[ExI] high quality minds

David Lubkin lubkin at unreasonable.com
Tue Sep 11 19:40:40 UTC 2018

I am stingier about the word genius. If I can get there but they get 
there faster, it's not genius. A genius does what I can't fathom 
doing. And IQ is never a measure, except that I'd guess there's a 
threshold minimum below which someone could not possibly be genius.

I would not use genius for anything other than an achievement of 
thought. There are no genius actors, musicians, dancers, athletes, 
painters, etc. They can be fantastic but they're not geniuses.

Looking at the history of achievement, I'd say a genius is someone 
who is decades or centuries ahead of the rest of their field. That 
odds are enough lesser minds would eventually hit on the ideas; the 
genius short-circuits it.

I stand by my previously shared canonical example of Lev Landau. His 
"Theoretical Minimum" exam, through which he determined if someone 
knew enough to be worth talking physics to, was so rigorous that only 
43 people ever passed. It required a thorough knowledge of the whole 
of physics. Nobel Laureates were prouder of passing his test than of 
their Nobel. He didn't write many papers but each of them was 
Nobel-worthy. When he won, the prize was for his work on 
superfluidity, but it could easily have been for another area.

In math, I can't help but look to precocity and to independent 
effort. Folks like Galois or Ramanujan.

The only clear chess genius to me is Fischer, if only on the basis of 
his game at age 13 against IM Donald Byrne. He made, especially, two 
brilliant moves that for sixty years grandmasters have marveled that 
he could have spotted.

-- David.

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