A few observations on intelligence, superintelligence and group dynamics:
NOTE: I know discussing intelligence is taboo, but I think it’s valuable in the context of groups so we can all learn to get along better and function better as a society.
There is a relationship between individual intelligence over group mean that seems to move like so:
A little bit smarter. If someone in the group is just a little bit smarter than average — say one standard deviation — this causes friction. People begin to realize that this person has more intellectual horsepower and may fear or dislike her for making them feel relatively inferior. They may try to bring said person down (cut the tall poppy syndrome). The rest of the group may even band together against them.
A lot smarter. When someone is 3-4x smarter than the average, often many problems go away, because this person is smart enough to conceal their intelligence and become low-ego. They know how to get along socially in a way that doesn’t ruffle feathers. In fact, the group usually starts functioning more smoothly, because this person is managing relationships and perceptions behind the scenes to increase harmony. They understand that harmonious group function is the responsibility of the mature members of the group and they take on that task willingly, because with global intelligence (including emotional maturity) they understand that larger issues are at stake and willing sacrifice ego gratification for social goal achievement.
A whole other level of smarter. When you have someone who is on markedly different level, other people will actually think they are dumb.
We can call this person “superintelligent” as a shorthand — not in the sense of “machine superintelligence” (which would be to a human as a human is to a cat) but as to the average human intelligence as the average is to “a moron” (no longer an acceptable term, but just means someone who would score below 69 on an IQ test).
We’re talking about someone who can hold in their mind the simultaneous interrelationship of parts in a working system, whether that be an electric motor, a group, or a society. Nikola Tesla could do this. Buckminster Fuller could do it. (It’s no accident that superintelligent people tend to go into hardcore engineering, which deals with systems and the interrelationship of systems.)
As a result this person will have insights that most humans will see as incredible, in the sense of the word meaning “wrong”.
Someone who is superintelligent will also be able to peer into the deterministic future and assess the relative weights and probabilities of various possible futures, and either prepare for the most-probable, or take actions that will change the probabilities, bending the very arc of history to their will.
You already know the example par excellence that I’m thinking of: Elon Musk. This is a man who envisioned the relative probabilities of domains influencing the future of humanity in his shower in college, deciding that 1) The Internet 2) Sustainable energy and 3) Space Exploration were most important.
He then proceeded to create (or assist in creating) 1) PayPal 2) Tesla Motors 3) SolarCity and 4) Space Exploration Technologies, the second and third of which are in the process of become a consolidation energy and transportation infrastructure platform that will do to the 21st century what the interstate highway system and internal combustion engine did to the 20th century.
Because of Elon’s intelligence, we will continue to see economists, market experts, and Wall Street wizards baffled by his behavior, even though they have consistently been proven wrong in their estimation of his intelligence and abilities.
Many times already Wall Street and Main Street pundits have called “dumb move” on Musk’s plans, only to see history unfold:
- Model S dominance and Model 3 disruptive demand
- Reusable rocket technology (5 successful landings to date and another planned for Sunday)
- SolarCity + Tesla merger: “it doesn’t make sense both companies are burning cash”
- Human species becomes multi-planetary — currently viewed as an unrealistic pipe dream
Things that appear impossible at one level of intelligence become obvious at a higher level of intelligence.
People of above-average intelligence will catch on soonest and won’t need physical proof. Those of average intelligence will wait until they see physical proof before they are convinced. People of below-average intelligence may believe on faith. (Notice that on the surface it is impossible to determine by their stance if someone is above-average or below-average intelligence.)
One of the best barometers of this is the Tesla Motors stock. It started at $17.40, and jumped up to $100 and then $280 as more and more investors of average intelligence grasped the full impact of the plan.
But Musk is still many steps ahead of the market. TSLA currently trades at $225, but this is not considering the full scope of the merger with SolarCity and the consolidation and vertical integration of energy generation, storage, electrified on-demand mobility and demand response. This is a $500 stock, and it will be fun to watch the rest of the world catch on to this.
RESPONSIBILITIES AT EACH LEVEL
Now how does this apply to us, the non-super-intelligent?
It’s important to note that there are many kinds of intelligence, and while there may be only so much you can do about your raw general intelligence, you can certainly increase your global intelligence by increasing your emotional maturity and spiritual depth. This is includes taming your ego so you are no longer threatened by people who appear to be better than you.
1 – If you identify someone who is smarter than you, help them as best you can. Don’t try to cut the tall poppy. Try to help them achieve their goals, as in doing so you will likely be advancing the best interests of the group. (Obviously this only applies if they are using their intelligence in a moral and non-selfish way.) You will notice this in companies where high-ego, low-intelligence people will only hire people of lower intelligence than them. The smartest people will hire people who are smarter than them (ex: Steve Jobs hires Jon Sculley, gets fired by Jon Sculley).
2 – If you are the smarter person in your group, hold closely to your moral principles and ethical standards, and make things better for everyone around you. If you have the gift of greater intelligence you also have the responsibility to use it for the good of the group, and care about the largest group you are capable of effecting.
3 – If you identify someone who is superintelligent, do your best to help them succeed. No matter how smart you are, no man is an island. Achieving world-changing results takes thousands of people combining efforts and this is true no matter what domain of life we’re talking about. Superintelligent people need lots of smart people to help them. That way, we can all arrive together at a more beautiful future.
4 – If you are superintelligent, keep at it. Don’t let detractors bring you down, keep your confidence in your intelligence and your vision. Remember you’re going to have friction not just in the domains you’re tackling, but to some degree from the world at large, and consequently, you may have to work to reduce that friction as well in order to succeed.
What have you noticed about intelligence in social groups? Let us know in the comments.
Also published on Medium.