Tuesday, March 8, 2016

"The Genius Famine: Why we need geniuses, Why they’re dying out, and Why we must rescue them"

I've never had the slightest bit of interest in sports. But I can tell you a lot about the polymaths of the past and present, like Erasmus Darwin and Dean Kamen. I also know there are not many today.

I've always known it was more than just IQ.

This article is from the Genius Famine and written by Bruce Charlton.

Excerpts from the beginning and end of the book...


This book is about genius: what it is, what it does, where it comes from.

And about geniuses: especially why there used to be so many and now there are so few; what was the effect of an era of geniuses, and what will be the consequences of our current Genius Famine.

This book describes the genius as an Endogenous personality; that is, a person of high intelligence combined with a personality driven from within, an ‘inner’ –orientated personality: that is, a dominated by the Creative Triad of (1) Innate high ability, (2) Inner motivation and (3) Intuitive thinking.

When high intelligence and this type of personality are confluent, a potential genius is the result. But to fulfil this potential the Endogenous personality must find and accept his own Destiny, and must undergo the trials and tribulations of a Quest before he is likely to be rewarded by an Illumination: a breakthrough.[This is Joseph Campbell's "The Hero on a Quest" - Bob]

Even then, the breakthrough must be noticed, understood, accepted, implemented by society at large; and we describe how past societies were much better at recognizing and making a place for the potential genius. Because the problem is that the Endogenous personality is usually an awkward and asocial character at best; and often an actively unpleasant person and a disruptive influence.

Geniuses are altruistic, in the sense that their work is primarily for the good of the group; and not for the usual social rewards such as status, money, sex, and popularity.

Therefore many geniuses need to be sustained in a long-term way; and their work demands careful attention and evaluation.

We argue that modern societies, by means both indirect and direct, have become hostile to genius and indifferent to the work of those relatively few remaining geniuses.

However, because the work of a genius is necessary and irreplaceable, we argue for a change of attitude. Modern society needs geniuses for its own survival in the face of unfamiliar, often unprecedented, threats. Therefore, we must in future do a better job of recognizing, sustaining and accepting guidance from as many geniuses of the highest quality that can be found.



1. What is the Endogenous personality?

2. What is Personality, What is Intelligence?

3. Different understandings of genius

4. The Creative Triad

5. What motivates the Genius Quest?

6. Successful creativity

7. Identifying the genius

8. Destiny versus Conscientiousness

9. The Shaman versus the Head Girl

10. Newton versus Jung

11. The evolution of genius

12. The rise and fall of genius

13. The neglect and suppression of genius

14. The war on genius

15. What to do

16. In Search of the Boy Genius

Conclusion: Seven statements about genius

About the Authors

Chapter One

What is the Endogenous Personality?

What is the Endogenous Personality? And why is he so important?

In a nutshell, we argue that the Endogenous personality is the type of a potential genius – a compound of abilities and attitudes, of intelligence and innerness. As a strong generalization: the true geniuses are Endogenous personalities; and it is from Endogenous personalities that geniuses arise.

The Endogenous personality is the ‘inner’ Man; a person whose outlook on life is ‘inward.’ He is inner-directed, inner-driven, inner-motivated; one who uses inner modes of thinking, inner evaluations, in-tuition; one who is to a high degree autonomous, self-sufficient; one who is relatively indifferent to social pressures, influences and inducements.

He stands in stark contrast to the Exogenous personality; that is, to most people. The Exogenous Personality is orientated toward the environment, particularly the social environment. These are people who want more than anything else social (including sexual) status, worldly success; people whose perceptions are directed outwards and who try to align their behaviour with group norms.

When described in such terms, the Endogenous personality might appear anti-social, uncooperative, a dreamer, not the kind of person we might wish to have to deal with on a regular basis. We would probably be accurate in perceiving the Endogenous Personality in this negative way. We probably wouldn’t want to go for a drink with him, let alone be friends with him.

But he is important; he is very important. Because the Endogenous personality is the archetypal ‘genius.’ He is the type of a genius – whether a large scale, world historical genius of the highest level achieved by humanity – a Shakespeare, a Beethoven or an Einstein – or a local, tribal, or town genius; a shaman, a sculptor, an inventor whose name is unrecorded (yet who might be the originator of some great but anonymous ballad, folk song, painting -- or a technological breakthrough such as the spade, spear-thrower, arch or stirrup).

