Funny, I think I remember reading this paper when I was playing with a-life around 2009.
How did this Yale giant respond when you explained your concerns? And after you published?
But I have heard that for people who did PhDs at an Ivy, they are often unwilling to look outside them, as if it were some kind of failure. I'm not sure if that applies to you, but I think it takes a similar form of humility to the kind described in this article to realize that you can do good science and make a good career for yourself without always publishing in top-tier journals and working at top 10 institutions.
It also sounds a bit like impostor syndrome.
If you want, I bet you can go back to Academia and excel. I know academia well and had a bad experience too, but you have more than enough ammo to succeed. And I have a bunch of the smartest Caltech friends, and my SF tribes mean that I'm never the smartest person in the room, and that's amazing. Still, there are things I can do, and ways I think, because of the reading and work I have done, which none of them can. You have your place, should you want it!
In my spare time I'm a contact juggler. If you don't know what that it is, it involves rolling balls around the body. David Bowie in Labyrinth is usually a good reference point.
And I'm good at it. I'm good at it because I've been doing it for nearly a decade and I've put in the hours. I don't think I learned particularly quickly, or even particularly well, but I stuck with it and worked hard to improve. I'm not shy about telling people that, but many still seem to assume it's some form of innate talent, no matter how much I reassure them otherwise.
It's as though people would rather accept their own status quos rather than believe that effort and commitment is enough to improve their lot. Yes, it might take years to reach a level of skill in a given discipline, but those years will pass anyway. Wouldn't it be nice to have something more to show for all that time than a depression on the sofa in front of the tv?
Professional musicians simply do the same thing, but far more intensively, rigorously, systematically. Hours and hours of practice day after week after month after year.
I once transcribed a post I read about this called The Mundanity of Excellence, by Daniel Chambliss: http://www.visakanv.com/blog/2014/01/the-mundanity-of-excell...
EDIT: Also, to be fair, I think what stops a lot of people is– when they start out, they really suck, and they simply can't envision the path from sucking to being good. Because it involves many qualitative transformations. The mythologizing we do of successful people doesn't help. We get told this story about how all the people at the top one day discovered that they loved something so much that they wanted to work on it really hard forever. If this narrative changed, I think more people would get good at more things.
A supportive environment makes a world of difference. I hsf people around early on to who offered constructive advice and encouragement and that made all the difference.
One of my dad's greatest pieces of advice he gave me came as we drove back from a wrestling match I lost, like every single one before that one. As I hung my head in tired shame, he said, "people show more character in defeat than in victory."
Rudyard Kipling, If.
I think I'd have had an (initial) advantage over someone who absolutely sucks at music and is learning to sing or play a percussion instrument.
I feel the same thing when I look at people who are much smarter than me when it comes to intelligence.
As you get older, the only way to sustain that sort of advantage is to work hard at things you're not good at, but that requires stepping outside your comfort zone. Which is unpleasant. And additionally so if you had "innate ability" when you were younger (which I think is usually more about exposure than people realize).
With music the contrast between the desired outcome and the actual results for a beginner is extremely, painfully, embarrassingly obvious. The whole point is that you want to make beautiful sounds, not horrible sounds. You want to be in tune, in rhythm, melodious, but instead you feel clumsy, weak, confused, tone deaf, and awkward.
So that can easily kill your whole motivation if you don't really internalize the idea of progressive learning.
John Holt's book "How Children Learn" has some thoughts about learning instruments.
> There is a special sense in which it may be fair to say that the child scientist is a less efficient thinker than the adult scientist. He is not as good at cutting out unnecessary and useless information, at simplifying the problem, at figuring out how to ask questions whose answers will give him the most information. Thus, a trained adult thinker, seeing a cello for the first time, would probably do in a few seconds what it takes a child much longer to do—bow each of the strings, to see what sounds they give, and then see what effect holding down a string with the left hand has on the sound made by that string
> That is, if—and it is a very big if—he could bring himself to touch the cello at all. Where the young child, at least until his thinking has been spoiled by adults, has a great advantage is in situations—and many, even most real life situations are like this—where there is so much seemingly senseless data that it is impossible to tell what questions to ask. He is much better at taking in this kind of data; he is better able to tolerate its confusion; and he is much better at picking out the patterns, hearing the faint signal amid all the noise. Above all, he is much less likely than adults to make hard and fast conclusions on the basis of too little data, or having made such conclusions, to refuse to consider any new data that does not support them. And these are the vital skills of thought which, in our hurry to get him thinking the way we do, we may very well stunt or destroy in the process of "educating him".
> But the greatest difference between children and adults is that most of the children to whom I offer a turn on the cello accept it, while most adults, particularly if they have never played any other instrument, refuse it.
