Jake Maddox

Field Service Engineer,


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Do you find it difficult to engage in intellectual conversations with people in general?

It happens to me all the time. My wife encourages me to have dinner with her friend and her friend's husband. "It's the opportunity to socialize and meet new interesting people!", she proclaims. And yet the same boring conversations unfold. The guy rambles on about how many yards this guy ran, and how many interceptions this guy threw, and did you see how many spiders that guy ate on Fear Factor, etc, etc. I ask something like, "Hey, did you see that they possibly discovered the Higgs Boson at the LHC?" And the guy looks at me like I'm from Mars, "The LH what?". Then my wife makes a comment like I'm a nerd then everyone laughs. I'm far from a social misfit or hobbit, I just prefer to discuss things that stimulate me intellectually. I hope I don't offend anyone for saying so, but most of the time I feel like I'm surrounded by people that are intellectually challenged, to put it kindly. And maybe that's just it, if you consider that the average intellectual quotient is around 100. They're easily entertained and amuzed to watch television shows cataloging the "real world" of college kids living in a house together, arguing over who got the most trashed the night before at the club.

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    Aug 29 2012: I have always had this dream that we would live in a culture in which, when two people unknown to each other get on an elevator, there will not be silence, or even the "Hello"Howareyou"Fine" ritual, but one will look at the other and say, "Nietzsche or Kirkegaard?"

    And then the other might reply "Socrates."

    And by that they will know there is an attraction.

    Sadly, to this day, no woman has ever replied like that. They just keep hitting the "open door" button frantically.

    Seriously, though, you just have to keep searching the right people. When you're in a conversation like what you described, try to find a way to draw the conversation into something interesting for all involved. Example: guys who are into football - football can easily be led into a conversation about physics: muscle power, the amount of energy expended in order to gain momentum, which can eventually get you into particle physics if you work it right. I usually take football convos into history, by using the analogy of the Battle of the Bulge in WWII: that usually achieves the required result for me.

    Someone may never get to the Higgs-Boson with you, but the sign of a great conversation is when all involved walk away somewhat enriched.
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    Sep 23 2012: I use to be very judgmental in debates. I would attempt to attack people instead of communicate. I don't think debate should be seen as a "game" or "competition" rather....it is a "meshing" of information.

    We compare information for a reason. It gives us the benefit of validation and the opportunity to change perspectives when necessary. If you are talking about "meeting a certain individual" and having issues....I would suggest you take that opportunity to share your knowledge.

    However, formatting is key. An understanding of humility will get you very far in debate. This is something I still struggle with so I am definitely not trying to act like an expert....just offering advice.

    The fallacy here is that you assume your subject "Higgs Boson" is more valuable than his "sports".

    I see what you are saying. However, the subject at hand has no relevance.

    The only subject that does hold relevance is "communication" as that is what's going on.

    Attempting to define your communication by the constricts of "science" may cause problems in communicating with people.
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  • Aug 31 2012: Hello... It is dangerous to think that your ideas and passions are in some way superior to other people's passions. It's also a turnoff to the person across the table... You'll find more people who want to discuss entertainment and sports than sub-atomic particles... It's easy to insult others who don't share your interests; it's also easy to find things that you in common with others... Which would you rather do? The second we realize that we are all knowledgeable in different arenas and aspects of life is when we'll really begin to enjoy the variety and diversity of "intelligence". What is "intellectually stimulating" to one person, may be incredibly boring to another. There are many different types of intelligence, and just because you may not share a particular interest with someone, it is certain that this person does have knowledge about other topics/subjects that you don't. I think Sophia (below) has it right that if don't share a particular interest with one person or group, then it is easy to find other who do share your interests. But, although it's fun to talk about topics you know a lot about, how will we ever learn about new topics, passions, and experiences without listening to what other people enjoy?
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    Aug 29 2012: No, but that is why I like TED. I was have a problem finding people who could hold an intellectual conversation. I do not drink, like rap, play video games, carry a expensive cell phone, or listen to a Ipod all day. That pretty much narrows my chance to talk to most people and the rest are on TED. So here I am.

    The concern has often been raised that there is a dumbing down of America. Could this be true.

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      Aug 29 2012: While at the same time, there are intellectual things in a lot of the things you've mentioned, despite their labels/brands/stereotypes.

      Perhaps America's not becoming dumber, but we're becoming smarter and more aware of the dumb people
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      Aug 29 2012: When i'm out on the street walking around doing whatever i have this strange compulsion to reach for my invisible phone,is behavior transferable? or am i easily susceptible to the inner drive to conform?I wonder if Einstein could walk down a modern street today,i wonder what he would make of it,he would most probably be jumping from foot to foot,wandering where's the library and what is those small boxes people are so enamored with,well he would of deduced that straight away.

      Boys and our toys.
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        Aug 31 2012: Well there are some experiments that show that if enough people face one direction in an elevator, the unwitting subject of the experiment will gradually turn in that direction. You might be feeling a subconscious urge to do something like that.
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          Aug 31 2012: Damn Mat

          Your post brought all the snippets of data to the fore of what you typed,yes it's coming back now.

          Damn it! I'm not a fish.Fight the Power!
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      Aug 29 2012: I think it could be a dumbing down of sorts. But I hope not. Perhaps we are just becoming less visible and more exclusive. Before TED, there was only physic.org with all those young know it all who spent more time debating insignificant issues that lent nothing to the big picture, consistently moving off track.

      TED has introduced me to the social and psychological side of intellectualism that I'm coming to enjoy, being mainly focused on Cosmology, math and physical science. When everyone starts hitting each other over the head with their diplomas, it gets a bit annoying. Some seem to think if you walked the walk you have to talk the talk, which probably makes their world a bit smaller.
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        Aug 29 2012: I agree, John, that "diplomas" are irrelevant to social discourse. I find their mention embarrassing, in fact. It's what you contribute and how well you listen that matters.
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          Aug 29 2012: Absolutely correct Fritzie. rexrino@moonstroller.com
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          Aug 31 2012: I'm sad you took down your profile. I can't message you.
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        Aug 30 2012: John and Fritzie,

        I find some folks continual mention of "diplomas" as a sign of insecurity in him/herself. If one has to depend on trying to intimidate people with their educational background, it seems rather pathetic. There are many people who have the credentials, and apparently have not assimilated a bit of the information, while there are many people without formal educations, who have fully lived and learned from the life experience.

        My "play group" (mostly retired engineers) has several members who have been nationally and internationally awarded and recognized for work they have done and I didn't even know that for several years after being involved with the group. The information was provided in casual conversation by OTHER members of the group!!!

        Regarding your comment..."perhaps we...are becoming more exclusive". I use the word "selective" for myself. I realize that when I was younger, I LOVED participating in the "small talk" to eventually get to a deeper level of conversation. It seems that as I age, other people and I instantly recognize kindred spirits. For example, you say you're interested mostly in math/science. I'm certainly interested in learning more about science....math not so much!!! LOL:>) That being said however, we've had some good and interesting exchanges...in my perception anyway:>)

        I absolutely believe in walking the talk....say what I mean....mean what I say.....do what I say....say what I do with honesty..."BE" what I talk about to the best of my ability.
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          Aug 30 2012: Thank you, Colleen. I agree with your assessment. In my experience, which is, of course, limited and therefore anecdotal, those with an exceptional calber of mind never haul out or mention their diplomas in discourse nor, in my experience, refer to their intellect.
          They simply express ideas and arguments to be considered on their own merit.
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          Aug 31 2012: You certainly have my respect Colleen. I prefer to engage with people my age. It is a kindred spirit connection. Sometimes I feel I should be doing more.
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        Aug 30 2012: Fritzie,
        Each and every one of us has different life experiences, and although we may overlap with experiences, we are "limited" to a certain extent....wouldn't you say? That, to me, is exactly what creates joy and interest in the sharing of communications and experiences with other people:>)

        I haven't ever experienced anyone refering to their diplomas, IQs, high intellect, or intellectual expertise until recently, here on TED. I've met some very influential and intelligent people in our world, and have never been reminded of that by those who are truly in that position.

        BTW...Regarding the accusation of your "hidden identity"...
        I observed that your profile, from the time you started commenting on TED, indicated that you are a female, and if any of that gray matter called the brain serves me at all, I can think of at least two comments in which you stated that you are a mother.

        Apparently, I'm out of thumbs for you for awhile...sending you a smile.............:>)
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          Aug 30 2012: Thank you, Colleen. I have recently taken down my profile (which never, by the way, showed anything about degree or schools attended), just to emphasize that it is only the ideas we put forward and how open we are to considering the ideas of others that matter rather than our formal credentials, where we live, gender, and so forth.
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        Aug 30 2012: Fritzie,
        I'm aware that you didn't have anything about degrees, schools or credentials in your profile....me either:>) I agree with you that it is more about what and how we communicate that is the important piece.

        That being said, however, I like to see location in profiles, because when people talk about global issues, it gives me a better idea of his/her perspectives. Other information is fine too if one chooses:>)
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        Aug 31 2012: This is in response to your comment above John..................couldn't get it any closer.

        "John moonstroller
        9 hours ago: You certainly have my respect Colleen. I prefer to engage with people my age. It is a kindred spirit connection. Sometimes I feel I should be doing more".

        Thank you John...we have mutual respect:>)

        I LOVE communicating with people of all ages.....well.......I LOVE communicating with ALL people.
        I especially like communications with young people, because they are our future, and it's nice to know many of them are so knowledgeable and insightful:>)

        BTW my friend....a loving reminder....don't "should" on yourself:>)
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        Aug 31 2012: I am truly happy that you shan't:>)
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      Aug 31 2012: People who listen to their Ipod all day such as me will have something to talk about if they listen to podcasts like Radiolab, Freakonomics or the Nature podcast. I'm guessing you're talking about people who listen to the same music all day.
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        Aug 31 2012: Listening is wasted if it is none productive. People who read increase their vocabulary and critical thinking skills. People who write enhance their communication skills.

        iPod's are very efficient at distributing information to the masses.

        If information is not digested, it cannot grow into wisdom.

        A pencil is a word processor. It may only have a delete function but it can create words and create wisdom when used by the brain. It's use increases hand eye coordination and can turn an iPod listener into a world renown artist or literary expert.

        Because young people are one of the most targeted consumers by the advertisement industry, it is important that they take the lead and spread the word among themselves that they need to keep their money in their pocket.

        That's your job Matthieu Mioossec. Time to get to work. Produce a message that other iPod users can listen to, a rallying message that will propel you into the world of international acclaim. It's easy. Just pick up a pencil and start writing. :)
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          Aug 31 2012: Dear John, I am not sure I understand what you mean by saying listening to podcast does no good. I listen to many good things including Ted talks on my Ipod and I learn a great deal from it. How is listening very different from reading? Do we not listen to our teachers and learn? Well once we are above certain age we do not need teachers we can teach ourselves by listening even on an Ipod. If technology helps to understand things at ease, I do not see any wrong in using it. Kiran
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        Aug 31 2012: Kiran,

        Listening is wasted if it is none productive.

        Sorry, I'm actually in the wrong Question area.

        If you find yourself, like it did, not making sense of other's posts in reply to your post, set the sort parameter to oldest first and you will find the true path of the conversation. :)

        I guess you didn't see this post I made Matthieu Miossec. :)

        Take the ipod plug out of your ear and use your eyes. Read.
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          Aug 31 2012: A false dichotomy. It is possible to read and listen to very informative shows like Freakonomics. I do both. Don't be a book snob.
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    Sep 17 2012: Jake,

    Seems like you have been hanging out with the wrong crowd or at the wrong places. Wanna talk about the Large Hadron Collider? i assure, there are plenty of geeks around (i count myself as one) who would enjoy discussing the subject. Wanna talk about astrophysics? super novae, and how nuclear fusion allows life to exist? welcome to the club.

    But we are social creatures. We evolved to feel terrible when cast out of our groups, and we evolved to fear groups of outsiders. Humans don't even have the copyright on this, since these traits are shared with most great apes and with many other animals. And if media encourages a culture of admiring sports super stars and ridiculing the geeks, well, you can see why so many people will want to feel part of the "in" crowd.

    I would not be so quick to blame them, though. Yes we all should raise our bar and try to educate ourselves more broadly, and i guess that means that people like you and me should at least learn a little bit about soccer and football and basketball and whether Michael Jordan and Larry Bird ever played in the same season.

