“Unfortunately, all evidence of your son’s intelligence is purely anecdotal.”
New Yorker Cartoon
I just finished reading “Curse of the High IQ” by Aaron Clarey. I’ve read a couple of, well, self-help books for people with high IQ and in comparison to those books, I really liked his style. Given that he runs a service called “Asshole Consulting” (see this posting) it is no surprise his style is … somewhat blunt, but also — thankfully — no-nonsense. He bases his observations and analyses on his own experience — apparently an IQ of 141 or 138 — and his clients and friends experiences.
In general, I am weary of (mostly) unsystematic observation. Some of the things he writes about might be illusory correlations or just plain wrong. It’s hypocritical to argue against unsystematic observation with ones own unsystematic observation, but in my experience, people notice problems with high IQ usually only when there are, well, problems with high IQ. Might sound trivial, but I guess with many people you don’t notice the high IQ, just the high performance. Of course they have to be smart, but that never becomes the focus. You’re captured by their work. But if a smart person has problems, then both the problems and the high intelligence (indicated by the high performance in at least one area) come into focus. There’s an inconsistency. This person has problems, yet did some amazing stuff, so s/he can’t be dumb. That is noticeable. Personally, I am pretty sure most people with high IQ don’t really have problems, and they are too busy performing to notice their high IQ as a potential problem. It’s those who have problems for whom the high IQ becomes an issue.
But this objection is moot, given that the people who read books like these are likely part of the same subgroup of high-IQ people who also have problems. So while his book might not generalize to all high IQ people, it might generalize to his readers. So, essentially, no problem. He also recommends to get one’s IQ tested, which is always nice (please, no more people self-diagnosing
intelligence high intelligence, or psychological disorders).
And regarding the problems, he goes into a number of problems high IQ people have — mostly simply due to (per definition) statistical rarity and the way the world works. He covers the major issues from education to career to dating and friends and the like. And while doing so, he’s honest enough not to promise heaven and earth:
This isn’t a promise that all the problems abnormally intelligent people suffer will go away. Matter of fact, many of these problems have no solution as they’re just inherent to the nature of statistics and your only option is to suck it up and endure it. But at minimum we can provide an explanation as to why you’re feeling down, why you drink, why you can’t find friends, why you can’t hold a job, etc. It may not result in happiness, sobriety, or an active social life, but it will at least provide an explanation and the precious sanity that comes with it.
And after describing the problems as he sees them (strongly influenced by his personality), he leaves the reader the choice what to do. It’s a “this is how I see it, the decision is yours” style.
So, overall, an interesting and short read. I agree with the person who wrote his foreword:
Prepare to be reaffirmed in many opinions you may already have, but felt you needed to keep quiet due to societal pressures/conditions, professional aspirations, or friends and loved ones. One thing all of us who are fans have in common is that we love that there’s someone who says what we’ve all been thinking.
Matt Baldoni in Clarey (2016)
Recommended for a different take on high IQ.