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This is what life is like when you're super intelligent

We asked some of the brightest minds on the planet

This is what life is like when you're super intelligent
02 February 2018

I was quite clever when I was a kid, but when I was about 12 I plateaued and everyone else first caught up with, then overtook me. It was a bit embarrassing really. It was one of my defining characteristics when I was little, and the only positive one (the others were being very bad at throwing and having an unsettlingly adult-sized head from a very young age), so it was kind of a bummer when I turned out to be spectacularly average.

I often wonder how it must feel to be properly, amazingly intelligent - and also, how it must feel to be properly, amazingly intelligent and be surrounded by dull-witted slugs all the time, misunderstanding stuff and being proud of themselves for it. If I get one question right on University Challenge, I stand up and throw my arms up in the air, overwhelmed with pride at my borderline supernatural intelligence, sending my usually underwhelming dinner flying across the room. If any of the contestants on that show could see me through the TV screen - and maybe they can, they’re really clever - they’d think I was utterly pathetic.

I got in touch with, not just really clever people, but people who openly identify as being fearsomely intelligent. People who know their IQ, and know it’s high, and aren’t afraid to admit it. As an adult, I’m quite self-conscious about how not-that-bright I am - I forget I’m a bit thick, then get really upset when I lose Trivial Pursuit or screw up a pub quiz - so there was something oddly freeing about speaking to actual, proper clever-clogs. There’s no need to worry about being the dumbest person in a conversation when the other person is basically superhuman. I’m not going to feel embarrassed if I can’t keep up with a Nobel Prize-winning physicist, you know?

Most ignored me, either because they didn’t want to be involved, or were too busy investigating nine-dimensional space, or are so clever that my cheery three-line email where no word had more than about ten letters just means nothing to them at all, like the way you wouldn’t notice if an ant was trying to speak to you. But three eggheads agreed to enlighten me.

The man from Mensa

Chris Leek is a former chairman of British Mensa and currently sits on the International Mensa Board.

Is life different after you identify as a genius?
I would distinguish here between having a high IQ and being a genius, with a high IQ being necessary for genius, but not sufficient by itself. At least in part, genius is about accomplishment while high IQ is about potential. I would see myself as having a high IQ, but would definitely not see myself as a genius. For me the main change arising from passing a Mensa test was the social environment it bought with it. Within Mensa I found a community of people I had a lot in common with, made some very good friends and met my wife. While identification of my IQ did not make a difference by itself, the challenges and opportunities that arose indirectly have played a huge role in shaping my life.

Are there any frustrations or problems that come with being surrounded by dumbasses like me?
I am fortunate professionally in that I work with some very bright people, and at home my family are all Mensa members, and a lot of my social life involves meetings and activities with other Mensa members both in the UK and worldwide. Outside of that environment I don’t tend to get frustrated but I do find myself surprised occasionally when answers that seem obvious have to be explained in detail.

What are the biggest benefits of knowing you’ve got a really high IQ?
For some people, the identification of their high IQ has made a big difference. People who, for example, did not necessarily do particularly well at school or felt they were ‘different’ in some way. I’ve come across cases where very bright youngsters were classed as ‘average’ because of dyslexia or auditory problems masking their true potential – the sad fact was that it was their high IQ that enabled them to function at a high enough level that the underlying problem wasn’t identified. For some of these, identifying their high IQ gave them the confidence to seek out challenges and try things that they would otherwise not have attempted. 

The high-IQ renegade

Rick Rosner is a TV writer, quiz show producer and vitamin enthusiast who unsuccessfully sued the makers of Who Wants to be a Millionaire? after getting a question wrong. He claims to have the second-highest IQ in the world.

How clever are you?
Going by IQ, I’m one of the smartest people on the planet, but IQ isn’t an ideal instrument for measuring intelligence – nothing is. Plus, there’s a practice effect – the more IQ tests you take, the better you tend to do. So I’m probably not the second-smartest person on earth, but I’m pretty darn smart. However, my mental power doesn’t extend to all areas of life – my Twitter handle is @dumbassgenius, because for every smart thing I do, I might do one or two really dumb things.

How different does it make your life from the ‘average’ person?
At times in my life, I’ve tried to live as an average person. I worked as a stripper and a bar bouncer for decades. I have, at times, shown a lack of discipline, abetted by my IQ making things easy for me. If I were an average person with this lack of discipline, I’d be a sad guy.

How important is your level of intelligence to your identity?
Thinking of myself as smart has been helpful to my self-esteem during tough times at challenging jobs or in a relationship gone bad. It’s given me the confidence to go on ridiculous adventures. So it’s been important. But my mental advantage should dwindle as our electronic devices make everyone smarter.

Does high intelligence cause any problems that one wouldn’t necessarily expect?
You wouldn’t necessarily expect the level of screwing up that I’ve done from time to time. One problem with thinking you’re smart is the tendency to figure out your own strategies and solutions instead of doing what everyone else does. Often, there are good reasons why everyone does what everyone does. 

The community builder

Iakovos Koukas is the founder of several high-IQ societies and networks, and was named Genius of the Year in 2015 by the World Genius Directory. 

How intelligent are you?
Firstly, I should define intelligence. Most people confuse it with brain function in general, which includes personality traits. Actually, intelligence is the aggregate or global capacity of the individual to act purposefully, think rationally and deal effectively with their environment. It is best represented by IQ (Intelligence Quotient). In strict psychometric terms of intelligence, I am just a deviant of 5.34 (IQ 180 sd15) standard deviations above the statistical mean.

How did you come to set up the various high-IQ networks and societies that you’ve set up?
As I stated to World Genius Directory founder Dr Jason Betts after winning the 2015 Genius of the Year Award, I was initiated into the world of high IQ because I always felt somewhat off from the other world. Within the IQ world I came across persons that finally could understand me and have meaningful conversations around my interests. I wanted to create civilized societies where high IQers could discuss anything they liked without being insulted or diminished by others, and form new ideas or evolve existing ones.

How important to your identity is your high IQ?
High IQ is as important as any other natural gift a person can have: being strong, creative, handsome or talented. You get used to it, you live with it and you only realise its significance when you come across challenging tasks that you may need to use your gift to deal with successfully. I am just a regular guy who has a different way to see things and spends time on creative ideas.

THANKS BRAINBOXES! Maybe I am super intelligent after all - it seems super intelligent people are (a) perfectly capable of screwing things up; (b) might have a tendency to feel a bit off and disconnected from people, and (c) if you ask them whether they’re geniuses, they might say no.

I put my shirt on inside-out yesterday, don’t have many friends and am absolutely not a genius.

I’m a goddamn genius.

(Images: iStock)