REF shares a letter describing the perspective of a certified genius

It is a long read but well worthwhile to encounter how the world appears when one is a genius.  The correspondence commenced when I reached out to an acquaintance with whom I had not been in touch for two decades.  The following were part of a pleasant exchange. The postscript came with permission to publish..

On Fri, Feb 9, 2018 at 8:55 AM, Robert Field  wrote:

Kevin and Doug, copy family members:

As I have long held, —- is one of the smartest guys on the block.  He irritated many people, but not me.  He constantly stressed that marijuana reform would come when the cost of incarceration became unbearable.

I think what follows further makes my point.   Either he is a genius or near to it.

Me? Irritating??!!! The hell you say! 😉

I’m not crazy. My mother had me tested. – Sheldon Cooper

Actually, I am a genius. Certified, more or less. My IQ tests have typically been in the 180+ range, five or so standard deviations above average. High enough that IQ tests are no longer really useful. High enough that sometimes I simply get all the answers right.

If you have ever seen The Big Bang Theory, I have a lot in common with Sheldon Cooper. I really was a lot like the character on Young Sheldon. I didn’t try to build a nuclear reactor when I was a kid, but I did similar things. Like Sheldon, I know I am not crazy because my mother had me tested. Really. At about age six. I remember it clearly because I thought the doctor was a little bit stupid.

It is an odd kind of affliction. It is like being eight feet tall but nobody can really see it. They just know something is weird. That’s why my mother had me tested.

When I was in grade school, I maxed out the school IQ test, the highest score they had ever seen. My cousin, Robert, had done it two years before me. My grandmother had about a dozen descendants in that school at once and the lowest IQ among any of them was 125. My daughter, Melissa, also maxed out the IQ test in high school.

When I was 12, I tested as having the educational level of a college graduate. I never had any special tutoring. I remember a teacher staring at me in absolute shock with her mouth hanging open when she learned it.

When I was a sophomore in high school, we were studying Greek mythology in English class and the teacher asked us to write an essay about what we had learned. I wrote the first chapter of the book, verbatim, from memory. The teacher thought I had cheated until I recited the first chapter in front of him, starting from any point he chose. I had not made any special effort to remember it, I just thought it was written well. I do not, however, have a “photographic memory”. That is eidetic imagery and people who have it (or seem to have it) often are not great in logic. Also, I do not have the “total recall” that people like Marilu Henner have. My memory of long written things is more like you would remember a song.

My English teacher for the second semester that year was convinced that I was going to be a great writer and made me promise her I would write at least two novels. I guess I did turn out to be a significant writer, but in a much different way.

When I was fourteen, I read about a magician who had a “magic” routine where he would multiply two four digit numbers in his head to the great awe and amazement of the crowd. That didn’t seem so hard so I tried it. With a little practice, I was able to multiply two four place numbers in 30 seconds, and two five place numbers in under a minute. That included doing the problem two different ways to check the results. To make it easier, I figured out some new techniques for rapid multiplication. I can grunt it out in my head the same way everybody else does it on paper, but I invented some easier ways.  Jakow Trachtenberg invented a bunch of speed math techniques to keep himself from going crazy in a Nazi concentration camp. I had not read his book yet when I did this. Some of my techniques were the same as his, but most of my techniques weren’t in his book. I was going to go on to six digit numbers but it was just a parlor trick so it wasn’t worth the effort. The only time I would really use my math skills was when we went grocery shopping and I would total up everything in the cart, with tax.

I was studying college theoretical math in night classes (for fun and entertainment) when I was 15. I was on the high school math team competing against other schools all during high school, while I flunked four straight years of math. Math teachers hated me with a passion and two of them told my mother outright that it was their job to teach me that math was not fun. I responded by not doing anything in those classes — straight, clear F. I passed every year by getting 95 or better on the final exam.

I took the SAT tests after I had been out of school for four years. I scored 770 on the English portion, and 760 on the math (out of 800). I completed it in about one-third the allowed time. I didn’t do any preparation for the SAT because I just wanted to see where I was unprepared. Bill Gates got a perfect 1600, but he didn’t go off to the Army before he took it.

In my first college English class, the first assignment was to write a single paragraph. I wrote five sentences. Based on those five sentences, the professor gave me an A in the class and said that I wrote better than he did. He had three published novels.

My first project in my first college art class was to duplicate a Rembrandt.

In my first semester in college, I completed 33 units (18 maximum allowed) with a 3.8 average. Then family came along and I dropped out to work.

You don’t want to play Trivial Pursuit with me. One time somebody tested me. I was able to answer at least 85 percent of the questions without even hearing the choices. After hearing the choices, I was able to answer about 95 percent, and could have given a lecture on the details behind each of them. If you watch any of the Big Bang episodes where Sheldon is being an annoying asshole because of a massive knowledge of trivia – that’s me.

The way I got into the computer field was that I simply went out and bought one in 1978 for $5,000 and then taught myself how to program it. I make a comfortable six figures in the field and I have never had a class in the subject. One of the great benefits in my life is that my brain has allowed me to do pretty much whatever I wanted as a profession, any time I chose.

