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Where Do the Failed 0.1% Go? (2015) [pdf] (t3x.org)
150 points by lainon on Dec 10, 2016 | hide | past | favorite | 170 comments

Teachers disliked him, because they knew how easily he picked up information.

I'm a teacher, and this is one of the things that frustrates me deeply about our education system. I welcome students like this; they're so much fun to work with. But I usually have to make them feel accepted before I can begin to work with them. I teach in a small alternative high school, and by the time bright students get to me, they're often used to being shut down for picking things up quickly and not having to do homework.

I met a really bright and interesting guy once who told me about his experience in first grade. His teacher gave everyone a math workbook, and he was really excited to be learning math. He finished the workbook in a day or two, and excitedly brought it to his teacher, expecting to be given another workbook. Instead she glared at him and said something along the lines of, "I can't believe you cheated on your math workbook in first grade!" She gave him another copy of the same workbook and told him to do start over, and that she'd be watching him. He thought to himself, "Well that sucked, but she'll watch me do it this time and know I can do it." So he did, but this time she just got mad at him and said something like, "I don't have anything else for you to do, so here's another copy of the workbook. Don't finish this so quickly."

He learned what so many bright kids learn: if you learn things too quickly and speak up, you'll just make the adults around you mad and they'll give you more meaningless work to do. I know there are many teachers who handle bright kids really well, but as a system we fail many kids. These effects last years, and often times decades.

I had a high school computer science instructor who did a really good job of this. I had already learned C (on DOS) by age 11 or 12, and thus the Visual Basic course in high school was pretty easy for me to do. I took the class pretty much to boost my average and have computer science credits on my transcript.

Anyway, I get my first assignment back, 10/10. Awesome, just like I expected. Get my second assignment back, 9/10. What? Oh, he didn't feel like I had commented my code very well. Ok. I'll do better next time. Next assignment, 8/10. I had used "x" as a variable name, and another pickier detail. Next assignment, 7/10. Even pickier details; things like UI spacing. The worst was that my peers, who struggled a lot more and their code was often pretty bad, they were doing better than I was in the class!

But I kept at it and kept improving, getting better and better at nailing down every possible detail. Managed to get marks back around the 8/10 to 9/10 range, but never 10/10. Nearing the end of the course, I started looking back at my grades and came to a brutal realization: "I'm significantly better at this than most of the people in the course, but my marks don't reflect that!"

I went and talked to him and raised my concerns. He gets this big grin on his face and says "Oh, I've been recording those as 100%s the whole time. I just wanted to keep challenging you, within the scope of what the curriculum gives me. I really wish I could have given you better projects, but that gets pretty complicated pretty quickly. You're doing fine, and I think you've improved a lot since the start of the course."

Ended up getting the "Best grade in Computer Science" award that year. Thanks Jeff!

This is such a tough thing about the arbitrary grading styles of grade school. They're grading to "help you improve", not to confirm your abilities. However, as you see it very much can hinder your abilities without the right teacher! I remember many experiences where I lose faith in the teachers ability to accurately grade. It's down hill for many of us from this point without solid mentors.

This changed for me in college. I hope it got better for you as well.

It really did change in university, but it was a pretty serious wake up call; the material was genuinely challenging (electrical engineering/comp sci dual degree). The really great thing about it was that I could stick to the defined path for the stuff that I found really challenging, and stake out my own path for the stuff that was coming too easy.

Edit: I almost failed out of engineering during my first year because I hadn't properly developed the skills and habits necessary for really putting effort into challenging school work. I do joke a little bit about the 51% I got in "intro to statics": since it's a 51% and not a 50%, I know that I earned that 51 and it wasn't a mercy pass :)

As an example, my EE degree doesn't have any out of the ordinary stuff in it. We had a fair bit of latitude in choosing courses, so I went towards DSP and FPGAs, just because I found that stuff more interesting (and easier to be engaged in), compared to say power systems.

My CMPT degree, though, I once again found myself in a position where a lot of it was too easy (A kid who has been hacking on C and assembler for 6 or 8 years is going to be miles ahead of the other first years who are writing code for the first time). So I went ahead and loaded my schedule up with more challenging courses (elective advanced algorithms, elective compilers, etc).

The only flaw with that plan was that most of the harder courses were dual listed as undergrad/grad courses, so when I went back for grad school there were a bunch of courses I couldn't take, because I'd already taken them in undergrad. It all turned out well though.

It's not that the teachers _dislike_ him, it's that they are frustrated that he is not following the curriculum and conforming to the lesson sequence and timeframe planned for.

I found US public school education was not about learning and mastery. It's about conformity and obedience. Learning the subject matter is secondary--the key to succeeding at this institution is to do things in the expected way, at the expected pace, even if it is mind-numbingly verbose and slow. It's a hack: You learn the expectations and do the bare minimum of what is precisely expected, because both less than and greater than the bare minimum will be penalized. I had a rough time in school until I grokked this hack.

Do your homework. It's easy of course, just takes a long time to do since so much gets assigned. The point of doing homework is not to learn, it's to show obedience--you were told to do the homework and you did it.

Show your work. It doesn't matter if you can do division in your head, kid. You're expected to write down the specified intermediate steps so just turn your brain off and do it. The point is to follow the prescribed process, not to master the subject.

Class participation. This is a gift to the outgoing/popular/sports kids to inflate their grades. Just figure out how many times you need to say something in order to get full credit, then raise your hand and say something (anything, it usually doesn't matter) that amount of times.

Public schooling is a series of hoops that you need to jump through at no slower or faster than the prescribed pace. The smart kids figure this out. The REALLY smart kids tend not to figure it out unfortunately.

Unfortunately all these 'lessons' mimic skills that will be needed by adults in the corporate world. Work in groups even when they're dysfunctional, show off and write lots of supporting documentation to get yourself promoted, and learn to tolerate seemingly arbitrary or broken management decisions.

I don't know if it's unfortunate. It's certainly by design. The societal purpose of public schooling is to prepare the future service workers and corporate drones of America to follow procedures and not get too curious. The (pre-determined) future leaders of America have their own track with private/prep schools, tutors, and Ivy League higher-ed, where the focus/purpose is, I would imagine, very different.

This is a silly myth. The privileged upper class don't get a special better-designrf education, they get a professional network that puts them in power regardless of their education. There's no special high school class that teaches "skills for becoming a CEO or a Congressperson".

I went to a better-than-average public high school and then a top tier college and I spent lots of time with people who went to prep school. There are substantial differences between prep school vs. public school in a rich well educated area vs. public school in a poor area.

Prep schools are most certainly better (on average) at teaching students to be assertive, seek out opportunities, bend rules, etc. The coursework is harder and more engaging than even top-track classes at good public high schools. On average students get more individual attention from teachers.

Likewise, there is a wide gap between work difficulty and quantity and expected levels of preparation at top tier colleges vs. average colleges. At top tier colleges, the typical student is incredibly ambitious, and there is a categorical difference between the extent to which typical students seek leadership opportunities and pursue impressive goals. (This is not to diminish the work of typical students at average schools, many of whom come from difficult circumstances and must struggle to pay the bills, etc. And of course there are some amazingly ambitious and talented students even at mediocre schools who do amazing work.)

There are surely still many problems with even the best schools, but the difference is by no means limited to professional networks.

Read up on English public (private) schools like Eton or Harrow. The privileged upper class do indeed get a special better-designed education.

These schools are factories for CEOs and politicians. They have the absolute best teaching, the best resources, a culture that not only encourages high achievement but expects it. If an Etonian or Harrovian says that he wants to be Prime Minister, nobody bats an eyelid - the odds are fairly good that he might well be.


While true, those that come from real money aren't sitting a class room with 30+ other students.

no they also do so. its just that the class is more like 20 and the teacher is very good. -source have sat in public school (also a VERY well funded publisc school) class with friends with parent's net worth > 90 million

I know a lot of people who did what you recommend and it broke them all mentally. Its really hard to regain self respect and adjust back to reality when you obey for 10+ years.

So I will give the opposite advice: Rebel. Be a pain. Skip class. Don't get into college.

If you're unlucky that might close lots of career gates, but at least you got your sanity, and that's the most important thing. A healthy mind is worth a bunch.

> It doesn't matter if you can do division in your head, kid. You're expected to write down the specified intermediate steps so just turn your brain off and do it. The point is to follow the prescribed process, not to master the subject.

Some people can intuitively do division in their head for simple problems, but if they don't learn the mechanical algorithm for it, they are unable to do more complex division.

BTW, I've implemented divide routines in assembler before CPUs had a divide instruction. I used the same algorithm I learned in 3rd grade. Polynomial division also uses the same algorithm.

There is a point to learning an algorithm, even if you already know the answer.

> I found US public school education was not about learning and mastery. It's about conformity and obedience.


There has been much improvement in curriculum over the years, certainly, but the structure of the American school system is still basically the same one that was originally designed expressly to produce a body of conforming and obedient factory workers with a consistent and predicable level of skills.

My math teachers at two different high schools often had library passes ready for me on non-test/quiz days. All I had to do was hand in tomorrows homework assignment today. I had to do all the questions, they wouldn't tell me what cherry-picked questions would be assigned. Worked out well to have me not distracting classtime but I never got any encouragement to continue into advanced maths. My freshman college counselor told me all my prerequisites had been satisfied in HS, don't bother taking more maths. 18yo me was happy to hear it. Meh.

I think that at most public schools there are two separate paths of least resistance:

* Do most of your homework and get acceptable grades. This is what most students do.

* Don't do jack and be consistent. Many teachers will give up if you never do homework, and if you skip enough classes there won't be enough time to sit out all your due detention. It's also well possible that your school has a leaky detention administration and it ends up never happening.

I chose path b. Never did homework. I always forgot it. If you passively deflect enough, people will eventually just give up. Especially when you get good to excellent grades in the exams. The same worked at university. Dont go to lectures, dont do coursework or go to practicals. Get the past exam papers and learn to solve them over a month to two months before the exams. Solid 2.1, job done. Except I was utterly miserible through out that whole time. Lol. I could have been working in theoretical physics had my childhood not been a car wreck. Nope, doing web development, so dull :(

as i learned when i went to college, figuring out this hack was actually not so clever unless you find ways to keep learning and improving despite the imposed limitations.

I grew up in a small rural town in the 80's. I was one of the first kids to have a computer in that area. I was 9 years old in 1980 and had begged for one. By the time I entered high school I was just starting to learn Assembly. Our school had never had a computer course before and the first one opened up my Freshman year. I was so excited. The teacher was also the Typing class teacher and had almost no experience with computers. She was picked solely because she could type.

On the first day I excitedly told the teacher how much I was looking forward to the class and how much I already knew. She gave me the course book to bring home and asked me to find the spot in the book where my knowledge could be tested. It was a huge disappointment, the courses mostly focused on spreadsheets and data entry with some Basic programming. I had already written many programs on my own to automate various tasks. I had written a few simple video games, worked with joystick inputs, even built a simple alarm system for my room using serial input and some basic wiring.

When I brought her the book the next day and explained I already knew everything in the book she got visibly upset with me. Her attitude towards me became terse and she decided I was too big for my own good and should start at the beginning. That course was pure misery. I'd finish my lessons within the first half of a single class and have nothing to do. I'd start tweaking my programs, but it felt like fiddling my thumbs. The teacher came to treat me like a bad element and in return I became antagonistic to her.

