Daniel Lemire's blog

, 2 min read

Are Smart People Dumb?

Scott asks whether Smart People Dumb? He tells the tale of when he joined Mensa and found out that, while these people have high IQ, they may not be the winners you expect them to be:

It turns out that the people who join Mensa and attend meetings are, on average, not successful titans of industry. They are instead – and I say this with great affection – huge losers. I was making $735 per month and I was like frickin’ Goldfinger in this crowd. We had a guy who was some sort of poet who hoped to one day start “writing some of them down.” We had people who were literally too smart to hold a job. The rest of the group dressed too much like street people to ever get past security for a job interview. And everyone was always available for meetings on weekend nights.

I don’t know whether I’m a high IQ person, but I can tell you that I’m the typical nerd who has trouble to manage his life. It is a miracle if I have a beautiful wife and great healthy kids (actually, it is really a miracle, but I’ll tell this tale another day). Over time, I have managed to find tricks to manage my life so that it does not suck. But they are just that, tricks. The real me is very bad at the basics of life.

Money for example. I’m really bad with money. Not so much because I spend it all. In fact, spending money is work, so I tend to be very frugal. Still, I can’t manage a budget. I never know how much I have left in my bank account. My wife recently decided to handle our finances and I bet this is making me much richer. Getting organized for example. I’m terrible at structuring my work in any way, shape or form. I improvise all the time. This, initially, made me a terrible teacher, but I have since learned ways to compensate. This has also made me a terrible researcher, initially, but again, I have found ways to compensate for this weakness.

Now, I sure hope that I have a high IQ, because otherwise, it would be depressing to have all these weaknesses without the brain power that goes with it. It would be like being Superman without the superpowers, but with the kryptonite weakness. But I sure don’t feel supersmart, so I wouldn’t rule it out.