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smart people

This quote is from an earlier post about Ayn Rand's philosophy.

"Ayn articulated the idea that the majority of people do not contribute towards the successfull operation of society.

That a few people who do know what they're doing struggle and fight to maintain and imrpove the world despite the muddled efforts of the ignorant majority."

I have noticed this phenomenon becoming more prevailent lately. Or else I'm just noticing it more, since I work in arrogant IT-land.

This is what happens -- people know themselves from the inside, and know others only from the outside. I, or at least my conscious self, knows I am always more or less doing my best given limited time and information. This is what Herbert Simon called "satisificing," and it's really the best any human being can hope for. When I make mistakes or bad decisions, I can usually rationalize and forgive myself -- I was over-tired, stressed, the directions were confusing, no one is perfect, I meant well, etc. When, on the other hand, other people make mistakes I only see the bad result, not their good intentions and their legitimate excuses. It often seems like other people are idiots. Especially when driving in traffic.

Now, an ordinary person who did not get all A's in school might have a little more self-doubt and might be a less judgemental. But the "smart" person who got A's and advanced degrees, etc., is much less likely to doubt him/herself and give others a break. Now the smart person is satisficing just liike everyone else. The smart person can't see even a minute into the future, doesn't know what's going on out of range of his senses and technological devices. The smart person only has room for a limited number of pieces of information in his working memory at any time. The smart person as ruler would screw things up as badly as someone who got B's and C's.

In conclusion -- Even though I do consider myself a smart person (in some ways), I can see that the idea of smart people as wise rulers is nothing but a myth promoted by arrogance.

The Real PC
Friday, June 04, 2004

"Now, an ordinary person who did not get all A's in school might have a little more self-doubt and might be a less judgemental. But the "smart" person who got A's and advanced degrees, etc., is much less likely to doubt him/herself and give others a break."


I disagree completely.

Higher grades are a sign of students being MORE critical and expecting more out of themselves.

As an instructor (sw engineering) I noticed the following in my students (and myself as a student):

Most of my top students were very self critical. They were always working harder and more concerned about mistakes. The lower peforming students would make a mistake and brush it off, rationalizing as you mentioned.

I, personally, am much more critical of myself than of others.  It's because I honestly look at my mistakes and see how I could have avoided them.

Mr. Analogy
Friday, June 04, 2004

The more I read about the Ayn woman the more I dislike she has to say.

I'm warey of anybody who considers themselves as 'smart'.

So what do geniunely 'smart' people sound like?

"I do not know what I seem to the world, but to myself I appear to have been like a boy playing upon the seashore and diverting myself and then finding a smoother pebble or prettier shell than ordinary, while the great ocean of truth lay before me all undiscovered. " 

"If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants."

      -- Sir Issac Newton


"Before God we are all equally wise - and equally foolish."

"The secret to creativity is knowing how to hide your sources."

      -- Albert Einstein


"You're all so quick to think that you're "better." Why notice the splinter in your brother's eye, without taking notice of the beam in your own? "

      -- Jesus Christ

Ged Byrne
Friday, June 04, 2004

"The problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so sure of themselves while wiser people are so full of doubt."
- Bertrand Russel

hightequity
Friday, June 04, 2004

You must remember most thinkers feel what they do (sitting down for a good hard think) contributes to society more than someone who unblocks the toilet afterwards.

a cynic writes...
Friday, June 04, 2004

"The smart person as ruler would screw things up as badly as someone who got B's and C's."

If by smart you mean rational, then I disagree.

Looking at the medieval kings of England, the rational ones ruled well, the irrational screwed up royally. E.g. Edward III new how to juggle people and keep them on side - conquered most of France. Richard II, impetuous and with a tendency to promote people he liked, pissed it all away.

However, rational <> learned. Richard II was very literate, while his very successful grandad would probably have been a modern B or C student (though a star at Medieval Total War and Civ).

Martin Page
Friday, June 04, 2004

"I, personally, am much more critical of myself than of others.  It's because I honestly look at my mistakes and see how I could have avoided them. "

I think the problem is not those who do well at educations, but rather those who do not make mistakes.  More specifically, those who are not made aware of there mistakes.

It is possible within formal education, especially at the lower levels, to train people to get high grades.  The move towards standardised curriculums has made it even worse.