I once switched the cables between my and a friends computer so my typing would go to his screen and vice versa. I showed the teacher I had ahem programmed the computer to react to my voice. My friend would type in the responses to my voice, his results appearing on my screen. The teacher looked dumbfounded, she seriously could not process what was happening and sat down at her desk. It was hard to respect a computer class teacher who couldn't figure out how easily we had tricked her. From there it just got worse and worse.

I had many teachers like this, where they felt I was too big for my britches and needed to be put in my place. I was very much like the first kid described in this essay.

My most distinct memory of early education is my grade seven teacher yelling at me, saying that he never wanted to see me read a book in his classroom ever again. I used to read books in class after I finished whatever trivial in-class work we had... apparently, this was more annoying to him than the kids who didn't do their work and loudly talked about their drug consumption.

Somewhere along the way in public school I learned to put my book in my lap and my head on the desk.

Evidently it was OK if I looked like I was asleep ...

The thought of anyone getting ahead in life is truly frightening to these people.

You are taking that quote way out of context the next part of the sentence "but then he never made an effort to improve his grades" is the relevant part. They dislike him because he didn't try to improve not because he was good at picking up information.

I read never made an effort to improve his grades as refusing to do the rote work that schools often require in order to earn a high grade. I've seen so many situations where students pass their tests with perfect scores, but receive low grades because they don't do their homework and don't do all of their in-class assignments.

That was me, except I did most of the in-class assignments. Homework was actually detrimental to my understanding: I'd lose interest in the subject and forget things.

(I'm glad that, instead of doing homework, I spent my spare time teaching myself more interesting subjects.)

I was a "C" student in high-school and the teachers mostly hated me, but so did a lot of the students. It wasn't until my 20 year high-school reunion when the class valedictorian told me this that I understood why there was so much animosity:

"You were so smart, far smarter than me, but you refused to apply yourself. You wouldn't do the assignments, didn't pay any attention in class, and generally didn't care about school at all. I hated you for that and I'm sorry."

Yeah, took me until early 20s to realise this. I just always thought everyone else had the same contempt for seeking praise from authority that I did. I just thought they were all just really good actors. It simply did not occur to me that anyone would want to recieve praise from a "superior", let alone be annoyed with those who waste the opportunity to gather that praise.

In fact that may be the curse of the smart kid - things come so easily they won't put in effort when it is required. They become lazy.

This was my story. I wouldn't even say I'm particularly "smart", just clever enough to not need to work very hard at much until late high school. BC calc kicked in, all of a sudden I was failing a class for the first time. College kicked in, all of a sudden I was getting low grades even in my strengths. It took a year of that before I even learned the most rudimentary patterns of studying and practice, and over a decade (still learning) to bake those patterns into my day to day behavior.

What makes me very sad, as a slightly tangential note, my university had covered grades first semester freshman year. This let me do terribly, learn from that experience, and not have it impact my future prospects. They've since removed that, and I honestly feel sorry for new generations of students to have one less helpful safety net. With a good support system in place to help recovery, the chance to fail (in a scenario that would be "non-terminal") has been critical to my learning to suck less across the board.

I think you've come upon the laziest conclusion possible. I was one of those smart 'lazy' kids & my poor performance in school wasn't in any way due to being lazy, rather it was due to not caring about school. By middle-school I'd figured out grades don't matter. My parents made too much for me to qualify for college scholarships and honestly, I didn't need scholarships anyway since money wasn't remotely an issue in my family. I simply needed to ace one test.

Because I knew grades didn't matter and that college was covered I didn't do the work, not because I was lazy, but because it was busy work & I had better things to do like running a regional BBS, cracking software, and writing demos in 6502 assembler.

So 'lazy' and 'not caring about school' are different? Sounds like rationalization, which middle-schoolers are very good at.

I'd argue that they pretty clearly are different, if you're talking about generic laziness-as-a-quality versus subject specific laziness.

Someone who isn't interested in school might be willing to work very hard at improving in a sport, or work very hard on their extracurricular club, or work very hard to teach themselves assembly and programming, or to learn a musical instrument. They might even be willing to work hard to teach themselves math, but be uninterested in putting effort into math class.

I guess it depends on if you consider "laziness" a universal character quality or not.

Despite having agreed with you above, I'd agree with the dissenting post here as well, that while not caring about something can lead to being lazy regarding it, they are not intrinsically the same thing. I care about my house, but I'm still lazy about getting on the roof and cleaning the gutters. I don't care about many of the jobs I've held in the past, but have still done the day to day work to the best of my ability because professionalism. If we're looking deeply at psychological cause and effect, there may be some utility to examining whether the outcome roots in one or the other. (for me it was both)

Thankfully I had some teachers, like you, who thought I was fun to work with. When I exceeded her class, she had a college professor friend of hers slip in work for me, and occasionally supplemental tutoring.

It was awesome. Being able to challenge myself with upper division calculus while stuck in state-mandated algebra was probably the only reason I survived those courses.

I know of at least two other people from small towns whose IQ and life stories are similar to those shared in the article. I think high IQ individuals becoming isolated, social outcasts is more common in small towns, where accelerated curriculums and gifted and talented programs are more rare.

If you know a highly gifted child, refer them to the Davidson Academy, a free public school for the profoundly gifted. http://www.davidsonacademy.unr.edu

The Davidson academy is free to attend, and they can coordinate providing IQ-appropriate curriculum and work to the child's school for students who cannot attend in-person. Finally, there are paid, online options as well.

A friend of mine works at Davidson, and they have elementary age kids taking physics classes alongside master's degree students. When they say "profoundly gifted", it's not hyperbole.

Getting gifted kids into programs where they are surrounded by people like them can go a long ways towards helping them learn social skills. They may never be socially normal in larger society, but they can find friends, meaning, and happiness that can lead to a productive and brilliant career and life.

> accelerated curriculums and gifted and talented programs

I may be an edge case, but I was put in those programs and hated them. I had a high IQ but also untreated Attention-Deficit Disorder. The last thing I wanted to do was to "wrack my brain" on difficult questions that felt like they were above my level, with the people around me suddenly placing high expectations on my being able to solve those problems. Sure, I probably could have solved those problems, but instead I just locked up.

Now, give me creative freedom to pursue my own difficult questions with nobody evaluating my progress—and some good role-models with domain-experience who I could ask questions—and I would have been happy as a clam. But that is not what "gifted programs" tend to look like.

I was in a similar boat. Being "accelerated" in subjects you're not passionate about when you have other unaddressed interests is a recipe for disaster.

Yeah they're usually more of the same but further along the timeline.

Got any resources for preschools?

I've got a serious pending problem with my youngest. She's 18 months old and already on par with an average 4-5 year old (and even older in some ways). It's really freaking my wife and I out - we cannot keep up with her curiosity and motivation to learn - we just don't have time or resources. We're worried that by the time she starts school, she's going to be so far ahead that she won't be able to relate to the other kids. She already has issues with other 18-24 month olds - she call's them babies and treats them like so. No idea what to do.

I just want her to be able to hang out with kids like herself and do what kids do. I'm not interested in turning her into a super-genius or putting pressure or her or training her or any of that. I'd rather her just be free and follow her mind for as long as possible.

Would look into Montessori school systems. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Montessori_education

It's a problem being so far ahead of your peers. Average people seem dumb, and that's because comparatively they are (relative word anyway).

> I just want her to be able to hang out with kids like herself and do what kids do.

These are two separate things. Kids like herself I think you mean kids her own age, but she's not like them. More accurately kids like herself would also be on par with people 2x+ her age.

Do what kids do... which means dumbing her down, or at least in her perspective what babies do. Imagine someone wanted you, an adult, to play and act like a 5 year old for years on end.

I'm not a parent, and don't ever plan on being one. I do not claim to understand your worries and struggles. Raising a child is challenging, the results from same actions can vary greatly. You have less to draw from since your experience is going to be greatly different from the norm. Maybe talk to your parents to see how they would have wanted things to be if resources wasn't an issue. Find online groups for this (and likely stay away from people that think they're child is the greatest).

Best of luck.

By the way, although my wife and I are fairly intelligent, neither of us are as intelligent as our parents. For instance, my father apparently taught himself to read and write at around 2 and started to teach himself logic and algebra soon after. At 3, he wrote a math / philosophy paper detailing a complex cosmology and metaphysics in which he used logical arguments to disprove God.

He never did much with his life - got into a lot of trouble as an adolescent and eventually settled down as a laborer. For the past 20 years he's been a recluse and sits in his studio apartment playing FPS games all day.

It's an issue of resources. As a kid, he also lived on a large rural farm, so he had no resources to do anything else. Many of my other family members are intelligent too, but they all grew up poor and ended up being poor later in life. It makes me sad.

this tells me that knowing you're smart can be more of a problem than being smart with no outlet, which fits nicely into my anecdata-backed perceptions. =)

e.g., i've known smart people who have gone on to have ordinary lives and it doesn't seem to have lessened their quality of life. sure, society at large didn't get as much benefit, but individual flameouts are probably one of the reasons we don't fully optimize for maximum societal contribution.

i've also known smart people for whom knowledge of their high intelligence has not only been a burden but a hindrance to their personal success and fulfillment.

the global optimum is probably not made of a bunch of local optima methinks.

My kids were also pretty bright, so I just taught them how to access info they were interested in... and got out of the way.

When they came to me with tough questions, we would learn together. It was fun, and they seem to have turned out ok.

If you want her to follow her mind, give her all the resources and let her choose. The popular choice isn't always ideal, and pushing your child in a direction they're not suited for (whether super-genius or "normal") won't do any good.

Oh, yes! I do understand, second hand, something of what you face: my friend's daughter called her contemporaries babies and bossed them around, as if playing tea parties with her dolls, too! Now she's 15...

I don't know if I was clear in my editing, because this is a thought I've first attempted to express, since reading your comment nearly 12 hours ago, since when I could hardly think of anything else. --

Just a arbitrary question: if your child speaks as if years ahead, but is not yet two, do you speak to them as their age suggests, or as their precocious age suggests?

I mean, can we as parents afford to "start acting adults" in communication, or should some more "childish" vocalisation be maintained, e.g. to affirm closeness, affection etc? Another issue, but when my mom reached her eighties, I found she couldn't engage with "adult talk", but all I had to do to get her engaging, was intone my voice as I would more a child: I realized she needed the emotional connection, but still understood the rest just fine. Maybe she was excluding the unfamiliar, a natural response to age and frailty which would make her feel unsafe outside family.

I couldn't find the word, earlier, but if I was plotting a critical path analysis for verbal engagement conducted by a mentally and linguistically 10 year old, if this was about understanding emotional contexts, there would be far greater homomorphisms in the chart I plotted, than if I was testing a child for ability to appreciate e.g. related concepts or word / idea groupings. In theory, basic emotion is simpler, but there are more paths being evaluated by a more advanced child, before life experience catches up to their intellectual age, and we measure intelligence not on the basis of finding routes to a very few states, but in way we measure intelligence by ability to distinguish paths, outcomes, and differences. We emphasize the differences, and I question whether when a child wants to know how she will feel, in any given situation, this emphasis on different paths through thought, creates a sense of dislocation or remoteness from comforting emotional states. I think this is the "big wide world, big scary wide world, effect" when our minds boggle at, say, a first sight of a major landscape or city map. There at that many possibilities, and we don't know how we feel about them. And that is us as adults.

