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Intelligence and Talent and Genius, Oh My

Creativity is as important as literacy. ~Sir Ken Robinson
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Intelligence, and why there isn’t more of it

Intelligence is the raw material indicating the capability of independent thought. Most of us are never truly able to harness the full measure of our intelligence because:

  • Maximizing intelligence is difficult in a society fearful or dismissive of the value of intelligence. Our world says we want intelligent members but anti-intellectualism is a cultural norm that is growing not shrinking.
  • True intellectual capacity is layered in the socialized constructs of our educational system. Education seems designed to recognize those thought processes we can track and assess easily (math, linear thinking, language skills) and ignores or does not feel comfortable dealing with capacities which have less easily defined metrics such as emotional awareness, intuitive reasoning processes, non-linear artistic endeavors.
  • Intelligence is often burdened with cultural baggage which limits its ability to make new and powerful connections between ideas due to cultural norms of specialization for economic subsistence. People specialize so they can get jobs which pay their bills and keep them off the street.
  • Unfortunately what the world needs now is intelligence geared toward taking different fields of endeavor and combining discrete elements to create new ways of seeing the world. Generalists are needed more than ever and we create fewer and fewer each year because we refuse to acknowledge the need for intellectual curiosity as a social asset.
  • Finally one more set of limiters placed on intellect include: false religious models, cultural limitations (people who read are geeks or nerds), and fears of realized intellect undermining society (if people can critically think it undermines our current process for decision-making. It’s better if people just accept whatever the people in charge decide)
  • Such socialized limitations on realizing advanced intellectual capacity which can critically think, analyze, is numerically and scientifically literate, can recognize historical precedents, adapt to cultural differences creatively and are willing and able to decide which issues are truly ones which need solving for our worldwide community are undermined by society to limit the potentials of its aggregate members. Individuals can harness their intelligence but only for the sake of the powers that be, never for the benefits of the individual outside of a framework of profit driven enterprises.
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The true sign of intelligence is not knowledge but imagination. — Albert Einstein
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Talent: why it isn’t doing anything useful

In a world complaining there isn’t enough talent to go around, much of that talent is wasted in jobs pushing paper from one desk to another. Office buildings are filled with talented paper-pushers who not only know they aren’t doing anything important, they die a little everyday:

Talent is intelligence with effort. Many talented people spend a great deal of time honing their intellect until it becomes an apparently effortless endeavor on their part. Such ability is looked upon as a gift when it is actually the dint of great effort to harness their intelligence until it responds upon command. Talent can be naturally bestowed but more often than not it is developed, honed and sharpened by those with the desire to be the best they can be.

  • Wasting their talent on jobs which don’t allow them autonomy. Their most powerful ability to think creatively is often the least used because the people in charge of them don’t understand how they think, how they make the connections about ideas they have and how they implement those ideas.
  • If such a talented individual finds themselves with a boss who is fearful of new ideas, especially if they didn’t have said ideas, this creative person is restricted, oppressed or fired as quickly as possible. Our world wastes more talent in meaningless labor than any single other resource anywhere doing anything.
  • Talent is the capability to see a larger perspective when given a limited set of parameters to work with. One of the reasons diversity is becoming a workplace standard (too slowly in my opinion) is because we are seeing diverse ideas matter. When everyone in your organization went to the same elite schools, learning the same elite things, perhaps with the same elite shortcuts, you find an organization which is stiff, moribund and unable to make new processes.
  • This is why so many startups begin as innovative hotbeds hiring whomever can bring their diverse talents to the table, as the agency begins to stabilize, elitism creeps in and soon only Ivy League members can be hired. While collective IQ may go up, the Innovative IQ goes down. Less innovation because everyone begins thinking the same way. Diverse perspectives lend themselves to challenging the status quo. Our schools promote ideas forgetting that by the time a student gets and understands an idea in school, over a 4–8 year period, the world has doubled or even quadrupled its active stores of information about everything. Our linear capacity for knowledge absorption cannot keep up.
  • Diverse thinking allows a linear group of thinkers to make connections across a variety of cognitive platforms creating new ways of solving problems directly because each differing person brings a differing educational process, different cultural parameters, different perspectives on their social mores, how work should be done, what new developments they may have come across due to their own more diverse network of friends.
  • Talent recognizes diversity is a powerful and necessary skill set to acquire. Talent recognizes it doesn’t know everything and makes an effort to find other people who are also intelligent IN DIFFERENT WAYS.
  • Unfortunately most talented people are wasting their talents solving problems which don’t need solutions while politicians hide the problems which desperately need solving because of a broken profit model which will destroy the world before talented people can get away from their incurred indebtedness, their short-sighted employers, their dependence on drugs and other means of mitigating their feelings of induced mediocrity to save a world in desperate need of truly talented individuals working on its behalf.
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True genius lies not in doing the extraordinary things but in doing ordinary things extraordinarily well.
~Major General Louis H. Wilson
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Brilliance: Why is there so little of it?

