In terms of IQ, I think mathematicians are averaging something like +2 SD (>= 130). They are certainly "geniuses" (or "gifted"). But they themselves don't think they are geniuses, because by that word they mean +4 SD (>= 160) people.
I think this sort of usage is so deeply ingrained that there's not much point in trying to counter it by adopting a fixed formal definition (e.g., someone elsewhere in the thread said something like "genius means IQ >= 140, get over it"). Instead, either pick a definition and say what definition you're using or use it informally and live with the fact that sometimes you'll be misunderstood.
In this particular case, it seems reasonably clear that what she means by "geniuses" is "people with the sort of ability the big names in mathematics generally have": her point is that mathematical progress depends not only on the Gausses and Thurstons and Ramanujans but also, just as much, on the ordinary mathematicians who, yes, are generally also extremely bright but are very conscious of the gulf between them and the famously-brilliant ones.
(Is it absurd to say "just as much"? No, because there are a lot more ordinary mathematicians than once-in-a-generation ones.)
It sounds less so if you read the next sentence, and the one after that.
As a mathematician who studied at Berkeley, Harvard and Princeton, I’ve known geniuses. I got to hang out with Andrew Wiles, who is credited with solving Fermat’s Last Theorem, and I met Grigori Perelman, who solved the Poincare Conjecture. They’re great guys, but they didn’t do it on their own. For each certified genius, there are at least a hundred other great people who helped achieve such outstanding results.
First the other end of the Dunning Kruger effect where competent people underestimate their competence rank.
Second, only good mathematicians can recognize the massive gap between good mathematician and a real top class mathematical genius. For the mere mortals they both are so far that they look alike.
 Mathematician can be replaced with any other talent/competence. Actually I realized this phenomena first in sports. The world's ultimate top and a very good amateur look perfectly as good to a complete beginner. But when you get to the very good amateur level, you start to realize the massive amount of work (and maybe talent) that makes the difference between you and the ultimate top.
I mean, if you have a definition for "a genius" that likely ends up excluding Bach, Escher, Darwin - then something's fishy about your definition.
In terms of communicating with the others, that's akin to having a definition for "great basketball player" to which Jordan doesn't fit.
It's kind of the great man argument taken to the extreme.
This is the most ridiculous thing I have read for a while.
Intelligence: All That Matters by Stuart Ritchie is a good summary of modern intelligence research. https://www.amazon.com/Intelligence-That-Matters-Stuart-Ritc... To quote:
"The scientific evidence is clear: IQ tests are extraordinarily useful. IQ scores are related to a huge variety of important life outcomes like educational success, income, and even life expectancy, and biological studies have shown they are genetically influenced and linked to measures of the brain. Studies of intelligence and IQ are regularly published in the world's top scientific journals."
Astonished, she thought about what it was trying to test and took another test: now genius.
None of us think that either was right...
Turns out that the test can be tuned to a range. If you take the wrong one it loses some accuracy at the low and high end of the range, so they had to retest me. They had assumed I might be dim and gave me the wrong one. The real problem was that I was so insufferably bored all the time that I wouldn't engage. But I liked puzzles and the test had a bunch I'd never seen before, so by the last one I was taking it in the spirit it was given.
My guess is in two parts. Either your mother took the wrong one(s), or took a bogus one, or you're thinking of elements of a successful adult that the test can't measure, like common sense and social graces.
In any group of peers at that level there are bound to be people who can certainly do the work, possibly better than you, but who are painfully, even cringingly, bad at certain other life skills. It gets a little uncomfortable to acknowledge these people as geniuses. And there are people who seem not to be all that, but on occasion surprise the hell out of you by coming through in a clutch.
This paper shows two things, although only one is surprising enough for publication. The surprising part is that "schooling in adolescence raises IQ scores", which is the title of the paper. Another is that IQ is so reliable that increase of 0.6 IQ points is statistically significant.
he was a Genius, but his IQ was probably average, according to what we know about him
But in many fields, such as mathematics, high IQ seems to be a necessary but not sufficient condition for genius. This makes sense -- doing well in mathematics courses requires the same logical and analytical skills required to score high on an IQ test. In that sense, it obviously has some predictive value.