(I didn't mean to pretend i know anything serious behind my ideas, just remembered some words that seemed to help describe my thought.)

So I'm harping on about something quite narrow here, about whether we mess up, for example by pushing kids with potential amid a tense or stressful atmosphere, among parents whose love may be felt conditional on performance (and teachers can be vile, one friend's daughter had half her school problems turn out to be ridiculous expectations from one teacher, in the one class she excelled in, so they let her flunk almost every class and this teacher pushed her, "or prove she's not stupid or lazy and just disrupting the other classes" -- sorry letting off steam, the kid's got dyslexia, not known a the time, but was killing it in history because of older family providing 24/7 oral histories at home..) anyhow, trying to return to pre-school..

For myself, this is when things happened for me, just I didn't get that memory back! So I'm reconstructing thoughts best I can...

One friend, a retired head teacher, firmly believed 5 thru 8 are most important. But I believe the 3 or 4 years before then, really are, just not educationally, but obviously affecting education.

I think exposure to adult age ranges is so important, in pre-school years. I grew up in a retirement resort demographic, small town, and exposure to friendly seniors did wonders for my social development, which was still lacking or notably disjointed well into my life. I was constantly challenged, learning how to help folk do gardening, not chores but proper growing and planting etc, whch i loved, and ettung what elderly folk want done, the right way for them is a particular skill. That was specifically very useful, later, comprehending nuanced instructions.

I realize my childhood had some lucky, even idyllic, parts to it. I have been trying to understand my life's calamities linking directly back to education an parenting, pretty much forever.

But back to this: unstructured, semi -formal engagement, and if it can be provided with individual attention, providing a variety of situations, contexts, people, challenges...

If I could create such a possibility for every child, I would, and I would require parents pushing still to my view infants, through formal education plans at that age, to justify themselves formally, before being allowed.

Social exploration, then, is even more valuable to your daughter, in my book.

If there is any way to find her friends who are older, approach parents whose kids need babysitting jobs, with the none too subtle, "you should be paying us for tuition" pitch, ,... No, I'm serious, if not serious I'd say it just like that! Young girls like to help, appreciate the role and status that that attracts to them in society, so as and when such a time comes, sell the idea as the status symbol it really is. Oh, and older kids have better toys, wondering if the older play date can supervise tablet access responsibly or not..

I can't tell from your comment, what nature your daughter's inquiry and inquisitiveness assumes, what direction it takes, whether you have local resources whether countryside or a town with a high young parent demographic, and so I've no idea how you are reaching limits. (Not no idea how you reached a limit, just no idea in what ways possibilities may be limited or available)

The key thing is what human resources do you have?

If your and your wife's parents are far away, I'm not joking, change that! If you've a brother sister or cousin house sharing in the same city, and could persuade them with cheaper rent or such like, get them moving in!

My friend's daughter, who was wowing everyone with her history appreciations, even if they were plagiarised, they were not Wikipedia rip offs, but from her own aural comprehension, is now a 15yr old right little miss, and trouble smouldering into her teen years, but when she was oh simply a whole other level of hard work - and it turns out basically her education was updended by late diagnosis for dyslexia, there's major trouble now in progressing her at all, I'm livid and still speechless how her school was run - I've known with varying degrees of social life bringing me around her parents, from when she was 2 and a half I think now, and almost shocking in her advanced and precocious demand for insights, was immeasurably helped by the variety of people in her immediate environments at home, which was a long while a larger home only ad hoc divided into apartments shared by colleagues of her dad, nobody strange at all, but a constant input from ages of 20 through 70, whom she overwhelmed with demands for what I now realize so belatedly, and not unmeassurable anger, she was unable from at school.

Yet if I have to take her any place, I immediately found a completely charming, curious, engaging, character who made me feel rotten good, when moms in parks complimented me on my friends' daughters' good behaviour. Because she was a delight of proper manners and politeness, on her own, around me. Just back home, chaos resumes. Since she has been analyzing her parents (all agree that is a vital nsurvival skill for her her since burth),usuallywhisoering excuses for them in my ear, I say she'd make a useful sociologist. Just the retaking a year at school...

I can only think, after all that, if you could move to a community where kids can get about, like I did, in our small home town (I doubt you could now, though, this was really when we rarely locked front doors), a gated community even, or if you have links to a church possibly...

We teach parents and sticvtly define in pomotional society how they are supposed to cope with everything all prim and proper, an aligned with neat values and formalized "advancement" I prefer to call it, even if merely "progression" is the uninspiring word i hear from "education professionals". But we are helped out so little what to do, in event we are faced with life unconventional in any way.

There surely must be some online - and real, physical,- communities who share experiences in wealth far beyond my little thoughts. The unmentioned benefit of my friend's family living semi communally during a real tough time, was they had powerfully articulate advocates, when CP got called by a teacher with a ugly attitude and no good reason, one time, and though that nearly became a .., well a nightmare was averted, because CP couldn't twist up two overloaded parents, as I've sadly seen happen a few other families suffer. I really doubt that sort of bonus is important or needed near you, but I mention it as how a little community real close to you, always defends its own. That safety and assurance, is priceless, i think when growing up. It's the next 16 years of your life, I guess, so you can afford to plan slowly and act carefully, and administer cures sparingly since real problems rarely show overnight.

best wishes - j

I worried – as you kinda hint yourself - you might worry yourself or your family, into a corner, and this is my third take, to try to fly under the comment length limit, please accept my apologies, I just had so much to say about self reinforcing worry from when I was a kid, from memory I had lost until this summer, from which I'm beginning to think I'm learning...

My thinking follows a year in which I regained, suddenly, memory of my childhood I had lost completely.

Does an exceptionally intelligent kid, necessarily, as if in a zero sum game, lose out emotionally and in social development?

Or is the young mind, learning how to go fast, simply slipping gears necessary to answer emotional questions?

Or was my experience of my parent’s constant worry over me, which became toxic, a over-arching problem, merely causing me to exaggerate the importance of questions that seem to fit with my “theory”?

And do parents of unusually quick infant / child minds, ever manage to provide the calm reassurance in which their child can make the approach back to emotional assurance of parents' love and stability, when lines of new inquiry into the world don't provide answers that can yet be comprehended?

I am personally convinced that young children can and sometimes do advance emotionally at a similar pace to academic measures, when very young, but we only see the results of when the brightest fail to find it so easy, because of worried or even pushy parents, and so we get developmentally imbalanced stereotypes which I do not think ought to be stereotypes. As in a truly bright kid with no social skills, is not one I think with a social deficiency, just they were not able to find links emotionally at a suitable pace for them.

I cannot imagine anything worse (or just difficult) than a mind on over drive, supercharged, forming its first connections without having a fall back safety of comfort and peace and reassurance in the atmosphere it finds. Nobody can manufacture perfect atmospheres or emotional moods, but I dare to suggest - as a point of reference at least, my father tried with some success - that meditation and related ideas might help you project the emotional calm which could provide an important means for your infant to retreat into the safety of emotional needs, and attachment to you, as parents.

I think I didn't get how many paths there are to making things feel right, and thought people were much more complex than they were. I imagined I had to make things just so, or nobody would be happy. Whilst simultaneously being told by adults I was unusually complicated little child, that made me miss so much I could have done with learning solidly, then. Unfortunately, my history was sadly littered with unfortunate events that distinctly did not assist me in self evaluation, so I may have had a more tricky time than others.

My father would every now and then declare something like "I give up you are too annoyingly difficult for me to solve", and shut whatever he was reading, and there would be a wonderful change in the atmosphere for all of us. He did know he had to give up, also, stop fretting I mean, just wasn't so great at it. He would act out those gestures with exaggerated relief, and pursue something impromptu we'd all enjoy, probably carefully prepared but who would care. He would clearly be relieved and appear delighted himself, as if he had "solved" me. We just loved he'd stopped worrying. Like they say acting out happy, even just standing the way you do when say joyous at your team scoring, triggers the emotion itself. I reckon that learning about acting, about body language improv, tones of voice etc are super useful tools in parenting. (and lots of fun, potentially, too)

The hardest thing I always can see some parents find, if I ask, or chat with or observe, is they think they make mistakes with overmuch significance. I want to joke now, that if your child gets too far ahead in learning, slow them down with existential philosophy, and ask why they know anything they appear to claim as knowledge. One of the happiest people I grew up around, said her father constantly took the mickey out of her, when she was little. Humor, with the ingredients of counter-factuals and questions of comprehension, is obviously a great socializing influence, and I truly am jealous of your predicament in one sense, that I would love to watch such a child grow up appreciating subjects thab vnt adults so poorly understand, humor in particular a important one to me, as well as interesting from a mental development, theory of mind and so on, as well.

If I may suggest one last thing, it is when I am talking through any problem with someone really stressed long term by the problem's intractability, I make sure to go over every last detail, several times different takes. I find that by being completely thorough, and running over detail with differing but complimentary thoughts, my friend rarely gets stressed again right away because they suddenly remark, "but you forgot about x, we're doomed". Oh, and when the problem is anxiety or worry not solving a actual problem (very much the case with female friends, or anyone inclined to use indirect speech) I try only to generalize that other perspectives exist, and find complimentary paths through "the data", because the main thing is to get someone "unstuck" from e.g. circular thoughts. Saying that because I think you could do well to review who is best to turn to, when you do need advice, and I learned this technique/habit from someone who helped me the most, and I think when truly worried deeply (as one always is about a child's development) then at the time you are worried, just I wouldn't want to hear any "actual answers" or advice, because i'd be in a bad place to evaluate real useful information or views. I figure I can always ask again or in the morning, but it's not great to hold on to ideas of fixes to longstanding problems, when you are low about them. If you can, try to assemble and nurture friends and colleagues with the "basic equipment" you need around you, and make sure to evaluate, alongside your wife, what you both think of the quality and value of such support, if you do find it useful. (From experience, I must say when it comes to kids, social factors are really important, who advises can become more important than any other factor, in-laws usually teach you this son as your baby is born, but it’s worth noting more widely, how political advice about child rearing can be, and having a strategy to appreciate that can help reduce stress, get more people onboard, avoid comments such as “no wonder he’s stressed about your baby, just look what he’s doing!. Irrational, sure, but human stuff like this demands proactive approaches) I sincerely doubt I could be of any help or guidance, but since the related areas have been very much on my mind, a good while, I'd be delighted to _try, or be a sounding board, if you felt someone out of the loop appropriate, and I'll add my email to my profile, if you wish, by reply. (Literally only if you thought there was some unlikely lead in my comment, or a once in blue moon exchange might offer a alternate thread to follow, but I feel I’m merely flattering myself by offering, it’s just your use of words and seriousness of problem, the way you put it, well if you are as concerned, I read HN daily, and will check for any replies, the subject is real close to me)

I really do think we get early development sorely wrong, generally, for kids with exceptional absolute or relative ability. I mean, in the sense of we are missing something, even maybe for a reason like cognitive dissonance, or something actually simple we've not considered. My line of inquiry is into how "hard" intellectual tasks are versus emotional "reasoning". Just Friday, chat came up about the kind of rehabilitation courses they put felons through, typically titles such as "emotional reasoning", and my argument was that if we got emotions right, they wouldn't require "artificial" reasoning, that we need a more direct interface or language, or means to learn to control without reasoning, as evidenced by breathing exercises e.g.. The subject is beyond me, but it's one I will continue to try to study, as it does seem vital to me, one day, hopefully. It’s with the same level of hope, that I do hope I may have added something, however little, of use to your efforts. If nothing else, please take this away: I so wish my pop ever asked or was able to ask what best to do about me, on HN or something like it back in the day, so I'm rotten jealous of your parenting, as a adult and a grown up child! All my best wishes – j

Some thoughts, with the caveat that it's very not my field.

