Oooh, I'm soooo smart

Continuing the discussion from Salafist Terrorism:

It kind of doesn’t make sense not to have imposter syndrome. If you are walking around acting like a rational adult and you don’t think you are faking it, then it seems like that can only be explained by you not realizing that you are faking it. So I guess it’s less about think I’m a big fat phony and more about wondering whether people, upon realizing that, will nod and say, “Yeah, we all are,” or will go into a defensive must-separate-self-from-phony-lest-everyone-realize-I’m-one-too mode.

But the thing is, I am a real genuine faker. I basically don’t read things or know things. If I start talking about a subject here I probably just googled it, if I even bothered to do that. My knowledge is far more of how people will react to what I am saying that it is to what I am saying.

The problem is that at some points I have to accept that I am actually probably a lot smarter than almost everyone. But at least it’s comforting to know that I can always fall back on blaming myself for not doing anything worthwhile with the intelligence I have.


Careful now… you’re entering Dunning-Kruger area with those statements! :wink:


We’re all living there on and off. It’s actually a useful bias as long as one can overcome it when putting things to practice. :grin:

It’s amazing how easy that is just by ‘not being certain and stupid and using your neurons a little’, isn’t it?


Ain’t that the truth tho!
I try to remember it when I’m just SOOOO CERTAIN about something. LOL


The cool thing is the moment you find out you’re wrong and embrace it, it’s like a free level-up for your brain!

(And yes, some people seem to prefer hanging out in the lowbie zones… It’s more about attitude than knowledge after all)


I wish more people would embrace the power of the apology and mea culpa.
So much learning comes from those two things! And progress! And relationships! And just so much!!


It’s not free. You then have to re-examine all of your other ideas to see if they have also been invalidated, which costs a lot of time and effort. There is also a pushback in your mind that’s proportional to how big the idea is and how firmly you hold onto the idea, and inversely proportional to how long you’ve had to contemplate the possibility that you’ve been wrong.

So yeah, it’s a level-up, and it’s always good to think more clearly and logically, but there is a cost to it.


Well, it’s still free, you’re just talking about the bonus XP to the next level.

Mind you, I tend to go for the extra credit and I’d advise everyone do so, but a ding is a ding and ‘ceasing to be wrong’ is indeed a worthy thing to celebrate.


That might be the most beautiful things I’ve heard all year.

The only thing I know for sure is that I don’t know enough.


I think it helps that this is a fairly small community, so it’s more possible to be open about the fact that the positions you argue for aren’t necessarily the ones you’ll die with - you can change your mind and the general mood is more one of support for your willingness to learn rather than victory over you. That seems pretty rare online. Many BB commenters have changed my perspective on a number of issues, particularly @Mindysan33, @Humbabella and @Missy_Pants on this thread.

I think faking can have some benefits - in some ways it represents an aspiration to be a better, smarter person and not be satisfied with your current knowledge. On the other hand, the two or three times in my life when I’ve really felt like I was losing control of my thinking for a couple of months (sometimes with wild changes of opinion from one day to the next) are also times I’ve come out of with a clearer sense of what I do think, less confidence in the reliability of my gut feeling and more acceptance of other people’s diversity of opinion and experience. I think a bit of both is good, although faking it takes a lot less energy and is less likely to make you look like an asshole. I like this comment by a psychologist on Reddit:

I was interviewing a bi-polar patient. I asked him how he would describe himself: “An altruistic lover of truth and beauty”. I then asked him how others would describe him: “Bit of a c*nt probably”.


In the age of information scarcity, individual reasoning capability was limited, in part, by how much knowledge one had access to. Books and libraries and higher education that required time, money, and often privilege to obtain.

In the age of information abundance, individual reasoning capability is mediated by the effectiveness of one’s ability to effectively sift through and critically evaluate the ever-multiplying body of world knowledge.

Perhaps your brain is better suited to the new world that has evolved around us.