    If we want to fix this, if we think that a more cultured, specially more scientifically educated population is something desirable, we need to do something to fix the root problem. We need to reduce the amount of crap that kids see and hear from age one, we need to provide them with better information and we need to allow them to grow into critical thinkers. I would start there

    Sorry, seems like i transmuted my response into a rant

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    Sep 2 2012: it is not uncommon thing that you are observing. it happens everywhere. that is why the social networking is so popular because here you can choose to whom and what you want to discuss. but in society we find all kind of people and then we have to talk to them the things they like to. but i think the world would become humour less and become stiff we dont find various colors of people.

    Suppose in a B'Day party, everyone is talking about Men's new adventure to go to Mars. the kid in question would certainly like to have some noise and laughter. the fact is we, the people who are discussing at TED are somewhat different from others, that is why we are sitting here and not in front of tv but then we have to go to society and talk to them because we are part of it. They also contruibute to society in other way if not in the intellectual way. every one is important.
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    Sep 2 2012: I think a more intellectual conversation would be one that is able to incorporate many facets of society. Being eclectic and able to voice an opinion on a huge variety of subjects is, in my opnion, better signs of an intelligent person than one who would ask a highly scientific/religious/political based question and expecting a typical person to have an answer.

    If I were in a conversation with a few people and one person chimed in with your example of a question, "Hey, did you see that they possibly discovered the Higgs Boson at the LHC?" I would think one of two things...
    1. That person is possibly uncomfortable in social situations and tends to try to focus on things that they may have an expert opinion on. They may not know that to attempt conversation on a higher level, without knowing the person they are talking to, carries a negative connotation with it.
    2. That person is a braggart and is attempting to use a conversation to show how bright they may seem to be, hence showing a want/need/desire to prove how much better they are than those around them. Once again...that type of attitude has a negative connotation with it.

    In my opinion, knowing the top 5-10 performers in any given subject (sports/music/television shows/movies/current culture) and being able to formulate an intellegent conversation about them AS WELL as knowing more intellectual subjects makes for a more intelligent person than one that speaks about higher level subjects alone.

    It would be like a brain surgeon at a party with rocket scientists and laughing at the scientists because they dont understand the higher levels of neurology. That doesnt make the rocket scientists dumb.

    The common ground of today's typical everyday subjects and being able to communicate with someone else about them shows true intellect.

    But hey, thats just my opinion. I mean no offense to those of you that might not be able to talk about Peyton Manning, or billiards, or catching a fish, or tires, etc.
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    Gord G

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    Sep 1 2012: Intellectual elitism is often a barrier to meaningful interaction. Yes, social platitudes and empty play by play regurgitation of statistics can feel like an insurmountable obstacle to engaging conversation, but IQ isn't the measure of our humanity. Dig a little deeper. Try a little harder. Beneath the safe topics, lies a human being. Don't dismiss them and drop back into the safety of your self assured belief they are less involved in the world around them.

    Everyone has encountered the verisimilitude of life. So rather than evaluate their ability to appreciate the nuance of quantum physics, perhaps it would be better to look for their emotional connection to the absurdity of happenstance. We all share a common confusion about the life we live. Some avoid it by memorizing batting averages, others by being able to explain weakly interacting elementary subatomic particles with half-integer spin.
  • Sep 24 2012: If I enter into a conversation with an open heart and a curious mind there is always something interesting to find out about others. I always say yes to every invitation and every opportunity on the basis that you only regret what you never did - and even if I only meet one interesting person it is worth the adventure - and I always met at least one interesting person.
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    Sep 23 2012: I have the very same problem here. I would say something like "Have you heard the piece on BBC about molecules traveling faster than light? That means time travel will be possible in the future" and they'd look at me with flat faces then say something like "O...Kay" and go back to mundane conversation about who did what and when. It's frustrating sometimes but I realized, recently, that I've started to accept the mundane and join in. I suppose that's why I often converse with my father and find myself on TED. The truth is, though, it's 'nerdy' to have stimulating conversations and those who do are often misfits.
    • Sep 23 2012: Where can I find the Molecules traveling faster than light on the Internet ? .. Looks Fantastic. Yeah, I have the same problem in Texas. Although, for a different reason, I've a PH.D in Physics, I can teach them why molecules travel faster than the speed of light. Why the Sky is blue. And just for grins, why the wine is red. :)
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      Sep 24 2012: your problem can reflect a lot !
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      Sep 27 2012: This is exactly my problem! My interests are more on the philosophy side, but i find whenever you bring up an interesting new theory, sometimes controversial, people aren't even curious. that's the bit i cant stand. The lack of imagination people, and their dry satisfaction with the boring things around them.
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    Sep 19 2012: Having not read through all of the comments this generated, I apologize if this has been written, but I think there can be a couple of factors. One is the sound bite/headline nature of our culture right now. We are inundated with information and tend to just take the key point and move on. This can cause people to have only superficial knowledge of what is going on and possibly a level of discomfort in speaking to it.

    The other thing is I think you have to work at finding what people find interesting and intellectually challenging to them. You state specifically that you want to talk about things that stimulate YOU. And while you might find the Higgs Boson and the LHC fascinating and interesting, others may not, or simply may not have wanted to dedicate their time to that. It doesn't mean that they are intellectually challenged. I consider myself fairly intellectually astute, but couldn't carry on a conversation about this topic. However, I think I could talk fairly intelligently about things like marketing and general business, economic trends, and health care. On TED, I gravitate toward the business talks and some of the psychology and sociology presentations because I find those interesting.

    I think you have a couple of options. First, find people who have the same intellectual interests as you as was stated a few times I'm sure. There are definitely groups for it. Second, it might take a little work to find the stimulating conversations that you want, but they can be had with the group you are around (which will be good for you and your relationship). Turn it into your own personal case study. What is your theory for why they are easily entertained by what you consider trashy television? What is it about society that makes these types of shows successful? What are the underlying interests that people have? I have found that most people are deeper than trashy shows and sports if you are willing to probe a little and listen deeper.
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      Sep 19 2012: Charles Mansion seems Kinda interesting.
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        Sep 23 2012: Yea, I figured you caught my little joke with Pat..... you're a sneaky guy charlie brown.
  • Sep 17 2012: I can certainly empathize with people who are starved for intellectual conversation. This is not to say that I think that the average person is uninteresting, however. Most people, regardless of IQ, have invested intellectually in something, which to me is the same as saying that most people have something remarkable about them. It is up to me to find out what it is. Also, if you are one of the lucky few who has intellectual gifts, and you know about something significant, then you have something to give to people, especially to those who do not have your gifts. It takes creativity and imagination to tell people about a difficult topic in a way that is interesting so that it is accessible to them. Baseball? Talk about stats. Fashion? Talk about color theory...etc. I think that being starved for intellectual conversation is more about finding like-minded people (i.e., fellowship/communion) than it is about finding an intellectual challenge for yourself.
  • Sep 17 2012: "Do you find it difficult to engage in intellectual conversations with people in general?"

    I think it would be very arrogant to answer this question with a yes. I know I myself will sometimes stop an emerging intellectual conversation dead in its tracks by pretending I'm not interested, usually because I just don't feel like having a long discussion when I think we both know very little about the subject, the subject is some silly ancient argument that can't be resolved logically, or I know much more about the subject and it would take too long and be too boring to explain. This could give the other person the impression that it's very difficult to engage in a discussion and that people around them aren't interested in such matters.

    Also, what qualifies as "intellectual"? It seems like such a vague and subjective term that people just throw around to try to give themselves or their arguments more authority. Anyone who calls themselves "intellectual" is suspect in my eyes, just like anyone who calls themselves an "artist" or "successful" or a "job creator". To me any conversation that doesn't contain logical fallacies can be intellectual, but some people think even that's not broad enough because they like to consider theological conversations as intellectual.
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    Sep 2 2012: It is all how you define an intellectual conversation. Maybe your niche of interest is just not someone elses niche of interest. Possibly, your wifes friend might actually know a lot about the science and schematics of plays or the mechanics of sports, but others, like me, don't find interest in that topic. Try to find their "nerdy" topic and/or learn or discuss something new about the topic. Relationships are like plants; some take a short period of time and attention and others can take a long time for the seed to even germinate...depends on your tolerance and patience. Come back and teach me more patience because it is most difficult when you are talking to a close minded person. I usually don't talk to those people long though, usually. =)
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    Sep 1 2012: I'm increasingly finding that it's best not to judge on first acquintance.

    Common discussions that people have about pop culture give the appearance of being 'dumbed down', shallow and not worth bothering with, but isn't that the social norm of small talk? A comfortable way of initially getting to know someone? That first contact may lead to hitherto unknown intellectual depths if the conversation is allowed to gently continue and to take its own course.

    I know to my own cost, that wading straight in to deep discussion can be a big turn-off for a lot of people. Many just walk away from it, or try to revert to trivia. Taking things empathically and gently on the intellect allows one to find another's true intellectual level - as long as they feel respected in the conversation.
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      Sep 1 2012: "I'm increasingly finding that it's best not to judge on first acquaintance"

      Wise words, Allan. People often under-estimate quiet people or those who don't "pick up the ball" when you throw out an idea.

      Sometimes it might not be what you think. Some people don't join in in discussing a technical topic in social conversation not because they cannot grasp it but because they have trouble talking about it to someone who knows so much less than they do. Sometimes they are just not interested over dinner in straightening out the most common misconceptions, or out of modesty they don't want to show anyone up..
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      Sep 2 2012: Good points Allan and Fritzie.... which I find to be true... "That first contact may lead to hitherto unknown intellectual depths if the conversation is allowed to gently continue and to take its own course". AND...we "often under-estimate quiet people or those who don't "pick up the ball" when you throw out an idea".

      I find that with no expectations whatsoever, conversations flow....move.....evolve....gently continue and take its own course. I've had some of the very best, deep insightful conversations, and made life long friends while standing on the corner waiting for a bus, waiting for a flight in the airport, sitting next to someone on a plane...people who visit my gardens...chance meetings of all kinds. In my perception, it takes genuinely being open to how a conversation may evolve. People can FEEL if we are open minded/open hearted, and/or if we have certain expectations.

      I'm still out of thumbs for you Fritzie....sending you a smile......:>)
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    Sep 1 2012: In my electronics courses in college, we had one girl in the whole class(1977). She took a lot of ribbing from time to time. One day we were talking about God and she told us this joke which I thought was very thought provoking:

    "In my opinion, God is most certainly an engineer", she said.

    "Really?" we responded. "In what way?"

    "In the beginning God created Man, is this not correct", she offered.

    We nodded in agreement.

    "And then he created woman, right?", she continued.

    We nodded in agreement.

    "Well, doesn't an engineer always create a prototype before building the finished product?"

    End of story.
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    Sep 1 2012: I found most people like to talk about themselves. As you ask them questions, you become the Listener - you can slowly bring the conversation around to more interesting topics to discuss. This usually works 1/2 way through the meal, after the other miscellaneous chit chat dies down...
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      Sep 1 2012: We are our own biggest fan. Talking about the other is the first rule of seducing (in business and personal life). It takes a lot of exercise to know how direct a conversation from the person to more interesting topics. The trick is to know something about everything so you can easily link one thing to another and end up talking about a (more) interesting subject.

      I always congratulate myself when the other says "How did we ended up talking about this?".

      Or another "technique" I use is to skip the chit chat and immediately ask something like "When is the last time you wrote an actual letter by hand?".
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          Sep 2 2012: Hi Colleen. It's funny to see that within certain subject area's it's always the same people who contribute. Must be that we somehow care and think about the same matters :)

          Life stories can indeed be very interesting. It depends what you talk about and how you talk about it. I do not care about the discussion as such one has had with its friend. What I do care about are the arguments used. The discussion can still be subject of the conversation but depending on the way you communicate about it is of interest and one can gain something your experience.

          Also the other person must be open to having a conversation. If the other shares an experience I can relate to I'll share it. But if the other continues talking about his own experience after I shared mine you can deduce that he has no interest in you. On the other hand, if he takes the opportunity of you having shared your experience to take the conversation on a deeper level. By for example talking about how you experienced it and what you did with it. Then there's room for an "intellectual" conversation out of which you'll gain something.