> cannot keep up

Different approaches can have very different demands. Some parents it seems, write out lesson plans -- lots of effort. Or instead, you can support, and mentor, and be an example, and otherwise "get out of the way" -- smaller and more flexible effort.

My fuzzy recollection is, one reason families without a higher-ed background, have kids that achieve less, is that the parents are more likely to believe, and teach their kids, that education is something that school is going to do for you. To you. Rather than something you have to create for yourself. With school sometimes helping, and often not. So one hears of community college students, protesting in frustration "I've paid you, so why haven't you successfully taught me yet?" Interestingly, a similar issue shows up with Ivy League students, who have had excellent teachers presenting knowledge well, and now lack the motivation and skills, to themselves grapple with a body of knowledge, and wrestle understanding from it. "They expect me to spoon feed them" an instructor said. So the reason for mentioning this... perhaps thinking of yourself in a "supportive" role, rather than a "school teacher"-ish role, might be useful?

Also... I knew a toddler, with their own toddler-high kitchen snack shelf. And they learned to pour cheerios, and water. More or less neatly. And two years later, that was all gone, and the parent was doing everything themselves. Almost passive "spoon feeding". So both the learning had stopped, and the parent was more busy. When young, so much can be a "learning opportunity", that "here's a way to save time", can at least sometimes be made into one. For a double win.

> by the time she starts school, she's going to be so far ahead that she won't be able to relate to the other kids

Some schools have multiple grades in the same classroom. Which can help.

> No idea what to do.

I've been told there are very helpful discussion mailinglists for parents of "gifted children". With supportive communities.

And I'd be unsurprised if some programs like http://cty.jhu.edu/ are used to getting "heellpp!!" emails, and sending out a resources packet. Or have it on the website? See comment below by dsjoerg.

> hang out with kids like herself and do what kids do

Just brainstorming... perhaps introduce the concept that "different people are different, and good for different things"? Grandma with walker can't play tag in the park, but can read stories. Some adults like talking with kids, and some don't. The librarian can talk about books, but can't make you sandwich, or show you how to do it. Some dogs you can pet, others only say hi to. Some kids do and like talking about activity X, and others don't care about X but like Y. Which is frustrating when you want to do something particular, and the person at hand doesn't. But looking for common ground is an important life skill. As illustrated by other comments on this page.

Good luck. Definitely connect up with communities of parents facing similar issues.

> online options as well.

fairly certain this is the opposite of what they need

You should sit a genius 10 year old with no social skills in a class of 20 somethings? That seems not a path to success.

It's not the age of their counterparts, but the social structure you can build for them.

It's probably better to have a kid like that with others that can understand where they're coming from than a bunch of ten year olds with no clue.

Warning! /r/iamverysmart post ahead! I normally wouldn't engage in this, as it's extremely poor manners and terribly arrogant, but it's on topic here and I think other potential /r/iamverysmart posters might benefit, so here goes:

One of the problems of being intelligent is learning how to tolerate and accept boredom. I used to rebel against being bored and being ahead of the class. I would think: "this is all so easy and why isn't anybody interested in anything interesting?"

Once I learned that dealing with boredom is basically the price you pay for fitting in things improved a lot. I deal with a lot of friendships that are profoundly boring just so I can have people to talk to and socially interact with. I don't complain. I don't patronize. I just go through the motions so I can cargo cult my way to a social life. I lowered my expectations on everything and everybody to absolutely nothing and it works great.

I overhear other people's conversations and I think to myself: "how can these people even put up with that level of conversation?. They must be pretending to be entertained!" Then I remember all about the boring world out there where people go about their daily lives talking all day about boring stuff.

After all this boring interaction I'll occasionally go to a Deep Learning study group and we'll read the latest paper. Very smart people will analyze the paper and leave me a little disconcerted that there are people that I can engage with intellectually and be challenged and entertained by in a sincere way. Anyway, that's just my two cents about the world for the disgruntled /r/iamverysmart crowd out there, whether you actually are or not. :)

Throwaway for obvious reasons.

I do not mean this comment as a brag. Far from it.

I am one of these people - I tested with an incredibly high IQ (nearly 200 at the time, though I know that fades). I graduated with a 4.2 GPA, and a 3.9 average (because on semester I chose to 'punish' my mother who was taking credit for my high grades, and got a D just to prove it)

I have a very hard time with life in general. People bore me to tears. You have to repeat and dumb down everything for them all the time. Most jobs are mind numbingly dull.

Unlike the people in this article, I had support. My grandfather was similar to me, and taught me some basic coping mechanisms. They have largely worked, and I've learned how to survive with a nearly perfect memory (oh god the horror, I wouldn't inflict it on anyone) and what I like to call an incredibly high idle.

I make enough to get by, and the company I work for seems pleased with me. Been there 16 years so far, always resistent to anything beyond a simple lead type position. Thank god my management usually recognizes that I am VERY bad at dealing with people, and lets me get back to solving problems in my very quiet and dark office.

The coping that works for me is split attention. If I'm simultaneously listening to two or more musical pieces, working on different problems on different computers and screens, and fiddling with something (like a pen or something), I can get through a day.

If for some reason I'm restricted down to a single source of input (like just a laptop), I basically go completely mad. My mental energy level is far too high, and the frustration of waiting for the computer to keep up causes me to get angry beyond reason.

My life is a fucking hell, and I also spend a lot of time contemplating suicide. The imaginative and interesting methods help occupy some cycles.

> My life is a fucking hell, and I also spend a lot of time contemplating suicide.

I do this also.

A little unsolicited advice. I know it's a throwaway, so i don't know if you'll see it. but here it is.

Maybe you want to go skydiving, or visit petra, or build a farnsworth fusor. You're going to have really bad days or maybe years. I know it sounds hollow, and in the middle of those bad times it's a pretty flimsy support. But please consider promising yourself to follow through on one dream before you follow through on a plan.

Make sure you're really done. Make sure there's nothing in the whole world that's interesting that you want to learn about. Because, when you follow through, you're really done.

It's ok to ruin your health and credit rating to do something crazy if you're on the way out anyway. Jump out of the plane. Travel the world. Build the machine. It's your life, and you should live it as you see fit. But that extra bonus time in life can be pretty nice. Please please try everything out before you decide you're done.

I have known/worked with a few people who, in confidence, expressed something similar to what you just said, about having to "dumb everything down" for everyone around them.

They were bright, of course, I wouldn't quibble with that, but they were also really lousy communicators. It wasn't so much that everyone around them was just a dum-dum, but that they weren't very good at explaining things. They seemed to misattribute those folks not understanding them to people being dumb, not their inability to express ideas.

Sometimes that is certainly part of it. Do you go out of your way to explain calculus or particle physics to children?

Or do you simply not bother?

When a person has spent their entire life trying to communicate whatever they were excited about to people who are only interested in the fad du jour, they don't develop the skills to communicate well once they do find people bright enough to understand.

For example, go walk around MIT, Harvey Mudd, or Cal Poly and see how poorly freshmen do with their initial social gatherings.

You personally are probably extremely smart (this is HN after all, where I seek refuge from the total fucking paste eaters of the world) - but that just means that you were dealing with someone who had never had an opportunity to learn those communication skills. Unlike you, presumably.

I agree with you that those who don't talk on topics outside of pop culture and other shallow topics fail to develop the skills to listen to and understand deeper speech.

But also those who spend too much time thinking to themselves without taking the time to slow down and verbalize those thoughts to others form thought patterns that make no sense to anyone except that person. I think it is a common trait of high IQ people to be able to think far, far faster than your own internal verbal monologue can follow. When I'm solving a computer problem in my mind I'm not thinking in an inner monologue voice. My thought process is bouncing through voiceless mental shortcuts (macros if you will) that only make sense to me, and any attempt to keep up with a verbal explanation just wouldn't work. Other people don't have the same macros you have in your head.

But when in a work setting I am pairing with a fellow engineer (one of the duties of my team lead role) rather than just working alone I am force to slow down and verbalize my thoughts so they can follow and understand. This can be very annoying on a surface level, but also enlightening for my own self. When I look at a problem and within seconds know the answer there are two things I could do: just tell them how to fix it, or slow down and force myself to explain in more detail to fix it and how I came to that conclusion. The latter approach is not a chore for me, but a puzzle actually, and I get a great feeling of accomplishment from being able to verbalize and explain my inner thought process to someone who isn't in my own head.

"Cal Poly " - as a Cal Poly alum this wasn't really my experience. Of course, with thousands of people in the incoming class, experiences will vary. Most of my social connections were through choir.

I imagine he meant Cal Tech.

His comment specifically said "Cal Poly".

Can be true but not the whole explanation. I have been told both that I am really good at explaining stuff to kids, and also that they aren't interested in hearing about some math puzzler I've been working on.

Having an extraordinary amount of intelligence in a world full of people who don't can be extremely challenging and distressing. I'd even go so far as to call it a disability. It's very hard to understand where people are coming from, it's hard to phrase things in a way that makes you relatable and understood. It complicates a lot of things if you haven't made a deliberate effort to practice fitting in.

It's especially difficult if you have people expecting you to succeed, to make astronomical amounts of money or get perfect grades, or whatever, while you don't feel motivated to achieve these sorts of things.

It was difficult for me being isolated intellectually, that there wasn't many I could talk to about Complicated Things. A grade school math teacher is not prepared for this sort of thing. At least today there's ways of getting in touch with actual experts in the field and digging deeper into topics that used to be completely off limits.

I've learned to zen out, that it's not imperative to be productive all the time, that not every "cycle" is wasted if not doing important stuff. A little meditation to calm the avalanche of mental activity can be profoundly helpful.

I'm not exceptionally bright but I have an excellent memory and an endless fascination with..well everything.

So I've read books on dozens of random topics, I've learnt to keep my mouth shut, people don't like that I know all that stuff they see it as threatening to their own self-worth.

My previous GF was a physio and mentioned she was writing a training course on compartment syndrome, she was astounded that I knew what that was and responded with "Why would you need to know about that you just program computers?" as though there was something intrinsically wrong with been interested in things, we broke up soon after because "We are too different in outlook" which was fine.

Current GF is a Hungarian (I mention this because she has commented several times that there is a fundamental cultural difference in how my culture (England) and hers approach education) with two degrees and working on her third in shipping, she has pretty much exactly the same outlook on life as me and her pile of books next to the bed is as varied as mine, She also knows way more about lots of things than me which is frigging awesome.

John von Neumann who I am sure you would agree was far smarter than you coped with dealing with the dum-dums around him. He was in general loved by everyone who knew him (from all backgrounds) and regarded as the life of the party. He appeared to work on being loved as a problem to get him the resources he needed to do what he wanted to do (he managed to convince the IAS to let him build a computer on campus after all).