But, we can use the IQ test to predict who isn't a genius, or to make large scale predictions. For example, if a state has 100,000 students entering middle school per year, there's approximately one genius in that group. If you can afford an intensive math program for 7,500 students, the IQ test would let you predict that any potential geniuses get enrolled with high probability. That raises issues of fairness, discrimination, etc., but that's another topic.
Not sure why the downvotes. While discounting the relationship of genius with IQ is specious in light of their point, this person offers a possible nugget of truth on an alternative understanding of genius.
Part of it, I think, is because of the sheer knowledge threshold: much of higher level maths has its own specialized language, so when you start discussing isomorphisms between Z_p and geometric structures, and you don't know what those words mean, your eyes can't help but glaze over. So I don't know if it's so much that there's a higher standard of 'genius' so much as it is that it's a different standard, because much of maths is so far removed from the knowledge base of the layperson.
Not sure if that's specific to math though... Certainly at a PhD-level there's going to be a specialized language.
But I'm trying to imagine undergrads of different majors having a conversation and seeing how far outside language of a layperson they'd be. Maybe most STEM majors would be incomprehensible? Math and physics may be the furthest outside. If you heard a bunch of chemistry students talking, your eyes may glaze over. Biology may be not too far outside. Once you get into psychology/sociology you might understand most of it.
I have a STEM PhD, so it's a difficult exercise. Essentially, "what would my mom understand?"
Of course, jargon can be nested, so this process may potentially be tedious. On the other hand, this jargon nesting problem can be avoided by approximating ideas with ones that the other party is assumed to be familiar with. An expert knows the jargon, the ideas behind the jargon, and many of the first- and second-order approximations of the ideas.
That's a good point, and I don't think it even needs to be at the PhD level; just a 3rd yr u/g is probably sufficient. In poli sci, you can talk about phenomena like candidate emergence, for example, or voting systems like FPTP and the like. In phil, you have notions such as fallibility as a premise, phenomenology a la Heidegger, etc.
The big difference, I think, is that STEM tends to be less accessible because those fields tend to have knowledge bases that the average layman won't deal with in their lifetime, whereas with psych, soce, and most other liberal arts fields, people can always draw on personal experience to understand the jargon. There isn't really any such analogy, though, for homomorphisms in a metric space or thermo calculations.
To bring it back to the point I was trying to make: jargon is needed to discuss knowledge domains beyond what the layperson has been exposed to. So although jargon might give the impression of a higher "genius" standard, the standard isn't so much higher as it is different, because reasoning about stuff like the Riemann hypothesis is completely different from discussing the subtleties of, say, negotiation strategies.
That's common in every niche.
I don't get a third of what my weed expert friends say.
They don't get most of what I say about craft beer.
You made an excellent point here. I hope that more people who don't go to elite schools realize that many (most?) people who do are distinctly not geniuses either on the surface (e.g., if you talk to them) or in actuality (i.e., 140+ IQ).
As a mathematician who studied at Berkeley, Harvard and Princeton, I’ve known geniuses. I got to hang out with Andrew Wiles, who is credited with solving Fermat’s Last Theorem, and I met Grigori Perelman, who solved the Poincare Conjecture.
I don't think she means that everyone she met at Berkeley was a genius.
No amount of idealism will change the fact that mathematicians , with virtual certainty, tend to score very high on such tests. To find the next generation of mathematician, look to kids who are getting ceiling scores on the math part of the SAT at the age of 13. Sometimes 'late boomers' exist, but still they exhibit preciosity at youth and then later decide to turn to mathematics and learn the material very quickly due to having a high iq. If genius is defined by having a high IQ (which according to the Stanford Binet Intelligence scale it is) and standardized test scores, virtually all mathematicians are geniuses, regardless of how much recognition they later get in their careers.
This seems easily tested or refuted, and I'd be surprised if nobody has done it. However, I haven't figured out a good search query yet.
