. I do not know where the geniuses could fit, so I thought the existence of three types of geniuses, creative geniuses, high creativity, scientific geniuses, to combine the two styles, and geniuses high IQ, high intelligence.

charlie said...

Two examples, both mostly political and military.

1. Milovan Djilas was sympathetic to Tito and eventually denounced Yugoslav communism. He described Tito's intelligence as "essentially political." Not very creative, rarely had an idea..but someone one said "When one was advanced, he knew what to do with it.

2. Napoleon seems likely to be diagnosed with either a personality disorder as a youngster, or at least was unpopular, did much solitary reading--not an all-rounder at the cadet school in Southern France.

3. Ataturk comes to mind also, but I know so little about him.

The political genius rankings are in _King of the Hill_, which I've still never read.

reading this I also thought of Charles Murray's _Human Accomplishment_, which omits politics entirely. Murray quotes Galton approvingly on "The concrete triple event: "ability, combined with zeal, combined with capacity for hard labor."

Anonymous said...

Bruce Charlton,
Examples of Charlie, would be creative geniuses *
Fidel Castro also be a genius then *

I think these guys seem more like the head girl syndrome that you showed me. Are charismatic, healthy and recognize all as geniuses.

Lombroso used a term for these guys, I do not know if it's correct, Mattoid.
Matto is whimsical in Italian, the prefix oid we know that would relate an alleged disorder.

If Tito had been a genius, he would have kept Yugoslavia and transformed into a power and a first world country do not think *

I do not agree that the most eminent geniuses were, on the contrary, most do not become imminent and it seems, most of the geniuses of the past, were only really recognized after their deaths.
It makes sense that the most intelligent and creative people in the world are responsible for keeping this primitive world. The products of genius, as you say, are used by mattoids, but in fact, most of the products, especially in the political arena, has not been used.
Ordinary people do not understand the geniuses and when they understand them, hate them, espcially the normal functional types. The most intelligent, have great envy them and use their products, but often ignore their creators. It's just you see today as the academy works by egalitarian dogma. Equality is radically opposed to the genius, is its negation.

These people can come from families where the genie appears, and can even be recognized as semi-geniuses, but they are not genuine geniuses and at best, they could be understood as a kind of very high functioning psychopath.

Sorry for the huge comment

Bruce Charlton said...

@s - I am not at all clear about what constitutes a political genius - was Hitler a political genius? For a while yes, but he left his nations in literal ruins? Napoleon likewise (France never recovered).

If we insist that a political genius needs to secure a good succession, then it becomes very rare - George Washington would be an example.

Edward said...

What if genius was not a genetic factor but more of a hormonal one?
Perhaps a genius is so often socially and sexually dysfunctional because they are
cross-wired so to speak. If so, what would motivate someone, what would they try to achieve? How would they prove themselves in the modern world?