Genuine ‘breakthrough’, world-impact creativity is so rare, so difficult (far more difficult than commonly imagined) that it requires a special kind of mind – a mind especially designed for this kind of work (inner work). There need not be many such men – indeed, there should not be too many, since the necessary mind is relatively unfit for the primary, day-to-day, activities of survival and reproduction of the species. But such men are needed – sooner or later, from time to time.

These are the people who (whether we know their names or not) will almost-certainly be behind the scientific and technical breakthroughs that are the motor of civilization, these are people whose can inspire and unite society moving it towards greater things or out of the depths of despair and ennui; these are the people who can rescue a society on the brink of catastrophe.

The Endogenous personality is recognized because when this kind of creative personality is combined with high ‘general intelligence’, we get a potential genius – of greatness in proportion to their ability.

So, an Inner, Intuitive personality plus high Intelligence (or another special ability) is the Creative Triad and equals the Endogenous personality, or potential genius. The high intelligence serves as a kind of guarantee that the Endogenous personality is positively adapted by his lop-sided focus, and inclination to be a creative specialist problem-solver in society; and is not merely a broken, sick or damaged individual who simply cannot participate in normal society – perhaps through mental or physical illness.

The Endogenous personality will stay focused on a problem longer than most men – and he will look at the problem in a different way. He will deploy different (more inward) procedures of understanding – more detached, more abstracting. Hence he is more likely to see something new and useful in a new and different way.

His stance is less personal. He stands back to a greater extent than most. He sees the problem in a wider scope precisely because he sees the problem detached from normal personal concerns, such as status, sex, or wealth; none of which he really seems to care much about. For him, solving his problem is not a means to an end – a way of gaining status, wealth or sex – it is an end in itself. The inner man gets the greatest satisfaction from inner work – it is what he most wants to do.

In this short book, we will explore the Genius; the Endogenous type of personality including its exceptionally high intelligence. We will argue that the highly able Endogenous personality is indeed the archetypal genius; the engine, in particular, of the original innovations that are vital to civilization itself. Without genius, civilization will certainly continue to decline (and we will show that it is declining), and eventually collapse. With more geniuses, taken notice of, the process would be slowed and – who knows? – perhaps some genius could discover a way out?

We will demonstrate, in more depth, the importance to any society of nurturing a small number of such personalities; and, worryingly, we will find that they are less likely to manifest themselves now than was the case just a few generations ago.

We will argue, indeed, that we have a Genius Famine. Genius has now all-but disappeared from public view; partly because intelligence (which is strongly genetic) is in decline in the West, partly because social institutions no longer recognize or nurture genius, and partly because the modern West is actively hostile to genius.

Finally, we will look at what – if anything – can be done to rescue the genius and thus preserve civilization.

However, in order to understand the Endogenous Personality, we need to understand the nature of personality itself, as well as the nature of intelligence, as these two traits are at the heart of the Endogenous personality a

Chapter Fifteen

What to do...

1. The modern world has been necessarily based on the work of a concentration of European geniuses from the Middle Ages and into the middle twentieth century; but genius has been disappearing rapidly over the past century, and appears to be extinct in several domains. There exists a state of Genius Famine.

2. This situation has been partly caused, and partly exacerbated by the (seemingly irrational, but sociologically explicable) fact that the modern world has become (and is becoming more) hostile to the Endogenous personality who is the potential basis for genius, and even to the work of actual geniuses; so that the relatively few geniuses who emerge are nowadays usually kept from having any chance of significant influence.

3. On the one hand there is a ‘famine’ of genius – which afflicts science, technology, the arts, politics, philosophy, law... pretty much everything; with very few people of even potential or partial genius now working within these fields. Yet, on the other hand, within these fields, among professionals and experts, there is near-zero awareness, and indeed vehement denial of the blatantly obvious, rapid, and near total decline in genius.

4. Obscuration of the true state of things has been achieved by two opposite (and contradictory) strategies – denying that there is such a thing as real genius, and re-labelling non-creative fake, novelty-cobblers as real geniuses – using mechanisms such as awarding them ‘genius’ prizes or by redefining merely fashionable novelties as examples of genuine creative excellence.

