Saturday, 27 January 2007

I'm smarter than you, and you're smarter than me

So, ever had the occasion when you've just imparted some piece of esoteric knowledge and had someone reply "Wow, you're smart"? I don't know about you, but that really irks me.

All this is really meaning is that "there is some aspect of life about which I have more knowledge than you". But you know what? There are tons of other stuff about which I have less knowledge than you!

Ever gone up to a chef after they created some amazing piece of gastronomic delight and said "Wow, you're smart!" Me neither. We tend to only apply "smartness" in particular ways.

People seem to want to rank either other on a linear intelligence scale, as if there is only one universal way to be intelligent(*). MENSA is supposedly a society of intelligent uber-beings, but lets stick them on an island with no tools, water or food and see if their intelligence enables them to survive better than a native from a nearby island who's lived all their life that way.

My point to all this is: smartness is contextual, so don't get so big about ourselves.

(*)And this is a good opportunity for me to link to one of my favourite books by Stephen J. Gould: The Mismeasure of Man.


Paul Scoones said...

That typo in the first line tends to give a rather different meaning!

Jamas Enright said...

Heh. Well, some knowledge might feel like that. Changed now.