Thursday, 24 September 2015

What would it be like to be

"super intelligent"? I don't know. I'm not.
I read an article about Terry Tao a couple of days ago. He's a mathematician, born and bred here. He won the Field's Medal - the "Nobel Prize" for Mathematics. He went to school with people I know. They didn't know him.
Oh, they met him. One of them was even in the same class for a while but although they knew him in the way that anyone might know a classmate they didn't know him at all.
"You sort of knew him but then he'd say something to the teacher that the rest of us didn't get at all. I'm not sure the teacher always got it. They kicked him up a couple of years after that and we lost sight of him. Then he went off to uni instead."
He did go to university early. He had his doctorate at about twenty years of age. I don't envy him. I think he must have been pretty lonely - although he might not have recognised that. It wasn't all easy for him according to the article.
I have a friend who would probably be considered "super intelligent" too. She went to university a year earlier than the average. She could have gone a year before that but she chose to wait. She did not waste the intervening year. She went off to a foreign country, taught English and learned another language. She speaks seven languages fluently enough to be both an interpreter and translator in them at the highest levels. She can also make herself understood in at least five more. In her rare time off she can often be found at a school for profoundly intellectually disabled children who have very limited communication skills. It's an extraordinary contrast.
I know her IQ is very, very high. It is on of those almost off the scale ones which generally have "experts" swooping. She avoided most of the problems because she didn't - for entirely unrelated and unavoidable reasons - go to school until she was thirteen. By then she had learned to hide her intellectual capacity from everyone but her guardian and the people who helped her learn. I won't say they taught her because, once she could read, she really taught herself. We talked about it once. It was not something she wanted to boast about. It bothered her. She was and often is lonely. Other people simply don't think the way she thinks. She tries to understand them but, oddly, the profoundly disabled children seem to understand her better than most people.
I sent her the article I had read on Terry Tao and she e-mailed me this morning with, "What I find interesting is what the article doesn't say."
Yes, I found that interesting too. It doesn't say that people like her and Terry still need to work - and work hard. It doesn't say anything about the increased responsibility which goes, or should go, with being that intelligent. 
And it doesn't say anything about the need for friendship and support. Just being "super-intelligent" is not enough. People need more than that.

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