So somebody goes to 'good' schools and they're trained to get As all the time without learning to be critical.  They mistake their success with their own superiority.  Society enforces there misconception by giving them higher salaries and positions of authority.

They live in a small, sheltered world protected from their own mistakes, and without knowing our mistakes how are we ever going to really learn?

Ged Byrne
Friday, June 04, 2004

Those people should be aware of 'their' mistakes, Ged...

<g, d, r...>

I make me laugh
Friday, June 04, 2004

Why is "I am good" always understood as "I am better than you"?

.
Friday, June 04, 2004

Way off topic but Edward III also has the distinction of possibly the most effective tennage rebellion ever.  Aged 14, he locked his mother in a covent for life and had her boyfriend executed.  Something to do with them having had his father killed  - with a red hot poker - for being gay (and a crap king). 

Also if "Braveheart" is to be believed he was the world's first 7 year pregnancy.

a cynic writes...
Friday, June 04, 2004

There have been studies showing that less intelligent people have a harder time realizing their own shortcomings, while those who are more intelligent more often realize that they don't know everything.

I'm not sure that's correct, though, because I'm super intelligent AND I don't have any shortcomings! :)

sid6581
Friday, June 04, 2004

It's not what you know, it's what you *think* you know.

Steve Martin
Friday, June 04, 2004

"Intelligent" is such a loaded word.  People get to be better at their work by being critical of their work and trying to improve it.  In the "business world" is seems like there's some ambivalence about that attribute, but in the academic world it's the fundamental imperative.  The business world ambivalence is what you guys have seen with e.g. Joel's "never rewrite" and "don't be a Shlemiel" articles.  Unfortunately we often don't know that we're a Shlemiel until we take the big goop that is our first or second (or fifth!) attempt and condense it into its smallest parts.


Friday, June 04, 2004

'Why is "I am good" always understood as "I am better than you"? '

Because an overwhelming majority of people are a) insecure and b) attracted to drama.

Norrick
Friday, June 04, 2004

I am not talking about: "I am good"

I am talking about:  "That a few people who do know what they're doing struggle and fight to maintain and improve the world despite the muddled efforts of the ignorant majority."

Ged Byrne
Friday, June 04, 2004

Just read a sociology article on the results the typical school environment (european country) has on very gifted children:

Motivation:

- are often bored because of low demand tasks and frequent repeats
- low motivation for school tasks, just do the bare minimum
- when not challenged, concentration, motivation and creativity decline
- without recognition of their own effort and creativity reinforces “bare minimum” attitude

Self governance:

- low frustration tolerance, low persistence a little patience
- reduced attention span
- degraded planning ability
- under training of long-term memory
- bad prioritization and focus
- difficulty with written materials
- low testscores
- perfectionism
- irrealistic goal setting (both aiming too high as well as too low)

Social competences and attitudes:

- isolation from rest of class (they don’t understand me)
- dislike of group activities
- few or no friends
- clamping on to rigid rules, irrespective of the appropriateness in context
- extreme sense of “justice” leads to conflict with authority and rebellion
- dominating attitude in play
- high need for acceptance by others
- defensive attitude, shielding true identity from “intruders

emotional state:

- low self esteem
- negative self image, low confidence
- loneliness and social anxieties, always the outsider
- cynicism
- emotional instability, abnormal fears
- feeling unaccepted and always misunderstood
- permanently dissatisfied with one self
- depression

This was for the kindergarten environment. It gets worse later.

Just me (Sir to you)
Friday, June 04, 2004

Sir,

Do you know what measure was used to determine children that were gifted, since they scored poorly in traditional tests?

Ged Byrne
Friday, June 04, 2004

Actually, I'd love to read the whole article.  Where did you read it?

Ged Byrne
Friday, June 04, 2004

No. I vaguely know the way the tests go here: it is a process that involves many different aspects, an is done by a team of a child psychologist and a logopedist (speach specialist) (on demand, so you may have a bias here). It takes around 7-8 hours, spread out over around as many days. It involves things that are like traditional IQ tests, but include a lot of psychological interview style things, observational stuff, langage ability tests, reasoning problems, emphatie tests etc.