This is my kooky theory: On the balance, everyone is pretty much average in terms of smarts, and it’s all a function of skill acquisition and the ability to interrogate ourselves about our own level of knowledge. Then it comes down to motivation and satisfaction. There is no such thing as genius and there’s no such thing as smarts. There’s really no meaning to those terms. I might even go so far as to say that I despise those concepts and our collective fascination with them.

There are a select few people, like Srinivasa Ramanujan or Aristotle who were called to their intellectual pursuits by something bordering on the miraculous. People who, by all accounts just seem to be cognitive accidents of human evolution. But to a certain extent I feel like “anyone” can be a DaVinci or a Feynman. These were people who were incredibly good at the process of analysis and synthesis. They were people who looked at what was around them and built with what was available. “Anyone” can do that. “Anyone” who has had the right set of life circumstances, luck, and/or resources, and who has learned the importance of knowing what they don’t know has access to real, useful, important knowledge.

In my own life, I was always told I was smart. I was always told that I bordered on, or was, a genius. The environment I was in was not one where everyone got told that, and I couldn’t discount that. I suffered incredibly for it. “Smart” people get lazy. When you understand things with relatively little effort, you take the process of understanding for granted. You never really acquire a taste for the pleasure of finding things out. You certainly never learn to deal with failure. For me, it was only when I started to obsess about the things that I didn’t understand or know, that I started to really have insights. I think to a certain extent, it’s like that for everyone.

The direct consequence of this is Impostor Syndrome. You are so focused on what you don’t know, and on your lack of certainty, and on what you have yet to figure out, that you feel like you don’t know anything. That’s because it’s useful. It creates a drive within us to learn and develop new ideas. The side effect is that you feel inept at times. I started the Fuck Today thread because I was feeling like a crushed squirrel because of what I didn’t know for a class. The reality is that when I look at my grades for the class, I could skip my final exam and get a solid B. I’m going to get an A in that class. In talking to classmates since, I realize that I have a far better grasp on the material than most, and that in my efforts to master the material I had learned things that I was never going to learn otherwise until grad school. Not knowing things was healthier than being confident in my knowledge.

Am I smart? I hope not. God, I hope I’m dumb enough to get there.


I have found that the social contexts for “smart” can be quite fluid. When I was in grade school, people fussed over me as being especially smart. That I was somehow possessed of genius and would inevitably change the world and make lots of money doing it. But as I got older, and explained that I had no intention to make any money, their opinions of my intellect changed quite drastically. Ultimately, the labels they applied to me were really more about their own value system than how I actually think or do anything.

And much of the work I have done since which people have said demonstrated rare ability were more products of me being very methodical and patient - skills which I think the average person can easily learn, if they let and apply themself to it.


I’m sorry, I can’t apologize for who I yam. (Yeah, vegetable puns are the new Black)




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As I understand it, this is something that people who go to public (i.e. private) school benefit from (along with membership of the old boy’s club etc) - they get pushed to keep learning, and it’s very competitive. State schools ignore you once you can do enough to get good grades for their league tables.

I think I’m fairly smart. I know I’m lazy. Things come fairly easy to me, it’s pretty easy to, well, not coast exactly, but I’m not terribly driven. I do wonder if some of the medication I have to take affects my attention span, too. I suffered from that in the past.


Smart is overrated. Never scored above a hundred on a test, I have few useful rhetorical skills, my memory is bested by an l1 cache in a 486sx, and my judgement is usually flawed.

But I look dashing in tweed.


I think the biggest talent there might also be ‘being aware of and overcoming bias’. Sometimes we’re above-average at overcoming them in one realm or another, but even the best of us is subject to a massive number of cognitive baises

I have a poster I keep handy just to keep me from forgetting how my brain is constantly trying to make me think stupid, lazy thoughts. It’s not complete or anything but it’s enough to keep me aware of how often those little biases tend to sneak up on me.

Brains are amazing, but they’re also tricksy little critters and always up to no good. Gotta keep 'em reined in if you’re going to have responsible thoughts, right?


Plus you’re an incredible polymath.

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Is that like a cult you have to pay to join?

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