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HappyCoder

On being called a Genius.

66 posts in this topic

FWIW, I'm in the camp that some people (and I don't mean the handicapped) don't have the capacity to understand the abstract nature of programming.  We (the game dev community) probably don't interact with these people too much, considering we were probably all in the higher level class in High School, and our jobs typically require above-average intelligence.  

 

But, when I was in High School, I attempted to teach BASIC programming to some guys I was friends with.  I enjoyed programming so much, and I showed them what I could do, they wanted to learn.  But, it just never "clicked."  The things we take for granted, like how a variable can change, and it represents "some value" couldn't be comprehended.

 

As George Carlin said, "Think of how stupid the average person is, and realize half of them are stupider than that."

 

But, being able to program certainly doesn't mean you're a genius, so don't get a big head.

I think that this is 100% false. I used to think exactly the thing you did, and for the same reason, too, but then I realized that the reason it never "clicked" is because I was not teaching it well. When people learn a skill, they tend to forget most of the learning process itself. This means that even if you were to try to teach someone of exactly the same aptitude and learning style as your own, you'd still get the feeling that they were harder to teach than you were, because you simply don't have a good grasp of what was going on with you during the period between which you were first introduced to something and when it became second nature. In practice, it's more complicated still, because people learn abstract skills in different ways and at different paces. Teaching itself is a skill that takes work to develop, and every time I've thought that someone just didn't "get" programming, I have been proven wrong. It can take a long time, but it happens eventually.

 

I do, however, think that there is such a thing as innate aptitude, but I also think it's neither necessary nor sufficient for developing most "skills" (programming, math, art, etc.). That is, if you're innately talented, you might be a "natural," but you still have to put in the work to achieve true expertise. Likewise, even if you don't seem to have the "knack" for some skill, you can probably still learn it if you work at it hard and efficiently. On that note, I think that aptitude is closely tied with interest, but not always in the most intuitive way. Being highly interested in skill "a" doesn't necessarily correspond to having aptitude for skill "a," but being interested in something might well make you learn skill "a" more efficiently, because just by doing things you enjoy you can learn some of the things required to become an expert in skill "a." That is, you get better at skill "a" not because you worked harder at it, but because you worked more efficiently, just by virtue of doing the work that you enjoyed (work that may not even have been obviously related to skill "a").

 

In short, I reject the notion that some people have the "magical trait" but I also reject the notion that being better at something corresponds perfectly with having worked harder at it. The truth is that both ideas are gross oversimplifications. If I had to say what I thought genius was, I'd probably say that it's reasonable competence in exceptionally many skills (corresponding to my notion of aptitude or enthusiasm for learning) as well as exceptional competence in reasonably many skills (corresponding to doing the requisite work to achieve actual mastery).

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All these responses from really smart people, yet no-one has yet said they are a genius.

 

Another example of the Dunning-Kruger effect, or just people down-playing their own abilities?  probably a little of both IMO.

 

And Cow, I can see where you are coming from, and I won't argue the point, but my (admittedly limited) experience in this realm is doubtful. 

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[quote name='DaveTroyer' timestamp='1358546168' post='5022997']
I have a horrible habit of answering peoples questions. Questions like "How did they do that?" and "I wonder how that works...". Yeah, those kinds of questions. I get called a genius pretty frequently, but not as much as I get questioned about my knowledge or called a know-it-all or nerd or the infomus follow up question "How did you know that?"
[/quote]

 

From my perspective, when I see people who act like that, my 1st instinct is they like the attention garnered, even if it results in being called know-it-all or nerd.  A lot of smart people want to make sure people know they are smart, whether they admit it or not.

 

Reminds me of the guy who sits down at a poker table and begins showing everyone how much he knows about poker and how well he can handle his poker chips; he's only made it that much harder on himself as people immediately can put a skill level on him right off the bat.