          I hope you understand what the point I'm trying to make. I often feel like my contributions sound quite abstract.

          The last letter I wrote was last week (I still need to post it though). As summer began I asked my closest friends to send me a card or letter whenever they were on holiday. And not just a text message and a picture on Facebook but something personal. I miss reading actual handwriting where you can see the effort and love they've put in the words. I haven't been on holiday but I've sent some cards form my hometown to other friends with a basic text like "Hi, sun is shining here. How is your summer going?" And I'm also trying to get to know somebody better so I decided to write her letter just like they did back in the days (that's the letterI still need to post).
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        Sep 2 2012: Yes indeed Pascal-Xavier..."within certain subject area's it's always the same people who contribute. Must be that we somehow care and think about the same matters :)"
        I think you are right on my friend:>)

        You are also "right on" with the realization that "It depends what you talk about and how you talk about it". I think if one person is attached to a certain outcome, it is not as enjoyable, and the conversation does not flow as easily...do you think? For me, it is usually the process of the interaction that is most enjoyable, rather than the end result. Good communication is about the journey, as much as the destination...in my humble perception:>)

        I LOVE reading handwritten notes too, and I find that the more I stop sending them, the fewer I get! Maybe I have finally entered the electronic age??? LOL

        I also LOVE that you wrote the person you're trying to get to know better a letter.....that is very sweet my frined. DON'T FORGET TO POST IT!!!

        I think I absolutely and wholeheartedly understand, appreciate and agree with everything you've written above:>)
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        Sep 2 2012: Hi Pascal,
        This is a copy of my reply to your comment starting..."We are our own biggest fan,", which was removed my TED because I suggested who was actually being "smug"...it certainly is not you, as suggested by another commenter.

        You say..."It takes a lot of exercise to know how direct a conversation from the person to more interesting topics".

        I find that often the person and his/her life stories ARE the interesting topic. More often than not, when I listen to the person's story, it leads to the flow of more and more interesting conversations, and topic. As I learn more about that person, I share more about myself as well...it's a lovely flowing cycle, and when we allow it to flow, it very often becomes very interesting:>)

        I agree with you that knowing a little bit about a lot of things helps link one thing to another, and that contributes to the flow. I perceive everything to be interconnected, so to link and flow with the conversation has always been interesting to me. I also find humans, and human behavior (including my own) to be fascinating, so "listening", and participating on many different levels facilitates moving the conversation possibly in many different directions:>)

        I relate to your congratulatory feeling Pascal! At the end of hours of conversation, the other person and I often express....WOW....we just talked about politics, the economy, global issues, personal issues...etc. etc.....and we understand how they are all connected because we've just had a conversation that flows with the process of speaking, listening, sharing information.....I LOVE it!!!

        Interesting question Pascal....I cannot even remember when I last wrote a letter by hand, and I notice that my hand writing is deteriorating....probably from lack of use in that respect, and probably from a little arthritis. When is the last time YOU wrote a letter by hand?
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      Sep 1 2012: Whats wrong with people talking about themselves why you listen? This is the best way to learn about them - the listener is always gaining because you are the receiver . . .
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        Sep 1 2012: There are different ways to talk about yourself and different things you can talk about. I don't mind people sharing experiences they've had so others can learn from it. I do mind when people talk about themselves because they think they are interesting (and they might be to somebody else). If after 15 minutes of conversation (i.e. a monologue) I know the person's "whole life" but nothing of "intellectual value" I stop listening and leave. Not every word that comes out of somebody's mouth is actually worth sharing. I hope you understand what I mean.

        I don't mind monologues as long as I gain something from it. Be it a new point of view, an experience, something I didn't know or never think of...
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        Sep 2 2012: Hi again Ehis and Pascal-Xavier:>)
        I think/feel it is a good thing to share information about ourselves, and to do that we need to feel comfortable with the other person, so I believe that is where a good conversation may begin?....our comfort level?

        I also agree that there are many different ways to talk about ourselves. Are we genuinely trying to share information? Is our intent to genuinely connect with the other person? Is our intent to dominate and simply tell our own stories without consideration for the other person?

        I agree Pascal, that it is not interesting to have conversations with folks who think they are the most interesting thing since sliced bread! It is not interesting to listen to folks who are constantly trying to teach us something, or who believe s/he has all the answers to everything. I agree...I understand what you mean, and I also stop listening after repeated efforts to get a person involved in a more interesting, productive way.
    • Sep 1 2012: I like when other people talk about themself. That brings me the oportunity to know other point of views.
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    Sep 1 2012: 3 evenings ago I went to the garden of the abbey where I’m staying. There were 5 people practicing yoga in the grass and I sat on the only bench in the garden. 15 minutes later a man comes and sits next to me nodding when our eyes crossed as he sat down. 10 minutes later I ask him if he’s staying in the guesthouse of the abbey as well. His reply was “No. Do you like classical music?” and he gave an ear bud and we listened for 30 minutes to a violin concerto of Tsaikovsky. Afterwards we started by talking about music and by the time our conversation was over we covered following topics: the economic situation in Africa, Modern colonisation by China, Columbus and the future (the end) of our world.

    I wanted to tell him I loved him. It has been so long since I’ve had an intellectual conversation with a complete stranger. Needless to say he was much older than I am with my 24 springs. I like to surround myself with people who are intellectually stimulating. It’s a rare species among 24 year olds.

    As some have pointed out practically all conversation start by small talk. However when I feel it will lead to nothing I easily stop showing interest. And as a result some people think of me as an arrogant person. I don’t want be arrogant but it’s exhausting to, time and time again, smile for a whole evening and pretend you’re interested in how many yards that guy ran or what’s going on in Jersey Shore (which is to me an example of a zoo with modern primates). If you think of yourself to be an intellectual person it’s your duty to make other people feel interesting and be able to have a descent conversation on a wide range of topics. You could say that one must be a chameleon and thus be able to fit in in any social circle.

    Jake says he feels like he’s surrounded by people that are intellectually challenged. I wouldn’t say so. I think that some people don’t feel like they need to stimulate their intellect which is different than intellectually challenged.
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      Sep 1 2012: I hope you didn't get an ear ache from his ear bud.

      I would pass on the offer for that very reason. If I whisked out a bottle of antiseptic and cleaned the ear bud, it might evoke disdain. So, I just pass.

      But I agree that we must find a way to engage one another on a level of equanimity. It is the duty of the strong to protect the weak. That includes making the less intelligent or reasonable feel at ease in your presence. That is what those much smarter than I have done for me and I appreciate it.

      Jake could find better answers to his question if he joined a group of people who were vastly superior to his level of intelligence. Physics.org offers some of these people. One of the most enjoyable is the Open Salon:


      Real knowledge is to know the extent of one's ignorance. ~Confucius
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        Sep 1 2012: I didn't get an ear ache and even if I did I wouldn't mind. The conversation would be worth it.

        It's important to make people of a "lower" level feel at ease in your company and teach them in some way so that one day you'll both be on an equal level.

        That Confucius quote holds a lot of truth. In line with Confucius I often say that one discovers his ignorance by learning. The more you learn, the more new things you discover. Call it a positive vicious circle.

        Thank you for bringing up Open Salon, I haven't heard from it before and certainly looks interesting.
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          Sep 1 2012: I guess my real point is that to: "learn" to make people at a "lower level" feel at ease; much could be learned by becoming that person at the lower level.
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          Sep 2 2012: " If you think of yourself to be an intellectual person it’s your duty to make other people feel interesting and be able to have a descent conversation on a wide range of topics. " ----This is a gift and if you are truly able to do it, you are not just blessed, but also deserve the title.
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          Sep 2 2012: Dear Pascal, John and Juliette,
          What do you suppose happens when we don't see anyone on a "lower" or higher level? What if we see others and ourselves on an equal level right away?

          I agree...the more we learn, the more there is to learn. There is always a deeper and deeper level of learning....in my humble perception:>)

          I don't think we can actually "make" anyone feel different, but we certainly can contribute information which may influence a person's feelings in some way.
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      Sep 2 2012: Dear Pascal-Xavier,
      I LOVE your story, and I'm curious as to why you are staying at an Abbey? I've had some very interesting conversations with people while staying at convents, monestaries and an abbey, here, close to home, in Mexico and Russia:>)
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        Sep 2 2012: Hi again Colleen :)

        To answer your first question: Chemistry with a bang! The moments when you feel you're on an equal level right away are priceless and are the basis of strong longlasting relationships. Sadly enough you'll only have that feeling with everybody you meet in an utopia. However if you go to the right places (on- and offline) there's a big chance that you'll meet (likeminded) people with whom you're on the same level right away.

        I'm staying at the Abbey to study. There are some exams I need to resit and this place is perfect for me to be. Not only to study but also for the people I meet. It's the third time I come here and every single time I've had wonderful encounters with the most interesting people. Everybody here has a story or an experience worth sharing.

        2 years ago I met the most intelligent man (on intellectual and emotional level) I know. He's a father who's judge and holds a master in archealogy who teaches at the university of Cambridge (UK) and Rome. When you talk to him he listens to more than the words you are saying. He captivates the deeper meaning right away, on trivial matters as well as on emotionally loaded subjects. I hope from the deepest of my heart that one day I'll be blessed with that gift.
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          Sep 2 2012: Pascal, the path of charity offers opportunities to learn and meet people. You can grow at an exponential rate towards the goal of gaining the blessing you seek.
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          Sep 2 2012: I agree Pascal-Xavier...to feel on the same level with others is WONDERFUL, and as you say, the basis of strong longlasting relationships.

          As individuals, we can make the choice to have that feeling with anybody....right? Whether or not it is reciprocated is the choice of the other individual....yes? By being open to possibilities, I've met many people throughout my life, who share this feeling.....it really IS possible....honestly:>) The more open we are as individuals, the more we contribute to the possibilities of connecting.....really.....it's true:>)

          I have found the convents and monestaries I've stayed at VERY relaxing, and at the same time stimulating.

          Pascal, my friend, in my humble opinion, you ALREADY ARE blessed with the gift of really listening, "feeling", and participating in conversations on deeper levels.
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        Sep 2 2012: Dear Pascal, from reading your posts I feel you are well on your way:) I think being heard, truly heard, is all that anyone of us hungers for. Good listeners are amazing to be with. I think much of life maybe spent searching for the one who "gets" us.Yet there is one other element that our souls yearn for and that is genuine reciprocation.
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    Aug 29 2012: Oh my gosh this made me smile:) I have lived through this for many many years.

    I was never very good at them either.

    So I started to embarrass my SO until he no longer made me go. I would talk about inappropriate things at dinner like waste treatment plants, feces processing. It finally worked but it took a while. Then it was only on occasion we would go. Now I just smile and eat and talk about the food. As a spouse we have to do some things we don't like that our partner does.

    As long as we can stop by the air and space museum exhibition opening next weekend.
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      Aug 29 2012: Lol, I liked your comment Linda. I'm glad you got a chuckle. :-)
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          Aug 30 2012: True Don. I agree and knew that some would view my comments as prideful and lacking humility. However, are we too deny any observation that requires we forgo the notion of remaining humble? Sometimes we must cross boundaries to answer difficut questions. ;-)
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    Aug 29 2012: Hi Jake,
    I have never found it difficult to engage in interesting conversations, because I am genuinely interested in people.
    I remember seeing this when I was a teenager:

    You say..."the same boring conversations unfold". A conversation takes two or more people, and if you are a participant, you are partially responsible for how it unfolds....are you not? Sometimes, it helps to connect with people where THEY choose to be with conversation, and then they are more willing to connect with where WE would like to be in conversation....it's a cycle....interested....interesting.....interested....interesting......:>)

    You say you "prefer to discuss things that stimulate ME intellectually". Do you think the other person likes to discuss what stimulates him/her as well? If you feel you are "surrounded by people that are intellectually challenged", do you think/feel that they may feel that vibe from you? It feels like you would genuinely like to have meaningful conversations. I'll tell you though, it feels like you are putting yourself on a little pedestal just a wee bit my friend.

    I have always had a variety of very diverse people as friends, and I love to talk AND listen with them. My "play group" (guys I ski, bike, hike, sail, kayak with) are mostly retired engineers, and I am about as right brain dominant as a person can be. We have WONDERFUL conversations about EVERYTHING....economics, politics, global challenges, the environment, sports, personal challenges etc., and we also joke, laugh and play a LOT. I also have GREAT conversations with the teenager who mows my lawn....his sport activities...college plans...interests...life plans, etc.

