Monday, May 9, 2016

How we show our smarts

The other day, I was struck by her intelligence.  I am well known as a sapiosexual, a person who is attracted to women who are intelligent.  I realize that intelligence can be daunting, upsetting, routine-breaking.  As a person who generally likes, even enjoys routines, you can imagine the inner torture of being both attracted to smarts and upset by manifestations of smarts.  But I have tottered along with these contradictory pulls over several decades and I think I can continue.

The question of intelligence is an interesting one.  We know that much of life depends on various abilities, like memory, imagination, speed of thinking ability and willingness to re-examine thoughts and maybe change our minds. In ordinary hours, we often think "smart" when someone remembers a fact, such as the state capitol of South Dakota.  When we run into the question "Are you as smart as a 5th grader?", we expect to find challenges to our general store of information, such as the question "How far is it from New York to Paris?" That question is part of the Wechsler intelligence test, based on Wechsler's idea that intelligent children (and adults) have picked up certain facts through either education or life experience.

When Lynn jokingly wanted to emphasize that she is indeed "smart", she said out of the blue," E=mc2".  I was impressed of course.  Who wouldn't be?  I was more impressed and not at all pleased when I was working on my dissertation and could not understand why certain computer calculations were not being carried out properly.  I spread the output on the living room floor to go over it carefully.  Lynn came over, having never seen it before, with no knowledge of Fortran or what I was trying to do.  She looked at it for a couple of minutes and said she thought the problem was probably so and so.  How could a slip of a girl immediately show a PhD candidate how to improve his advanced, specialized computing?  Don't know but she did.

That is often the basic bolt of smarts: out of the blue, someone unexpected says or does something that is pure genius.  We don't know where the idea comes from.  Sometimes, we can't understand how it could have been born.  Famously, we may not understand the insight.  Often, we object that the genius idea is wrong, blasphemous, impossible, unwieldy or has some other fatal flaw, only to find it is our own heads that need re-arranging, that our convictions or habits or concepts need changing, accommodating a new idea.

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