And people prescribe too much value to numbers anyway. By creating a standard, you lock out or diminish the types of genius less selected for in that standard.
You have to be smart to do make a significant contribution to
mathematics, and I don't believe that people can "become
smart" past a very early age. However, it's possible for
someone to be smart despite not having been recognized as
such, depending on which fields his intellect is applied
against. Finally, it's definitely possible for someone who is
smart but has never done well in mathematics to make a
contribution to mathematics -- if he can develop the interest
which is necessary for him to apply his intellect
People have been writing about this for a long time; it's nothing new but little seems to change (https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2002/12/our-gen...).
I hope I left a mark on their lives, although I am not able to see how they turned out (after all, I was just a TA for their one semester with me).
For what it's worth, around 15 years ago, I personally had a "traumatic" and relevant experience involving the author (Cathy O'Neil) of the article we're discussing here, which I've never told anybody about. We are both number theorists, with a similar educational track (Berkeley, Harvard, etc., at similar times). She and I were hanging out in a pub in Cambridge, MA, and I was showing her a list of research projects I was very excited about and working on.
First, some background about me. In grad school at Berkeley, I had changed from worrying about "being a genius", to just being completely obsessed with doing mathematics research all the time, and actively simply not thinking about myself or social things. I had many clear experiences when working on research problems in which if I thought at all about myself and whether or not I was "smart" (or anything social), my progress would completely stop; however, if I could clear my mind of such worries -- about myself or others, then I could prove theorems and do good mathematics. So at the time I really embraced mathematics research itself over social concerns.
Anyway, Cathy and I were in a bar, and I was showing her (on my laptop), my list of projects. I really hoped she would find some of them interesting, and we might coauthor a paper together, since her thesis research was closely related to mine, but approached things from a completely different (more geometric) direction, which I personally found extremely difficult (at least, I didn't have the "interest" to master that approach, in the sense of Colin's comment). Well this is not at all what happened! Instead, of getting excited by any of the projects I proposed, Cathy got really, really angry at me for (I guess) intimidating her (?). I was never sure. I genuinely meant no harm.
For me personally at least, somehow worrying about the social aspects of research mathematics too much would make it impossible for me to actually do mathematics. I wonder if some of the other people Cathy alludes to in the article are similar, and if this has consequences. Anyway, it was a lesson to me at the time of the extent to which having a sense of "being in the zone" and not thinking about oneself (or social and emotional issues at all), can simultaneously be very conducive to research mathematics and also really piss off certain people.
I make no claims to be a genius or "emotionally mature" at the time, and I'm a different person today than I was then. However, there is (at least for me) a real psychological conflict between the social aspects of thinking about research and actually doing research; it is a very difficult challenge to balance the two.
I've had similar experiences to this, across work, academia, friends, and online gaming. My thought is that you made her question her personal identity as a mathematician, and this doubt created a state of cognitive dissonance.
Cognitive dissonance gets dealt with in many ways. Some people simply shut down and try to purge the event from memory, and pretend as if it never happened.
Others will deflect and do everything to convince themselves and those around them that their perception of reality is the truth. It seems like few people are actually capable of re-evaluating their current position and coming to some sort of internal compromise.
In the case of dealing with harsh truths about oneself, this can be coupled with some sort of plan or goal to improve and get to the point that they initially believed themselves to be at, and/or that they believe that they deserve to be at.
I think what you experienced is a variant of the former, where her inner turmoil was channeled as anger and projected onto you, because you (inadvertently) made her question her identity, and I've learned that this can cause certain people to experience a complete collapse of how they view themselves.
You can see this happen all the time with people who tie their perception of being "good" at something to their identity, and who have completely exaggerated and inappropriate reactions when something that contradicts that perception happens.
A short-term example of this is the way that people who dedicate lots of time to online team-based videogames and consider themselves "good" players blame their teammates for losses in order to absolve themselves and maintain their identity.
A long-term example is how people react to unwillingly losing their career, due to factors like injury, legal issues, money (when self-employed), or the job simply ceasing to exist due to economic collapse or technology. Something like this is completely devastating for most, and they irrecoverably fall into depression.