    I would say that most conversations are successful because of interest, rather than intellect. "BE" what you want to "SEE", and have fun with the exploration:>)
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      Aug 29 2012: Dear Colleen,

      You're an excellent communicator and I support every word you say.
      Yet I do understand the questioner and his problem.

      In my life I only once had the privilege to have someone around to talk to in a way that was really stimulating for both. It was an uncle that had many interests and our conversation ventured into depths and heights that stimulated my thinking and understanding as it was for him for he loved to engage any conversation with me whenever possible. As it ever happened among a crowd of people we were alone as well because within minutes everyone was silent and listening while at the same time we even forgot they were present.
      It was like our minds worked on the same frequency as among normal people we were used to turn this frequency a few steps down. It’s all long ago but to communicate in this way stays an unfulfilled desire.

      I’ve learned to be a silent listener and to watch every word carefully as I say anything back. This way everyone is happy but me. Some people hardly notice what I say but react only to how I say it. That’s the other end of the line.
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        Aug 29 2012: Thank you Frans, and I think you are an excellent communicator as well. I understand the questioner and the challenge too, which is why I offered some ideas:>)

        Based on the feedback I observe here on TED, there are a LOT of people noticing and appreciating your comments. Are you noticing the feedback you are getting? I have never perceived you to be a "silent listener"and joyfully perceive your comments to be insightful and to the point. I appreciate you and your contributions very much.

        I love it when conversations flow like you describe Frans! I have several friends with whom I can get lost in conversations, and before we know it several hours have passed, and we are not aware of time or space. It is very enjoyable, and maybe to create that we need to "grease the wheels" sometimes? The "grease" I use is curiosity...I LOVE verbal explorations:>)
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        Aug 30 2012: This is why I am grateful for TED. Here are definitely thoughtful, caring and intellectual exchanges which I find quite enriching. It is a terrific group and surely hard to find elsewhere. All we have to figure out now is how to share a pizza:) Regards.
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          Aug 30 2012: I wish we could share that pizza too Julie! (if I may so call you) :-) Wouldn't it be a pleasure to meet all the people in this forum in a central location and share in open discussion, brainstorming, and debate while sharing that pizza and engaging in plain old good times?
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        Aug 30 2012: Frans,
        This is a response to your comment..."You're a lucky girl to have such friends, Colleen."

        I have always been very grateful to have wonderful friends and family in my life. There was a time, however, around the age of 30, I made a very conscious effort to expand my activities and worldview.

        Prior to that time, I was pretty shy, and as a young woman, I focused on the emotional support and physical care of my kids and wasband (was my husband), as he was building a business.

        Because of various circumstances in my life around age 30, I activily sought to expand my world with additional people and activities. Based on my experience, it appears that these skills can be learned, and sometimes it requires taking a risk to step out of beliefs and behaviors that may keep us disconnected, or maybe connected in a different way.
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          Aug 30 2012: Okay Colleen, we learn as we grow.

          Different people, different lessons.
          I probably needed to grade up some EQ that was absent as a youngster.

          I married a woman that was nothing but emotion.
          With the age of 50 I started all over and changed one day wife, kids, house, work and place all together. She was the most sociable person I know of and again I learned much but in the end I know: you can't turn a tiger into a pussycat. This all now is history and I love the solitude, nature and of course a chat with you at times.
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        Aug 30 2012: I agree Frans....we are all different.....learn different things, in different ways, at different times in the life adventure!

        Really? You don't believe in the taming of the shrew??? LOL!

        My wasband is/was a very social creature too, and when I began my quest to be more "out there" I learned a LOT by observing him and how he first approached people. He could walk into a room of 100 people, and in a short time, know them on a superficial or business level, while I was simply following along because I was only the shy wife of this very social creature. I learned from him how to connect with more people, which means there is more opportunity to connect on many different levels.

        I also learned to find balance because I LOVE having those long, meaningful, insightful chats with some friends at certain times.....I LOVE doing sport activities, sharing laughs, and comradery, I LOVE nature and solitude, and I LOVE chats with you as well Frans...thanks for being you and sharing the gift:>)
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      Aug 29 2012: Thank you for your comments Colleen. I really am a humble person and I knew that some, including yourself, would see it as though I was "putting myself on a pedestal", as you describe it. I believe that Frans has understood me. He described the conversation with his uncle as, "It was like our minds worked on the same frequency as among normal people we were used to turn this frequency a few steps down." This is my point exactly. Sure, there are lots of people that are more educated and have higher intellects than myself. I might also add that being educated and possessing knowledge is not a direct reflection on a persons intellectual quotient. But what is wrong with bringing to light the fact that people with higher I.Q.'s prefer deeper, richer, more complex, and fascinating subjects? For example, I have attempted on several occasions to enlighten friends and co-workers on the fantastic wonders of the cosmos. After watching an episode of The Universe on star formation and lifespan, my friend replied "So you mean the stars are actually not little dots, and they are big like the Sun? I don't believe that because they would be bigger." I tried describing the size of the cosmos to him, referencing the speed of light at 186,000 miles per second, and the light year and so on. His mind could just not mentally grasp the distances involved and the vastness of space. I didn't despise him for it, and he is my dear friend to this day. I just realized that there was a difference between his level of comprehension and my own. I don't think it is "politically incorrect" to make that assumption, acknowledge it, and communicate it in an open forum. From my experiences, I have come to the realization that my friend represents what I refer to as the "Common American Experience". We place more value on the kind of athlete you are than how knowledgable you are. More money in the public school system is spent on sports programs than education. It's a sad reality.
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        Aug 29 2012: It's not sad. Really.

        I'm told ,before we attend family functions, by my wife to keep my mouth shut. :)

        More money is spent on the sports program because of the gambling that goes along on the side.

        I liked Marc Rose implication that the smarter you get the smaller your group of associates might become. And isn't that the way it evolves at every party?

        When ever I go shopping or out in the public, I stop people at random and and ask them this question:
        "Do you know how the rich get richer?"

        You would be surprised at the responses.

        On the whole, most people don't realize that the rich get richer by convincing you to take the money our of your pocket and putting it in theirs. It' not a big intellectual secrete, just a simple transaction done multiple times or for larger amounts of money.

        So, I would pose this question to you: "How do the smart get smarter?"
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          Aug 29 2012: By pickpocketing knowledge out of the pants of smarter people? :-)
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        Aug 30 2012: Jake,
        You say..."But what is wrong with bringing to light the fact that people with higher I.Q.'s prefer deeper, richer, more complex, and fascinating subjects?"

        I do not agree with that statement because my experience shows me something very different. Do you think that perception may be getting in the way of your quest? If you are seeking ONLY people with higher IQs, could you be missing other people who do not appear to have as high an IQ, but perhaps have a lot to offer in terms of meaningful, interesting and deep conversation?

        In the example you give, it sounds like you were trying to educate your friend with information you have and he does not have.

        You write..."His mind could just not mentally grasp the distances involved and the vastness of space... I just realized that there was a difference between his level of comprehension and my own"

        I suggest that there may have been a difference in comprehension IN THAT TOPIC. It does not necessarily mean that there is a difference in ALL comprehension.
    • Sep 23 2012: Dear Colleen,

      I have just begun reading your comments here and there on some of the discussions, and ma'am (please excuse my using of honorific) you are one of life's very rare gifts. I would like to know how wonderful it is knowing a person like you who seems to have such a genuine and vast interest in other people.

      I agree with the spirit of your comments, as it seems to resonate with my personal belief that every person is a universe of trillion of myriads of undiscovered treasures which, through conversations, can be revealed.

      I also seem to understand Jadek raising the thoughts about the difficulty to "engage in intellectual conversations with people". After all, intellectual or not, conversations between people are always difficult, are they not? I have never ever had an "easy" conversation in my life, not even when I converse with my own self. I believe conversations are meant to be that way, and for better or for worse, I think it's one of the most exciting things about life. Plus, there is always a tremendous feeling of exhilaration after you overcome a difficult conversation by truly wanting to converse with your conversation partner. The difficulty isn't the problem with conversation per se, the real problem is whether or not you truly want to converse with the person in front of you, and whether or not that person feels the same way you do.

      Nevertheless, I think some people are blessed with communication skills so powerful that it allows them to make conversations in a subtantially less effortful manner, and Colleen, you and a lot of others here are one of those. Me, certaintly not, but I'm willing to learn and are learning until the day those superb communication skills are in my possession. As for now, I am quite content with spending a lot more effort just to converse with another willing someone. Being able to get in touch with parts of that person's inner universe worth all the difficulty that I may and will need to go through.
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        Sep 23 2012: Dear Simon,
        WOW....I am almost speechless! Thank you so very much for your kind words.

        I honestly do not believe conversations are difficult, and in my experience, conversations almost always flow, which seems natural to me. Was it difficult or easy to write your lovely comment above?

        I agree that one of the questions is whether or not we genuinely want to converse with the person in front of us, and whether or not that person feels the same way.

        It seems like you may not give yourself credit for your own communication skills? It appears from this side of the communication that good communication skills are already in your possession:>)

        Thank you again, and I sincerely hope you continue to communicate on TED, and in all other situations in your life adventure:>)
  • Sep 23 2012: Being a gifted student and exceptionally bright individual I've had this problem since I was at a young age. I have always been able to relate myself on some level to those "intellectually challeged" for the purpose of conversing, making friends etc. However it gets to the point sometimes where I feel I'm being drained in conversation with those who know nothing outside of what they watch on TV or learn from their sub-par public school education. What I have found though is that everyone has an innate sense of curiosity despite their level of understanding, so if I can take an intellectually stimulating topic, present it in a creative way while using simple terms you can converse with anyone on a wide array of topics; ie suspended animation, sacred geometry, zero point technology or whatever interests you. It's a shame that this "real world" that is portrayed in the media underlies values of substance and ignorance, but by removing yourself from that and subsequently removing it from your thoughts, ideas and speech it's power of influence is diminished.
  • Sep 19 2012: I've discovered that if I ask people about themselves and remind myself to be fully listening they are often more interesting than I would have originally thought. Polite small talk when we live in a climate of polarization is very difficult these days. There is nothing that could not turn into a land mine! Even the weather end sup off limits. But, people love to talk about themselves. You find out amazing interesting things when you ask.

    (And come here, we love to talk about the Higgs Boson!)
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      Sep 19 2012: I just pull them around by the chin and say, "....are you listening to me?"
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    Sep 19 2012: Dude (I mean Jake), why do you think I'm here? [:-)
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    Sep 18 2012: You probably just need to find some mental stimulation elsewhere. People generally are too consumed with living their mostly very ordinary lives to focus on anything other than trivia. One only has to see the high viewing figures for soap operas on TV and game shows to understand that this is probably what the population can best understand.

    I enjoy debating and discussing a range of subjects from the origins of the universe to how society functions and can also understand why people feel that trivia enables them to avoid the subjects which would otherwise prove too challenging to discuss.
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    Sep 18 2012: Jake, I thought you might appreciate this TED video. The next time you see an old woman sitting down beside or across from you, knitting, you might take up an Intellectual conversation with her.


    While I was watching this video, it occurred to me that if I, being in the upper (97% tile) were one of the 3 % of the survivors of a viral or bacterial world wide onslaught, that only targeted those people who were below this IQ level, that after the die-off, I would be one of the dumbest people on the earth.
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    Sep 15 2012: Guess there's always informal chit-chat when you first meet somebody, since neither of you has a grasp how much you might appreciate an intellectual conversation...
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      Sep 15 2012: Good point to reinforce Hugo! I also believe, as others have mentioned on this thread, that when we first interact with someone, there may be informal chit-chat as we get to know each other. The conversation will, or will not evolve as we decide who we want to interact with at any given time.

      You have shown us here on TED that you are knowledgeable, insightful, curious, eager to learn and teach. You have built a foundation for more intellectual conversation, and in my humble perception, that is exactly how we engage each other in conversation.
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        Sep 15 2012: Thank you Colleen! I really appreciate your compliments.

