WE aren't the problem, YOU are

Early last year, our friend Aaron Clarey released his book, Curse of the High IQ. In that book, our buddy El Capitan pointed out that highly intelligent people tend to have far fewer friends, and far more difficulty with making new ones. Essentially, people with IQs that are 2 or more standard deviations above the mean tend to be more introverted, and spend far larger portions of their lives almost completely alone.

Aaron's findings were rooted in science- he provided clear attributions for his arguments in his book. And as it happens, he was right:

The video above goes into some detail a point that Aaron made in his book: highly intelligent people are usually happiest when left completely alone.

In other words, for highly intelligent, highly introverted individuals, Hell really is other people at the breakfast table. (And, as it turns out, most of the rest of the time too.)

And this will come as precisely ZERO surprise to almost every single one of you reading this. What can I say, my writing seems to be read by some pretty smart people.

Now, before I continue, the problem with writing anything about what it's like to be of reasonably high intelligence in a world that both relies upon and distrusts such people is that one inevitably comes across sounding extremely stuck-up. That is, sadly, unavoidable, but I can try to mitigate that fact somewhat by simply asking you to read this as a combination of objective analysis and subjective experience, written dispassionately to attempt to prove a point.

So if you get annoyed by what you find to be sanctimonious preaching about how smart people are TOTALLY better than average people, well, tough. That wasn't the intention, but oh well.

Anyway- as many people with high IQs will likely tell you, the biggest challenge that they will ever face is in the field of human relationships. This is not universally true, though; there are several extremely intelligent extroverts that I have met who only really come alive when they are the centre of attention at parties or pub crawls. But such types, usually falling on the EN(T/F)(J/P) end of the MBTI spectrum, are fairly unusual in my experience.

Most of the time, the highly intelligent people that you will come across in life are loners, both by accident and by design.

Now, despite the somewhat maudlin tone of Aaron's book, there are, of course, considerable benefits to having a high IQ. Tasks and routines that are challenging if not impossible for most people are a matter of course for the highly intelligent.

Of course, having a high IQ does not really lend one bragging rights. It simply makes one smarter than the average bear- and makes someone who is possessed of high intelligence quite depressed sometimes when he contemplates how stupid the rest of the world is in comparison.

Even so, there is always someone smarter.

Consider: the last time I checked, my IQ registered somewhere around 135. That's pretty decent- at or slightly above genius level. This makes me smarter than roughly 98.5% of all Americans. Broken down by race, it makes me smarter than about 98% of white Americans; about 99.96% of all black Americans; and "only" about 96.9% of all Jewish and Asian Americans.

Those are just numbers. And my response to all of them?


As I have said before, I draw a sharp distinction between being bright, and actually being smart. Most people with IQs between 115 and 130 or so are usually pretty bright- they have plenty of book-smarts. But the moment you actually ask them to think, they have no idea how to do it.

Moreover, it is observably true that having a high IQ seems to be positively correlated with the ability to believe incredibly stupid ideas.

The minds behind the most monstrous ideologies of the 20th Century, Fascism and Communism, were pretty intelligent people. The intellectuals who created the conceptual framework for Russian Communism, in particular, were exceptionally brilliant.

In America, the architects of the failed policy of detente were President Richard Nixon, a highly intelligent man of deeply dubious morality, and Henry Kissinger, who to this day remains one of the most outstanding students that Harvard University has ever produced.

Once more, having a high IQ, in and of itself, is not impressive. Raw intelligence untempered by other qualities can be actively dangerous; indeed, to blatantly rip off borrow a line from Starship Troopers, intelligence in itself not a social virtue; its possessors can be men so self-centred as to be utterly lacking in social responsibility. Such highly intelligent idiots, so to speak, are a danger not only to themselves but to others as well- putting them in charge of anything more powerful than a food blender often leads straight to disaster.

After all, the greatest President of the 20th Century, Ronald Reagan, was once very memorably called an "amiable dunce" by establishment scion Clark Clifford at a dinner party in Georgetown back in the day, and yet he turned out to be immensely intelligent and well-read, even though his predecessor was, in terms of raw intelligence,  almost certainly smarter, and by some distance.

Most importantly, the reason why I'm so indifferent to my own IQ is not because high intelligence is a bad thing. I would not be enjoying the lifestyle that I do if it were not for my intelligence, and my willingness to use it.