One thing that really sparked my motivation for music even while I was sucking horribly was the realization that you can make pretty neat melodies in very simple ways, for example by just improvising on the 0 2 3 5 7 9 10 frets on the high E string and sometimes hitting the low E string for bass—this way you can sound kind of like an Indian raga without too much practice.
Once I noticed that the black piano keys are a pentatonic scale... Just sit with your eyes closed, spread your hands out and feel the black keys. They're raised and so easy to find. try not to play adjacent black keys. Do this with both hands. If you want higher or lower notes, move hands in that direction. Play with rhythms. Play a pattern on one hand and just let the other bounce around. find a few interesting chords to come back to - resolve to. But most of all, do this with your eyes closed. You'll be surprised what comes out after a bit.
I'm a bit of a hippie in that I'm biased towards innate creativity and improvisation as opposed to strict learning of traditional established forms of music.
I realize that's a false dichotomy but it's semi-useful.
I only took a small number of music lessons but they were definitely focused on learning the exact way to play finished songs by established artists. There's nothing wrong with that, it's quite satisfying to play things you recognize, and it's probably easier to teach in some ways.
But improvisation is such a magical, living thing. I haven't tried to teach someone in this way, but if I did, I would focus on exercises exactly like the one you describe.
I would show the student how beautiful music can be created spontaneously through the application of patterns and "restricted subsets" (scales, chords, etc).
I've met some people who work with musical therapy. I believe they focus on this type of thing a lot. I don't know why in years of music class in school I never came across anything like it: free improvisation based on restricted creativity.
The first kind is the one who is willing to try the same thing over and over and over. An example of this is learning to spin a basketball on your finger. If you're willing to try it a thousand times, eventually you will get very good at it.
The second kind is less patient and gets bored repeating things. So for them it's more about constantly learning something new.
I don't know that these are mutually exclusive, but perhaps people lean toward one form over the other.
I'm very much the second way. The pretentious word is "polymath" but for me it's just that my attention works that way. It does seem to have something to do with being somehow fundamentally restless.
I really don't want to be a graduate student because it seems terribly excruciating and I don't think I have the capacity, not because I'm stupid but because I'm restless. But I would love to hang out with graduate students, from different fields.
In a utopian world, I could get food and shelter by just being a guy who spends 12 hours a day reading about different things, re-explaining them, connecting them and introducing people to different ideas.
(Politically charged digression: I think a basic income would free up truly enormous potential for innovation, if the innate creativity and productivity of people were disconnected from the tedious demand for employment and funding. Talking critically about the economics of it before trying it seems ridiculous because the entire point, it seems to me, is that totally novel things would happen.)
spends 12 hours a day reading about different things, re-explaining them,
connecting them and introducing people to different ideas
The Utopia is already here — it's just not very evenly distributed.
The less pretentious word is "jack of all trades".
'generalist' without leadership skills = yes man
On a more serious note, it sounds like writing nonfiction is your dream job! (Or maybe teaching?)
I picked up stick juggling a couple of years ago and have gotten quite good at it. People always say I must have some talent, but I was just as bad as anyone else when I first started. I've noticed two common behaviors when people do it
1. They try it a few times, get embarrassed / bored / discouraged, and give up
2. They try it a few times, and every time they drop it it almost adds fuel to the fire. They see it as a challenge they have to overcome
An utter waste of time and not relevant to the real world. That is why I dropped out.
The writing can be repetitive but the core ideas and science IMO should be read and understood by everyone especially those who think that talent is solely innate.
For instance what accounts for the variation in play between a bunch of 7 foot tall basketball players is not what separates them from a gentleman of 5'5. Most research backs this up. The gap in achievement between an IQ of 115->130 is far large than 145->160.
The summary is that very intelligent people do not seem to have any unique genetic or environmental factors that explain that, they just happen to be at the edge of the bell curve. This is not true of very unintelligent people; there are lots of genetic and environmental factors that can decrease intelligence.
From the abstract: "We found that high intelligence is familial, heritable, and caused by the same genetic and environmental factors responsible for the normal distribution of intelligence."
The story highlights that 'smartness' is linked more to a learning mentality then actually knowing a lot of things.
Similarly to the study shared in the OP, if you tell yourself that you are good at something, you are less likely to try hard, thats when you'll fall behind. I read a book that shared a story like this recently, 'David and Goliath' by Malcolm Gladwell.
> And I put that in quotes because "smart" is really just a way of saying "has invested so much time and sweat that you make it look effortless."
When you look up at smart people that have succeeded in their career. It's certainly because they worked so hard to get there.
I've learned a lot about that reading another book of Gladwell, "The Outliers". Which is one of my favorite book. One of the story is about a genius who is still living in his mom's basement because he lacks the social traits of other successful intelligent people. I think I will check your "David and Goliath" book.