Reverse the genders in the scenario, and think about it again. Would you still be defending a man who got angry at a female academic peer with no reasonable explanation? Do you still see the dynamics in the same light? Do you still make the same assumptions in regards to the intentions of both parties, and their subsequent reactions?
For that matter, I don't see dudes being blamed for being angry. It is normal emotion. At worst, it is assumed that they are either alpha or on the spectrum. But you brought up gender which has nothing to do with anything here, not me. She was not friendly to girls who would act the same.
Academic peer has nothing to do with anything. And I did not blamed him. I provided interpretation that does not rely on her being "intimidated".
>For that matter, I don't see dudes being blamed for being angry. It is normal emotion.
Do you live in the United States? It is completely unacceptable for anyone to display anger in a public, academic, or professional setting unless they are in a position of power and/or authority. And just because it's acceptable for someone with status to do it doesn't make it okay either. In the case we are discussing, getting angry at someone else is EXTREMELY inappropriate.
As anger goes, u have seen angry American managers and academics and journalists and random friends whether in position of authority or not.
And I dont know why you imply she did not had social status to display anger (as only higher status can do that according to you). His story implies opposite - except again you are adding that aspect. OP did not cared about status not anything else social. He was overly excited about his research.
Nevertheless, if you think anger it self is bad thing, then it is very unhealthy way of living. Such people tend to end up passive aggressive. Anger does not excuse unethical acts nor rude acts, but none such act is mentioned here. Just her being angry.
As a side note a girl once asked me to help fix her computer in college (both of us majoring in math), and she was slightly annoyed when I came over and couldn't find anything wrong with her computer. It was a laptop, but she said it only caused problems in her dorm room.... I later felt extremely stupid!
I don't think "the rest" are in any way "dismissed", but certainly it's much more interesting to read about a Feynman, Saussure or Pascal, than the more mediocre people around them. Reading about a hard working and helpful but relatively average group of helpers seems profoundly boring, and our attention is quite limited, so naturally all coverage focuses on the more interesting luminairies at the apex.
Besides, it's not even true that all these people were heavily dependent on big teams of helpers, especially not before the mid last century or so.
Did Leibniz get much help? Did Newton rely on dozens of graduate students? Did Dostoyevskiy have a team of writers? Hardly. The geniuses of old worked pretty much alone.
But coming back to the main point, isn't it precisely this "hero worship" that makes the teams work so hard for these geniuses? And why would this focus necessarily discourage any creativity? I don't see why it would. It's not like people, when they inevitably discover that they are not Einstein, give up science completely. The situation is the same in sports, most people are not going to set any records, but they don't stop training, despite the total focus on a few individual top level athletes.
If the author feels that things should be different, why not try writing a book about these teams, and see if people are actually interested in hearing about them.
If the only mathematicians you hear about are apparently the smartest fucking people ever, you might think math isn't for you even though you enjoy it. The message needs to get out that you don't need to be that exceptional to do math. Mostly, its about being interested.
Note that I don't mean interested in the results of math. You need to find the intricacies of a proof interesting (at least some of the time).
This happens in every research community. The hero worship also tends to over-fund certain areas because of how the agenda is effectively set by a few researchers.
One way that may help fix this is if there's a way to generate a crowd-sourced network of links whose purpose is to plot as a graph the current gaps and challenges of the field. It's perhaps easier in fields with clear subject boundaries like physics.
We could then observe how individual knowledge contributions have helped (are helping) progress the growing knowledge "surface." Young researchers could also observe areas of neglect and attack those instead of going where everyone else is. Reward people who grow the knowledge surface, irrespective of their background.
Bluntly, there's only one way to know if someone can do math: They want to and try. If their efforts result in some math, then necessarily they can do math. That's really the only way to know.
The concept of a single genius coming up with everything exist mostly to people who don't know any better, not to people who actually have extensive study of the field.
You could use GRE test scores to compare across subject majors. There may be saturation at the top where further differentiation between majors could be possible if the exam material were sufficiently more difficult.
