June 21, 2012

A Post By Professor Bruce Charlton On Why Genius Is So Rare

A guest post by Joseph Friedlander.

I ran across an interesting pair of articles by Professor Bruce Charlton on the difficulty of reliably channeling  genius and creativity into science and technology.  If we could double the number of great geniuses who thread through the educational and societal maze to a productive career in the arts of science and technology our world would be vastly more creative. If we could increase the incidence of genius 10 times we would live in an entirely different world. Indeed such a transition would be singularity-like,  dividing history into before and after periods (and raising the interesting question of diminishing returns or no).

One can imagine an analogue to the Gates Foundation but which recruits young geniuses and guides them through the maze Charlton describes. Only a small fraction of potential genius becomes actual genius--


 But the definition is central to this discussion-- what makes a genius?

Professor Bruce Charlton: 

"...Creativity is, in a nutshell, a bit crazy - and most crazy people are too disorganized to do much. But geniuses require to be a bit crazy, yet also do prolonged focused work - and this is a reason why there are so few of them.

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So - high intelligence is very rare (and some societies have too low an average intelligence to generate more than a tiny proportion of very intelligent people). 

Within this tiny group of highly intelligent people, on top of all this, to get the coincidence of a creative way of thinking with a sufficiently persevering personality type is very rare. 

And among this small percentage of a small percentage, there are the workings of sheer luck, there is the higher than normal risk of (self) sabotage by mental illness and addiction, there are the problems of a higher than usual probability of an abrasive or antisocial personality - and (as Murray identifies) the likelihood that for a person to aim very high requires a belief in transcendental values (the beautiful, the truth, virtue) - and that some societies (such as our own) lack this belief.

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Put all these together and it is clear why in all societies genius is rare; and why genius is completely absent from most societies..."

Read the full article here  http://charltonteaching.blogspot.co.il/2012/06/why-is-genius-so-rare.html 





Related :
 Science selects for perseverance and sociability at the expense of intelligence and creativity

Medical Hypotheses. Volume 72, Issue 3, Pages 237-243 

Bruce G. Charlton 
 ...the science selection process ruthlessly weeds-out interesting and imaginative people. At each level in education, training and career progression there is a tendency to exclude smart and creative people by preferring Conscientious and Agreeable people. The progressive lengthening of scientific training and the reduced independence of career scientists have tended to deter vocational ‘revolutionary’ scientists in favour of industrious and socially adept individuals better suited to incremental ‘normal’ science. High general intelligence (IQ) is required for revolutionary science. But educational attainment depends on a combination of intelligence and the personality trait of Conscientiousness; and these attributes do not correlate closely. Therefore elite scientific institutions seeking potential revolutionary scientists need to use IQ tests as well as examination results to pick-out high IQ ‘under-achievers’. As well as high IQ, revolutionary science requires high creativity. Creativity is probably associated with moderately high levels of Eysenck’s personality trait of ‘Psychoticism’. Psychoticism combines qualities such as selfishness, independence from group norms, impulsivity and sensation-seeking; with a style of cognition that involves fluent, associative and rapid production of many ideas. But modern science selects for high Conscientiousness and high Agreeableness; therefore it enforces low Psychoticism and low creativity. Yet my counter-proposal to select elite revolutionary scientists on the basis of high IQ and moderately high Psychoticism may sound like a recipe for disaster, since resembles a formula for choosing gifted charlatans and confidence tricksters. A further vital ingredient is therefore necessary: devotion to the transcendental value of Truth. Elite revolutionary science should therefore be a place that welcomes brilliant, impulsive, inspired, antisocial oddballs – so long as they are also dedicated truth-seekers. 

Read  the whole thing here:





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