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Topic: Some casual thoughts about 'cleverness, intelligence & genius'
Replies: 5   Last Post: Aug 6, 2013 2:54 PM

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GS Chandy

Posts: 8,307
From: Hyderabad, Mumbai/Bangalore, India
Registered: 9/29/05
Some casual thoughts about 'cleverness, intelligence & genius'
Posted: Aug 4, 2013 7:11 AM
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These thoughts were stimulated by a recent series of exchanges of mine with Professor Wayne Bishop, several of the posts appearing at "Learning for Understanding"; and with an assertion about cleverness by Frank Zubek in his Hilbert's third problem (

In the following, I take as a starting point the definitions of 'cleverness', 'intelligence' and 'genius' as provided in any reliable standard dictionary.

It is not good to be stupid. Real stupidity is very rare indeed. In general, I would tend to believe that "stupidity is mainly 'as one DOES' - and not 'as one IS'".

Doubtless, it is good to be 'clever' and it must be very good to be very clever.

There are a great many clever people amongst us.

Most successful businessmen and politicians are very clever: some may be very, VERY clever or even more. (In fact, I'd tend to believe that one cannot achieve success in either business or politics without possessing a great deal of 'cleverness').

Also, it does take a fair bit of 'cleverness' (IMHO) to become truly 'knowledgeable' about anything, build up real expertise in ANY subject or discipline. There is 'real expertise' (which is quite rare) and there is 'phony expertise' (which is quite common).

"Cleverness pursues its own little aims. Intelligence sees the larger whole in which all things are connected. Cleverness is motivated by self-interest, and it is extremely short-sighted. Most politicians and businesspeople are clever. Very few are intelligent. Whatever is attained through cleverness is short-lived and always turns out to be eventually self-defeating. Cleverness divides; intelligence includes."
- --Eckhart Tolle, 'A New Earth'

It may be better to be 'intelligent' than 'clever'.

In my view, 'IQ' ('Intelligence Quotient') despite the fine name and cachet it enjoys cannot really measure intelligence - it may not even measure 'cleverness'!

It *may* be possible to measure stupidity using IQ (though I have grave doubts about whether a single number, such as 'IQ', can ever represent anything realistic about any creature as complex as a human being, even a stupid one).

There are somewhat fewer 'truly intelligent people' than there are 'clever people'. However, I do believe that there is a fair bit of intelligence floating around in our world, though how well that intelligence is being used is open to question.

I claim that, by and large - using conventional means, we do not use effectively whatever intelligence or even cleverness that we may possess. The underlying purpose of the 'One Page Management System' (OPMS) is precisely to enable individuals and groups to put to effective use - to specific defined purposes - whatever 'intelligence' or 'cleverness' or whatever we may possess.

Remarkably enough, most nations as conglomerates tend to behave as though the individuals in them were mostly very stupid indeed. I claim this is a 'system problem'.

Here is something stated by someone who was obviously very intelligent:

"Once tried to conquer Earth, and succeeded! Too bad it got really, really boring, really, really fast."
(I don't know where that came from - but it is interesting indeed. At least, I find it interesting).

There are very, very, very, very few geniuses. IMHO, we tend to use the word "genius" far too casually in these 'marketing-driven' times.

Newton, about whom we have recently had several posts at Math-teach, was surely a transcendental genius of science.

Bach, Mozart and Beethoven were undoubtedly extraordinary geniuses. The expression of their genius was by way of music.

Henri Poincare was widely regarded as a mathematical genius (which he undoubtedly was). So was Srinivasa Ramanujam. Both Ramanujam and Poincare are dead.

Grigoriy Perelman, who recently solved the 'Poincare Conjecture' is a great mathematical genius who is still alive. (I have recently posted something about Perelman, which may appear if it meets with our Moderator's approval)

The New Yorker a few years ago had carried an excellent, long article about Perelman when he solved the 'Poincare Conjecture', and then refused the Clay Millennium Award of $ 1 million when it was given to him. (I believe this was the link, but am not sure it works now -

Here is an excellent quotation about a transcendental genius, Richard Feynman (who found his calling in theoretical physics):
There are two kinds of geniuses: the "ordinary" and the "magicians." An ordinary genius is a fellow whom you and I would be just as good as, if we were only many times better. There is no mystery as to how his mind works. Once we understand what they've done, we feel certain that we, too, could have done it. It is different with the magicians. Even after we understand what they have done it is completely dark. Richard Feynman is a magician of the highest calibre.
Mark Kac
(in Phyics Today)
(Marc Kac was an OUTSTANDING and VERY CREATIVE mathematician, many claim he was a real genius, so his opinion about Feynman must mean something).

Feynman himself had a very useful insight (though it is not directly connected to 'intelligence' or 'genius'):
"The first principle is that you must not fool yourself, and you are the easiest person to fool". --Feynman,

Here are a couple of interesting links about 'cleverness', intelligence, and genius (I don't necessarily agree with all views expressed at these websites):

- -- "Intelligence, creativity and genius":

- -- "Genius", Wikipedia -

Plenty more available, but I have to go do something else now.


Message was edited by: GS Chandy

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