Also, from the reddit comment, what I got is that he reached out. He asked for help around. Most things are hard to learn by yourself, and if not a book, people around you are the most likely to help. It helps being humble, when asking for help.
"Yet it is not these gifts, nor the most determined ambition combined with irresistible will-power, that enables one to surmount the "invisible yet formidable boundaries" that encircle our universe. Only innocence can surmount them, which mere knowledge doesn't even take into account, in those moments when we find ourselves able to listen to things, totally and intensely absorbed in child play."
Apropos is something another Frenchman once said:
"Talent is long patience, and originality an effort of will and of intense observation." — Flaubert
The hard work is wandering around in the dark. Intelligence is the ability and willingness to wander around.
I have no CS degree but have elbowed my way (often with a distinct lack of grace, in retrospect) into the industry as a software developer. I now somehow work at a place that prides itself on intense meritocracy, famous for its grueling elitist interviews .... and the impostor syndrome is intense. But when I look around, most of the people around me do not seem so much 'more intelligent' as 'more adapted for the school-grades / work-politics system' which the interview process / promo process selects for.
To me intelligence and smartness are clearly cultural phenomenon. Yes some people are more adapted to certain types of intellectual activity, but whether those things are 'smart' or not is questionable to me.
As a parent I often get frustrated with myself when I instinctually reward my children with comments like "you're so smart". Unfortunately they struggle with focusing, behavioural compliance, etc. in similar ways to me, while their intellectual and artistic curiosity is intense -- I know they have a long uphill battle ahead of them.
You can simulate a lot of actually useful abilities by being smart. Being smart doesnt have a lot of value in and of itself, once you're over some certain threshold though.
Getting stuff done, not being a dick to people (or even possibly getting along with them), following up on commitments - that's abilities that are useful. Being smart can let you find easier ways of doing so, but it doesnt have any meaning in and of itself.
The truly smart people I know seem to know that and tend to be a bunch of slightly weird, but nice, people. The people who want to be admired for their cleverness (or admired in general) typically don't (and typically aren't as smart, in my experience).
The older I get, the more wise I get, the more I believe in the above statement. As in, not having the mental capacity or brain-power to muse over inequities both in personal and worldly topics is a less emotionally affective position to be in. I grew up in a protestant Christian faith, and while I don't actively participate, I do reflect often on some of the teachings (mostly the Beatitudes) and literature, and only in my 20s did I realize that "Eating the apple from the tree of life" is pretty much a metaphor for our evolutionary development into consciousness, of "knowing right and wrong" as a species.
Intelligence? It's a curse as much as it is a blessing. Folks can disagree with that assertion if they'd like. From my personal studies in literature and philosophy though, I think it's a pretty common understanding amongst a certain tier of thinkers. My apology if I come off sounding a little elitist, but intelligence is a bell curve, and, to quote the famous Demotivational poster, "Not everybody gets to be an astronaut when they grow up."
Link to photo I found via Google search: http://cdn.shopify.com/s/files/1/0535/6917/products/potentia...
From the tree of knowledge, I guess. The tree of life is evolutionary, not Christian :-)
"“Before I put a sketch on paper, the whole idea is worked out mentally. In my mind I change the construction, make improvements, and even operate the device. Without ever having drawn a sketch I can give the measurements of all parts to workmen, and when completed all these parts will fit, just as certainly as though I had made the actual drawings. It is immaterial to me whether I run my machine in my mind or test it in my shop."
i'm betting practice/hard work didn't give him that ability. could you imagine trying to compete with him in school? good luck.
On the other hand I also have heard from many that grad school is the first time many students have to see a therapist and deal with depression.
>for succeeding in graduate school
Generally one could imagine a massive neural network and consider how effectively it's being trained... and how it's then being put to use.
If you have 10% more neurons, that's cool, you might have more potential in the way that an elite bodybuilder probably has advantageous genetic factors for muscle growth or whatever.
But it should reasonably be far from the dominating factor.
But there's certainly also a difference in people without fear - like you said - how much they get a "kick" from learning new things.
Or there is, but you don't know it. Humans are really good at inventing explanations for their feelings and believing those explanations.
I think just acknowledging that it's fear is good first step.
And a lot of it is sensitive to social context. In a culture which prioritizes ads over immortality research, massive intellectual potential is unrealized because bullshit jobs are alienating. Would you work harder to serve banner ads (which you likely block), or cheat death and usher a new era of human civilization? (http://strikemag.org/bullshit-jobs/)
And then there's this "...success mobilizing resentment against school teachers, or auto workers (and not, significantly, against the school administrators or auto industry managers who actually cause the problems)..." because if those bad managers and administrators would just keep giving bigger raises the unions wouldn't have to shut down businesses and schools.
