Re: EDUCATION: Becoming a Genius

Anders Sandberg (
Fri, 3 Jan 1997 17:08:38 +0100 (MET)

On Fri, 3 Jan 1997, David Musick wrote:

> The geniuses themselves are the evidence that most of us are operating beneath
> our potential. The people who excell show us some of what is possible.

They show what is possible for humans, but not what is possible for a
certain individual.

One model in "intelligence psychology" is called the reaction range model.
Each human has a certain range of potential intelligence which is more or
less determined by biology (brain wiring, neurotransmittor concentrations,
whatever), but the actual intelligence (which lies in the range) is
determined by the environment and other factors (such as motivation).
According to this model it may exist an individual upper limit to our
(unaided) intelligence. Geniuses both have a very high upper limit and a
high actual intelligence (which may or may not be their full potential).

I'm not sure I buy the theory, although I think it has some merit. I have
noticed myself that in some areas my personal limits are determined by
"hardware" factors such as the number of waking hours, sensory bandwidth
or span of attention, and this has been tentatively confirmed with a few
psychological tests (guess why I'm so interested in Intelligence
Amplification techniques?).

> I have no reason to assume that there is anything magically different
about the
> geniuses that made them excell. I think we all have the same basic equipment
> and that we can all take it to at least the same level of quality that the
> geniuses do.

I agree with you. When I read accounts about their work, it is rather
clear they do not think much different from most people (with some
exceptions, like Ramanujan), only better. I think most people can train
themselves to reach at least something approaching what we would call
genius today, although by then it would be seen as more or less normal.

> I also believe that they could have taken their abilities much
> further than they did, especially if they had been working together with other
> geniuses, for that purpose.

This is an interesting point. How many geniuses have collaborated in the
past? Of course, since they often work and think in highly individual
ways cooperation is hampered, but if similar mental skills could be
widely taught, then (presumably) synergies become more likely.

> My genius
> was created consciously, by perseverence and a lot of hard work, not because
> I'm "gifted" (except maybe for the fact that I'm the type of person who would
> have the ambition and the belief that I could transform myself into a genius).

I think this is very important.

> Getting someone to develop that determination and focus is something I'm not
> clear how to do, though. At least not yet.

I think this is the core problem. If it can be solved, then the sky is
the limit. My guess is that we need to learn more about motivation and
how it works to get there.

> -- Nothing is too ambitious for an Extropian. --

Good slogan!

Anders Sandberg Towards Ascension!
GCS/M/S/O d++ -p+ c++++ !l u+ e++ m++ s+/+ n--- h+/* f+ g+ w++ t+ r+ !y