Can anybody become a genius?


I was a fairly-ignorant kid, but I had the good luck to be raised by two college professors, and I've spent the last 40 years of my life reading incessantly, researching, and learning through trial-and-error.

I'm now a highly-experienced computer programmer, who has worked for companies like AOL and Bloomberg, and I also run a theatre company, for which I direct Shakespeare plays. My hobbies include learning about History, Psychology, Biology, Astronomy, and Literature, and almost everything I do has an intellectual bent to it.

But I'm no genius. That's not false modesty. I'm certainly a smart guy, but I'm continually running into people who can solve all sorts of problems that I can't solve. Or, when I can, it takes me hours, while it takes them minutes.

Over the course my life, my problem-solving ability has only increased in the sense that I have more knowledge to work with. When you strip that advantage away, and, for instance, give me a pure logic problem to solve--one that doesn't require knowing anything about History or one of my other pet subjects--I do about as well now, at 50, as I did when I was ten.

Everyone can learn. Everyone can learn quite a lot. But there are are limits to raw intelligence.

In my mind, there are two ways to define genius: you can simply go by IQ-test score or you can talk in terms of accomplishments.

I've never taken an IQ test. They don't interest me. But I've taken enough similar tests to be reasonably sure I wouldn't score at genius levels.

In terms of accomplishments, by my reckoning, you have to have made contributions on the level of Einstein, Picasso, Mozart, Shakespeare, Darwin, or Sondheim.

I've never accomplished anything at that level of difficulty or creativity, and I'm confident that I couldn't, no matter how many decades I spent trying. I don't even understand the sort of mind that is capable of doing what those geniuses did. I can't imagine it.


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