One fun thing that's an endless and pleasurable time sink for people who like to learn things is reading and analyzing medical studies. Just go to pubmed.com and look up anything. If you don't understand a word, just look it up on Wikipedia, and just keep going. There are millions of papers to read and you can follow those rabbit holes around forever. It's endless entertainment and fun trivia. You shouldn't bother your doctor with it as it's like talking about digital compression technology with the cable tv installer, but it's a huge corpus of very interesting knowledge nonetheless.

> You shouldn't bother your doctor with it as it's like talking about digital compression technology with the cable tv installer

You might need to find a new doctor. The good ones that I know, including one of my parents, read medical papers all the time to stay up to date on studies which are obviously relevant to their job. There are numerous inventions that have come about because of inventive strategies applied by doctors. Maybe this doesn't apply to all doctors, but the ones I have interacted with (in the US) are quite intelligent.

I really don't know what kind of doctor is more common, because I avoid them. But the last time I went to a primary care doc, he googled my symptoms and read excerpts from a Wikipedia article. He diagnosed me with what I'd already internet-diagnosed myself with, and added no additional value. That experience didn't improve my opinion of doctors.

My experience has usually been with specialists, so that may explain some of the difference.

Have you considered undiagnised ADHD as a possible factor? Intelligent kids with the inattentive type can get overlooked because the only measures schools care about is not disrupting things and good grades.

I tried modadinil a couple times (it's very easy to get online) and realized my reaction to it was not like others told be about, there was no high or buzz, but I was suddenly very aware of the world around me and it was easy to funnel attention and interest exclusively into one thing at a time and the results of doing so was amazing. Adderall is even better to me, and somehow even socializing becomes more appealing and interesting after taking it. You'll still be smart as hell, but it's different. worth experimenting if you're stuck, assuming the risk of harm can be minimized sufficiently (ie, you don't have a heart condition or seizure disorder)

Honest question: if you're so smart, why not make a few tens of millions, then fill your day with whatever suits you, instead of making enough to get by and contemplating suicide?

I'm sure some people do that. That's business acumen, however, not my personal forte.

Not many brilliant people ever become rich. To become rich takes not just cleverness or even genius, but the ability to convince others to invest in it and not simply fuck you over.

For myself, I'm just not interested in inventions. I'm far more interested in math and geology, so I spend most of my free time just being amazed by the earth. I'm no better at inventing a million dollar idea than the next guy. Probably worse, since I have literally spent hours investigating the wear patterns and flaking on a rock outcropping and considering the forces involved in it.

I didn't mean inventions, necessarily, just a high-paying job where you can retire early, certainly programming is like that today for a brilliant and even a somewhat less than brilliant person. I'd expect that if you loathe spending time on things you aren't inherently interested in, you might be willing to suffer through a few years of that to then never have to do it again. (This is how I thought about things at age 15, at any rate, and I'm pretty sure my intelligence wasn't nearly high enough relatively to how unimpressive my people skills were.)

Because none of the "highly intelligent" skills pays that well. This is sad but true.

> I'm far more interested in math and geology...

Uh, normie here, so the following question likely has an obvious answer, but it sounds like you are bored not because of a lack of interesting problems, but a lack of capability to tackle interesting problems in your preferred problem domains. To my knowledge, we don't really empirically know what the earth is composed of beneath the crust. Could there be open problems that might happily engage you in the area of determining/cataloging the math behind using say, neutrino interactions with various types of geologic matter to put in the theoretical foundations to an empirical experiment to establish what we really are standing on top of? If not neutrinos, then perhaps you could work on other ways we might be able to harness what we know of particle physics to interact with the matter beneath our feet?

As beautifully weird and wonderful as the universe is, and as fractally complex as it reveals itself the more we look into it, I can't even imagine having the intellectual firepower you have and being bored. I'm constantly frustrated that I'm not smarter, and unable to absorb new material faster than I currently able; I could literally access and integrate new material like Data in Star Trek and still not be satisfied, because there simply isn't enough time to enjoy it all.

Interested in mathematics and geology, so you say? Behold, I am the polypontian, and spin links 'twixt diverse nodes not my own:


Perhaps this Anders would be interested to discuss the particular brand of paint you enjoy watching dry [0].

[0] Which if one has any fascination at all with viscous fluids or amorphous solids, one really must try sometime.

Wow, I love the randomness of coincidences like this.

I got to know Anders over 20 years ago, he was clearly crazy intelligent, and great fun, because he would always go off in funny what-if scenarios. Checking his blog confirms that he's still doing exactly this, and still thinking very hard about it. :-)

You sound ADHD symptomatic, it might be worth looking into that. That includes both regularly doing three things at once and occasionally focusing on inappropriate things for hours.

Satoshi did it with some mild social engineering, a mailing list, and C.

I have the same issue in terms of needing to split my attention. I always have multiple computers or at least screens up doing multiple things and then at least listening to a few things in the background. It's very frustrating when I can't do that.

Any other coping mechanisms you use besides split attention?

I don't understand how you can be bored. I understand how dumb people can be bored; they think they know everything, and they never bother exploring. Every conversation is the same superficial baloney.

I went to a world class university, having done math a year early and winning contests.

It's very, very easy for me to find something I don't understand. There's always some course or wikipedia or something that I can't just pick up and understand. So how could I ever be bored?

You mean socially bored rather than intellectually? These days it's not that hard to find other smart people, is it?

When a smart person gets bored, it's because their brain tells then it's not fun to enjoy simple pleasures that normies enjoy. There is no requirement to be dumb to enjoy watching sports, but some people can't enjoy it because "it's stupid". It's more an social-emotional disorder, an obsessive ambition for trying to do Important Things, than a problem with being too smart.

If sports is the topic, you will find a wealth of modern statistical analyses that add an extra dimension to your viewing. There's all sorts of blogs offering insights that you couldn't get a few years ago.

It's better than being a fool. I've lived my life just on the edge of being capable of an original thought. I find it kind of agonizing.

From your testimony and Throwaway's it seems most of your problems are due to externalities of other's comparative stupidity. An 8-foot tall man feels out of place in a world built for 5'10 people, through no fault of his own but also through no fault of the comparative midgets. We may have done a disservice to smart people by attaching such stigma to Mensa and other high-IQ societies. A sufficiently selective club or workplace seems like it would solve most of your problems. It also strikes me that once we can select for high-IQ alleles, it might be best to narrow the bell curve even as we raise the mean past your and Throwaway's level.

The stigma on Mensa is that the Mensa is an org of people who have accomplished nothing so they just brag about scoring high on a test 10-30 years ago.

There's no stigma around getting together with people to "make" or hack or do math or write an intelligent blog or do whatever smart thing you enjoy.

I'm curious how those like you who are extremely intelligent feel about teaching, specifically topics which are very rudimentary to you, and whether this bores you to death or provides you with any enjoyment or sense of fulfillment?

I'm a decidedly not smart person, but through some good fortune I work with some extremely smart people. I work in aerospace as a technician and many of my coworkers are Engineering/CompSci/Math/Physics people. I frequently pester them with all sorts of questions that to them must be very mundane. Unless they are really good at humoring me, which is entirely possible, I get the feeling that many of them genuinely enjoy explaining things, even when they have to dumb it down, to me.

This just means you work with good people. Good people of all levels like to help and teach others. Altruism is a key part of a working society.

Unfortunately, being a genius has little to do with being a good person. Given the mad scientist archetype, there may even be a correlation between douchebag and genius.

Finding something to do with the spare cycles is definitely one problem that has to be solved.

Speaking of which, here's another /r/iamverysmart funny story about spare cycles: I had a very smart, quirky friend from rural California. I took her to a party once and she wasn't interested in the people there who weren't terribly intellectual, but I was having a decent time practicing my social skills. She sat in the corner and just starred at the wall catatonically. I asked her if she was alright. She assured me she was and told me she had gotten really good at dealing with boredom growing up in a small town with nothing to do and no other nerds around.

I'm going to put this out there. Gifted children need mentors more than they need teachers who understand their abilities. There are many things that will make them struggle in school, and without a mentor to be there with them offering advice and keeping them grounded then there's going to be the same issues popping up over and over with each new year.

What we need is a sort of Big Brother/Sister program but not for at-risk children in the traditional sense, but highly gifted children who will be lost without someone to help guide them through the problems they'll face in early life.

We also need to educate parents about the potential benefits of a mentor program. It can be particularly difficult to convince people in the top quintile that they are ill-equipped for any task related to their children.

From a limited dataset: They get by. Find balance. When you ask them for a coffee, they tell you they don't have the $5 to take the subway to meet you and are very sorry for that.

Some have other problems they are trying to work around, and all their energy goes to that and not inventing the next quantum equation.

They drop out of being the hottest developers in the software industry, they stop being the top performers in the financial sector.

They can get back, but it requires support. Our western society isn't optimized for such support but for grinding the rest down.

So, it's not where they go, it's how do the rest of us, help them?

Author of the article here: yes, the most interesting question is, what can we do to help?

The article makes some suggestions. Short version:

Spread awareness, especially among professionals (medical doctors, psychiatrists, etc). I have seen lots of high-IQ/highly sensitive people who got terrible advice from psychologists and psychiatrists. Educate those professionals, so at least they don't do any damage.

Also: a communication platform for troubled high-IQ folks would be great! I would do it myself, but I'm bad at both, IT and social networking.

I know at least one of these people (IQ 155).

Here is the fundamental problem she has: lower IQ people will deny the obvious even in front of their eyes.

The combined delusion of all these people literally build our world that for her appears like a cheap stupid fairy tale (specially IQ 110-120 people that try to trick lower IQ people for money (advertisement etc)).

She is surgeon and only deals with children: it keeps a lot of the low IQ people at bay. When she is not fixing children, she is riding horses. Much else is just fake to protect her from low IQ people.

These 2 poor souls physically segregated themselves from low IQ people, she did the same... to a less extreme level (accepted to pretend/lie when needed).

If she had seen a big warning sign saying "high IQ hurts", she would probably have had found help and more people to soften the terrible loneliness she experiences.

So tell the experts that they're wrong, and that they are ignorant about part of their field? That sort of behavior rarely has a beneficial outcome, and can appear egotistical.

> When one of them learned that their high IQ might cause some of the trouble they experienced, they once again looked for professional help, only to find out that the problem is widely unknown out there.

How did they learn of this - that their IQ might cause some of these troubles - what was their authoritative information source? Essentially, they've found multiple professional authorities who dispute the information they heard somewhere and chose to believe.


Learning and technical skills have always been easy for me, understanding people less so. I got an undergrad business degree specifically to understand why businesses do some of the nonsensical things they do. What I learned is that companies are essentially just organizations of humans, money, and things - and humans do all kinds of 'nonsensical' things because we are humans.

There's a surprising dearth of research into the challenges faced by gifted people.

As a topic, it does get some - not much - attention in both psychology and psychiatry. But it's considered a specialised field far out of the mainstream.

This is a crude analogy, but a high IQ is in itself the same as having a certain gene, or genes. A marker of potential for something, but environment/nature is such as or more important. Nature in this case would be social environment, if we are talking about social/life success etc. And social/life success is tied far more strongly to emotional IQ. I'm up there at the far end of the IQ scale, but at this point in my life, I can see that all the trouble I've had in life is due to the emotional IQ part. And that was all due to the psychological environment I had to grow up in.