If you look Usain Bolt and think I could never undergo such a brutal training regime, you must know Usain Bolt couldn't either. It takes a lot of tiny little failures to build that kind of mental stamina.
Then there is also the impostor syndrome, many students are likely to feel not smart enough.
And then there is the cultural taboo around smartness. Taking pride in ones ability is socially accepted as long as that ability is not intellectual. So in a way idea like this turns into twisted logic: "I'm smart, my laziness in college shows it." And now you get to do that sweet guilt tripping for feeling too smart. There is difference between pride and arrogance. So this self deprecation seems bit needless.
What if we don't consider pride as a sin, but as natural phenomena in range of human emotion. Maybe pride is inevitable for ego? Now if that is true, what should a good student to be proud of? What if being openly proud of your intellect is healthy after all?
All of the graphs in that paper still showed a positive correlation between actual and self-perceived skill. Self-perception was just compressed into the range of around 50% to around 75%, instead of the full 0% to 100% of their measurement scale.
But that comment was not very well developed. I admit that.
As an example, if you are planning a heist and say "The alarm should be disabled for fifteen minutes." you do not mean that the platonic ideal alarm should as in ought step aside and let you steal the loot, you mean that your expectation is the alarm will be disabled. There is no moral judgment.
I like the analogy that things are "muscles". It concisely captures various phenomena that I've observed: the brain is a muscle, willpower is a muscle, trust (in another person) is a muscle ...
I've had this repeatedly told to me about how some person who was an perceived an idiot/slow mover has now suddenly become very talented, achieved much or gotten rich. Oh well, that's because all exponential curves look dead until they actually start to rise, and from there on they indeed look magical in their output.
Its a #1 Best-Seller on Amazon:
It seems timezones matter a lot. :)
This seems like such an empowering way to look at learning, and one I think many of us are prone to forget. Even masters don't just arrive at their talent, they too have to work at it, over and over, day after day.
As with all analogies it should not be taken too far.
> practice of a specific mental skill has little influence on other mental skills
Care to elaborate on this? I'm trying to imagine what you mean here.
Instead, maybe emphasize that the brain is similar to a muscle. Speaking metaphorically could be confusing to some.
I disagree. Take reading, for example. Does reading not make you a better writer?
- Lack of touch with reality (the candidate thinks that IQ is actually a measure of anything substantial in terms of competency and likelihood to experience / deliver success)
- Lack of motivation or desire to actually contribute (the candidate presumes that a high IQ is a contribution in and of itself, and therefore does not work as hard as others)
- Lack of intellectual humility (the candidate feels that their high IQ qualifies their ideas or work more than that of others. The candidate is not willing to admit when they're wrong or recognize when another individual's idea is better than theirs)
That's truly the best function that IQ has served for us: spot the people who talk about their IQ score and don't hire them.
I can't really imagine how someone's IQ would otherwise come up during a recruitment process.
>The results [of a 1950s study of 64 eminent scientists] strongly suggest that high IQ provides a significant advantage in science. Some have claimed that IQ is irrelevant beyond some threshold: more precisely, that the advantage conferred by IQ above some threshold (e.g., 120) decreases significantly as other factors like drive or creativity take precedence. But, if that were the case it would be unlikely to have found such high scores in this group. The average IQ of a science PhD is roughly 130, and individuals with IQs in the higher range described above constitute a tiny fraction of all scientists. If IQ were irrelevant above 130 we would expect the most eminent group to have an average similar to the overall population of scientists.
I once did an IQ test. The result was 138. The test was online, selling something, back in the late 1990s. I've refused to do one again - what's the point? - that test made me feel sufficiently happy.
There are more tangible 'qualifications / achievements' I'd prefer to focus on personally than what combination of squares and circles follows in the sequence (this did remind me of 1st year Analysis - is the series converging or is it not; dum-de-dum, drum roll). And if I was presented with an IQ test on a CV (never have been) it would be instantly dismissed (the 'qualification / achievement', not the candidate).
Some studies showed that beyond 130 the benefits of a high IQ plateaued and that's assuming you put much faith in IQ scores which I don't since I know roughly where I fall on the spectrum and I know my score and my score says I'm considerably smarter than I actually am :).
Most studies, however, show that these differences still matter. Look for papers from the "Study of Mathematically Precocious Youth" dataset, in particular "Ability Differences Among People Who Have Commensurate Degrees Matter for Scientiﬁc Creativity" by Park, Lubinski, and Benbow. It shows a very strong correlation  between IQ/SAT scores and numbers of patents/PhD/science publications even among people in the top 1 percentile of the SAT-M - i.e. roughly IQ 135 or more. (This is even more significant given how imprecise the SAT is as a measurement tool at the edges of the bell curve.)
> So what about 160? It's in 0.0031%
0.0031 / 100 * 7e7 = 2170.0