        Yes, like you said, the conversation may evolve or may not. From my high school experience, when I first talked to someone, I will have at least a grasp about how he will think of an intellectual conversation, because you know for some people, they dislike participating in an intellectual conversation. For instance, when I say something, say, nerdy and intellectual, he be like:" What? Speak English, Hugo." But I also have a friend who I love to talk to him about politics, we always spark great debate together.

        While on platforms like TED, I'm inclined to say we usually just go directly to intellectual conversations since some assumptions are rightfully made: pretty sure jocks, hippies, rebels wouldn't even peek up at this website lol.
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          Sep 15 2012: I appreciate YOU Hugo! I LOVE to see all the young people (our future) here on TED, who are so insightful, interested and interesting, as you are. We can learn a LOT from you:>)

          I think that valuable conversation can include playfullness AND serious intellectual discussion/exploration. Our comfort level is important don't you think? I feel that when I'm comfortable with someone, I'm much more willing to share information and truly "engage" in conversation.

          I agree that on TED, people often assume that we are here to share information in a respecful way, and that is really fun. I think we have some "rebels" here too:>)

          And "hippies"? I didn't even know that word was still used! I was a "hippy" in the 60s......that's 1960, for those of you who cannot remember...LOL:>) Flowers in the hair, playing the guitar and singing peace songs.....another lifetime....equally as serious and playful:>)
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        Sep 15 2012: Lol I'm flattered :) You know I first came to TED to watch those videos to improve my listening skills... but obviously I've changed my expectations here.

        You are right that our comfort level is very important. When I don't feel like talking too much(meaning I don't feel much comfortable around), I will just be a introvert. But when I do, I can be a noisy one...

        Haha I guess I wanted to say like "extreme nonconformists" or "radicals"? That's an interesting thing to know that you were a "hippy" in 60s lol. I wish I'd had a chance to remember it... it looked quite fun in those clips I've seen.
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          Sep 15 2012: In my perception, listening is a very important part of conversations Hugo, and you do it well....both listening AND communicating your thoughts, feelings, ideas, opinions and beliefs.

          Don't EVER accept someone telling you that you are not knowledgeable because you are young.....and s/he is more knowledgeable because s/he is older. That is simply NOT true, nor is it a way to genuinely connect with conversation.

          Those were the days my friend! The hippy days were indeed fun and challenging....war protests and things like that. Life changes....sometimes.....sometimes not so much.....we still have wars unfortunately....when will we ever learn?
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        Sep 16 2012: Haha thank you Colleen.

        My dad tells me all the time that I'm not that knowledgeable because of my lack of experiences and I still need to go through a lot of things. From within I don't want to accept that but I try my best to convince myself that he has a great point so I can actually learn more:) I used to be all cavalier like a typical teenager but now I feel like I've grown a lot:)

        As always it's really nice talking with you!
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          Sep 16 2012: It's always nice talking with you too Hugo:>)

          In general, the more life experiences we have, the more we have an opportunity to learn, grow and evolve as humans. To do that, we need to be open to possibilities, which you seem to be. I'm looking forward to more insightful conversations with you...carry on my friend:>)
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    Sep 14 2012: I tend to have difficulty with intellectual conversations only where heated topics are concerned. Although I have my own views, I work hard to empathize with the people I speak to. The problem comes when I attempt to keep the conversation centered on finding a truth and keeping emotions and egotism out of the picture. Not easy when you're conversing with someone hell bent on being angry about a political topic regardless of the logic.
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      Sep 15 2012: Hi Amy.....I agree.....
      It is never easy to converse with someone who is hell bent on anger, ego (a need to be right), or one who has his/her own agenda. For me, that is an important deciding factor regarding whether or not I want to continue any kind of discussion with a person.
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    Sep 9 2012: I've enjoyed this conversation very much Jake. Like many who shared their experiences I find I'm locked in a family group that wan'ts to emotivly demonstrate their attachment to Religious elements as opposed to discussing intelectual values. Most of their value structure revolves aroung religous learning and they know little of science as it applies to everyday life. They can't project how what is happening in the world today can be altered by activites other thatn divine influence.

    The people in my neighborhood tend to be mostly younger people who don't react much with older people. The older people don't react much with each other. Because our neighborhood is fashioned about the rules of an HOA (Home Owners Association) change that is dramatic, (painting your house purple) is not allowed, so extreme ideas of self-expression are suppressed. Basically everyone is force to go with the status quo and this is determined by the owner meetings and the HOA. We are locked in static relationships and ideas associated with radical change (growing vegetables in the front yard) and having chickens for fresh eggs are strictly forbidden.

    My wife and I are looking for another home that is more isolated where we can grow a garden and have chickens and a couple of goats. We are no longer interested or physically able to keep the lawn up to par with the rest of our neighbors and no one is inclined to offer help. We are slowly being ostracized by the community.

    Our only outlet for intellectual exchange is via the Internet with people like you and the others here. We enjoy it and it is enough.
  • Sep 7 2012: Yes, though sometimes I'm so happily surprised. Like last weekend when we had a friend over to dinner. We sat eating and talking for nearly three hours about positive thinking, cancer, health and the mind, politics and endless other topics that seemed to naturally flow one to the other. We built a deep connected conversation where in the end belonged to all three of us.
    I think people are so afraid to disagree or to share different points of view because all we do is get polarized. We don't seem to be able to create together with all of our differing opinions. When we can, like last Saturday night, magic happens, worlds open up, lights go off. And we are completed and satisfied by exercising our unique human gift of being the socially creative human beings we were meant to be.
    • Sep 9 2012: Elizabeth, I so enjoyed reading you post, because we too have had this kind of experience with good friiends. And I find this sort of intellectual conversation so easily happens when dining in one's home vs. a restaurant. People cannot seem settle into deep thoughts when there are too many other distractions in a public place. But with some good food and wine, in a more relaxed, quiet, atmosphere, thoughts are so readily exchanged. We've sat sometimes 3 or 4 hours like this not having any clue as to the passing of time, but just enjoying the people and the conversations. And I so enjoy this when people can feel so comfortable and relaxed and not having to hurry with a meal so someone else can have their table. Thanks for sharing this experience.
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    Sep 5 2012: Yes Jake, it is very difficult. But by no means is this a reason to stop trying. I have my own bias based on my upbringing and personal experiences, and I struggle at times to set it aside. But I do set my bias aside because I am not so prideful to think that I'm always right. I get so tickled how we quote our ancestry when they never knew the complications we face today. It's up to us to solve today's problems, not Socrates.

    Some people don't care to deal with complex problems, they choose to live a simple life. These people are just as important to the overall equation as is our highest, deepest thinkers. Because, while we are out sipping coffee and talking about genetics, these simple living people are building our coffee shops.
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    Sep 2 2012: Hey Jake, it's a good question. I have found that I can have just as interesting a conversation about American Football as I can about particle physics, because interesting people present information in interesting ways. That said, it's easier said than done to surround yourself in all situations with people like this. I have found that having an online community to have meaningful discussions with can help bring balance to the conversations I keep daily. At night, when my family is in bed I'll spend time here at TED reading conversations and taking part and I also frequent NPR. My favorite aggregator community is Hubski though. Check out some of the great conversations I've enjoyed there:

    philosophy: http://hubski.com/pub?id=12189

    Higgs Boson: http://hubski.com/pub?id=2484

    Drug Use and Science: http://hubski.com/pub?id=37345

    Good luck finding some great conversations. It's a whole lot easier to find when you're keeping the right company ;-)

    Take care,

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    Sep 2 2012: Anyone with a rich inner life has to live two parallel lives. One where you get to spend time with your peers, intellectual equals and people with interests beyond the mundane - for this you will need to find groups of old friends, new groups to join, attend workshops and seminars, do classes and spend time at philosopher and literary hangouts, watch PBS, join meetups, etc. The second is the life one leads with the rest of the world - family, wife's friends, social contacts at work - and though it takes training and skill to appear normal in their eyes - it is worth pursuing while once in a while being the go-to guy for intelligent conversation. By increasing your EQ and your empathy towards others you will find both lives more interesting and enriched as you might just learn something you never knew by hanging out with more socially inclined people - most intelligent people have a slightly lower EQ. Live both lives well and maintain a rich inner life always so that when you need to, you can retreat and hang out with your one true best friend - your self!
  • Sep 2 2012: The human mind does not work like the enlightenment thought it did, ALL human minds DONT live in 'reality' each mind has to construct a model of the world given limited resources and the brain is not an infinitely flexible machine that can handle any input or data and make 'rational decisions' since most thought processes are unconscious.

    People are not really AWARE of their mental reality see what science has discovered.

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    Aug 31 2012: After posting a couple comments earlier in this discussion, I decided to just sit back and absorb the many posts to come. And it has caused me to want to share some thoughts about some of the replies I have read.

    1. "Tolerance" is not the same as "Acceptance". If I can tolerate another person's point of view, I don't need to "accept" it as being "right" or "wrong". If they can't do the same, there probably won't be an "intellectual conversation" possibility at all.

    2. The "level of intelligence" is NOT the factor that will determine whether the conversation will be intellectual. Being able to communicate on a "Common Core of Experience" is more important. As an example, I find Theoretical Physics a fascinating subject. But I am not "intelligent" (educated) in using the mathematics of Riemannian geometry, deRham cohomology, and other "higher levels" of math associated with it. If I read a book that tries to explain concepts with page-long mathematical equations like those, I am lost...not to mention frustrated. Two physicists who both understand those equations could hold a very intelletual conversation about them. For me, I have to read books from people like Steven Hawkings, or watch presentations like "Through the Wormhole" on the Science Channel, where those same scientists "talk to me" at a level I can comprehend. They "bring themself down" to a "Common Core of Experience" where I can relate to the topic. They feel, nor express, any arrogance or superiority towards me when they do that...they are willing to "exchange ideas" at a level I can comprehend. If we were side-by-side actually talking about it, I thnk we would still be capable of having an Intellectual Conversation about it then. Bless their hearts.

    And even on those TV shows, different scientists are allowed to present opposing views. But I never see them acting inhumane towards each other when they do. Bless their hearts for THAT, too.
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        Sep 1 2012: Many of the same feelings I experienced when I was an Instructor in the Air Force. Seeing the "look of understanding something new" cross the face of someone is a very rewarding experience. Didn't matter if it was something totally new they had just learned, or a different way of perceiving a subject they already had previous experience in.

        Many times I taught "theory" instead of "fact", depending on the subject matter. Just seeing them begin to contemplate something different than the way they had always thought about it before was very rewarding.
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    Aug 31 2012: That's one of the great things about university, it's full of people with whom you can have conversations which range from the most mundane to the most intellecual. Even more interestingly, you're able to sustain long conversation with people who disagree with you.
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      Aug 31 2012: Matthieu, do you believe that the disposition to sustain long productive conversation with those who disagree with you was something you learned at university or before? It is a wonderful skill to have and rare.
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        Aug 31 2012: I'd argue it's not really a skill. The thing is, that we often surround ourselves with people who agree with us on most things that when someone comes along with radically different views, it's quite uncomfortable to engage. But at university, you're bound to find yourself thrust against people with different views continually and always in groups, which has something reassuring. So naturally you engage. There's no saying if that's not going to be something lost when I leave uni. Hopefully not.
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          Sep 1 2012: I believe it is both a disposition and a skill. You have to want to hear people and to try to digest carefully what they are saying, have some sensitivity to the discussion dynamic, and have the open-mindedness and sometimes analytical skill to evaluate and incorporate what you hear into a possibly new formulation of your own.

          Some of this mixture of behaviors is a part of personality and some develops within the environments one has experienced. These environments include home, school, and community.

          I think if this is something you value, it will probably become a permanent way of moving in the world. I know, though, that depending on where people's lives take them, they can, lose some of the facility they have gained. Some people, for example, are highly vulnerable to being swayed by local prejudices and others much less so. Some people are prone to fits of temper and others simply are not. We have all known some of each.

          People may revert to a style of interaction that is most natural to their personalities.
  • Aug 31 2012: It just crossed my mind that I might have lost the opportunity to be straight-forward and to develop a command of language. (To be honest, I think the culture I have has side effects.) For a long time, I've struggled with the idea that I need to be persuasive and not arrogant to communicate with people. And to do that, I had to trim--so to speak--my original ideas. And the result was----> not awesome.
    Sometimes that kind of efforts made in vain and didn't reflect the true meanings.
    Unlike me, Jake seems really outspoken.
    He was able to convince people without using these words: "I mean", "Don't get me wrong", "It may sound arrogant"
    It's simply because he was frank and confident about himself.