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I'm not necessarily called a genius all the time (just a few times), but they definitely are just vaporous words if coming from someone with no idea of what they are applauding me for. For example, I built a very nice PC about a year ago, and I spent a lot of time and effort making it look nice with lights and such, so it is something I like to show people a picture of if a casual conversation goes to computers. There are people whom I do tell about what I work on when and if they ask (as a casual conversation), and once I had mentioned that I finished a rendering system to render a simple scene, and the first thing they said was, "You made your own computer? Is it a Mac? You're a genius!." I honestly think the word should be removed from the English language due to its abstract and almost meaningless nature, the fact that no person deserves (or ever deserved, or ever will deserve) that title, how people of exceeding intellect (unlike myself) usually do not appreciate the worthless praise, and how it is such a futile goal for some people to "just become a genius," as believing one is "genius" leads to arrogance and IABTEE (I Am Better Than Everybody Else) Syndrome.

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Or they are making an excuse for themselves, "I could do that if I had a magical artistic trait".

 

 

What separates a great musician from the awestruck audience member isn't some kind of genetic infusion of power. In reality, the difference is merely thousands of hours of practice, study, and dedication.

 

Hard work and good motivation makes people break any barriers they want. However, this doesn't deny the fact that some people have talent.

Talent isn't a magical spark inside the person that give them the power to create anything. In my vision, talent is a [über]developed sense one has (e.g. vision, hearing, tactile, etc).

You can't say that the born blind man that draws on paper buildings in proportion and perspective achieved that only because he worked hard on it.

He worked hard on his talent (tactile sense), that is why. In result, Discovery Channel calls him a Superhuman.

 

@Topic

I agree with CJ_COIMBRA. The thing that annoys me is when people call me genius and right after it wants me to fix their eletronic stuff just because I work with computers and handle them well.

Edited by kuramayoko10
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Hard work and good motivation makes people break any barriers they want.

This is simply wrong and I dislike giving hope to the hopeless.

By this logic any one of us could have written the theme to Jurassic Park. If that was true John Williams wouldn’t be so famous, because I can guarantee you there are people out there who have put in just as much time and will never be able to write such music.

I myself have put thousands of hours into piano, and while that makes me technically proficient, that is not enough to make a genius.
There are certain barriers you can’t overcome, and I will tell you right out that no matter how much I could possibly practice, I would never click in a way that would ever allow me to write the theme to Jurassic Park.


There is a reason some people are famous.
They can do what others can’t. Not, “They can do what others could if they practiced.”  What others can’t.

Especially when it comes to creativity.  You can’t practice creativity.  You can’t just try hard to be creative and then one day it will happen.

 

Some people are more than others.  That is a simple fact.  People should spend more time acknowledging their weaknesses instead of trying to fight them.

Or at least fight them on realistic terms.  One of my incomplete goals is to release an original CD, but I know that with my inability to understand music it would be terrible even if it ever did get released.  I simply do not have the propensity to match John Williams in music.

 

Do you?

 

 

L. Spiro

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@L.Spiro

I completelly agree with you. Let me explain the quote you got from me:

"People have to work hard on their talent and good skills".  That is why in that phrase I included "good motivation" and "what they want".

John Williams is a genius because he worked hard on his music skills and he got the right motivation for it. Not one of us here have the right and good motivation to right a Jurassic Park theme.

 

I don't think that "I want to become popular and rich and awesome" is a good motivation. I think John Williams really likes the music he composes and really feels it.

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I think what L.Spiro mean was that no matter how motivated you are in your dream of life, that is not enough. Only for being a good craftsman.

I agree that this is the sad truth. And if we would forget about the "if you want it bad enough, and work hard enough you can reach anything" BS, people's lives would be easier, happier and more fulfilling in my opinion.

EDIT: on the other hand, it's not easy to tell if you are really talented, if you don't work on the thing. So I dunno Edited by szecs
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[quote name='kuramayoko10' timestamp='1358613603' post='5023197']
John Williams is a genius because he worked hard on his music skills and he got the right motivation for it.[/quote]

He's a genius because he was born with innate musical talent, and worked hard to hone that talent.