Brilliance doesn’t care what you think of it. People who are truly brilliant recognize everything I have said so far and want NONE of it.

  • A person who is truly brilliant in the classic meaning of the word is all out of fucks to give toward people who don’t appreciate them.
  • Brilliant people recognize its not about IQ, its about what you do with your ability to see past the world and its proscriptions.
  • Brilliant people recognize not only their ability to utilize the capacity of their minds, but the capacity of the minds and hearts and bodies around them toward a greater good, if we are lucky, or toward monstrous and calamitous loss of life, destruction of property and the ruination of the world as we know it if they don’t.
  • Brilliance isn’t just looking at making money. It is looking at the underlying beauty of the world, an inherent functional capacity beyond what is considered ENOUGH. Brilliance seeks form, function, design, elegance, it seeks to bring LOGOS to the real world, the ideal made real, unchanging because there is no need.
  • Brilliant people are often unreasonable. They don’t have time for your limited intellect, which is burdened with other people’s expectations of what is right or wrong, religion, morals, inhibitions, emotional issues, or anything else which may stop them from reaching their goals. Again, if this person is creative and thinking of the greater good we can find humanity benefiting from that genius. But more often than not, brilliance is limited by powers who, lacking said vision, cannot see past the potential to make money, which for many is the greatest good.
  • When brilliance is enslaved to profit because it is possible to be brilliant and yet be naive about the ways of the world, such a fusion leads to terrible things including:
  • New ways of waging war never conceived of (drone warfare)
  • destruction of the environment (plastic, micro-beads, water and air pollution)
  • devastation of wildlife (overfishing of the oceans)
  • Human trafficking and imprisonment for profit (revised economic models)
  • Nuclear weapons (Einstein and Oppenheimer)

There are plenty of ways to harness brilliance for the wrong thing and many times only the brilliant are able to see at some point how they have been misused, but not before world-shaking events are left in the wake of their passing.

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Talent hits a target no one can hit. Genius hits a target no one can see.
~Arthur Schopenhauer
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The difference between the three?

  • Intelligence is little more than the weapon. Depending on how it is trained, harnessed and utilized, it can be as clumsy as a club or as precise as a scalpel. Intelligence is inherent in every human but each person’s life experience will determine just how much they get out of their natural intelligence.
  • Talent is the ability to recognize which form of intelligence a person is gifted with, being fortunate enough to live in an environment which realizes this early enough to maximize the potential of that intellectual, social, emotional or physical strength to the benefit of the individual or even a group capable enough to see that talent for what it is and give it sufficient room to develop for their mutual benefit.
  • Brilliance or Genius is the culmination of great natural intellect, afforded the opportunity to harness its greatest gifts, in environments which not only promote excellence, but establish resources, be they human, financial, cultural, or other means to support such ability until it can create things beyond the scope of most humans to even conceive of let alone do anything about. Brilliance exceeds the human norms because it has been in some fashion allowed to realize itself outside the parameters of acculturated and acceptable limitations. Genius exceeds society, because it can.
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Intelligence is. Talent does. Genius sees beyond both.

Intelligence and Talent and Genius, Oh My © Thaddeus Howze 2015, All Rights Reserved

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Thaddeus Howze is a California-based speculative fiction author and technology consultant who has worked with computers since the 1980’s as a graphic designer, teaching computer science, managing developers, building sophisticated computer networks and as an IT executive. He has published two speculative fiction books, Hayward’s Reach and Broken Glass.

His non-fiction work has appeared in numerous magazines: Huffington Post, Gizmodo, Black Enterprise, the Good Men Project, Examiner.com, Panel and Frame, Science X and Astronaut.com. He maintains a diverse collection of non-fiction at his blog, A Matter of Scale. He is a contributor at The Enemy, a nonfiction literary publication out of Los Angeles.

Thaddeus is a popular and well-read writer on the Q&A site Quora.com in over fifty subjects. He is also a moderator and contributor to the Science Fiction and Fantasy Stack Exchange with over a thirteen hundred articles in a four year period.

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Author | Editor | Futurist | Activist | http://bit.ly/thowzebio | http://bit.ly/thpatreon

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