    Thanks to Jake, I realized that using euphemism or defensive way of speaking is not the way to engage in intellectual conversations with people.
    And clearly, it doesn't convince the people you talk with that you're not arrogant, but modest.
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    Aug 31 2012: Yes Jake, I do.
    But a way around it is to meet a lot of people. I find, that I quickly get "attracted" to the intelligent people in a group. Most of my friends have an IQ above average.
    I don't choose them for that reason, but I do get better along with people, who share similar interests... and I am not interested in the reality shows. In groups where I don't choose the company myself, I do struggle to find topics.
    Having a child makes conversation easier, as many topics follow parenthood. Babies, schools, behaviour, prices on clothes, and so on.
    But I'm not good a small talk, and don't have enough popular knowledge to lead a conversation among strangers.

    Maybe that would be an idea to study popular topics? Social interactions are very important to all humans, and you can learn a lot from studying people.
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      Aug 30 2012: I empathize with this viewpoint and understand and admire your ability to imagine misperception. Faith is a tricky subject I have found. My experiences have led me to think the difficulty lies in the individuals logical ability. Most employ either a deductive logic/argument system or a abstract logic/argument system. The more of one way one employs the less of the other it can and in this way extraction of inherent collaborative effort in life suffers. A battle of "good and evil", "ignorance and enlightenment", etc. Pervades our existence with understandings of this to varying degrees. The implications and personifications of this are immeasurable. Perhaps the missing link everyone is privy to is inherent inability to deductively abstract a "faith", a raison d'etre, from the state of mind alluded to before the "battle of good and evil" began.
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      Aug 30 2012: You seem to be a good-hearted and genuine man Don. Much is lost in communication without our intonations and inflections. No hard feelings here. Take care buddy.
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          Aug 31 2012: I can often be unknowingly quite brash Don. It's a personal flaw. You'll see it in my replies and comments. I have good intentions I just can be a bit too straight forward at times. Best wishes.
    • Aug 31 2012: I'll keep that in mind even if it wasn't for me lol :)
      Appreciate your sincere advice, Don.
      You seem truly wise and warm-hearted...
  • Aug 30 2012: Yes..... sadly a lot. Thats why I love this web site!
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      Aug 30 2012: I totally agree Marc, it is arrogant to speak out of context in order to prove others inferior....good point.
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          Aug 30 2012: Nice try at what? I'm agreeing with you....you do not recognize that?
        • Aug 31 2012: But...as for this reply, I still don't get it lol
    • Aug 31 2012: As for this comment, I am truly impressed, but....
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    Aug 29 2012: Don't think I will be adding anything new to this conversation. It is about how happy you are in your own company really. If you have a strong enough internalized self and can cope with being different then go ahead and keep right on being the way you are. There are places and people you can be around who will indulge your intellectual tastes, like here on T.E.D. In real time we all need people, people are strange, mixed up entities full of hormones and contradictions. Anything different takes time to evaluate, just to make sure it is safe. It seems you have a quicker mind than most and have a lot of information 'under your belt'. Having time and space to think have always been luxuries and the opportunities to do this are getting rarer. Not many people spend lifetimes in monasteries any more. I've found some of the best 'company' in the curiosity of young minds, amazing their different takes on the world until it gets 'coralled' by an education system that wants 'productive workers'. Maybe televison is the new 'opium of the people', it certainly dulls the pain of not being allowed enough space to be a thinker and be different. How alone do you want to be now, at 40, at 60 ? Yes too much candyfloss makes you sick but it's good fun for a little distraction now and then.
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    Aug 29 2012: After I divorced my first wife, I moved back to the neighborhood where I grew up (Dinsmore, Florida). There is a small bar there where all my old friends hang out. On my first visit. I was entering into conversations and was pretty much dissed by everybody. One of my old pals came over and told me if I was going to hang around very much I needed to learn to speak the language.

    It wasn't the topics, because even rednecks talk about the universe and world politics, it was the way I was speaking --good diction, no cussing, no drawl, no physical animation. So, to have a place to hang out, I had to learn to speak redneck all over again. The result was more dates, more fun and my old pals welcomed me back into the fold.

    I think just about everyone who achieve a higher education or learns to express their intense curiosity about the world around them has the same problem. That's one of the reason's I hang out on TED.

    A husband should make his wife proud. Learn some football stuff and learn how to drag the conversation onto the physics of how the game is played "... he has the ability to put just the right amount of spiral on the ball so it achieves perfect a trajectory into the hands of the receiver....." etc. I'm sure your wife's husband will be willing to turn to other subject matters.

    I sincerely believe that being a nerd can be a lonely life. I started my Armature Scientific career emailing physicist with questions and propositions. They were not only helpful but sometimes wanted to know more about my idea(s).

    My suggestion is to join one of the many clubs that can found in your locality. There you will find an outlet for your expressive talents and satisfaction or your intense curiosity. Nerds like to party too.

    But, yes, it is the small world we live in and it is a very exclusive clique. Intellectuals should spend more time entertaining one another and being more involved, especially with new comers and late bloomers. TED appears to be one such place.
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      Aug 29 2012: http://aleymartin.hubpages.com/hub/The-only-real-wisdom-is-knowing-you-know-nothing-Socrates

      Here's an interesting excerpt from article above:

      "Knowledge is something we hope to acquire over a lifetime, and by both knowledge and experience we come to the real goal: to attain wisdom. But wisdom and knowledge are fluid. No one, even someone as brilliant as Socrates stops learning, growing and assimilating information. When we come to think ourselves better than another, smarter, or ingrained in a solid belief system, we limit the lives we live. For what is better than knowing each person and new experience, even those that are seemingly perceived as negative can help us to grow? Each term I start a new class I make sure to tell my students they are there to teach me too, and I am open to learn and grow from each of them. The relationship is based on equality, more than an insufferable sense of superiority. I may have studied longer than they, and have loved longer than them, but what makes me wiser? The only thing that makes me wise is knowing I know nothing, and can continue to learn from each new day."
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        Aug 29 2012: Socrates was pretty smart. I got a "B" on an "A" paper for calling him a wine bibber and slothful person who let his wife support him while he hung out with those who had the wine and wanted entertainment. The professors favorite philosopher was Socrates. :)
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          Aug 29 2012: Lol! That it awesome. Don't you like it when you profess truths and others scorn at the notion? Truth hurts to those that hide behind false truths. I just made that up, sounds pretty good. :-)
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          Aug 30 2012: So would you care to elaborate why each of those were wrong?
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          Aug 30 2012: Ok, but before we engage in what I foresee as a potentially lengthy discussion, I want to make something clear first.

          The point of that excerpt is that anyone can learn from anyone else no matter who is the teacher.

          So do you think you, as a teacher, can learn from us perceived students as much as we can learn from you?
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          Aug 30 2012: One way to shut down a conversation Marc, is tell someone s/he is "wrong" about a lot of things.

          I will indeed continue to acquire knowledge throughout the life experience, which hopefully leads to wisdom, both of which are fluid, AND, I will be open hearted and open minded enough to be learning when I am taking my last breath on this earth school. None of that is "wrong". It is simply a different perspective than yours....apparently!
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        Aug 30 2012: I LOVE that quote James, and totally agree with it. We are all students and teachers in the life adventure:>)

        "Truth hurts to those that hide behind false truths"
        Jake...you made that up really? It's a good one!!! Kudos to you:>)
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          Aug 30 2012: Communication is a two way transfer of information. It shouldn't be one person speaks, everyone else just listens 100% of the time. Otherwise, that you might as well just talk to a brick wall, if you expect no feedback.
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        Aug 30 2012: James... If only you understood how brilliant Marc actually is... You would realize that you have no need for a brain of your own. He can tell you the correct definition of every word which has ever existed, and then you could just listen to him, and repeat it... and you would be the most brilliant human being that ever lived... matched only by him : p

        Just having a bit of fun Marc. You often bring an interesting perspective, but you're pretty funny.
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          Aug 31 2012: rofl

          but yeah, jokes aside, Marc, you often use pre-existing definitions that confuses most people because they aren't exactly used in the commonly referred way. But what you've done really well was that you make us question a lot of the fundamental concepts that we take for granted. And you're also incredibly persistent lol
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        Sep 16 2012: In response to your comment above James,
        "Communication is a two way transfer of information".

        Yes indeed my friend...communication CAN be a wonderful, enjoyable two way transfer of information. I agree...it is not at all interesting when one person tries to dominate, or believes s/he is always "right" and trying to "win". It is as you say..."you might as well just talk to a brick wall"...never very interesting!
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    Aug 29 2012: With "general" people, yes!
  • Aug 29 2012: Yes, simply because there aren't enough intellectually gifted people around.
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    Aug 29 2012: You can invite TED members living in your area; or you can invite your potential friends and show a TED video that you think they would find interesting. Then you can discuss the video.
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    Aug 29 2012: My hypothesis is that difficulty communicating is almost never about actual differences in intellect. It's about 1)whether you have common interests, 2)whether you have the interest and patience to find a common language in which to discuss the issue at hand, 3)whether people in the group are open to listening to each others ideas or, in contrast, are proud to have their minds made up, and 4)whether the parties to the communication basically have an egalitarian attitude in the sense of recognizing the real value anyone in the group can bring to discourse.
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      Aug 29 2012: I agree with you to an extent Fritzie, however I believe that finding common interest is directly related to intellect when those interest involve higher academic subjects. I believe people with higher intellects require more rich, complex and diversified interest. They require knowledge that inspire and evoke awe.
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          Aug 29 2012: Don, I appreciate the broader point I believe you raise in both your posts here. There are some subjects that are of interest only to a small group of highly specialized people. Or perhaps more accurately, these topics might have some broader interest but discussing them among those without specialized knowledge may not actually lead to more accurate understandings or feel fun or productive.
          BUT there is an enormous range of interesting and important topics almost anyone can discuss thoughtfully if offered the opportunity.
          One key to promoting conversation, I think, on that huge range of issues is that people need to make a habit of keeping any sort of status out of it. People shouldn't feel someone is grading them on the intelligence of their contributions. Avoiding jargon, show-offy stuff, declarations of degrees and credentials, declarations of ones intellect...Avoiding these help greatly. Most people I encounter daily have no idea what my credentials are or aren't, and I think that has always helped me converse with a wide range of people, even though I cannot discuss contemporary music or television or most sports or celebrities or tech gadgets.
          Learning how to ask questions of others in a highly approachable way helps greatly also to advance conversation.
          I love the image of you, Don, sitting at a table of storytellers.
        • Sep 2 2012: I wanted to thank Don, Jake, Colleen and all the others who have made this such an interesting thread. I stumbled into this conversation today, quite by chance, and have read every single comment in response to Jakes initial post. I'm not of high IQ, have zero social status, possess no degrees and my life is largely spent. Though I love learning as much today as I ever have. I learned much here today, and for that I am grateful. I don't fully understand a higgs bosen, and honestly, don't know what EQ stands for, though it was referenced numerous times here. I do know I can look into the eyes of many an animal and see a soul and God put us all here to learn and share! So again thanks to all for all the superb points of view raised! Hats off!!
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          Sep 2 2012: Hi Mike,
          Glad you joined in, and welcome to TED discussions:>) I love learning as well Mike, and will be learning when I take my last breath on this earth school.
          Hats off to you too my friend, and I hope you will join in on more conversations:>)
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        Sep 1 2012: I agree with you Jake, that knowledge in a certain area can inspire and evoke awe. I suggest that curiosity about another person's knowledge can also inspire and evoke awe. My engineer buddies, for example, seem to love to explain concepts to me, because I am genuinely curious about the things they talk about. They take the role of teacher, and I the student with technical "stuff".

        On the other hand, they sometimes ask me about personal, emotional challenges, and then we seem to switch roles for that conversation. Our conversations are always give and take. We all trust each other and are genuinely interested in each other and our diverse experiences, and I believe that is what creates the underlying foundation for good exploratory conversations and lots of good comradery.

        We have a joke.....how many engineers does it take to change a bike tire? When we're on the trail, and someone has a flat tire, they are all right there to help, they carry all the tools and gadgets needed to repair bikes in the event someone has a challenge. I carry a first aid kiit, and when someone gets injured, they allow me to take care of the injury.