 

It is politically expedient in countries like America to propagate the idea that 'all men are created equal', but that's a philosophicalideal, nothing more. We are not all equally capable of becoming the next Mozart, the next Einstein, or the next Steve Jobs - each requires a particular talent, the lack of which no amount of hard work can overcome.

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Again, I put it in a way that is hard to understand.

What I meant is exactly that he worked on his talent. His music skills are his talent... I am not saying that everyone has music skills (I don't, for instance).

 

EDIT: For the record... I don't like the concept that anyone can do anything. That is why I gave the example of the born blind man that can draw... not every bling person can draw.

However I do not think that everyone knows what his/her talent is. So it is not acceptable is someone tells the other that he [b]can't[/b] do something. Everyone has to try hard before moving on.

Edited by kuramayoko10
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John Williams is a genius because he worked hard on his music skills and he got the right motivation for it.

 

He's a genius because he was born with innate musical talent, and worked hard to hone that talent.

 

It is politically expedient in countries like America to propagate the idea that 'all men are created equal', but that's a philosophicalideal, nothing more. We are not all equally capable of becoming the next Mozart, the next Einstein, or the next Steve Jobs - each requires a particular talent, the lack of which no amount of hard work can overcome.

 

I agree. I'm very tired of people who just keep preaching "everyone can succeed if they put their minds to it". You know when you can do something, and you know when you can't. Generally, you naturally converge towards what you are good at, at around age 15-25. There are exceptions, of course, and you can be talented at multiple things, but on average, people are aware of their limits and know them very well. That's not a flaw, it's a fact of life - you can't be good at everything. And, yes, you aren't born with an innate knowledge of your talents - you discover those throughout early life as you grow up and experiment with different things, and it's a natural process which should be encouraged but not forced.

 

Just the same way that if I suddenly decided to learn to play the piano and practised every day for years, I would still not be a good musician at the end of the road. Sure, I'd be able to convert sheet music into sound with an acceptably low error rate. But there would be no inspiration, no creativity, and most of all no fun - my brain just isn't wired that way.

 

As for the actual topic, I've had people call me "genius" before, a couple times, but I don't think anything of it. No, not because I'm some arrogant jerk who takes that for granted, but because I know it doesn't mean anything. It's merely a friendly way of saying "wow, that's cool but I don't understand any of it". I am a "genius" from their layman perspective, in this particular domain, because that's what I'm good at. And I also sometimes think the same thing when I see people doing stuff I would have never thought of myself (e.g. building a cleverly designed contraption, or coming up with a really smart math derivation, etc..).

 

So instead of endlessly dwelling on how you can't do X and Y, I think the most productive approach is to make peace with your weaknesses, and try and make the best of your strong points instead. Again, this is not fatalistic, it's just common sense. People who think anyone can succeed at anything are simply delusional.

 

To me, "all men are created equal" doesn't mean "everyone is good at everything". It means "give everyone a chance to find what they are good at".

Edited by Bacterius
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I continue to struggle to accept the fact that programmers, people who--one would think--are inherently only interested in concepts that are logical and have proven accuracy, would still believe in talent. Talent is a word for an unproven, magical substance that by all appearances does not exist. We look at the fact that someone is incredibly successful and famous and skilled, and we try to make assumptions about how the person became that way. It's like trying to guess the rule of a mathematical function based on its output and only a vague understanding of its input.

 

Success is a combination of hard work, luck, and connections. There is very sparsely any genetic, physical, astronomical, mathematical or neurological evidence, anywhere, in any research, that suggests people are born with inherent skills at things as arbitrarily designed and culturally specific as a genre of music (in Mozart's case) or sport (in Michael Jordan's case). This is the token part where I plug Outliers.

