Are you a genius? March 25, 2014Posted by ourfriendben in wit and wisdom.
Tags: Albert Einstein, average IQ, Between the Folds, Einstein, Erik Demaine, Garry Kasparov, genius IQ, highest IQs, IQ, Leonardo da Vinci, Marilyn Vos Savant, online IQ tests, Stephen Hawking
Our friend Ben’s mother always made it a point to say that however high your IQ was, if it wasn’t genius level, it wasn’t high enough. This wasn’t very encouraging to a child who didn’t, and still doesn’t, understand how to calculate if a cyclist is going along a train track at X mph and the train is chugging along towards the cyclist at X mph, when or where will they intersect? (And please ask me if I care.) But I suppose it did give me a lifelong interest in IQ tests.
The average IQ is estimated to be between 85 and 115, typically rounded off at 100. Genius IQ is usually said to begin between 140 and 145. Einstein never took an IQ test, but his IQ is estimated between 160 and 180. The highest estimated IQ was between 250 and 300, held by William James Sidis, born in 1898, an American who graduated from grade school after 7 months and tried to enroll at Harvard at age 9. (They made him wait until he was 11.) But again, this is an estimated IQ; IQ tests didn’t come into being until long after Sidis’s death. The highest confirmed IQ, 225, is held by 31-year-old Japanese-American astrophysicist Christopher Hirata. Other well-known greats include chess master Garry Kasparov (190), Leonardo da Vinci (estimated 180-190), Marilyn Vos Savant (190), and Stephen Hawking (160).
Could you be a genius? The most astounding thing our friend Ben has discovered in my readings on the topic is that it’s estimated that 25% of the population fall over the 140 IQ line. Twenty-five percent!!! That makes your chances pretty good, in my opinion.
I’ve enjoyed taking online IQ tests and comparing the results to my real-life IQ test, and have found the results (at least from the company I took them from) comparable. I initially took them to see if my IQ had declined over time since being out of school, or if it had improved from all the things I’d learned since then (algebra, alas, not being one of them). Just pitting your brain against a variety of questions in a set time strikes me as a good way to make sure the machinery is still well-oiled and operating. In short, it’s fun.
One of my favorite films is a documentary about, of all things, origami, called “Between the Folds.” It shows among other things how mathematical geniuses now use origami—paper folding, as in the famous Japanese paper cranes—to work out incredibly complex theories. One of its subjects, Erik Demaine, a child prodigy and now a professor of computer science at MIT (having been made their youngest professor ever at age 20 and received a MacArthur Fellowship, aka “genius award,” at 23), was asked why he did origami. He replied simply, “Because it’s fun.”
I encourage you to try one of these tests for yourself every now and then and see how you fare, assuming you find them fun. And never fear if you fall into the 75% who don’t rate genius level. Some of the most clueless people our friend Ben has ever known have been the most brilliant, but would get a commonsense IQ score of close to zero. Given any two choices that would either benefit or harm them or their loved ones, they inevitably, and repeatedly, make the wrong choice. Nor do they ever seem to learn from their destructive and damaging experiences, they just keep doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different outcome, the classic definition of insanity.
Which is not to say that they’re insane, or to cast doubt on their theoretical intelligence. But in terms of common sense, they’re just plain stupid. It’s when common sense and genius are combined that true magic happens, a happy life and the potential to benefit all the world. For ultimately, if you have no understanding of what a happy, fully human life is, how can you hope to benefit the world? And to be happy, you need to be able to enjoy and interact with the people around you and make the choices that benefit you and them, not float away and hope that somebody’s holding the end of the balloon string and taking care of all your earthly needs.
Like Erik Demaine, whatever your IQ is, try to do what’s fun for you.