His brother, Nigel Tao, who is not quite as genius as him and works in Google has IQ of 180.
But in a more practical sense life is too short to be a smart person without having a bit of elitism. Which is both a result of optimization and a bit of cynicism.
You can indeed be a mathematician without being a genius. In the sense you can understand the field and convince enough people of your value to keep you employed.
Every field has tons of busy work and not particularly challenging jobs but jobs that none-the-less need to be done and are ultimately an important piece of the puzzle. So it's true that any field, even STEM, shouldn't be hostile to the 9-to-5ers and the 'middling' bunch, merely because they aren't genius.
That said - if you're going to push those fields forward and make real progress like these two:
> Andrew Wiles, who is credited with solving Fermat’s Last Theorem, and I met Grigori Perelman, who solved the Poincare Conjecture
you have to be top tier. Or close enough to it to feed off the top tier. These are typically the people pushing industries forward which generate work for the middling level tiers who weren't child prodigies. In math meaning the people to work out the details of proofs and finding real world applications.
Talent shortages are usually the result of the work of this tier. So it will always be a symbiotic relationship between the genius/elite and average person. The problem largely then isn't so much the elitism, or the fact their is an elite, but merely that the field was given a false image as being limited to only those types of people. Rather than one that needs (and welcomes) the average-person as much as any other field.
More of a marketing problem than a systemic one.
The people doing middling busy-work aren't going to fill pages of Bloomberg or fill the pages of books like 'Men of Mathematics'. But regardless the fact is there are a small subset at the top are doing pioneering work and that is what makes them interesting. Why else would New Yorker write an extend profile on Grigori Perelman and Shing-Tung Yau? They are interesting because they a small group at the top. If there were a bunch of them then Grigori wouldn't have a million dollar prize for his work nor would layman be praising them.
"Look. You're brilliant. I'm brilliant. We're all brilliant, or we wouldn't be here. We may not be brilliant ENOUGH to make it, but we have nothing to feel inadequate about."
He calmed down, and eventually went on to have what may have been the best math career of any of us (at least judging by the stature of the department where he wound up tenured).
This is standard tournament theory: big rewards at the top to provide a strong incentives for excellence. Look at the prize structure in sporting events and at the three-medal rewards at the Olympics. Paradoxically the decline in quantity and quality typically seen after tenure suggests that it works in academic circles: post-docs and assistant professors are doing outstanding work because that's what it takes to "win".
Egregious logical errors throughout. Would not recommend others read this article.
To be this mad is nothing worthy to strive for. It comes with real cons.
Con A: Your family has usual several shizos who are "over the edge", meaning people who are in need of constant care.
Con B: If you get the necessary education to contribute more then spynovellas and abstract art in this unstable family environment, which may include initially getting pushed into engineering/the sciences against your will - boy/girl are you lucky.
Con C: No drugs, no long partying, no chem-triggering yourself of any kind (no, coffee - what a world!)
Con D: Selfisolation tendencies- as perceiving other people as hostile, overinterpreting constantly on theire intent is very tiresome- thus, you end up self isolating to not feel the sting of beeing constant wrong (aka Mad) all along on your spouse.
Con E: Good Connections can also be had by normal people now, if they would go for that. There are several systems to make them and find exotic and interesting solutions. The real problem starts with normal people fighting against new ideas because they pose a risk to there career, there company, the process and there concept of self-worth.
Con F: You are not systematic, meaning for example, to set up a coherent list will be impossible.
Con 8: Martyrers of any kind, in religion become sort of very attractive- or was it the other way around, that martyrer religion produce more durable creative bonkers people? The irony is that israel, america and irans cultural looks very much alike to a bonkers inventor.
Con G: The real trouble starts, when the normal people run out of ressources, and start to vote the "geniuses" as war-chieftains to power, usually after a prolonged episode of "pulling up more Cash obsticles to actual archivers". If you are constantly in danger of beeing the guy/girl who the mob will turn to when they need a witch-streetlight, its a good quality to turn on the needle and point on any group guilty of beeing not part of the mob enough. Thus artists and geniuses- the worst group to look for integrity the day the madmen gets voted to power.