So, yeah, I really am one of those things. If you want to know what that kind of people are like, I suggest reading Genetic Studies of Genius by Lewis Terman. He found about 2,000 of the brightest kids in California and followed them throughout life to see what happened to them. They had some common traits:

They realized they were alone in the world in a strange kind of way very early, being out of step with their peers, and even out of step with adults who aren’t quite sure what to make of such a kid. I can remember a few times when teachers really got angry with me because — to my mind — I had simply corrected a small factual error in their presentation. I quit doing it, but I didn’t understand why they got mad — it is just facts.

About 85 percent of them resolved the issues this caused by learning to use their intelligence as a weapon. While other kids would get scolded for physical violence, the geniuses could cause even more pain by words, and the teachers actually approved of that. They tended to be sarcastic, have a low tolerance for people who weren’t as bright as they were (just about everybody), and the greatest insult they could give was to call somebody “stupid.” (I think this accounts for the great joy I felt when I verbally beat the shit our of drug warriors. I really don’t like stupidity and people being treated unfairly.)  They are arrogant, condescending, and confident to the point of oblivious pretty much by default. That’s because they know they are right about whatever.

The majority of them went into the professions, but not all. Some of them became plumbers and other ordinary workers but they made significantly more money than the average person in their chosen job. They also tended to have a high number of life accomplishments, like degrees, patents, published books, etc. (I have two published books so far, both on computers, and a number of articles on various subjects before I joined the movement.)

You can understand them better if you realize that, from their perspective, just about everyone else in the world is somewhere between mildly and severely retarded. They may be impatient with others because they are thinking “THE SOLUTION IS SO GODDAMNED PLAIN, OBVIOUS, AND EASY THAT IT IS INCOMPREHENSIBLE WHY YOU CAN’T UNDERSTAND IT.  IT’S FUCKING TWO PLUS TWO FOR CHRISSAKE!” In general, they don’t recognize intellectual obstacles and can’t understand why other people would find things like advanced mathematics challenging. However, if they find they can’t do something the first time they try, they may assume it is impossible. That’s because they are used to doing just about everything on the first try.

The other 15 percent denied that intelligence was really important and wound up being pretty ordinary people.

Terman also did retrospective studies to try to estimate the intelligence level of some famous people from history, based on their writings and other works. If you want to be a great physicist or a great writer, you will need an IQ of 165 or above. If you want to be a politician, you are best off at about 135 – bright, but not overpowering. The reason is that, above 135 people start to lose touch with the common man.

If you want to be a great general or a great painter, you are best off being perfectly average – about 100. They estimated the smartest painter of all time to be Velazquez, with an IQ of about 145. Rembrandt was about 105. Da Vinci, surprisingly, was only about 135. They attributed his great work to his creativity, which is something that can be cultivated irrespective of intelligence. If you want to be a great business person, intelligence helps but it is by no means determinative.

See what I mean about trivia? This last bit was from a book I read in 1972. I can still remember a long list of world records that I read one time in the Guinness Book of World Records back about 1963.

You gave me another interesting bit of trivia when you mentioned the first prosecution for slavery. That was a good one that I will remember all my life. Thanks.

On the subject of slavery, I offer a demonstration of what brain power can do for you if you apply it. I have made the argument to a number of black people that slavery was, in fact, one of the best things that ever happened to the United States. I did not get killed or severely beaten. In fact, they all wound up agreeing with me and congratulating me for my brilliance. You have to think out of the box. That’s what you do with a really weird brain.

I am also a serious evangelist for Yosemite, so I will send you another note on that, along with a few pictures to entice you.


I should explain why I thought the doctor who tested me when I was about five or six was stupid. She took me into her office and handed me a pencil and paper and asked me to draw a picture of a man and a woman. I explained to her that, if she wanted pictures of people then there were lots of other people who were far better than me at drawing them. But she insisted, without  explaining why she wanted pictures of people that she could get just as easily – and of better quality – any number of other places, so I drew a couple of people.
Then she asked me, “Are these nice people?”
I looked at her, puzzled. I was trying to think how I would explain to an adult that these were just lines on paper and not real people, with real actions and emotions. Just because I drew them didn’t mean they were “real”. It was the first time it had ever occurred to me that an adult might be stupid or fundamentally disconnected from reality.
It kinda put me off and made me suspicious, so I told her, “Yeah, sure. Of course.” That seemed to be what she wanted so I figured I would go along with the gag until I could get out of there. If I met her again today, I still don’t think I would trust her.
Yeah, if you think it will be of any value to anyone, go ahead and publish it.

Updated: February 18, 2018 — 7:11 am

1 Comment

  1. Slavery was one of the best things that ever happened to the United States? Really? Why? Because of its early economic benefits?

    This person certainly has a big head. I’ll say that. Whatever else might be true about him.

    EDITOR: As I understand his point, he wasn’t condoning slavery. He was pointing out the great benefits that this cheap labor was for the rapid development of the country.

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