Edited by Shaquil
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The closest thing to "having talent" that I will entertain as plausible is a sort of affinity.

Yes, thinking logically and abstractly come naturally to me; does that mean I have some kind of spooky trait that makes me smarter than other people? No. It means that there was less resistance along the path to developing my skills as a thinker and programmer. I was not born with some attribute that makes me a good programmer; I was born with attributes that made it easier for me to become a good programmer.

Are there things I'll probably never be good at? Sure. I have shitty knees and asthma, so I will never be a professional football player. Some doors just aren't open.

But this idea that you have to have some kind of "gift" to excel at things irritates me.


"Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid."

-- Albert Einstein
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"Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid."

-- Albert Einstein

 

That statement pretty much shows that there are "gifts to excel at things" which contradicts your post, if I understood it well (a thing in what I'm below average).

The question is, what are those things? I honestly don't believe (that was a lie, but anyway, I'm trying to acknowledge) that programming doesn't need that "gift". And I do believe sports and art (to some extent) does. Maybe not the amount that an outsider would think.

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My point is that different people have different potential. What you make of your potential is up to you. I could have gone many different directions with the basic affinities I was born with; this is just where I chose to go.

We can debate the subtleties of this all day: can one person have "more potential" than another? Can one person develop that potential in a different way than someone else with equal potential? Can you fail to do anything with your potential? And so on.

I'm not saying that everyone is on a level playing field. I'm saying that people put far too much stock in the genetic component and not nearly enough emphasis on what it takes to harness that.
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A fish can certainly climb a tree, that is an undersea tree biggrin.png More thinking out of the box please(unless we are making a sandbox game that is) tongue.png Edited by Dwarf King
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I've never liked it , i've been considered the gold en child for most of my teenage to adult life getting good grades, graduating highschool, graduating college, getting a job in something i've wanted to do for years. so to my not so close  family and classmates who didn't know me very well i was this smart serious creature who couldn't laugh or enjoy them on a simple level . while those closest to me will tell you that is extremely far from the truth i enjoy silly, funny, and even sometimes stupid things as much as the next person. Once people get into their minds that you are smarter than them for me it's always been negative . Either  you need to constantly be "smart" or else you aren't as intelligent as they thought and if they have inferiority or superiority complexes  that can be a pain to balance.  Or because you are smart you can do and do know everything about everything.  sometimes it seems like the smarter you are considered the less people appreciate about you as a person and more how they compare to you mentally or what you can do for them  ..again  in my experience.

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My point is that different people have different potential. What you make of your potential is up to you. I could have gone many different directions with the basic affinities I was born with; this is just where I chose to go.

 

I honestly fail to see the distinction between your definition of 'potential', and my definition of 'innate talent'?

 

I'm obviously not suggesting that Mozart was born able to compose a sonata from his crib. I'm suggesting that he possessed certain attributes which enabled him to go further with his music than an equivalently hard-working person without such attributes...

 

And I'm suggesting that most (if not all) people who are very good at programming and other aspects of computer science, possess certain attributes that incline them towards logic, critical thinking, mathematics, and a dash of creativity. And that someone without those attribute will have a much harder time becoming a computer scientist.

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I feel like almost anybody who put the time in could develop the same skills. Your thoughts?

Genius is overused like Hero, Icon, and many other praise oriented words. People have called me a prodigy or genius all my life and I hate it, too.

Most people could develop any of these skills, like you said. My father says, "Results are what matter". There is also the aspect of emotional intelligence as probably being more important than facts based knowledge.
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I feel like almost anybody who put the time in could develop the same skills. Your thoughts?

Genius is overused like Hero, Icon, and many other praise oriented words. People have called me a prodigy or genius all my life and I hate it, too.

Most people could develop any of these skills, like you said. My father says, "Results are what matter". There is also the aspect of emotional intelligence as probably being more important than facts based knowledge.
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I feel like almost anybody who put the time in could develop the same skills. Your thoughts?

