Daniel Lemire's blog

, 6 min read

To be smarter, try being crazier?

7 thoughts on “To be smarter, try being crazier?”

  1. August says:

    The real game is simple- get funding.
    Currently, you need to believe in global warming to get funding in climatology.
    In nutrition, it is best to not believe that insulin has anything to do with getting fat, and it doesn’t hurt to imagine that animal protein might be evil.
    In agricultural science, GMO, pesticides, and oil based fertilizer not to mention the pretense that the subsidized crops are actually good for humans to eat is important for your career.
    Economist are required to forget economic law immediately upon hire and instead justify the government entity that just hired them, gave them a grant, or whatever.

    You are only going to see conformists where you are. Everyone else has to route around.

  2. I actually have a different opinion. Researchers do pursue all kind of crazy ideas instead of doing things that are simple and work. And double-checking if these things are working.

    As a result, the current stage is deplorable. For instance, in IR some people believe that proximity ranking is super-useful. But there is a tremendous opposition (including some very well-known academics) who think that this is not true.

    The reason is that, instead of carefully trying to reproduce a result in different settings, people went along with all kind of crazy ideas.

  3. PS: you won’t get funded if (1) your idea is too old, i.e., reproduction of results is not funded (2) your idea is too novel.

  4. Anonymous says:

    There’s a book written by Judith Schlesinger that debunks the myth of the mad genius. See the book webpage: http://www.theinsanityhoax.com/ .

  5. @Anonymous

    My claim is not that insanity makes you creative.

  6. Aditya Athalye says:

    Since you put Crazy, Original, and Gardener together in one post, I couldn’t help but think of Masanobu Fukuoka (more correctly, he was the intersection of Crazy-sounding, Authentic, and Farmer).

    I highly recommend his book “One Straw Revolution”: http://www.amazon.com/The-One-Straw-Revolution-Introduction-Classics/dp/1590173139

    As usual, I enjoy reading your posts, and look forward to seeing them in my email. Thank you.

  7. I would like to add my little 2 cents to the discussion. First, I would think that highly intelligent people that are somewhat antisocial would embrace the loneliness of academic research. People who don’t need social interaction can fully vacate to their research undisturbed. Think of all those wizkids hackers spending 20 hours + a day on their computers trying to ‘solve’ those computer security puzzles (like a bank website protections) Therefore, I would say that madness can be a good starting point for genius. Especially if you have a mental condition that makes you obsessed and focused (like Asperger syndrome or other kinds of autism spectrum disorders). Similarly, chess is a maddening game for obsessive and smart people. Bobby Fisher, Paul Morphy, Rubenstein, Steinitz and Alekhine were good examples. Obsession is a great motivator that leads to hard work and it is well known that genius is mostly based on hard work. In summary, I tend to think that madness causes genius not the other way around.