5. Modern people are of considerably lower average and peak ‘general intelligence’ than in the past – so such geniuses as emerge will generally be figures of lesser scope and creative impact than in the past. And insofar as the generation upon generation decline of genius is due to an accumulation of deleterious genetic mutations (caused by the relaxation of natural selection, especially via child mortality) then this would also be expected to damage the evolved and adaptive personality complex of the Endogenous personality.

6. So future geniuses will be lesser figures than in the past: less able, less inner-directed and inner-motivated, with less effective inner-evaluations, and demonstrating less independence and commitment in their creativity.

7. However, even a ‘local genius’, a minor figure by world-historical standards, still provides the possibility of a genuinely creative answer to real problems. No geniuses – no such possibilities.

Chapter Sixteen

In Search of the Boy Genius

The Endogenous personality is, in fact, usually detectable from around school age; in his three aspects of high intelligence, intuitive thinking and inner motivation. Intelligence can be tested, with fair reliability and validity; intuitive thinking may be discerned by sympathetic observation of dreaminess and inspired insights; inner motivation will emerge in eccentric and individualistic patterns of interests and behaviours. Armed with this knowledge it is, in principle, quite possible to pick-out the Boy Genius type (including a minority of girls) and help to smooth his path, and recognize his distinctive needs and vulnerabilities...

But it is equally, perhaps more, essential that the potential genius be given the kind of personal and emotional support he needs – or at least that he be not assaulted by what he would perceive as additional stresses. Many (not all) geniuses are (as Ruskin perceived, and knew from personal experience) unusually childlike and dependent; and benefit from a higher level and greater duration of ‘looking after’ – which would typically come from the family, but if not them then someone else trustworthy, caring, and with the genius’s best interests at heart. The sad experience of William Sidis – thrown by his parents, still a child-like child, into the rough turmoil of Harvard – should be a warning in this regard.

The above may sound all too privileged for the already-privileged, terribly elitist, very esoteric. It is a statement of the need for special treatment for special people. And it sees talent and the potential for genius as essentially innate. If you haven’t got it you can’t do it; and if even you have, you probably won’t. It asks for everything that modern culture despises, and indeed regards as immoral.

Furthermore, this is anti-democratic, anti-popular, and aristocratic. High intellectual ability is itself very rare, but high ability in the context of an Endogenous personality is rarer still. The process of finding Boy Geniuses is about searching for a very few diamonds among great heaps of (useful) coal – but with a distracting and deceptive proportion of gaudy ‘costume jewellery’ (pretend diamonds, pseudo-geniuses) taking the form of un-creative skill and fake creativity.

Conclusion: Seven statements about genius

1. We need to recognize that support for genius is social self-interest – it is a risky investment, true; but when it pays off, a genius yields vastly more benefit than he costs.

2. The benefits yielded by genius are not obtainable in any other way.

3. Genius is born and not made. Training of non-geniuses will not yield more geniuses.

4. Genius can be identified, and may be encouraged and flourish; or alternatively genius can be ignored, thwarted, suppressed – and rendered irrelevant.

5. A genius is a difficult, eccentric, asocial person who – despite this – exists in order to promote the good of the group.

6. Yet, although strong in self-motivation, self-determination and autonomy – a genius is normally a sensitive and emotionally vulnerable person. He can be dismayed, demoralized, corrupted or driven to despair – and his potential will then be diminished or destroyed.

7. In future most genius will be ‘local’ (by our current standards), rather than international: a shaman rather than an Einstein. This is the best that can realistically be hoped-for – but a local genius is better than no genius at all.


Anonymous said...

"But such men are needed – sooner or later, from time to time."

Note that it is men that are the true geniuses, not women. The occurrence of a female genius is an anomaly and outlier.

Where is the female Einstein?

Where is the female Copernicus?

Where is the female Michelangelo?

Where is the female DaVinci?

The list can go on.

Anonymous said...

The world hates anything suggesting a genuinely gifted person like it hates spinach. And loudly promotes every self-promoter with nothing to promote, as a "genius." For example, is Kayne West a genius?