It is just that, relative to many of the people that I admire, I'm actually pretty dumb.

There are readers of this blog who make me look like the village idiot, whose IQs register at least a full standard deviation above mine. There are writers that I read whose IQs are two standard deviations above mine.

There just aren't very many such people, relatively speaking. The people whose opinions I respect more than make up for their small numbers through the sheer quality of their work, but by virtue of simple mathematics, they are extremely unusual by definition.

And therein lies the difficulty faced by most really intelligent people: it is really challenging to find people who will push you to new levels of personal achievement.

These things combine to make life in general a bit of a challenge for highly intelligent people. That isn't a complaint, it's merely an observation.

And those challenges are made far worse by, well, other peopleThere is no getting around this, and no getting away from it.

Different types of highly intelligent people react to this fact in various ways.

Some highly intelligent people- a distinct minority of an already small group, in my experience- simply shut themselves off from others and refuse to interact with them. It is from this small subset that you get folks like Ted Kaczynski and Grigori Perelman.

Most such high intelligences find ways to muddle along, somehow, with other people in their lives of considerably lower intelligence. Some even manage to thrive.

But overall, the harsh and unbending reality for most really intelligent people remains: other people will always pose problems for them.

There is no way to get around or past this. There is only adaptation and acceptance of it.

Even so, for those of you who stumbled across this post and find yourself wondering what to make of the next highly intelligent person that crosses your path, just remember: from his perspective, you're the weird one, and you're the problem, not him.


  1. Eduardo the Magnificent22 March 2017 at 18:24

    I have no idea what my IQ is. Smarter than the average bear, for sure, but I know there's a lot out there I don't know. Yes, people ARE a problem, especially in the workplace, where social graces are often more rewarded than actual ability. I wish I could small-talk, but I find it so damn stupefying. If you have some advice on that front, I'd be damn glad to hear it.

    I remember an episode of House where some guy with 170-ish IQ was deliberately killing his brain just to enjoy spending time with this girlfriend. He couldn't stand her otherwise. I'll never get to that point, but I understood. Wonder how many extroverts got the message?

  2. The worst curse for those that are highly intelligent is NOT arrogance or underestimating the intelligence of the common man... it is constantly OVER estimating the common man. Solutions that seem utterly obvious or clear are incomprehensible to the vast majority of humans, which is why, when it comes to social civilizational growth, highly intelligent people are often the WORST to judge effective policy, rather than the best.

    For instance, socialism... Socialism simply will not work for normal people, even though highly intelligent people could easily see the benefits and work with it... It's the greatest idea that will never work ever created.

    Atheism is very similar... Highly intelligent people are easily capable of conceiving of, and working with, a policy of agnosticism which involves embracing the highly-functional rules of christian morality and ethics, without requiring strict adherence or 'faith'... but when he pushes others to do so, it evolves into the horrors of Atheism, because most simply cannot understand the WHY behind Christian Morality without embracing it's faith.

    It's almost as though at the high end, intelligence becomes a zero-sum game... the more capable you become of dealing with complex problems, the less you can conceptualize simple ones. Like a brilliant Engineer who designs a 126-piece multi-use fastener when a clothespin would be even more effective.

    There's a reason I scoff and laugh at anyone that suggests that Technocracy would be in any way desirable, or would be anything other than an absolute horror.

  3. All I know is that small talk fucking mystifies me. Yes, I care about my relatives, my handful of friends, their families. "how are they doing" "fine" "cool"

    then what?

    If the person knows stuff I don't due to specialty, great, I can learn something!

    If not - well, a lot of boring "conversations"

    At one point I thought it was because I just didn't like to talk about stuff that didn't interest me, and sure, there are plenty of such things - like TV shows such as "Law and Order SVU" - but when it comes to the basics of life, work, etc., almost anything from cooking to swimming to accounting to the ins and outs of being a professional pilot interest me.

    And stories about camping, etc. are cool too - appreciated beauty simply _is_.

    You really have to have no actual life or whatever to bore me.

    One girl walked off confused because we were standing on a pier, looking at the sunset, I looked down and said "hunh"

    She asked, "what"

    I made the mistake of telling her what had actually crossed my mind. The simple absorption of the beauty, how I'd draw or paint it, how I'd try to model the waves for a 3d model (my hobby at the time) as well as texture map it, the physics involved, what was causing the particular pattern.


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