Those anecdotes are bereft of real details, but I think it is safe to assume those people, because of their home environment, didn't grow up with <whatever is needed> to deal with the issues of dealing with society in some manner. Society, is .. well, once you grasp psychology and how primate societies operate, the stupidity of humanity makes sense. It doesn't excuse it, but that is humanity for you. You just learn not to expect the ideal, as simple as it may seem to one smarter than average. An understanding of Buddhism helps.

The fact that psychotherapy etc didn't help shouldn't serve as a condemnation of the profession entirely, but just the fact that an awful lot of therapists are incompetent. I think I was lucky, I had mostly good ones. they didn't help solve everything, but each provided the support to get ahold of the next piece of the puzzle.

Even then, with a good therapist, it still takes some sort of inner resolve to fully transcend one's emotional pain. I have no good advice on this other than keep trying and learn enough psychology/psychiatry so you can spot the idiots. One you learn how to start playing psychotherapist with yourself, it becomes easier.

Suggestions? Some sort of group therapy model re: a platform would be an idea. Group therapy was very useful for me. I could see the problems I wrestled with mirrored in the problems others wrestled with - the guy that had a personality fundamentally like mine was ... the details were different, but the themes were the same. You wouldn't want a platform for people to just reinforce their complaining or poor me attitude. i.e. no friendships or socializing developing out of it. OTOH, text only communication is bad for this sort of thing. A group video conference might be workable, but I don't know, there are logistical problems I think. But I am somewhat biased, given what I know and have found useful.

I was one of those "gifted left behind" students. Majority of my family never completed high school and no one in my family went to college. High school was the bare minimum requirement to work at the local furniture factory and that is where you were expected to work after graduation (college was out of scope us simple folks).

My high school barely offered any AP courses, didn't prepare students for the SAT (I didn't know what it was) and despite having nearly a 4.0 GPA (unweighted, since I never took any AP courses) the "best" college I was told I could attend was a local nearby liberal arts school. I had no guidance on where to go to college nor any preparation.

I showed talent at an early age but there were simply no resources for me. I ended up going to a community college, had nearly a 4.0 GPA (taking mostly STEM courses) and a guidance consoler recommended I apply for a prestigious university located in the state. I told her I couldn't do that as I knew I wouldn't be accepted, told her the acceptance rate is too low. She tried to push really hard for me apply and said I would get in. I declined. Instead I went to a much lower ranked university (looking back on it I could have gotten into the initial school) and ended up doing research there. The research led to a publication but for one reason or another my GPA dropped and continue to drop each semester (had A+s, As in some courses, Ds in others). I received help from no one and had no support system.

Ended up transferring to a larger school. Started over there, GPA continued to suffer (was dealing with a lot) and graduated. Despite my low GPA I was accepted to a highly ranked graduate school and was offered a fellowship, teaching assistant ship and research assistantship, but I also received a job offer with a much higher starting salary. My family was in such need at this time I had to accept the job over graduate school.

After working in industry I developed a new interest and decided I wanted to go back into academia. At this moment in my life I'm preparing to make the switch. I enrolled in a well-ranked university taking pre-req courses in the new field and currently pulling off a 4.0 GPA. I plan to apply to graduate school shortly.

Most of my friends had more of a straight path into graduate school.

I imagine you want to keep this private so could you at least name the nearest town to where you grew up? Just trying to find out if this is in America or another country. Your story is very familiar. Unfortunately your family seems to be taking advantage of your goodwill. I know because I've experience it myself. They get into all sorts of trouble and then they expect you to drop everything and to sacrifice everything to help them. Good luck.


Anyone else fascinated by the "window of comprehension" mentioned in the article? It's really fascinating to me. As the article says, it's the idea that "no meaningful communication is possible among people not sharing a common window of 30 IQ points."

I have no idea how true it is, but it's a really interesting idea. At least in my experience it's a probabilistic thing: as people get more different in IQ communication becomes harder, with a few exceptions.

What do you all think?

The window of comprehension is a (probably) over-generalized concept. It was first mentioned in the 1985 paper "Intelligence and personal influence in groups: Four nonlinear models" by Dean Keith Simonton with respect to "leadership". The point in question from the abstract:

> Model 4, the intellectual stratification model, expands on the fact that the mean group IQ varies across different groups and, consequently, predicts a high correlation between the group mean IQ and the IQ of its most influential member, with a leader–follower gap of between 8 and 20 points, depending on the submodel.

The theory is that one's influence over others decreases as the intelligence gap between one and others increases. Simonton theorized that this is probably due to the increase in the complexity of ideas as IQ increases.

The reason I say it is probably over-generalized in this case is because I don't think influential communication necessarily counts as "meaningful communication".

I was certainly very interested in this concept. I admit my instant reaction was one of complete repugnance. Human communication comprises a huge array of different things, the minority of which have to do with abstract reasoning. IQ is a very specific measure of one aspect of human intelligence.

In a sense this concept (the window of comprehension), reductive as it seems, would be more likely to reinforce the problems the individuals mentioned have, by emphasizing human communication as an intellectual rather than a social activity.

In general my experience of very intelligent people is that they have an excellent ability to interact with people of all types, including people with relatively undeveloped powers of abstract thought. After all understanding context is to my mind a strong indicator of intelligence.

On the other hand I'd be interested to hear more from people of very high IQ on this topic - if they think they can get their ideas across to me over the 30 point barrier

The key here is "meaningful". I'm not sure about 145 talking to 115, but I can imagine that 115 talking to 85 would be downright painful. We would just not care about the same things.

Thought experiment: you're the last two humans. You've an IQ of 115 and the other person has an IQ of 85.

In my imagination a hell of a lot of that difference would become meaningless within the first week or so.

I've thought the same at times but concluded that it depends on one's patience and the time and effort one is willing to devote to communication. The phrase "putting oneself in the other person's shoes" seems to best describe what's necessary. Perhaps that skill is something that, while socially very useful, IQ tests fail to measure. Heck, we can even communicate with other animals to some degree.

Aside: it appears that, rather than describing only the article's subjects' problems with very high IQ, there may be a variety of problems being expressed here by posters, varying from a very high IQ to grandiosity, ADHD, autism, indeed the full spectrum of psychological disorders plus normal behavior. It's hard to separate the wheat from the chaff.

this seems like an observation rather than a hard-and-fast rule, meaning that we can use social skills to "break" the rule. if i'm high intelligence but low on impatience, then the rule seems to be true for me, since i'll just give up on talking with low intelligence people (according to the rule). but when i'm feeling generous and patient, then i can have a lot more compassion and empathy to see the world the way the other person does without worrying about what the "intelligent" position is.

rationality (what intelligence is good for) is only one input to our decision-making, and i believe intelligent people particularly need to periodically remind themselves of that (rather than allowing supposed rules like this to short-circuit our behavior).

I also found it fascinating and enjoyed reading through the other IQ-related content on the same website: http://www.t3x.org/iq/index.html

Warning, I might not be as smart as I think I am and this may be irrelevant. I am a college student who has coasted his entire life. My father is a professor and probably the only reason I am not socially isolated. From my experience(which may or may not be relevant) being this gifted is a lot like living an RPG.

.The person you are when interacting is nothing but a character. You have to fake engagement, interest, and ability in order to have friends or you can be alone.

.You need to give your life some long term goal otherwise no work has meaning because it serves no use. However, say your goal is to cure cancer you know you have to do well in school and social to later gain access to the resources necessary for your goal. An RPG without a quest is no fun.

I'm trying to figure out how realistic the mentioned concept of a "window of comprehension" actually is. This [paper? article? post?] only has one external reference - to another document from the same group[1]. That short document, in turn, makes unsupported claims that "Studies have shown that there is a “window of comprehension” of about 30 IQ points."

A quick Google search didn't provide anything further in support of the idea; just some references to the concept from the same group.

Is this a real thing? It would be fascinating if it were, for many different contexts.

[1] http://www.triplenine.org/portals/0/PublicDocs/Vidya/vidya_3...

I was first exposed to this idea in a book called Greatness: Who makes history and why.

IIRC, one of the points was that most famous generals (at least historically) did not typically have extremely high IQs (e.g., 150+) -- the generals needed to be in the 11x-12x range so that they could be within an IQ range that was able to empathize with their soldiers (or at least the junior officers) who were likely in the 9x-10x range.

I just checked the ToC on Amazon, and I think chapter 8 touches on this topic. It has been a while since I read it, so I might be wrong. I can't recall what sources the author cited, if any.

On a personal level, the idea of a "window of comprehension" has helped me a lot. I used to get frustrated as a kid when people didn't see the same solutions (or even problems) that I saw. Later I came to realize that they were just seeing it from a different perspective than I was. There can be some complex social interaction to get other folks to see the bigger and more dynamic problem and solution space without coming across as condescending, but it's awesome when it happens.

I am highly skeptical of this as well. It is certainly not my experience. I sometimes catch myself getting impatient and irritable when I am attempting to communicate with some one of low-to-average intelligence (I'm around 150), but if anything my ability to engage in abstract and metaphorical thinking helps me paint pictures to explain complex things to people.

Part of the problem, I think, is that this may well be true for people who have certain personality profiles, in particular if they have poor emotional intelligence. But I do not believe this speaks to some intrinsic "impossibility" but rather social barriers to effective communication, barriers that can, with effort, be overcome.

If one is self-reflective enough to be able to recognize how arrogant they sound to to others, learns humility, patience, and the value of human life other than one's own, communication is not a problem. It just takes more effort.

But I will say this: I constantly have to ask the question, "I know what they literally said, but what did they actually mean?" Because if I don't I come off like a prick.

I think you hit the nail on the head with your comment on emotional intelligence and communication.

That said, does the ability to empathize and communicate with someone outside of that window mean that it doesn't exist? I know that when I go full speed with someone at my level, it sounds like a foreign language to some of my peers. They understand the words we say, but they don't really understand the conclusions, implications, etc.

Note that I am not sure I agree with the hard interpretation of the author of the article (specifically, "no meaningful communication is possible among people not sharing a common window of 30 IQ points"). That said, I do think that there are some fundamental differences in how people outside of a 30-point range perceive the world.

The footnote in the post also references this paper for the claim-

Intelligence and personal influence in groups: Four nonlinear models. Simonton, Dean K. Psychological Review, Vol 92(4), Oct 1985, 532-547


The paper is behind a paywall, but the abstract makes me wonder about this reference:

"Describes 4 progressive models that provide a conceptual basis for a curvilinear relation between intelligence and an individual's influence over other group members.

"Model 1, the intellectual superiority model, by assuming that influence is a function of percentile placement in intelligence, predicts that beyond an IQ of about 120 intelligence bears a negligible connection with influence.

"Model 2, the comprehension factor, adds the consideration of the degree of comprehension by potential followers, yielding a nonmonotonic function with a predicted peak IQ of about 108, approximately 0.5 standard deviations (SD) above the mean.

"Model 3 incorporates the criticism factor that acknowledges a group member's vulnerability to intellectual superiors, and thereby predicts a 2nd nonmonotonic function with an optimal IQ of about 119 (or 1.2 SD above the mean).

"Model 4, the intellectual stratification model, expands on the fact that the mean group IQ varies across different groups and, consequently, predicts a high correlation between the group mean IQ and the IQ of its most influential member, with a leader–follower gap of between 8 and 20 points, depending on the submodel.

"It is surmised that other factors besides intelligence must participate in the determination of who becomes the leader of a group. Even if intelligence is not the exclusive determinant, the models strongly imply that published validity coefficients are biased downward."

