The IQ test has a very long distinguished history. For some people their IQ is a matter of pride, for others it’s a conversation starter while for many it’s a matter of identity.
If you have an IQ of over 120, you are in the region of bragging rights. Basically, what the traditional IQ test measures is your mathematical and linguistic ability (and how bad you are at getting a date on Friday night). Now I’m not here to debate about the legitimacy of the other intelligences or whether you should get a date. No, I’m here to tell you a story.
Legend has it that Matt Damon and Ben Affleck wrote Good Will Hunting and were awarded the Oscar for it. Now while the experts debate the authenticity of that claim let us turn our attention to Harvard University. Matt Damon took many people as inspiration for his character of Will. One such inspiration was George Bernard Dantzig.
A Harvard professor wrote down questions at the end of the class for his students to solve. The class was of PhD level mathematics and George was a student. The next day George came to the class with the solutions. He had solved all of the problems but that in itself is not amazing. What is amazing is what the teacher said to George. The teacher told him that some of those questions were unsolvable! This student had solved mathematical equations which had been labelled impossible to solve.
We live in a time of social narcissism, debauchery and downright egotism. Having the most followers, the most breathtaking selfies or the best filters isn’t enough. Every day we are constantly finding out new ways of stroking our egos. And in the public space called the internet, if you ever had the misfortune of landing on the web page called Quora, you would have come across several questions by colorful personalities whose mental states are the real question marks. Now I don’t want to be the one pointing fingers but many of these people ask questions like, ‘what does having an IQ of 150 equal to’?
I think IQ scores are a waste of time. Not only do they ignore the five other intelligences, but seldom has someone benefited by having that label of genius. Now if you are a genius, good for you. The thing that I am trying to get at is that it was a genius who said that these equations are not solvable, and it took an idiot to solve them. It was without knowing that bit of information that he took upon himself to solve those equations.
Now I have already talked about the limitations of the human mind and near-perfect efficiency of the machine mind. If you tell somebody that something is not possible, the response is usually ‘why bother’. As Daniel Kahneman said in his wonderful book Thinking, Fast and Slow, as human beings we’re basically lazy. There is only so much we can do with our energy. When you take one of the greatest instruments ever made, the human brain, then there is a limited amount of things it can do. The greatest instrument isn’t without its flaws.
We as a species are always weighing our options. So when you tell somebody that something is impossible, that person won’t bother wasting their time. If you are a genius, you don’t need an IQ test to prove it.
Guess when it comes down to solving high level math equations ignorance equals greatness. How do you like them apples?
As a end note I should let you know that I glamorised most of that anecdote. But that’s the thing with anecdotes they get glamorised and win Oscars. If you want the reality is stranger than the blog post version, then click here. Also I lied about the title if you were still wondering.