Genius is overused like Hero, Icon, and many other praise oriented words. People have called me a prodigy or genius all my life and I hate it, too.

Most people could develop any of these skills, like you said. My father says, "Results are what matter". There is also the aspect of emotional intelligence as probably being more important than facts based knowledge.
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My point is that different people have different potential. What you make of your potential is up to you. I could have gone many different directions with the basic affinities I was born with; this is just where I chose to go.

 

I honestly fail to see the distinction between your definition of 'potential', and my definition of 'innate talent'?

 

I'm obviously not suggesting that Mozart was born able to compose a sonata from his crib. I'm suggesting that he possessed certain attributes which enabled him to go further with his music than an equivalently hard-working person without such attributes...

 

And I'm suggesting that most (if not all) people who are very good at programming and other aspects of computer science, possess certain attributes that incline them towards logic, critical thinking, mathematics, and a dash of creativity. And that someone without those attribute will have a much harder time becoming a computer scientist.

 

That makes me think. Now, I'm not a programmer by any means, so to me an excellent programmer from my perspective could be called a genius in his field, but they may only be considered a mid-level programmer from the perspective of a much better programmer.

 

So in that sense, are both people are considered geniuses or does that mean genius is really a matter of perspective? Like the movie Idiocracy; a person of average intelligence in a land of idiots would be considered a genius because of their environment.

Edited by DaveTroyer
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[quote name='DaveTroyer' timestamp='1358732821' post='5023717']
So in that sense, both people are considered geniuses or does that mean genius is really a matter of perspective? Like the movie Idiocracy; a person of average intelligence in a land of idiots would be considered a genius because of their environment.
[/quote]

 

Well, genius is defined as an exceptional ability, so yeah I would say it is relative. For all we know, there could be an alien race where the smartest humans ever would be chimps in their eyes. 

 

This gets back to the point mad earlier that compliments are only really worthwhile from people who know their field.

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So in that sense, both people are considered geniuses or does that mean genius is really a matter of perspective? Like the movie Idiocracy; a person of average intelligence in a land of idiots would be considered a genius because of their environment.

 

 

Well, genius is defined as an exceptional ability, so yeah I would say it is relative. For all we know, there could be an alien race where the smartest humans ever would be chimps in their eyes. 

 

This gets back to the point mad earlier that compliments are only really worthwhile from people who know their field.

Isn't 'genius' currently measured as 150 IQ, which is a floating scale on which 100 is the average of all humans? Maybe it was the median, I can't remember.

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I have a completely back-to-front view of innate talent/potential than Swift/Phantom's ideas above -- the way I see it, every human has immense potential, but we're all severely handicapped. It just happens that in our birth and early upbringing, some people end up with less handicap in some areas than others.

 

It's not that I have an innate talent in programming, or that my programming potential is higher than the average person -- it's that the average person has a higher programming handicap than I did. Through chance, I'd had certain ideas planted in my head at an early age, that when it came to programming class, I'd already had a huge head-start thinking about the required concepts (and an interest in them), and thus took to these classes easily. It's nothing special about me, it's a lucky coincidence in my childhood environment.

 

The whole "if you just try hard enough you can do anything" Schick is right and wrong. Handicaps can be overcome, but it becomes harder with every year of age, and sometimes, the window of opportunity might simply have never appeared in the first place -- e.g. someone born deaf might not be lucky enough to have a family that can afford a bionic ear implant, and even then, their brain will have missed out on audio inputs for so long, that it won't have developed in the same way as someone born with 'regular' hearing. No matter how hard they try, it's very unlikely they'll ever hear music in the same way I do.


Take a person who's diagnosed with Autism at 4 years of age and wait, and then try and get them to overcome that at 40 years of age -- not much chance.

Take that same person when they're 4 and work with them continuously and you've got a better chance at putting a dent in their handicap.

Edited by Hodgman
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