Monday, September 14, 2020

Where have all the really smart people gone?

To paraphrase an ever-relevant question about dire situations, what does Christopher Langan know and when did he know it?

Well, Langan knows most everything, most of it since age 3 when he began reading at an adult level.

Many scholars list Langan, 68, as the smartest person in the world. How smart?

His IQ is higher than most amateur bowling score. It is estimated to be between 195 and 210.

So his IQ is twice the average American IQ, which is 100.

If you’re feeling average, cheer up. I automatically add 25 points to anyone who reads my blog.

Buy a book and I’ll add 3.5 times that!

If only I could do the math.

Alas, I’m not smarrt, er, smart.

But I’ve always admired men and women who are and tried to learn from them.

That’s how I came across Langan’s name. I was writing something that would benefit from an example of superior intellect, a real brainiac.

And I was stumped.

All I could think of was Albert Einstein (estimated IQ: 160). But that’s cliche. Certainly I could come up with a current example, some living genius upon whom we can all agree.

But no. In America today we’ve so devalued honest-to-goodness intelligence, we couldn’t recognize it if it threw a chalk eraser at our heads. 

In fact, nearly everyone knows the richest person (Jeff Bezos, $114 billion). People Magazine threw us a curveball for sexiest man of 2020 when it named Anthony Fauci the recipient, taking over the title from John Legend.

Shouldn’t the smartest American be a celebrity, someone we all know and refer to when we’re seeking to bolster our arguments with genius backing.

I asked friends their opinions. Their answers prove many people confuse the accumulation of wealth with intelligence.

Many said the late Steve Jobs. They’re mistaken. Just because you put GENIUS on employee T-shirts doesn’t mean you are one.

This, I understand, is a vast oversimplification, but it seems to me Jobs awoke every morning consumed with thoughts on how to cram another 500 songs in our pockets. He did this as climate change raged and pandemics loomed.

Yes, the world is going to hell but, thanks to Jobs, we’ll all be groovin’ when we get there.

I kept waiting — fool that I am — for Jobs to declare, “Okay enough nonsense for now. Me and my fellow geniuses are going back into the garage and we’re not coming out until we invent a ‘green’ internal combustion engine that runs on all the perfectly functional old iPhone versions we’ve suckered you into buying over the years. See you in six months.”

If you were a genius, wouldn’t you want to be working on something historic — something like extending the life of the planet.

I think it’s what Einstein would have urged. 

One of my favorite stories on Einstein involved when he got a letter from a 12-year-old girl who posed  to him the all-time puzzler: What is the meaning of life?

In so many words he said, I’ve thought about it and all I can conclude is we’re not here to make money or accumulate wealth.

The only reasonable conclusion, he said, must be we’re here to help one another.

Gee, even poor, stupid people can do that.

Which brings us back to Christopher Langan. At a time when the oceans are rising and the West is burning, what is this man who some tests say is more intelligent than Einstein doing?

He raises cattle in Missouri.

It seems like yet another tremendous waste of a precious natural resouce. 

So I have at least one thing in common with the world’s smartest man

We’re both engaged in ultimately pointless activities that result in huge piles of crap. Him equine, me this blog.

How does the admission make me feel?

It smarts!

• Interested in reading more on Christopher Langan? Here’s an interesting Esquire story, “The Smartest Man in America.

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