I don't see any evidence for the existence (beyond the assumptions of "a model") of a "window".

I think introversion may be partly to blame. I can relate to a lot of the things about the people in this article.

That said, over many years, I managed to train myself to act extroverted. Recently, someone even accused me of being a "social, networking type" which they probably meant as an insult but it was actually a massive compliment to my life's work ;p

I may be misunderstanding what you're referring to, but I just wanted to point out that "introversion" doesn't mean "misanthropic." In a nutshell, introversion/extroversion just refers to what effect social interaction has on you: Does being with people energize you, or leave you drained? For example, I'm most certainly an introvert, but I love meeting up with friends for an evening---the "introvert" part is that at a certain point, I just want to leave and go sit in a quiet room. Interaction is tiring, not unpleasant.

Anyway, I'm wandering: My point was, I'm not sure you've trained yourself to "act extroverted," just to be more social than your "comfort zone" would normally allow.

I don't agree with his approach for a few reasons:

1) The 145 cutoff seems arbitrary. A kid at 135 doesn't get help? Plus constantly speaking about a number feels a little uncomfortable on the side of elitism.

2) Poverty is not mentioned as a problem to address. Roughly there are 40,000 people in the US this smart - living below the poverty line. Can you imagine the boost if they all hit potential?

3) And crime? We've got thousands of criminals with an IQ >= 145. And as De Niro said, they're not doin' thrill-seeker liquor store holdups with a "Born to Lose" tattoo on their chest.

4) All the assumptions could be wrong. I was in this group, and barely made it out of high school, failed out of college a couple of times. But the problem wasn't school, my teachers were mostly nice. I had learned poor homework discipline combined with having a severe fear of failure.

Point is when people don't meet potential, there are a dizzying number of reasons, each with their own twists. How do you know which?

IQ means little if you do not have the ambition, drive, and courage to be more.

I have known many people with superior IQs working in brainless jobs. They would not leave or consider another way of life. Actually, one did. I was her best friend. She loved kids. I planted little hints that she would make a great teacher. She watched me go through college. Once she saw me do it, she decided she could do it to. She went for two years, took on a double load, and graduated at the top of her class. She is now a middle school teacher. Not making great money, but she loves her job.

The paper says, "Of course, high-IQ societies exist, but then most of their members appear to be rather successful and hence limited in their understanding of people who never achieved much, if anything, in life."

Some people join high-IQ societies because they haven't achieved a lot, and any society where they share an important attribute is a place where they can fit in. And Mensa, at least, has a good deal of support for gifted children.

Right; Mensa demographic is high-IQ non-achievers. Kind of the point - a club where you can feel appreciated even though you don't find that anywhere else.

69% of Mensa members make more than $50,000/year, and 47% of them make more than $75,000/year. I'm sure they have some non-achieving members but it doesn't look like their main demographic.

That sounds sort of average or even below. The Elks club probably looks like that. For the top 2% intelligent people in the world, that counts as non-achieving. Working in a bookstore or running a gas station is not what you'd expect from geniuses.

Median income in the US is not quite $52,000, so Mensa is somewhat above average.

That's the median household income; i.e. two incomes. The median personal income is more like $30,000.

Whoopsie. Thanks for pointing that out.

How about working as a patent clerk or a lowly mathematics lecturer.

Yearly earnings is not the sole measure of success.

I don't disagree with you completely, just want to make a point that you can have an unfulfilling job and still make a lot of money.

The article is talking about people who drop out of school or don't go to college in the first place, and can't hold down a job. 82% of Mensa members have a four-year degree, and their median income is above average. Their demographic is clearly not concentrated on people like this. I'm sure many of their members have unfulfilling jobs or unfulfilling lives, as is the case with many people in general, but that's a different thing entirely.

(I feel like I should clarify that I'm not a Mensa member and don't really care about the organization one way or another. I was just curious about the initial claim and looked up the basic membership demographics.)

Mensa is just the top 2%, though. The top 0.1% are to Mensa as Mensa is to society as a whole. For the reallllllly high IQ people, your average Mensa member can be the worst. Smart enough to know they're smart, but unable to see how much higher the scale goes

Don't even start with Mensa. You'd be hard pressed to find a more smug collection of assholes on this planet


I've read a bit about the disfunction of Mensa; I never gathered that they were assholes. Just that most highly-gifted people find their peers in extremely selective universities and corporations, so you get a hugely disproportionate number of beautiful losers.

That high school drop out story hits close to home.

My advice is to get a low level job at a smaller company that has a department which does interesting or highly technical work. Start talking to their IT/Technical/Whatever staff and let them know you work on x/y/z in your free time.

In my case I did a good deal of free work after hours (100+ hour weeks) before actually moving to a full time programming position (50 hour weeks), but it was worth it considering it completely turned my career prospects around.

Being on the other side of things now, most companies are starving for good people.

Starting to teach helped me immensely. I've learned a lot about how other people relate to the world. Just having an advanced understanding of something is useless in many situations unless you're able to communicate this understanding to other people so they can share it.

Someone I know was tested at an IQ of 145. She placed #1 in her city (the capital city of the country) for high school entrance exams among tens of thousands of students. She is now a VP in her mid-30s of a Fortune 100 company and on track to be CFO. However, her goal is to be a CFO in the next 5 years, and I have no doubt she will accomplish that.

Interesting read.

Personally, I feel like I'm somewhere on this spectrum, but perhaps not as far along as your two examples. Depending on my choices over the next couple years, it could go either way, I think.

I have terrible OCD and anxiety, and usually spend 1-2 days a week dealing with that problem alone. But thankfully my job is flexible and well-paid enough that I can still live pretty comfortably.

More than anything else (and embarrassingly), I sympathize with your examples' misanthropy and consequent social isolation.

In my opinion, being almost completely subject to disciplinary structures such as work and school for most of their lives makes most people pretty uninteresting. I can't say that I've done lots of super interesting things myself (working on it!), but unfortunately that doesn't really help me feel better about my peers.

I also dislike the kind of social interactions social media seems to encourage. For me, the need to constantly seek or maintain approval of a wide audience of people is extremely unbecoming. Being an introvert, I also can't really deal with the 'little bits of social interaction sprinkled over time' pattern. But unfortunately, it seems that social media now dominates patterns of social relations, so it seems that I have to deal with that somehow...

Is the focus on "High IQ" helpful here? Why would the treatment for ADHD, Depression, Social Anxiety, etc, be any different for them than someone with a lower IQ?

Because in some cases it's none of the above; it's just not fitting in, and getting "treated" for being different is often the beginning of a long and sad history of self-blame and isolation.

because high IQ magnifies a lot of issues in ways that people not personally concerned or untrained may not be able to grasp.

I am in this category, but have a completely different experience. For one I did not get tested until late in life (and discovered I had an IQ of ~150 according to the Mensa standard admissions test), and for another I was in private school all the way through high school.

So I believe what made the difference for me was a combination of not growing up with that ultra-gifted stigma, attending a school with very small classes (sometimes I was the only student in a given class), and having a great deal of socialization with intelligent adults. I still had a lot of difficulty relating to others my age, and thus made few lasting friends.

I also did my best to shy away from any attempt to classify me as a genius. I didn't feel like a genius (whatever that means), and didn't want to be considered one. This, in part, is why I didn't bother to get tested until into my 40s.

Many of the symptoms described there looked like ADHD (of course I am not making a real diagnostic). High intelligence and lack of motivation leads to underachievement.

Was in the 99.9 percentile as a child and enjoyed gifted classes until high school where I was exceptionally bored and hardly applied myself. I ended up at a lower-ranked state university where I am able to try a little harder (thanks STEM), though it still doesn't feel rewarding being so far ahead of your classmates. Fortunately, my campus life is much more social than my more ambitious hs friends' campuses, although I do often feel intellectually alienated.

I really have to thank HN for providing a stimulating community. The high-quality resources and discussions here have made my life much more pleasant; as a community you've improved my outlook drastically. Thanks. (Do any of you relate? If you have any advice, let me know!)

One of my friends left school to pursue a professional career at 18, did it rather successfully and then retired after a few years to go back to school. He decided to go back via community college but it bored him to tears. The teaching was terrible and none of his peers seemed worth talking to. Then he started looking at the online recordings that good schools put up of their classes, realized the gap in teaching quality and decided to transfer to a vastly better school. He's been much happier since.

It's easy for us to blame or be indignant about our environments, but sometimes I also think it's our own responsibilities to go find the places in the world that would work for us.

I personally like finding hobbies and pursuing them relentlessly with the goal of becoming the best in the world. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. But I usually enjoy myself and get to meet some really remarkable people I wouldn't have otherwise.

Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth has a lot of useful resources for parents and others wondering about the needs of smart kids and what can be done for them.


They helped us with my daughter.

Having attended five Summers worth of residential CTY programs, I attest and affirm that nothing - university, private organizations, or autodidactism - has yet exceeded the intensity of immersion in an environment of pure learning that I experienced there.

I am not sure I buy that this is related to the intelligence of the children involved. To match those two stories, I can probably identify a half dozen others with the same rough trajectory, minus the comments about how bright they are and how they could pass at school without trying. The problem isn't that they're screwed by the system, educational or otherwise. The problem is that they never figured out how to interact with other people, for whatever reason.

I have considerable sympathy because I, too, have difficulties interacting with other people. But there's much more to it than "he's so smart that he's frustrated and bored with everyone and everything."

Then there's this:

"Finally, a platform for those extraordinarily gifted people who failed to find a place in life could be helpful. Of course, high-IQ societies exist, but then most of their members appear to be rather successful and hence limited in their understanding of people who never achieved much, if anything, in life. Of course, sympathy and understanding is also present in many who did better, and exchange with those can also be very helpful."

Successful, intelligent people, particularly those who join "high iq societies", tend, in my experience, to have little empathy with those who they see as less intelligent, which is partially defined as less successful.

I took and passed Algabra in the 6th 7th 8th and 9th grade. I slept in class usually didn't do the home work and got A's on most every test. But the teachers all felt I wasn't ready for harder math as they thought I wasn't mature enough. I didnt realize till years latter that this turned me from a bright excited student to lazy, lethargic and not wanting to challenge myself academically. Ended up graduating with a 1.8 gpa and a 1380 SAT score. Ended up joining the army, Infantryman, paratrooper and a Sergent by 21 years of age. Now I'm 34 and feel in some ways that if teachers had allowed me to progress and encouraged me earlier instead of being punished for not showing work or doing homework that was essentially busy work,I would have applied my self fully then instead of in the Army. As proud of I am of my service and having been a wartime team leader in the infantry at 21, maybe I would have gone to college first and not had to suffer from various medical and metal issues at the age of 34 from my military service. /rant over.

Edited for typos as I'm half blind and proffreding sucks.

Contrary to the op's post there does exist tons of studies and literature for those very few high IQ children and teens with social problems.

The biggest and most wellknown study is the MHP Marburger Hochbegabtenprojekt from the 80ies.

First, the problem rate is very very low (the 0.1%): "The study concludes with popular stereotypes. As a result, characteristics such as outsiders, aggressiveness, concentration problems, which are often attributed to high-achievers and high-IQ teens in popular media, are mere prejudices."

https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marburger_Hochbegabtenprojekt http://www.angelfire.com/art/gregorbrand/Roststudie.html

Another official german paper is "Zu Entwicklungsschwierigkeiten hochbegabter Kinder und Jugendlicher in Wechselwirkung mit ihrer Umwelt"

Nobody mentioned Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)?

