The question seems odd, but a while ago one of the most impressive people I know, and clearly a genius, told me how when he was young he was rather stupid. At some point he didn't like it and decided he wanted to be smart. He succeeded.
Now, I would usually take such a testimonial with a grain of salt - do I really believe him? Obviously not. Not that he is lying only that he probably was already brilliant when making that decision.
But his description remained with me, and then a few days ago I read in Watchmen Ozymandias, who is defined as the smartest man in the world, saying "Perhaps I decided to be intelligent, rather than otherwise? Perhaps we all make such decisions, though that seems a callous doctrine."
The two together made me reflect on this. Could it actually be the case that intelligence is a "choice"? A choice which one's environment might influence, certain environments soliciting one answer more than another, but still a rather free choice?
I think that being a genius has many factors. And the most important is probably the education your family gives you since if they make you do something when you're litlle and learning is easy, when you grow older you will ecxell at it.
Then it also has to do with your personality wich is related to your education and friends.
People say being a genius requires 90% of hard work and 10% of talent so that probably means is your choice.
I don't think I'm a genius but I do have very high grades and I do everything from sports to music to painting with ease. And that's probably because since litlle I liked to learn new things.
i think being dumb is actually better , thinking too much can cause stress .
I think most people seem to take the easy route and just don't think about things. Because of this they 'dumb' themselves down... to almost ridiculous levels. I take calls from people in a customer service position and they will call in with problems that they could figure out on their own if they just rubbed a couple of brain cells together.... ie. they haven't got a picture on the tv because they haven't turned it on yet!
It's so bad that when I get a call from someone who actually took the time to think things through it is a shock.
If being dumb is a choice then being a genius is also a choice.
I think people all have a unique level of intelligence. Hence, if you were to measure everyone's ability in one specific field, you would see varying levels of performance. In that way, I don't believe everyone is created equally, nor do I believe that everyone has the same capacity to understand and absorb knowledge. But I do believe people that people have the potential to tap their abilities, and that it is something they many must work towards and develop. So I think for some, obtaining their intelligence was an active choice that they worked towards, while for others, it was something they had and chose to take advantage of. As such, I believe there are people who simply don't have high capacities of understanding, but that there are also people who simply never attempted to elevate themselves when the opportunity presented itself.
Edit: Apologies on the excessive use of believe.
I think it requires some... luck? But it's a choice, partially.
Now first of all I guess there are two kinds of geniusses: Those with exeptional logical abilities who can express every one of their thoughts, and those who have some kind of expetional good intuition and get to good results quickly - without much effort - and test their thoughts on plausibility only after they already have that result available. Einstein might've been the second type (mainly) as he himself often said that he doesn't understand many things about his own theories (He said something in the sense of "Since the mathematicians started working on the general theory of relativity, I don't understand it anymore myself").
However, either way it requires a solid fundamental construct of logical understanding. It might be necessary to gain it in childhood already as it might require too much time to learn it in later life.
Also, to my experience, there are two kinds of people in terms of learning: Those who learn the facts, understand it to a certain amount and use them; And those who learn the principles behind these facts, don't remember the facts themselves but have a much deeper understanding in the end, so they just have to look at the facts again for a few seconds to fully understand and use them. It's like a general feeling for the flow of a certain type of knowledge, which suits the second type of genius I wrote about in the beginning - not certain of the facts, but getting a plausible result.
However, a genius certainly has to have the deep understanding and combine it with the ability of absorbing facts quickly and fully and the ability of networking all these pieces of knowledge to a logical overall picture.
I think that this mainly requires 1) learning many things 2) the ability of absolute focus. This might be partially learnable.
By the way I might be terribly wrong all way long because I'm definitly that type of "get a general image but forget about the specific facts" guy, without beeing a genius (at least I'm certain about that :P).
Means I never bothered with learning facts while I somewhat gained a general concept. For example I had a grade 4-5 (D to E) in math tests ever since school year 6 as I totally didn't understand all the graph, how to dsolve equations and arithmetics stuff. In year 11 I suddenly just understood everything, without having done any homework in six or seven years. Still I mostly didn't know how to get to a certain result in, for example, a curve sketching. I just wrote down some numbers, created a number of possible results and chose the most plausible one, which usually was the right one. (This way gives terrible terrible grades though, as math teachers only care about the procedure of solution, which I usually could not explain in a logical way )
It seems that is the perfect attitude for Biology though as Biology has a much simpler structure in terms of facts. I always had top oral involvement in biology
I think we all need to be clear about a few things. The intro is wrong as it is. So we have a person who used to be dumb, didn't want to be anymore, and took the initiative to become educated. That's not a genius, that's someone exercising common sense. If a person wants to get smarter then they take the actions needed to educate themselves. That's what a person is supposed to do. That's what a logical person does. It doesn't mean they are a genius.