Just me (Sir to you)
Friday, June 04, 2004

Yes some people are gifted compared to others in some abilities. That does not mean a group of gifted individuals could manage the world better than it is being managed now.
A gifted student might catch on more quickly in math, or might be able to read faster and remember and understand more of what they read. But these advantages will not enable them to overcome the limitations of being human. And scholarly abilities are probably not at all related to leadership or creativity.
And speaking of creativity -- yes I think some individuals are naturally more creative than others, more able to see from an atypical perspective. But a creative person is likely to be less stable and less grounded than a more conventional person.
So great leaders should not be too scholarly or too creative. You need a balanced sort of person, not necessarily a genius. Geniuses have the same old limitations and weaknesses as everyone else, with the added emotional instability. So they might be worse, not better, at governing.
(I am not trying to insult creative people, and have always suffered from creativity myself).

My point is that no we don't want mentally retarded leaders, but turning the world over to some intellectually gifted snobs would not solve anything and might even make it worse.

The Real PC
Friday, June 04, 2004

>I can see that the idea of smart people as
> wise rulers is nothing but a myth promoted by arrogance.

The idea of "wise rulers" is the myth. Wisdom is rare
and hard earned.

son of parnas
Friday, June 04, 2004

Ged,

sorry, but it is not in English, and in a local mag (not web). The author is one of the authors of this book http://www.amazon.fr/exec/obidos/ASIN/209177846X/402-0819660-4913731 in this magazine http://www.marant-ed.nl/currentcontents/tijdschriften/kleutersik.html

Just me (Sir to you)
Friday, June 04, 2004

Real PC- my knowledge of Rand is limited but it looks to me as if you are drawing wrong inferences.  She seems to be talking about how advancements, technological, scientific or otherwise, are done by a small minority of the population. That small minority often finds itself working against the ignorant masses even though they ignorant masses will tend to benefit from the advances the more gifted people produce.

It has nothing to do with gifted people ruling.  It has less to do with whether or not gifted people are self critical.  A very intelligent person may spend his entire life creating nothing of value to society.  This in no way detracts from the contributions made by those who do.

name withheld out of cowardice
Friday, June 04, 2004

"Ayn articulated the idea that the majority of people do not contribute towards the successfull operation of society."

This does not seem to refer to discoveries or inventions. The operation of society must refer to government.

The Real PC
Friday, June 04, 2004

The operation of society must refer to government?  Sure, if you're a left wing wacko.  For the rest of us, given a civilized culture, the overwhelming majority of the functioning of society goes on without the need for government intervention.

Once again I am no Rand expert but given how much libertarians seem to worship her I must conclude that either she wasn't for big government led by smart people, or libertarians can't read.  I'd check it out myself but I tried reading "The Fountainhead" a few years ago and it was too boring for me to penetrate.  I saw the movie though.  I thought it sucked and didn't really help me with respect to this thread.

name withheld out of cowardice
Friday, June 04, 2004

Mr Analogy, the reason you think your top students are more critical is that they're better at sucking up to their instructors. They know how to enlist your support and praise, and they gain more attention from you, and better marks as a result.

> Most of my top students were very self critical. They were always working harder and more concerned about mistakes. The lower peforming students would make a mistake and brush it off, rationalizing as you mentioned.


Friday, June 04, 2004

One confusion in some of the discussion above is the conflating of "high marks" with being a good ruler.

Top students are the last people I would want as rulers, and politics seems to agree. Top students typically have had a life of privilege and for the rest of their life will blame the poor and the underprivileged for their own fate.

Imagine being run by the cretins that ran Enron.


Friday, June 04, 2004

One of these days, I'm gonna write a blockbuster novel entitled "Sparticus Shrugged", which has a premise a world in which all the so-called "unwashed masses" decide to take a holiday and all the intellectual elite have to figure out how to grow their own damn food, having never worked an honest day's labor in their life.

Alyosha`
Friday, June 04, 2004

"all the intellectual elite have to figure out how to grow their own damn food,"

at which point they'd design and build machiines to do it for them, mass produce the food, and laugh all the way to the bank while the unwashed masses complain about how technology stole their jobs.

Frickin' uneducated Luddites...

anon
Friday, June 04, 2004

dangit, I meant machines, not machiines.

