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What Makes a Genius? 190

Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "Eric Barker writes at TheWeek that while high intelligence has its place, a large-scale study of more than three hundred creative high achievers including Leonardo da Vinci, Galileo, Beethoven, and Rembrandt has found that curiosity, passion, hard work, and persistence bordering on obsession are the hallmarks of genius. 'Successful creative people tend to have two things in abundance, curiosity and drive. They are absolutely fascinated by their subject, and while others may be more brilliant, their sheer desire for accomplishment is the decisive factor,' writes Tom Butler-Bowdon. It's not about formal education. 'The most eminent creators were those who had received a moderate amount of education, equal to about the middle of college. Less education than that — or more — corresponded to reduced eminence for creativity,' says Geoffrey Colvin. Those interested in the 10,000-hour theory of deliberate practice won't be surprised that the vast majority of them are workaholics. 'Sooner or later,' writes V. S. Pritchett, 'the great men turn out to be all alike. They never stop working. They never lose a minute. It is very depressing.' Howard Gardner, who studied geniuses like Picasso, Freud, and Stravinsky, found a similar pattern of analyzing, testing, and feedback used by all of them: 'Creative individuals spend a considerable amount of time reflecting on what they are trying to accomplish, whether or not they are achieving success (and, if not, what they might do differently).' Finally, genius means sacrifice. 'My study reveals that, in one way or another, each of the creators became embedded in some kind of a bargain, deal, or Faustian arrangement, executed as a means of ensuring the preservation of his or her unusual gifts. In general, the creators were so caught up in the pursuit of their work mission that they sacrificed all, especially the possibility of a rounded personal existence,' says Gardner."
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What Makes a Genius?

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  • by Rinikusu ( 28164 ) on Saturday January 18, 2014 @02:54PM (#45999749)

    Invariably, we also see throughout history that these laser focused artists and creators are preyed upon by the vultures. The swarming businessmen, promotors, managers, who give their charges "the best they can" (i.e. a fraction of their actual value) whilst proclaiming to the world that they themselves are the true producers and behind closed doors they opine how if only they could get that last fraction of a few pennies from "those leeches, those damned artists."

  • Selection bias? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Daniel Dvorkin ( 106857 ) on Saturday January 18, 2014 @03:22PM (#45999933) Homepage Journal

    I can't help but wonder how many people with plenty of "curiosity, passion, hard work, and persistence bordering on obsession" we've never heard of. In other words, we don't actually know--and likely can't know--how likely people with these traits are to be remembered by the world as geniuses, and how many will be regarded by their families and friends as obsessive workaholics with lousy personal lives and utterly forgotten outside those circles.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 18, 2014 @03:23PM (#45999939)
    He's really talented, though. Hugh's summaries are never just a single link wrapped in a quick copy-paste summary, but a quite broad picture of a topic. On the other hand, I'm a curious why he puts so much effort to Slashdot submissions. Dice should be paying him already.
  • by jhd ( 7165 ) <> on Saturday January 18, 2014 @03:30PM (#45999987)

    Whom is to determine the genius status of any particular individual. Genius is based on a system of values as perceived by ones peers. If i were to believe math or rocket science were an important trait, I would judge someone with impeccable skills in this area as genius. But someone that would value the arts or athletic skills at a greater lever may not see this person in the same light. Many times there has been someone given the genius label and I find it difficult to see the noted person in this classification because of my value system. so it goes that I cannot believe there is one common scale that genius can be measured.

    -- john

  • Re:Total letdown (Score:5, Insightful)

    by TomGreenhaw ( 929233 ) on Saturday January 18, 2014 @03:49PM (#46000109)
    Marie Curie not a great? Two Nobel prizes in different fields - even Einstein cannot claim that. Only one other has achieved that (Linus Pauling).
  • by acscott ( 1885598 ) on Saturday January 18, 2014 @03:58PM (#46000175)

    "When Terman first used the IQ test to select a sample of child geniuses, he unknowingly excluded a special child whose IQ did not make the grade. Yet a few decades later that talent received the Nobel Prize in physics: William Shockley, the cocreator of the transistor. Ironically, not one of the more than 1,500 children who qualified according to his IQ criterion received so high an honor as adults." Simonton, Dean Keith (1999). Origins of genius: Darwinian perspectives on creativity. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-512879-6. Lay summary (14 August 2010).

    Exceptional output requires access to tools, training, and environment (food, health, relationships) that enable the person to devote (obssess?) over solving the problems or creating something. And, the person's exceptional output must be recognized as such. So being highly intelligent won't make it. It may even be a hindrance. For instance, it would be easy to imagine the first ever person to be able to repeatedly create fire would not score well on any measure of intelligence today, but to the tribe, that person may not only be considered a genius but a god.

  • by Trepidity ( 597 ) <> on Saturday January 18, 2014 @04:26PM (#46000369)

    Atlas Shrugged is interesting because it imagines the opposite scenario: all the businessmen, vice presidents, shareholders, owners of capital, management, etc., decide to check out and head off to form their own town, without bringing any workers with them. The town nonetheless prospers, despite a lack of even basic staff like garbage pickup, because a bunch of great technology that does all the work was invented at just the right moment. So in Galt's Gulch, wondrous machines do everything and the management class lives prosperously and happily ever after, since they no longer are stuck paying workers (the wondrous inventions don't demand a paycheck).

  • by wonkey_monkey ( 2592601 ) on Saturday January 18, 2014 @05:24PM (#46000705) Homepage

    Man has always assumed that he is more intelligent than, for example, dolphins because he has achieved so much—the wheel, New York, wars and so on—whilst all the dolphins have ever done is muck about in the water having a good time. But conversely, the dolphins have always believed that they are far more intelligent than man—for precisely the same reasons.

    -Douglas Adams (slightly paraphrased)

  • Output (Score:4, Insightful)

    by multimediavt ( 965608 ) on Saturday January 18, 2014 @07:08PM (#46001241)

    What makes a genius?


    You can be the smartest person, ever. If you don't do anything with it you will never know genius. Genius is just a recognized smart person, that is a person recognized for being really smart.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 18, 2014 @10:39PM (#46002519)
    I would also argue that people who are recognised early as "genius material" are more likely to piss away their potential because they have been told for so long how amazing they are. This sort of thing is very common in high schools and universities as well. I've seen plenty of people who performed very well early in their education, solely based on their natural ability, only to go on to massively underachieve in late high school or university because they grew up without really having a connection between academic praise and hard work. These are the sort of people who end up pissing away the rest of their lives unemployed or in average jobs browsing 4chan all day, despite being quite intelligent. Basically, I think the worst thing you can do to a kid with a naturally high IQ is to tell them that they are going to grow up to be a genius. All you will achieve is setting them up for a life of mediocrity on the back of laziness.

"Well, social relevance is a schtick, like mysteries, social relevance, science fiction..." -- Art Spiegelman