Con H: Sometimes people crash, like computers, and spend the rest of there days iterrating over a "topic" or "obsession" totally not worth it.
Con I: CEOs and Decisionsmakers constantly crowding in on "working" geniuses, trying to deduce the "process". Its laughable- but there is no process.
There is no method to learn, there is nothing you can take home from that art-gallery-meetup.
The process consist of a mind constantly recombining stuff that is not supossed to be recombined, throwing away metric tons of wrong stuff subconciously and sometimes putting out ideas, with a tacked on invented backstory how they came to be.
Thats it. And as you are going to sit on those patents and stuff anyway, and live in constant fear, that all those incremental investments blow up, why fly towards the fire, little moth?
Pro A: Wir sind die Quelle, ihr seid die Senke.
You might say that being 1/1,000,000 in intelligence qualifies as a genius. However, that would still leave around 8000 people smarter in the world. This author seems to limit the word 'genius' to the people that those 8000 people look up to.
When this author talks about genius, she means a genius among geniuses. The population she's calling not-geniuses are in the top 1/10th to 1/100th of 1%.
But for the most of it, they've "just" persistently and wholeheartedly studied their field in mathematics.
Geniuses are rare. Art Tatum, Messi, Tesla, Mingus - those are people you'll have to wait another century to see the equal of. If at all.
Personally I think I am at best 1-in-100 smart. I don't know if in the future there will be useful work for people only as smart as I am.
(Also, the author's a she, genius.)
It astonishes me that people can claim with a straight face that it is not. I suspect it is sour grapes or something?
If intelligence isn't measurable, then you would agree that the average frog cannot be reliably distinguished from the average human in terms of intelligence?
Ok, so lets move on from that, and don't give me some painful story about how there are different kinds of intelligence and frogs are 'smarter about eating bugs' or something, please?
Maybe with the benefit of the doubt, you are trying to say that human's are genetically not very diverse, and so you can't find significant differences in intelligence. To that I would say you are certainly not claiming this in good faith, and you have some quasi-political reason to deny something that is obviously true to anyone who has interacted with more than 3 people. (and we can skip the lecture along the lines of 'you can't trust what is obvious and have to pretend that all your beliefs are properly cited or they are invalid')
You can define genius as a mark on the IQ scale, but that certainly isn't the definition being used when people use the word in conversation. That conversational form of genius is the social construct.
Do you not agree that different people have different talents? Some are good at constructing clever arguments, some can compose beautiful music, and some can solve partial differential equations in their heads.
the IQ simply doesnt measure creative genius. if it was called "the test that measures how good a persons brain is at pattern recogniton", you wouldnt care. you'd simply state that you're not particularly interested in logical reasoning.
intelligence, in terms of IQ, is a more or less well defined metric. in popular language, its conflated with "not being a mouthbreather". thats why people get pissy when they dont score above average on an iq test. its kinda pointless, really. people only care about iq tests because of the name.
Intelligence is an ill-defined, nebulous quantity. IQ is a precisely defined quantity. Since intelligence is hard to measure and IQ is easy to measure, it's tempting to use one as a proxy for the other. But I, and the other posters above me, just don't find that very convincing.
Despite the difficulties involves in measuring it exactly, intelligence does exist objectively and is measurable in principle: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/G_factor_(psychometrics)
We detached this subthread from https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=14532068 and marked it off-topic.
I take issue with this. How is the content unsubstantive? It wasn't untrue or misleading, it is just what the Stanford Binet IQ test classifies as genius. so that it being one becomes a matter of fact, not of opinion.
> At some point Cunningham's Law blends into trollery.
Now that I reread my comment, I see how it can be misconstrued as snarky. That was not at all the intention. It was meant to be self-deprecating and lighthearted, as I was using made-up words while criticize someone for not using made-up words. I thought about adding a smiley face so as to make my intentions clearer, but emoticons aren't really used on HN.
I'm about as anti-troll as you can get as I believe them to be parasites of the internet and a brief look at my comment history would elucidate than I am always if not I'm not earnest, helpful, or passionate in discussion, I am positive in tone.
