Oooh, I'm soooo smart

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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Let me see… Which biases do I absolutely have…

  1. Yes
  2. Yes, but not a lot
  3. Yes
  4. I don’t believe it exists :slight_smile: (yes, of course, but that one is tough)
  5. Oh god yes
  6. Not so much really
  7. Again, not so much
  8. Yes, but the posters example is stupid
  9. No, I have gotten over that one
  10. Every. Single. Day.
  11. Hard to say, I’ll have to think about that
  12. Only with fish puns
  13. A bit. Not a lot, but a bit.
  14. Yes
  15. Flat out no. The older the better (which is a related bias!)
  16. No.
  17. Yes.
  18. That isn’t a bias, its a survival technique.
  19. No.
  20. Yes.

I had become aware of cognitive biases from a very young age, long before I had heard of them from others. Basically, I would ask people why they assumed or acted in certain ways, and they often were not consciously aware of it. From there, I noticed that most individuals would seem to make these leaps in similar ways. And that many were either hostile to having these pointed out to them, or otherwise would be nice about it and instantly forget. Honestly, this is the kind of stuff I have nightmares about, and the nightmares are still real upon awakening.

It seems difficult/impossible to get by in society without sharing such biases! Which only reenforces them, so it is no wonder that many seem to feel that they cannot afford to think clearly. It seems to me that people cannot afford not to!


Oh, it’s a moving target if you’re an actual person. Cognitive biases aren’t a bunch of check boxes where you can solve one and move on to the next., it’s something that you’d constantly need to check and double-check for the rest of your life.

We all absolutely have all of them (and many more) because we’re human beings and they’re tied to shortcuts our brains take in processing that stem from our biological history. Sure, the specific example given may not apply but the concept does. They’re just linguistic abstractions so the moment you think ‘No’ you should next be thinking ‘Where is this little fucker hiding?’

Also, as you pointed out some may be situationally overwhelmed by other biases at times (like your comment on the recency bit), but it’s turtles all the way down and overcoming one doesn’t make the other cease to exist.

I’ve yet to eliminate a single cognitive bias, I’ve only become better at catching them when they pop up and using workarounds to lessen their impact.


Oh don’t I know it! LOL

I always say that if a job that would take a “normal” person 7 hrs only takes me 2 hrs then those other 5 hrs are mine to do with as I please! (Hence my commenting history here. LOL) And yet… despite my prodigious slack every time I leave a position they have to hire two people to replace me. Also; Don’t knock your own smarts. Took me a long time to realize that when you put yourself or your work down to other people they believe you!!


  21. The Japhroaig bias.
This is where japhroaig posts a dry, lightly silly response that is meant to be interpreted as a combination of true personal introspection and a little british style sarcasm, but is taken literally.

I know that you know that I don’t believe a word I posted. Do you know that I know that you know that I knew that? (Oh god, the turtles… :D)

Except 12. Fish puns. Those are serious.


Noone believes a single thing I say.

(Parse that, you (not you) bayseian state machine!! (And find the… Three?.. Logical fallacies))