Wow, laughing at oneself is good medicine.

anon
Friday, June 04, 2004

Alyosha`  I think you are missing the point.  The Rand point of view was a reaction to the point of view you espouse- all that matters is the work average people do and all this intellectual creative stuff is somewhat suspect and if it works out it must be taxed heavily because the geniuses really owe their existence to, for example, the farmers.

I think if one looks at it objectively, both types of people contribute to our society.

blank poster-
As for the Enron cretins (odd that you call them cretins, which are innately retarded, when your complaint is based on them being smart) the problem with them wasn't their intelligence, it was their arrogance and lack of value for ethics.  Thieves pure and simple, they were, and no reason to criticize intelligent people.

name withheld out of cowardice
Friday, June 04, 2004

"both types of people contribute to our society."

I actually agree with this, despite my comment on the Luddites.  The manual labor people, however, tend to add value to society in a linear fashion.  Mental labor tends to be a multiplier - while it may not directly add value, it can multiply the value that a manual laborer can add.

To say that the mental labor people don't do an honest day's work is ludicrous.  If mental labor was easier than manual labor, more people would do it.

anon
Friday, June 04, 2004

name withheld, no, my complaint was not based on Enron execs being smart, but on them being high achievers by their own criteria. This would be synomous with generally scoring high marks.

My point is that high marks do not necessarily equate to being smart, either in the general sense, or in the sense of making good rulers.

The problems you ascribe to Enron execs, of arrogance and dishonesty, are precisely the failings I would ascrive to a ruling class composed of people with high marks. By the way, I did not say Enron execs had high intelligence.

Also, before we get too distracted with periperhal issues, I am not condemning intelligence or intelligent people. I am condemning the claim that those with high marks would make good rulers.


Friday, June 04, 2004

I've read most of Ayn Rand's fiction and a great deal of her non-fiction. Most of the posts in this and the previous Rand thread are ascribing views to her which she would have found offensive or worse. She never wrote anything advocating society should be run by the "intelligent" (whatever that is supposed to mean) - in fact she railed vehemently against precisely such movements in history. See for example any of her essays in "Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal", "For the New Intellectual" or "Philosophy: Who Needs It?". She was absolutely not a fascist either and reserved her strongest damnation for statists of all types - fascists, communists, etc. It is no coincidence that Mussolini banned her movie "We The Living" after he realised it wasn't just critical of the Russians.

There have been plenty of threads on this forum complaining about arrogant, "know it all" programmer types who don't understand the topic they are talking about and yet are still willing to hold forth with their opinion because they perceive themselves as "smart" and hence even their speculations must be accurate.

I think if people are going to paraphrase the views of a writer, politician, philosopher, computer scientist, or any fellow human being, they ought to at least provide a verbatim quote with the surrounding context. Otherwise they are adding nothing but hot air to the conversation.

It is also irritating to see people posting ideas from other people's commentaries or interpretations of Rand (e.g. libertarians, other books, etc.), rather than going directly to the source. Could you understand medicine by reading biographies of famous doctors? As programmers, aren't we taught that the documentation is always suspect and to find out what's really happening, we need to look at the source? This should be obvious.

.
Friday, June 04, 2004

>>>Most of the posts in this and the previous Rand thread are ascribing views to her which she would have found offensive or worse.<<<

It has been some time since I have read any AR, but this is the impression I have had in reading this and the previous thread.  To take the statement that started this thread:

>>>Ayn articulated the idea that the majority of people do not contribute towards the successfull operation of society. <<<

In Atlas Shrugged, the conflict was between the productive people - inventers, business people, artists, etc., and the "looters", those who survive by somehow taking from the productive people by taxation, regulation, whatever.  The statement above about "majority of people do not..." doesn't seem so much wrong as irrelevant to the thesis of AS.

>>>"Sparticus Shrugged", which has a premise a world in which all the so-called "unwashed masses" decide to take a holiday and all the intellectual elite have to figure out how to grow their own damn food, having never worked an honest day's labor in their life. <<<

This might not be so greatly different from Atlas Shrugged. When the protagonists, the productive ones, of AS decide to go off to their isolated valley they have to grow their own food, pump their own oil and make their own shoes.  A few university professors, the intellectual elite, end up working as telephone lineman.  AR emphasizes the creativity of her characters, but they are not usually strangers to manual labor.  The valley residents include a railroad brakeman and a truck driver, so they are not all intellectually elite.

mackinac
Friday, June 04, 2004

Nice to finally see some people who know what they are talking about.  It's just amazing how many dumb people there are here, but I think just about everyone in our business is smart enough if they have the right leaders/mentors.