        I agree with Fritzie's comments above, that it is important to keep any perceived status out of the interaction, and people don't like to feel like someone is grading them on intelligence. I also agree with Fritzie that most people I encounter daily have no idea what my credentials are or are not, and it has allowed me to converse with a wide range of people as well. Asking questions of others and being genuinely interested in THEIR interests opens a door to another level of communication.

        In my perception and experience, good relationships and good conversations are a give and take for the participants, with neither trying to dominate or feeling superior to the other. If we are feeling superior, we will, of course project that to the other person, if even on a very subtle level, and that interferes with good communication.
  • Sep 22 2012: Simply put-Thinking is not encouraged in the US educational system today.
    The last time the populace was taught to think the Vietnam protests happened.A by product of the anti-war campaign was 'how did we get in this mess'? Answers were as simple back then as today.People will follow the repetitive words broadcast. Sports instead of true debates. Media,long ago,really kept an eye on those needing watching. Today topics of real concern & quite easily solved if profits were not the deciding factor.
    As has been said Find like minds,curious ones. Hope is out there.
  • Sep 20 2012: Yes i do. You are also correct Jake. However, as easily as they are entertained and amused they can also be convinced. Convince that they too are better then the "norm." I usually take initiative and test the waters to see what types of characters are socializing with me. Once my assumption has been made I throw bait out with a well timed comment based on what the individual(s) have expressed interest in. If he is talking about yards and interceptions he has more then likely has fallen into the grasps of fantasy football. I would state something like, " Fantasy football seems to have reignited the NFL fan base by adding meaning to more then just one team/game a week and allowing not only the players to compete, but the fan base as well." Smooth comments that can be mistaken for approval of their interests often open them up. Going into the true reasons behind free programs like fantasy football might offend them. In no time, after playing pinball with the topics of their choosing, they will begin to ask me questions. This is where I stand my ground and give them an intellectual answer.
    If this method fails I jump into the appropriate suit (character), place myself in their shoes and let them hear what they want to hear.

    Worse case scenario i set my responses to auto pilot as i enjoy the food and think about my next trip into the unexplored jungles of southwest Mexico.
  • Sep 20 2012: I do find it difficult, Jake. Actually, it's a very fundamental problem with Americans that I've noticed. I can't seem to connect to Americans on a personal level. They seem to me highly superficial, fake nice, shallow, and completely uninteresting. Many of them that I run into start babbling away about their kids or their dogs. Topics that I would place on the rock bottom of stimulating conversation. This could have something to do with the fact that Americans simply dont read much or it might be the fact that they're really just shallow, empty consumption zombies. Before you call me anti-American though, please understand that I've lived here for almost 20 yrs and consider myself totally assimilated. However, the absence of real, human connection is something that deeply troubles me about living here.
  • Sep 18 2012: Hang out with smarter people. Clearly, the IQ spread between you and your dinner mates is toooooo large.
    Join in some groups like the Sceptical Thinkers, or a good Astronomy group, Nature groups or the like.
    Go places where smart people congregate

    And leave your wife home.
  • Sep 15 2012: Until people begin to let go of their belief systems, the likelihood of an intellectual conversation is remote. For example, most people fail to recognize that the foundation of a mathematical statement is only true in relation to the assumptions of “set theory,” the assumption that any collection of objects actually exists. All objects, without exception, are indeed mathematical. The reason for that lies in the multiplying/dividing nature of the optically organized universe. However, the modern cosmological understanding of the universe suggests that no objects exist, indicating that mathematics pivots on a misguided belief in materialism. The sciences usually expound on relative reality through the assumption that object-ive reality actually exists (empiricism).
    For most, truth and reality have little value in everyday life. The majority merely desire dependable descriptions of an objective world that they consider intelligible. The wisdom and reality that arise from certainty would undermine the survival of their object-based beliefs and conceptual imagery. Anyone who worships empirical evidence as truth, has no interest in an intellectual conversation.
    Few seem to realize that those considered priests of the scientific method have neither uncovered nor explained truth. That is not their job. Scientists have little interest in truth or reality, for their paychecks are derived from the pursuit of facts about objects. Science builds its theorems or working hypotheses upon previous beliefs, and therefore it often labels any discussion of absolute certainty as absurd. For example, to say that " there is no present in time” is antithetical to science’s established beliefs.
    As the Nobel Prize-winning physicist Charles Townes said, “Many people don’t realize that science basically involves assumptions and faith.”
  • Sep 11 2012: Yes and the few know why.
  • Sep 11 2012: Uh yep, happens all the time! Try having a high IQ and a deep spiritual component. Tough to find a connection with most people. Fortunate in some respect as I can speak the language of the average person . . .but it does get lonely all alone in my big inner life.
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      Gail .

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      Sep 13 2012: Isolating indeed! (but you're not alone - for what it's worth)
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    Sep 11 2012: I share your frustration and this is why I've learned to adapt to any situation. If you want to share something you're passionate about or just want to talk about intellectual stuff in general, you should try to approach people by taking their background and interests into account. Do some research. Either beforehand or in conversation. Find out what they like or, ever better, what they themselves are passionate about and open up your conversation with something they can relate to. You can kinda look at this method as bridging the differences with a counter-part. The only way to do that is to find a common ground and demonstrate your viewpoint. Once you've established that common ground, you've gained their trust and hopefully their attention. You can never force it upon people, cause then they won't listen and it usually results in confrontation. So, find common ground, open up your conversation with something they can relate to and work your way, through common ground conversation, into the things you want to talk about.

    I want to share some books that have enhanced my ability to communicate my passions with people that had no interests in them in the beginning.

    "Non-Violent Communication" by Marshall Rosenberg. This is a book that focuses on how you communicate with people and revels "hidden truths" that we actually already know, but have forgot.

    "The Best That Money Can't Buy" by Jacque Fresco. While the book mostly talk about how we can live in a moneyless world through science and technology, it has an amazing chapter on communication and human values. The chapter talks about how to bridge the differences, how relate to one another and why people behave the way they do and that it is your own expectations of somebody that makes you upset with an individual, not the real world.

    I hope you find some useful information in this and I wish you and everybody else good luck!
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    Sep 11 2012: You're not alone, Jake. I often feel the same way. Seems that everyone is caught by entertainment and shopping.

    Where I live, it seems that the middle class is living some kind of wonder where the issues circulating invariably spin around consumption.

    Let me give you an example: the price difference between stuff that is sold in USA vs. in Brazil is huge (due to our tax rates), which makes the Brazilian upper middle class travel to NY/Miami just to buy. Not to know new cultures, not to refine their concepts about the world: just buy and then back telling how wonderful it is ("oh, I paid half of that amount on my recent trip to NY!").

    So poor, but so poor, that is only about money. And stuff.
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      Sep 11 2012: Marcia, they are only people, you can't demand too much. In the past they were going to the local market stalls, today the technogy allows them to fly to the States and do the same thing.

      I think there is a huge reposnsibility on behalf of university graduates and... artists. They should carry the lantern and stir people's heart of hearts.

      It is funny because history seems to repeat itself. Young and courageous students/artists once made Brazil independent, now a new opportunity arises :)
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      Sep 11 2012: It is a sad comment on modern day. Consumerism at all costs. Hopefully, more people will see the vulgarity in such practices and no longer look favorably (or even idolize) those that use money as a social barometer.
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      Sep 11 2012: really? stuff is that cheap in NY? have to pay a visit.
  • Sep 8 2012: Myself, as someone who is very curious about the world around me, I like intellectual talks with good people and have benefited from some.Only thing I have is how to attract intellectual people.
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      Gail .

      • 0
      Sep 13 2012: My challenge as well - for now due to my husband's health
  • Sep 7 2012: Intellectual conversations? That term to me seems a bit loose in it's meaning. I mean is it really intellectual to discuss why we orbit around the sun instead of the other way around? To me, discussing healthcare and talking about football and all that is all the same, it comes down to interest and personal preference. I mean a football player may continue to talk about football due to it being his personal interest, that doesn't exactly mean he's unintelligent, to him that topic might be his "Intellectual conversation". Discussing healthcare or politics you share your opinion with the other participant at the same wavelenght as the person discussing what happened last night on Fear Factor. This is just me rambling on about my personal opinion though, I don't really like the word intellectual conversation since I find it very flawed. All in all it comes down to what you are interested in, not how "intelligent" you are.

    And as for the actual topic (Sorry about all the previous rambling and nonsense) I do have quite a lot of friends that I can discuss topics with on a deeper and thorough level, but outside of my family and friend social circle I do find that most conversations aren't exactly stimulating me as I'm not interested in TV shows, make-up, movie stars and all that.
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    Sep 7 2012: It takes time and effort to lead a life of continuous learning.
    And acceptance of our vast ignorance.

    It takes a curious mind.
    An inquisitive mind.

    Dedication to the pursuit of knowledge.
    Persistence when faced with bewilderment.

    A drive to address the illusion of knowledge.
    Replacing the illusion with real understanding.

    The more we learn, the more we understand.
    The more we understand, the richer our life.

    For us who share in this adventure, forward.
    Seek likeminded human beings.

    Provide opportunities for those at the margins of curiosity to engage.

    Remember, you can bring a horse to water, but you cannot make it drink.
  • M Danks

    • +1
    Sep 5 2012: Not in my general circle of friends and aquintances. However, it seems that in general people without a strong moral compass and christian values tend to be a lot harder to have rational thought processes.

    I'm pretty open to any point of view, but I need a logical and value driven founding for the opinion in order to relate to the point of view. If people are not grounded in some sort of strong community, christian moral driven value system their arguments tend to be weak. People of questionable logical and moral character tend to try and overly complicate matters.

    Based on my experience many matters can be addressed by evalauating their overall importance to the majority and whether the subject impacts the direct health or safety of an individual. Open and honest discourse, exchange of views, discussion of impact to society, majority and individual and whether the item is grounded in a judeo-christian morality tend to pretty much help to sort out societal stuff.

    For technical matters, replace judeo-christain morality with well documented and widespread publication.

    If your topic can't fit into these parameters then it probably is more along the lines of simplistic discussion and it's really isn't an intellectual discussion. Just my thoughts......
  • Sep 5 2012: It happens to me all the time. I've actually stopped conversing with people I already know. I smile and keep the interaction short. I'm no longer going out to socialize like I used to; it is a waste of time.
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    Sep 2 2012: I live in Zagreb, Croatia, but have lived in Vienna so know my Mittel Europa well. While markets did wanders for wine and some of the most interesting in the world are made now in the region, the consumerism that came with the markets wreaked a havoc in the intellectual life. When I sensed that I stoped watching TV, more then fifteen years ago, and have abandoned most of the movie industry long ago too. I did, however, go to cinema to see Living in Material Morld on George Harrison :) A propos of material, here is a link to my blog post on our perception of immaterial that gives some more insight on the topics I like at dinner tables: http://mladenvukmir.blogsome.com/2012/01/20/immaterial/
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      Sep 1 2012: God bless you Don Wesley. If there is a heaven, I'm confident you will be sitting near the head of the table. You never give up. Your persistence is enlightening and enduring. It wouldn't be the same around here without you.
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          Sep 3 2012: I would never push you Mr. Wesley. While I have heard of your friend, I have never met him even though I put the word out I was seeking a meeting. But I will accept your judgement of his personality and love.

          I will add you are welcome in my home anytime and if transportation is a problem I will try to arrange it with others. We have two extra rooms.
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          Sep 3 2012: I read your blog and I sent you an email about my similar story. I would like to help if there is anything I can do. I think a TED question could be structured to examine the difference in the Canadian justice system contrasted against the United States system. Perhaps we could bring Debra Smith back into the fold on this issue. I'm sure she is aware and could enlighten many of us with her talented insight into all things Canada.

          If there are forces bound together in the ruling class of Canada that hints of collaboration with the US, I would love to bring it to light.
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    Sep 1 2012: Exactly.
  • Aug 31 2012: It is because the majority of people (I would say more than 95 per cent) either cannot or do not want to think. You may try this simple experiment. The next time you go into a coffee shop watch the people ordering coffee. In 99 per cent of the cases they will either buy a medium or large coffee just because the waiter led them to believe that these are the available sizes. If you ask the waiter if they have a small size the waiter will answer yes. But no one pauses to think.

