Burdens of intelligence and how to ease them

Being smart is not always good for you.  The negative effects outweigh the benefits above IQ of 160. Our IQ is dynamic and can change as we learn. The knowledge we gain by learning can become a burden unless we know how to handle it. For more information try reading here, here, here, here, and here.

The forbidden fruit

The third chapter of the bible deals with people expelled from heaven after tasting the fruit of knowledge.

Genesis 3:22-24
Then the LORD God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of Us, knowing good and evil; and now, he might stretch out his hand, and take also from the tree of life, and eat, and live forever”– therefore the LORD God sent him out from the garden of Eden, to cultivate the ground from which he was taken.

Our ignorance allows us to be passive when facing human suffering, ignore the questions of life and death, seek pleasure rather than purpose and immediate satisfaction rather than long and healthy life. As we gather knowledge, we understand that it is in our power to change the situation. Medicine and preventive medicine can prolong life. Being passionate and excited about your work beats idle consumption. Helping others makes us feel better.

As we gather tools to change the situation we understand that our life is short and there is only so much we can do. With that comes the understanding that no matter what we do we will miss out on something important.

When I was a child my predominant emotion was boredom. I was literally looking for things to do. In our lifetime, the fear of missing out is quickly becoming the predominant human emotion.

How the society perceives the smart people

There are serious gaps in our communication. Using complex words and ideas, scientists try to convey our understanding in their most accurate form, yet only our peers can understand that language. For the general public, our lingo often sounds like some sort of condescending mumbo-jumbo, similar to magical formulas of shamans. The misunderstanding is a source of tension. We may shout “We told you ten times. How come you did not understand anything and keep ruining our planet?”. And they tell us “You cannot even agree between yourself. First, decide what you want, and then explain us in the most simple and actionable way”.

Knowledge is a power, yet unlike physical power it is invisible. Having knowledge we tend to bully people without noticing it. Quite often our curiosity makes us deal with dangerous substances. It is clear that soon the machines will become smarter than human, just as they are currently faster and stronger. We are building the next generation of AI because we know it can save people and because it is fun. By current projections, in 2060 each big computer will become smarter than all of the humanity combined. Nobody knows the effect it will have on our civilization.

Most people do not trust the intellectual elite. The media is not really loved. Donald Trump was elected despite the protest of intellectuals. The Nobel Prize is widely considered to be a joke due to several questionable decisions. Quite often, a good story is more influential than solid facts.

Two hundred years ago scientists were trying to end human suffering. There has been some progress in the rich countries, where the life is better than ever before in human history. Just like our imperial predecessors, we keep getting resources from the poor countries, while exporting our problems to them. Human suffering is here to stay: people get old, they get ill and they die. Religion tried to deal with suffering in a very direct way, making us focus on the things beyond the current reality. The science and media make us focus on our reality in its most graphic forms, without providing any solace.


Fortunately, we do not need to limit our search to the subjects taught in universities and translated on television. Whatever we choose to do to improve our situation, does not have to be peer-tested in clinical situations. It does not even have to be better than placebo. Clinical tests make take fifteen years, and even then the result may be inconclusive. We need to help ourselves right now and we want to use the tools and technology that were unimaginable 15 years ago.

I argue that the greatest scientific laboratory of our times are the people who try to change themselves within self-help paradigm. There are hundreds of millions sharing similar problems, trying similar approaches – and the scientists analyze the results and understand them years after the great experiment. Google changed the way we consume information. Facebook changed the way we communicate. Apple changed the way we live. The change is all around us and it is really fast.

People seek intelligent people for guidance, but nobody can be intelligent in EVERY situation. There are many types of intelligence, that are different from ours. It is usually a good advice to communicate with other people who are as smart as we are or more, and who are smart in a different way. If we accept not only the smart person we are, but also the stupid part of our personality, we are much more open for communication with others.

And then we need to learn. Learn the subjects where we are smart and the subjects where we are stupid. We can discover, develop and deploy our positive talents to help other people. And we can open up, accept, and appreciate the gifts of other people around us. Being humble might be more important than being confident since it is generally more important to listen than to talk.

Embracing our limitations

We are human, and our abilities are limited. There is a limit to how much we can fight to change the world. Simply embracing our limitations may be a viable alternative. Financial traders dig through numbers, they are very acute psychologically, but they also can count their heartbeat extremely well. Why? Because in the complex situations we are reduced back to our humanity: we trust our gut feeling, count the heartbeats to measure our excitement, and need the help of others to succeed.

Our generation faces challenges which our ancestors could not even imagine. And our knowledge does not keep the pace with our technology. Maybe we need to review the old religions and take out their best features: humility in face of the universe, loving and kindness towards other people, meticulous observation of our thoughts and intentions, careful attention to our inner voices, breathing, and body.

We are building some sort of coexistence with computers. Quite possibly we are becoming cyborgs. Our humanity is our asset in this coexistence and can leverage it if we learn to love and respect it.

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