I don't think you need to be all that smart anyhow contrary to public opinion.  It's funny how often people won't simply admit they shouldn't do something.  And I see smart people doing this.  And then when you should take some time to think before you just jump in to swim ... I see otherwise smart people make really dumb decisions on what and how to do things.  This is really bad because now this will just grow into the biggest mess and yet there are people on the sidelines who see it for what it is but say nothing. I don't think the problem is as much about intelligence as it is about patience, honesty and courage.

slackerssuck
Saturday, June 05, 2004

Aloysha and no name,

I wish I could express myself so well.

Ged Byrne
Saturday, June 05, 2004

mackinac,

You make Rand sound much more attractive.  These are ideas that I could ascribe to.

However, I must remind you of one planet where they decided to do something about it.  They created a rumour that the world was going to end and created 3 arcs.

In the 'A' arc they put all the thinkers.  Those that did all of the thinking, like philosophers and poets.

In the 'C' arc they put all of the workers.  Farmers, craftsman and the like.

In the 'B' arc they put all the rest, people like the middle managers and the telephone sanitisers.

They said that all of the arcs would be sent off to a new planet, but in reality only the B arc was sent.

The occupants of the A and C arcs remained and lived for many years in peace and prosperity, until the entire population was wiped out by a disease contracted from dirty telephones.

Who needs Rand when you have Adams?

ps.  For those who don't know, the occupants of the B arc went on to colonise Earth.

Ged Byrne
Saturday, June 05, 2004

>I see otherwise smart people make really dumb decisions on what and how to do things.

Then how come they are smart? Define 'smart'.

.
Saturday, June 05, 2004

"A gift of a programme"

This is really what happened in Singapore. We have meritocracy (meritocrazy) system to promote top students as the leader in government and society.

A reading at http://www.straitstimes.com.sg/commentary/story/0,4386,254632,00.html?
(for these 3 days)

"ALL countries, including communist regimes, have their elites. The key point is how they select those elites. In Singapore's meritocratic system, the choice has been clear: Education is a primary means of selection. The Gifted Education Programme (GEP), which has nurtured the top 1 per cent of students since it was launched in 1984, is proof of the CORRECTNESS of the approach. "

Anon from Singapore
Saturday, June 05, 2004

>>>You make Rand sound much more attractive. <<<

My intent was to support "." 's posting that a lot of posters are making statements about Rand without having any real idea of what she was advocating.  This is a general problem with political ideas.  People decide what they like, then come up with arguments as to what is wrong with the other guy without ever bothering to understand what they're against.
Like "." said, if you want to understand what Rand was saying, you'll just have to go read her yourself.

My description of who the "looters" in Atlas Shrugged were was not very good.  I think if she were going to send any group off on an ark it would be the "they".

mackinac
Saturday, June 05, 2004

"That a few people who do know what they're doing struggle and fight to maintain and imrpove the world despite the muddled efforts of the ignorant majority."

You mean that:

a) the people who know what they're doing are actually trying to improve the world?

b) the ignorant majority is somehow a hindernace to this?

I see no evidence of this whatsoever in the world. Maybe Ayn Rand can talk about this because her circle of friends was part of the literati, and could write books that get critical praise, and are ignored by the public at large, thus the elitist and arrogant attitude "We're working to improve the world and you're not."

The very wording "who know what they are doing" smacks of a certain kind of arrogance that just bothers me. It implies that there's an inner circle, privy to some special knowledge or perhaps even more than just knowledge - a strength of character - who are superior to everyone else.

I guess it's also ambigious in that it can mean both self knowledge, and a more particular kind of knowledge. It's like a parent, teacher, or movie cliche` "Do you know what you've just done? By you're blundering you've set into motion an unstoppable series of events that will lead to the destruction of the world."