I was surprised too, especially considering how hard it is to discern ASD symptoms caused by high IQ from high IQ caused by ASD. I fall in the middle of that Venn diagram, and unless there's some sort of miraculous scientific breakthrough in that area, I doubt I'll ever know for sure.

I had social anxiety. Got counseling around 3-4 years ago. Even though I was never formally diagnosed, my mother always thought I was somewhere on the Autism spectrum. Not enough to really hinder me at everything, but enough to make me socially incapable.

I've never taken an IQ test but I think I would score fairly high.

I've had a similar experience with the dumbing down in classrooms. (Probably many times before this but I have a memory that is totally shit at some things but great at others) So I'm taking a beginner programming class at college in python. About half way though the semester I finished the class barely working hard. I could have done in 2-4 weeks had I went through it as fast as possible. There was another session that was a bit faster but I was the first to finish by far. Some of the things other people struggled with kinda amazed me. Things I would do in 30 minutes to an hour they might take 3 plus days including the professor really helping them. Any time I tried to help, I quickly got frustrated since I wasn't going to tell them how exactly to do it. Also I taught myself nearly all the course material.

This was at an engineering/art/business private college (which only had a comp sci minor) which I'm transferring away from to do computer programming.

The problem is they knew they were smarter than everyone else.

When you've pulled a number that tells you you're smarter than everyone else, it becomes really easy to use your IQ as a binky and disengage from reality. This will stunt your development in so many ways. It's the genetic lottery equivalent of squandering it all on coke and whores.

If we wanted to fix this, I think the first lesson in gifted classes should be: "You're a Special Snowflake, but life is still going to suck." Basically, teach them that the rest of the world only cares about you in terms of what you bring to the table, that no man is an island, and that bringing things to the table is usually a dirty job no matter how smart you are.

With child prodigies often in sports, music, arts it easy to see and recognize the talent.

But 'smart' as a word out of context on its own is vague, subjective and can say many things.

How do we distinguish between 'smart' and those who may simply have a high opinion of themselves or are being pushed by parents with extra training, and the pressure itself on children of unrealistic expectations.

If you leave it vague you risk creating a whole victimhood mentality of individuals who think they are entitled but the world, schools, teachers etc has somehow conspired to deny them.

I think its important to be explicit in these discussion about terms like 'smart', their context and what is being referred to.

I remember taking a programming course many years ago at a community college. I finished an assignment, which wasn't too hard, and decided to go on to an advanced, unassigned topic. The instructor came into the lab, and so I asked her to clarify something. She was visibly irritated with me and told me to stick to the assignment, then stormed out. I felt like a horrible person and kept asking myself "what is wrong with you?". Months or years later I realized I need to stop feeling guilty. I had not harmed anyone, and I think she did know the answer to the question I had asked.

My experience in school matches that of "The Guy" pretty closely. To this day I still am not quite sure what to make of it; I went to private schools that were probably more challenging than other places I could have been, and I obviously learned a massive amount just being there doing some of the work (to say nothing of the social education), but I just could not make myself care enough to get good grades, especially in classes where homework was weighted heavily.

It's not like I was doing anything worthwhile instead. Playing video games, mostly, and running around in the yard during the summer rather than completing the "summer math packet" and prescribed readings. I always doubly dreaded the end of summer, because I'd never done the homework. I think the constant dread of the moment of reckoning when homework was to be turned in, and I was empty-handed, gave me a serious sort of imposter-ish syndrome that persists to this day. Back then I was constantly having doors closed on me because of my slacking, and while I am quite successful now in my career I am still reticent to try opening doors because I'm wired to assume they will be locked.

Anyway, it turned out that I can actually be a functional member of society and a valuable worker (software engineer, natch). But my basic incompatibility with school made it a real crapshoot whether I'd get the opportunity to prove my worth; if it wasn't for a lucky break getting an internship referral from a professor who liked me, my life would probably look very different right now. I'd probably be dead, honestly; I don't take care of myself well when I'm in a depressed and aimless mode.

What to take away from this, I don't know (which is frustrating). I don't know what my IQ is, and I don't really care at this point in my life, but I'm certainly not the sort of scintillating Von Neumann-esque intellect that you hear about a lot in threads like this. I'm not sure what a path to some "school for the gifted" would have looked like for me, whether I would have been accepted or not, and whether that would have "unlocked my true potential" or just left me in the same situation with the added wrinkle of material so difficult that I couldn't BS through it anymore (I started to really run into this in higher-level university classes).

I am smart, though, and I want to have kids and I assume they'll be smart too. I'd like to know how they can avoid the same pitfalls that held me back earlier in life, because if they can, I think they could be much more successful than I've been.

> I'd like to know how they can avoid the same pitfalls that held me back earlier in life

There's a lot of studies around gifted kids that show that if you praise them for results, they grow up like you (and me), very risk-averse, only applying themselves if they knew they would succeed.

Instead, you should praise kids for effort. Reward work, not just punish non-work, as was done to you.

Even if you're clever, sometimes you just have to sit down and do boring-ass tasks, and it's a very useful adulting skill to have.

I'm currently facing this problem as a volunteer. I'm teaching coding to my son's 4th grade classroom and there are about 5 or so kids out of 30 who finish everything assigned really fast and have to wait for the others to catchup. On the other end of the spectrum, there are aoubt 4-5 kids who need some extra help while the rest of the class has moved on.

I'm not a teacher by profession but this little volunteer effort has given me a lot of appreciation for how hard the teacher's job is (and also what a insufferable little snot I must have been as a kid)

For the fast kids, create your lessons with extensions. You can google it for more details on how to do this skillfully, but an extension is basically building something extra onto your first task. Note that good extensions are not busy work -- they typically either lead to the creation of a cool product or they introduce a new and related concept. Either way, good extensions are ones that motivate the middle kids to try to get to the extensions phase.

For the extra-help kids, the best thing to do during class is to have them work with a friend who got it. Sometimes their peers can communicate the key ideas better than you can. After the class, you can review the problematic ideas with them and/or give them extra problems for them to work on (if they are interested). You will win them over if you can review those extra problems with them at a later time (e.g., before the next class).

I hate to sound trite, but intelligence (for which IQ is a proxy) is not only factor for success. Social skills will always be required - it seems like your two examples lacked these.

I actually think this is exactly the point. He is talking about how these people are highly intelligent but not successful because society isolates them and doesn't give them the opportunity and motivation to learn those skills in the appropriate window.

This is kind of the opposite of students that are underperforming that don't get the attention to help them keep up. Instead these are students that can overperform, but don't get the challenges, validation, and motivation - the general positive feedback - that will help them grow and succeed. Instead they are meet with disapproval and neglect since teachers both dislike them asking hard questions (thus challenging their authority among already hard to control kids) and don't have time to give them the attention they need (since they are most focused on the largest median group).

Yes, but this is not the case here. In particular, the author tries to solve the lack of social skills between people sorted in categories (thus by IQ in this case). So it's not that important whether they are 'intelligent' or not (the definition of 'intelligence' is controversial) but their integration into society (very poor so far, as the author shows). That's the problem the article aims to share.

High IQ creates barriers that can prevent one from experiencing the social situations that enable the development of social skills. And when you are left behind in social skills, past a certain age, people show much less tolerance for your quirks, and basically think that if you are that way, you must be weird/ have a problem and will not tell you honestly what is the issue with you. Giving somebody with subpar social skills social cues serve no purpose, as they don't get any benefit out of it. So you get a catch 22, as you don't have sufficient social skills to know / get the help needed to develop your social skills.

How could I meet these gifted, socially-isolated people? I'd be interested in Skype or Google Hangouts. Email me.

I can relate somewhat. Good student, got good grades with about zero effort, did good in extracurriculars, but found most academic-related things to be very boring (it was mostly memorization of facts with zero critical thinking). Most of my friends worked menial jobs or sold drugs, and while I did graduate high school and stay out of serious trouble, instead of university I got a restaurant job and partied, abused alcohol and drugs and lived a pretty interesting life. Excelled at work, rising to the top of the local food scene very quick, then got married and went to university at the behest of my wife who didn't like the restaurant lifestyle. Well, married life was boring, got restless, eventually we fell out and split (she wanted the white picket fence and everything, I wanted to just experience life with a fun partner), now I travel, gamble, trade stocks and sometimes will do a stint at restaurants my friends own just because it's fun. Oh, and programming, the wife hated that, she didn't see the point in creating programs and scripts that didn't 'make money' (never mind all the stock-picking and economic-analyzing scripts that kind of did make me money...).

Guess the point is that a 'typical' life isn't for everyone. I can finish my degree rather easily and get a permanent office job, but why? I'd rather be in Paris one day, the Caribbean the next, abusing substances and partying with a bunch of hot girls than slaving away for a boss at a job that is comically easy, where I have to slow down just to avoid the onslaught of extra work there'd be if I were to actually give a shit and try.

And honestly, I have friends who have money and things. I have money, less things, and I don't really feel like I miss out. No house? No stress. My car is a 4 door compact and not a BMW with leather seats? It still drives, is warm in the winter, and has less problems. I didn't finish my degree? Half my friends with degrees are unemployed now anyhow thanks to the shit local economy. With more debt. Speaking of which, I live in a place where, to be honest, all the 'good' jobs which once existed for educated people are never coming back (the degree which I'm a semester away from completing is in Economics fyi).

People need to change their idea of what success is. The robots are coming for all your jobs anyway, we'll need to deal with it. In the future, either we'll all be engaging in intellectual pursuits living on a guaranteed income, or living in dystopian future where the holders of capital lord over the rest of us who scrounge for scraps in an alternative economy (look at Brazil to see how massive inequality manifests itself).

Anyhow, just the musings of someone who others say has under-achieved, but has stopped giving a fuck. We all die, 'success' is overrated. We need to get back to having relationships and living life.

these symptoms sounds like career burnout


I would argue that discouraging very smart or technical people is typical for Western countries, and even more typical for the US. In Asian countries, the culture is much more favourable towards the smart and technical people (and, unfortunately, also much more competitive).

I always read a lot about the shortage of people in STEM fields, and teachers. The US education system is absolutely horrible. I had to explain how percentages work to a university student (not a bad university either). However, teachers still have a terrible salary, and teaching anything lower than university level is not a respected profession.

Teaching has a low salary because we have too many teachers. It would be strange to pay them more when there are already way more people who want to teach than there are jobs. The only reason to pay more would be to try to get higher quality teachers but I doubt an increase in pay will really increase quality much.

It might not increase quality initially, but it would make a difference in the long run. I know many bright people who don't consider teaching because they can have a much more comfortable life, both financially and bureaucratically, in other fields.

I also know many people who leave teaching early in their careers because of the relatively low pay and frustrating bureaucracy. I've been a teacher for 20 years. It was deeply frustrating early in my career to meet teachers who were near the end of their careers, did a terrible job, and got paid almost twice what I made.

This issue also varies widely throughout the country. I teach in Alaska, and pay here is decent. But there are parts of the country where I'd take a $20k+ cut in salary, without a corresponding cost of living change.

> we have too many teachers

Are you really saying that doubling the number of teachers and reducing the number of students per class would not improve education? Would it not help with differentiated learning?

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