It's neither luck nor choice. A person can choose to be intelligent, but it is not a choice to be a genius. While we all have varrying degrees of intelligence, a genius is born. They can't simply be created. And no matter how hard a person works, they will never be able to operate on the same level as a genius. Granted, works like Naruto are cute but they are also fictional. There is a gulf between a genius and a typical person that can never be filled no matter how much hard work they put in.
Geniuses are born. They are not created and a typical person can never become one no matter how hard they try. Stradivari was a genius violin maker. No matter how hard a contemporary violin maker might work, they will never be as good as Stradivari because he was a genius. Often times, a child who is a genius will start talking in simple sentences a very short while after they learn how to walk. Good look getting your kid to do that. I'm not being snarky simply injecting some reality into this discussion.
A genius has a genetic advantage which allows their brain to develop faster than an average human being. In addition, their brain is wired so that they can understand things more quickly than other people. No amount of hard work will change your genetic structure and luck is simply a construct of the mind so it's meaningless. If you aren't born a genius, you'll never become one. That doesn't mean a person is dumb, a person can be brilliant, but that still doesn't make them a genius.
Would you place Bill Gates on the same level as Stephen Hawkins? I didn't think so.
Well, that's only in regards of the term "Genius" beeing used. It seems you're thinking of the meaning of a person with a natural, exeptional talent. However, the common definition of the word Genius as I know it (well, "Genie" in German but it's really not a difference) just means that a person has exeptional skills in a certain area, most commonly used in arts and science.
After all it's derivated from latin "genius" which ment "creator".
The other possible origin is, according to wikipedia, "ingenium" - natural/native talent.
However, the thread is clearly about whether a person can become exeptionally intelligent on his or her own choice or if it's not reachable for humans who don't have the nature for it.
well i feel that the term genius is debased a lot today... a guy with sharp sense is called a genius.... to me a genius is like what you have in Prison break...
joking aside..i dun think that Genius is by choice...ya you can whet your sense a lot...but things like aesthetic sense or being a Genius for the matter is what i consider a gift.....
I'm going to not elaborate on my thoughts for once so to put it simply
No, you can't choose to be a genius, but you can choose to use your full potential.
A predetermined "full potential" does not really exist for the individual as the human brain is fully capable of adapting when the right stimulus is given - Ok, certainly, somewhere around a level where there is no doubt that a person is very expetionally intelligent and on par with the best nobel price winners there have been. But the usual poorly educated guy from lower class we're thinking about as the oposite has pretty much boundless developement possibilities.
However, the speed of developement is definitly related to the social environment/education and possibly partially by genetics, and so many people just stop developing after a while because their initially slow progress spoils the whole thing of learning for them.
In this sense: It takes a certain amount of intelligence to become more intelligent. Because a more intelligent person can more easily stimulate his brain the right way and think of ways of solutions, while less intelligent persons might just stop as they're frustrated.
So, a good start in early childhood by having either luck or good parents and education is very important in many cases.
Last edited by Roflkopt3r; November 22, 2010 at 02:47 PM.
It's a choice. Each one of us is born with an equal capacity to learn (provided a normal human being). What differs is our own preference in handling our capacities to learn. If we exert our best effort in studying, we may be practically good at it.
I do not think that evil is a characteristic of low intelligence. Ignorance may be, and that could lead to the pettiness of some people. I used to volunteer with people with Down syndrome and his IQ is below average, and were some of the most beautiful, caring and most innocent people ever met.
i don't remember where i have seen that, so forgive me i am not plagiarising my memory is just not cooperating neither does google :/
so, this phrase was: a talent hits a target everybody else cannot, but a genius can see a target that others cannot.
i don't think people can choose to become either. they either inherit this extra sth or not. working hard can definitely improve one's skill and by doing so reach their full potential (which is more or less set; hard work cannot turn anyone into mozart or da vinci). besides i think we all know that person who was always better than us in this field or that without as much effort. and even in cases where someone who is not as talented on sth surpasses the person who is, in the end the work and effort will not be equal.
the same applies to genius level; some people have it and these people will always be able to see an angle that others will need more time and effort to comprehend.
Oddly enough, I've studied this topic a bit in the past to find out more on how genius people came to be. First of all genius is a bit too broad of a word in my opinion, but never the less it serves well to "explain" such people. Genius usually (with exceptions) means that a person has one part of the brain that is more developed than the others. Neuroscientists, as far as I know, found out that people that are considered to be geniuses excel mainly in one area, be it math, physics, biology, etc. From what I know its due to a chemical imbalance in their brain that allows them to better utilize certain zones in their brain better than normal people. The thing is that now a days, education has evolved in such a way that "normal" people can become genius-like just from hard work and with the right environment.
But there are, like I said, exceptions, einstein being one of the most notable. These people are truly unique, for lack of a better word. They are usually born with an "anomaly" in the brain which give them savant-like abilities.
There are even more different cases to consider, but as far as I know, these are the most notable "geniuses", though I may be wrong seeing as I'm not a doctor or anything