Look at the amount of discussion it generated before being pruned and the varying opinions on what constitutes "genius". It's not that big a deal, but this is the first time I can ever recall having a comment moderated in my nearly 25 year history of using the internet. I see how it can be interpreted as snark, but when moderating, perhaps take the user's history into account.
For my part, I will make my intentions more obvious so that they will not be interpreted as negative or as an attack.
That said, I think one of the hallmark's of genius is that they learn from first principles, maximizing their ability to context switch and apply inherent truths from one domain of knowledge to not only multiple others, but integrate it into their general world view...essentially polymaths.
Knowledge isn't artificially contained in one area, it is part and parcel of the entirety of reality. One detriment of the hyper-specialization promulgated by capitalism is that we may have missed out on some prodigious talents who were siloed away studying in one field.
Thankfully, we're seeing the pendulum swing back as multi-disclipinary approaches are becoming more popular, thanks in no small part to the rise of Information Technology. Being able to use a computer increases your ability to learn almost anything faster.
A 140 IQ puts someone around the 99.5 percentile, but not even among mathematicians would I venture that 1 out of every 200 is a genius. If you're talking about the general population, then that's just even more incredible.
Where did you find this definition of "genius"? Maybe someone decided that "genius" means someone with and IQ >= 140, but I haven't found any evidence that it's the definition.
For example, Merriam-Webster's definition  seems to be closer to tacomonstrous's usage. In fact, the only mention of IQ it makes is "a person endowed with extraordinary mental superiority; especially : a person with a very high IQ".
> is Keith Richards blessed with an IQ of 140? I think that it is generally agreed that Keith Richards is a genius, but his ability to make decisions is... questionable.
How do you feel about it? I don't really care for the Rolling Stones or that type of rock music in general, so I'm not qualified to make an opinion here
> Van Gogh is another, a life of terrible decision making, huge creative transformations, interventions that turned painting forever.
I'm not really a big fan of his work. It doesn't elicit a strong emotional response in me. Perhaps because of its ubiquity, it seems like "default art". Then again I don't know much about painting or art history to offer a strong opinion.
If we're going to be subjective, and I know this will be very controversial, I consider Arnold Schwarzenegger a genius in his field. He's the greatest bodybuilder of all time and will most likely remain so if the tradition of doing as many steroids as possible continues in the Mr Olympia competition. Arnold did steroids as well, but he sculpted his body to look like Hercules, as opposed to modern winners who look like Abomination( The Hulk's major foe).
Also, in a very narrow way, his acting is genius. He plays the role of an assassination robot better than anyone. Note, I'm not saying he's great at portraying a synthetic intelligence in general (like Ava from Ex Machina)
The point of having a technical definition is not to exclude those in the past, it is so that going forward it has a precise, empirical definition that everyone can all agree on. I'm not wedded to the word so it can also be brilliant, prodigy, virtuoso, etc. Many words in common parlance once had specific medical/clinical meaning like idiot, moron, etc.
Yes, in one context that definition could be valid, but in general discourse something like the generic "Exceptional intellectual or creative power or other natural ability" from https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/genius would be a much more relevant definition.
The technical definition makes it so that
I'm not proclaiming that the Iq test is the measure, or even a good measure of intelligence. I happen to think it is heavily biased and what it really tries to measure, imprecisely, is your potential for success in the system in which it was created.
Doubtlessly, they were geniuses among people before the development of language and mathematics. For example, let's presuppose some genius hunter who had a knack for catching prey without breaking a sweat, made the best fishing lures and hunting traps, could predict migration patterns, could track any creature, can use his/her sense of smell to predict the weather, etc. It has been argued that hunter-gatherers were even more intelligent than modern humans as they had a larger skull, indicating a larger brain. However, the IQ test would not rate him well.
That still doesn't contradict the point I was trying to make. A technical definition means that being a genius becomes a matter of fact, not a matter of opinion. It could just as easily be another word. Otherwise, discussion just dissolves into subjective opinion.