It seems to me that by-and-large the people who "know what they are doing" aren't working towards the "improvement of the world." By this I mean the captians of industry, leading figures in media and politicians. Certianly they, more than any of us ignorant proletariat understand the implications of their actions on a broad scope, in terms of it's effect on society, and the world at large. Yet I see no evidence that they're working to improve the world.

Yes there are those in, say, PETA and Greenpeace (who are classified as terrorists, by the US government), and certain writers of books who can - with full arrogant self awareness say "I am trying to improve the world, what are you doing?" Yet I can't say they actually are, not by any objective means of measuring the status of the world.

www.MarkTAW.com
Saturday, June 05, 2004

To all 'normal' people who are not 'smart' and 'arrogant', please do read her books first. Please. You would be surprised that she portrays 'men' and not 'supermen'.

.
Saturday, June 05, 2004

Putting smart people into politics has been done before,
but with unwanted results.

China was more advanced than Europe in middle ages,
but then they decided to stand still.

Guy called Joseph Needham:

The son of a successful merchant aspired, not to expand
the family business, but to prepare for imperial examinations
and to enter mandarinate. These values underplayed the
importance of bettering the material conditions of everyday
life; in fact, they came to produce a collective self-satisfaction
which might not unfairly be called smugness.

VPC
Saturday, June 05, 2004

MarkTAW, I agree with most of what you say, but this comment is exactly the reverse of the truth:

"Maybe Ayn Rand can talk about this because her circle of friends was part of the literati, and could write books that get critical praise, and are ignored by the public at large"

Ayn Rand was hated by the literati, and in her long career she collected more "critical" condemnation from those people than any other writer I can think to name. It was the "public at large" that made her famous by buying her books, principally through word of mouth. The Fountainhead was rejected by either eleven or twelve publishers (I think the latter). She was anathema to the Left because she was against the welfare state, and to the Right because she was against religion. Atlas Shrugged was famously hatcheted by the National Review (of all people).

It has only been in the last five to ten years that her writings have been *widely* considered genuine literature or philosophy. The self-titled "elites" of society (i.e. those utopians who consider themselves intelligent and would like to impose their lunacy on the rest of us) despise Rand and always have.

And speaking of those elites, if you look at history I'd say conservatively 90% of the deaths in war or famine have been caused by just such people: the people who must re-invent the Earth in every generation, because they feel they know how reality *should* work. People who look for power as a means to "change the world" are the single biggest cause of all the horror to befall man.

.
Saturday, June 05, 2004

"The worst kind of a second hander is the man after power" - Fountainhead.

.
Sunday, June 06, 2004

You know being smart isn't everything and with smart I mean having good grades and memory.

Whats more important is insight and thats insight at very many different levels.

1. Tatical/ Strategy insight: A great military commander
2. Pratical insight: Seeing if you combine this and that what already excist your life would be a lot easier. Example Watt who invented the steam engine from parts that mostly were already known/used.
3. Theoractical insight: Like Einstein, Newton. Sees the mathimatical. I'm sure that a lot of people have the same IQ's as Einstein but how many do stuff like him?
4. Human: Can see what a person may decide next.
5. Many more kinds of insight.

Its insight that seperates smart people from nobel prize winners.

Somorone
Monday, June 07, 2004

The Real PC:
"This does not seem to refer to discoveries or inventions. The operation of society must refer to government."

This statement neatly sums up the huge gulf between your mindset and Ayn Rand's. The point which, in Atlas Shrugged, she goes to absurd lengths to make is: Society will run itself so much better if government will stay out of its way. Everytime the government institutes a directive to improve the economy, they screw it up more.

You can agree with her or not, but to post "Ayn Rand says this, and here's why it's wrong" is basically just a strawman, since she doesn't come anywhere near the beliefs you attribute to her.


Ged:
"The more I read about the Ayn woman the more I dislike she has to say."

That's a problem. You should be reading her writing, not what other people write about her. As Real PC's misunderstanding shows, people tend to miss the point with her and whip themselves up. I wouldn't even trust myself to explain her viewpoint to you accurately, you should get it from her. At that point, you're welcome to disagree with her arguments, (there's plenty to disagree with, I feel she dangerously oversimplifies some important things) but there's also some important points made there, which you shouldn't take second hand.

Geoff
Monday, June 07, 2004

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