    I have checked tested this in a number of countries and with different brands and it's always the same.
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      • Sep 1 2012: Thanks Don
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        Sep 1 2012: I agree that to some exent we are robots. Doing the same routine, talking about the same subject... living on autopilot. This isn't necessary a bad thing. Thinking requires a huge amount of energy and time so living on autopilot makes our lives easier.

        We all have the ability to think Antonio and next to that we are all free to chose whether to think or not. If one is content with living on autopilot which requires less thinking so be it. Perhaps they are the ones who are more intelligent because they worry about less and are more easily satisfied.

        I don't have any problem with people who don't think but not thinking could be a vicious circle. As I've said thinking requires energy and by thinking you learn how to think. So if you never think, when it is necessary to think you'll find it hard and exhausting and thus give up on thinking more easily.

        So be a robot but use your brain from time to time.

        I'm aware this might be not very clear but I hope this makes sense to you and see what I mean.
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        Sep 1 2012: Let me start saying it is a pleasure to read your comments Don. Thank you for your contribution!

        I (think) I understand what you're saying but don't know exactly how to react on it. Let me sleep on it ;)

        Just like you I have a profound need to learn. My hunger for knowledge is immens and I certainly hope it will never be completely satisfied. I also like to think of myself as somebody who holds to much love for this world. It's hard to explain but I find it hard to express and share all the love I have. But that's another discussion (maybe I should start one).

        I'll keep your wise words in mind Don. Thanks again.
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      Sep 2 2012: There are some great thought processes going on here! "Running on autopilot" is a nice ability we seem to have. Reminds of times I'm driving a frequently traveled road while "daydreaming" and I realize the distance traveled and not totally conscious of the process of how many cars went by or ability to stay in the lines. Maybe frequently traveled logical thought processes gives us the ability to let intuition take over and get us where we're going without offense or tedious mindfulness.
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      Sep 5 2012: Excellent point, however, when I visit a coffee shop I already know what I want. I think most patrons of coffes shops are repeat customers.

      But I agree with you whole heartedly about being on autopilot. I'm a creature of habit as the saying goes. I try to minimize my time doing the routine things so that I may devote more time to exploring the "un-routine".
  • Alex L

    • +1
    Aug 31 2012: Yeah, a lot of times people just shut down my ideas or keep agreeing till i finish. When i find someone that's willing to have a great conversation with me i get excited. haha but, saying that you're surrounded by people who are intellectually challenged is harsh. I personally think everyone has intelligence in different ways maybe instead of seeking someone for intelligence just enjoy the small talk and when someone who is willing to have larger conversation you will you will know right away.
    man, I hate television.
  • Aug 31 2012: Jake, I used to feel the way you did too. Things have been somewhat better for the last few years. What changed? I gave up my job and went back to studies, but into a somewhat more 'intelligent' field of study. The average IQ, though I hate using the term, of my circle seems to have gone up from 100 to 140. I still don't have people to discuss the Higgs Boson with, but the conversations have certainly become more interesting.

    No offense, but it seems like your wife is in charge of your social interactions. Don't you invite your preferred people over, yourself?

    Coming to the Higgs, have you seen this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JqNg819PiZY ? Having said all that, I somehow don't feel I'm qualified to discuss the Higgs myself. Are you?
  • Aug 31 2012: Jake.
    I do and it seems to be getting worse.
    I think it is becoming very much like what you said in your one post:
    "Dare we ask any questions out of fear to be ridiculed and chastised for implying concepts and ideas that do not fit the social collective norm?"

    People worship lies. They don't want the truth, to discuss anything that might reach their inner core, where any kind of universal truth and other truths, reside. Studies have shown that in the unconscious is where the truth is held and in the conscious mind is where false beliefs are held.

    So the more some of us challenge this, and that requires saying the hell with the social etiquette, the better chance we have of waking people up, opening their minds and helping them and the world in general.
    We don't need social etiquette over our other needs. Where I live, saving face is a huge belief and practice and I realized it is so everywhere.
    Saving face can lose lives or freedom, or a country, or an environment that supports life, or other species necessary to healthy ecology for all.

    When a populace is dumbed-down, as America has been for decades, they not only don't want to think, they cannot think! So to pressure them (to them it is pressure), they get angry.

    Cigarettes once took away the thought or the awareness of ones thoughts. Next, came the Wallkman, so that people didn't have to listen to their thoughts. Then, the boombox. Then better headphones so that voices and music sounded like they were coming out of people's heads rather than going in. Then the cell phone, the Blackberry, iPhone and now the mobile iPads. People now twiddle their thumbs on their phones so that they don't have to think.
    "Let's see. Does this still work? Let's go up." thumb, thumb, finger, thumb. "Good. Now down" thumb, thumb, finger, finger, finger. "What about right and left? Let's see." right, right, right, right, leftleftleftleft. "Great! It's still working."

    "There! I didn't think for 2 two minutes. Oh! I'll call some 1
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    Aug 31 2012: in a social situation, common ground trumps conversation topic most times and given that people generally fall back on the same social-interaction conversations they have always been a part of, it's not surprising that sports and weather top the list.

    by steering away from these somewhat cliched topics, you run the risk of alienating your company by not sticking to the rules of social intercourse.

    if people have no knowledge of the conversation topic you raise, then you cannot expect them to engage in any kind of discussion.

    some people enjoy sports (me, not so much) while others enjoy TV programming. there is no such thing as a hierarchy in popular cultural, only opinion and taste.
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        Aug 31 2012: not always. some people are effective socialisers and some are not.

        in a social setting, many people find scientific discussion boring. this has very little to do with their intelligence and much to do with their interests.

        you are right in that an intelligent person will find common ground by realising that their interests are not always shared by others and display a willingness to talk about other things, even non-intellectual pursuits such as popular music or key-note speaking..
  • Aug 30 2012: all conversations start at the lowest common denominator. I suggest trying to spark interest in a related field to what you want to talk about, encourage others to look at it, and proceed from there.

    Unfortunately this is difficult. It seems like people who enjoy less mind stimulating activities can hold the best conversations because they have less material to focus on and thus be more knowledgable about it.

    Your problem coincidentally is part of the reason I am here, although I more interested in social issues/conversations than science based
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      Sep 1 2012: I agree Scott, that generally when we first meet someone, conversations begin with chit-chat before we get to know each other. It is from that foundation, or common denominator, that we can begin to trust a person to maybe go to a deeper level of interaction...or not.
  • Aug 30 2012: Intellectual jousting is ridiculed and even frowned upon, especially amongst younger people. The root of such behavior might be explained by Jake in the top post.

    As a result, the range of discussable subjects is narrowed down considerably.

    However, if you inspire towards intellectuality, you should constantly work on expanding your own width. Being able to participate in different types of debates is, to me, a mark of a truly wide-minded person.

    You should try finding a common point of interest before writing someone of as being plain.
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      Aug 30 2012: Yes Stevan trust me, I always try to find common points of interest and that's why I posed the question. I can discuss a wide range of topics with people in general, just not what I consider intellectual conversation. There is an intellectual regression in this country. If anyone on this forum is not aware of it, then they are fortunate enough to have grown up in an environment that fostered learning or have the opportunity to surround themselves with like-minded individuals. Just watch an episode of Jersey Shore. Not a lot of intellectual conversation taking place between Snooki and Paulie D. The majority of 20 and 30 somethings care more about keeping tabs on exciting gossip on their Facebook and Myspace pages, adding to their fabulous wardrobe collections, loading their iPods with the hippest music, etc. Nothing wrong with that in particular, I do a bit of that as well. It's just when that is all you know or care about knowing. I've been told by so many people things like, "It's to much work to think about things that hard. I'm trying to have fun not go back to school again. Who cares about that stuff anyway. BORING! (giggle, giggle)" You can't expand and open someone's mind that is not willing to do so.

      Having conversation is commonplace. Having stimulating, meaningful, rich and diverse communication for those outside Cambridge and Oxford is a rarity and a treat! At least for me, others may be lucky enough to enjoy it.
      • Aug 31 2012: Hey Jake, I feel your pain. Some people have posted that its too harsh or to find common ground or everyone is intelligent in their own way. That's all rubbish. The majority of conversations revolve around sports, actors/actresses, crime, and "politics".

        No, everyone is not intelligent in their own way. There are different types of intelligence but those of higher intelligence are a small percentage of the population. Also, our education system loves to associate science with extreme boredom (which may play a factor).

        If you want shoot me an email anytime you want to talk about some cool stuff nicholas . osto @ gmail .com. Im in the same boat as you are.
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      Aug 30 2012: My experience in this regard has been that the dislike of intellectual joisting is most common in environments in which someone is interested in having only one point of view aired, often with himself as the authority. That is when I have seen someone steer conversation toward the superficial with an argument that people in the community just want to relax and chat rather than think hard.
      But then, I admit that the young people I know do not watch reality television.
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    Aug 30 2012: One idea that I don't think I have seen mentioned here, Jake, that has bearing on trying to have productive substantive conversation is the problem of entrenched beliefs and prejudices. This can be a challenge to confront in social discourse and vital to confront in discourse aimed at learning or action.

    Sometimes the issue is only an individual's misplaced confidence in his/her understanding or authority. Other times it can be a prejudice so common in a person's most familiar setting that it is mistaken for an accurate or balanced view.
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      Aug 30 2012: Marc,
      What is your goal in this conversation?
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          Aug 30 2012: I absolutely, wholeheartedly agree Marc, that there is GREAT potential for learning through human interaction, and we often teach what we need to learn, because we are all students AND teachers in the earth school. I also agree that some may realize things before others. It may be time Marc, for you to realize that you do not have all the answers regarding "productive discussion".
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          Aug 30 2012: You are welcome Marc, and I do not perceive it to be so utterly brilliant. It appears that you are using sarcasm....so be it:>)
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    Aug 30 2012: Yes, time and place are important and I do feel it essential to understand that social norms require a (differing) amount of what we call 'small talk' before we can progress to a deeper or more intellectual level. I used to (wrongly) get bored with the small talk and want to cut to the 'good' stuff as soon as possible but as humans this small talk is the glue which binds us together whilst we find similar ground. It can be daunting talking to new or what we perceive are intellectual people but we are ALL people and getting a conversation on any level going is a good start. Also it's important to not let ones ego cause fearful thoughts or feelings. We are not going to know everything but if we approach new people and conversations with a curious and open mind and when in doubt ask a question. I was amazed when after one such conversation the person I was talking to remarked to a colleague how impressed he was with my knowledge of skiing; I'd been only once and new barely anything, but I knew that if I drew the knowledge from the other person then a conversation would flow. With this not only do we LEARN a lot (and I think this is essentially what conversations are about: learning) but we begin to forge new and exiting connections.
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    Aug 30 2012: Time and place is important.

    For example, i have friends who drone on about intelectual matters when i bring up the smallest reference to such topics. For example, I may mention a physics joke, and then they would seek this opportunity to demonstrate their knowledge and understanding of uni based physics content. At these moments, i would resort to being like your friends, by expressing 'a umm, right..thats not normal,' face.

    Sometimes people avoid confrontation with intellectual conversation, because they're trying to covertly divert the fact that they have no clue about the subject, thus revealing their scientific ignorance. This for example is me!

    I think its best to bring such topics of discussion online, where people who are interesting in the subject can comment on the matter.
  • Aug 30 2012: I think it's difficult to engage in any coversation when hanging out with another couple. One person is always along for the ride while the spouse hangs out with their friend. The odds of all four people really liking each other is astronomical. My favorite part of the night is always the ride home when my wife and I thank our lucky stars that we have each other.
    It's scary out there.
    I love TED because there is a level of respect and open mindedness that often doesn't exist out there. Some people just aren't thinkers or open to learning from others. It's a shame.
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      Aug 30 2012: My wife and I do the same thing, about the "ride home thanking that you have each other". You're blessed to have each other Dan. I know you appreciate her as I do mine. You have to have gone through a living hell to find your paradise. I'll never take what I have for granted. Sometimes it scares the crap outta me if I think "what would I ever do if I lost her?"
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    Aug 29 2012: Trying to conduct a conversation with someone who is educated or intelligent...especially one which may involve differing views and opinions...will never be successful if either party lacks one other key factor.

    Social Skills

    Actually, the paticipants don't even need to be "highly" educated or "highly" intelligent to conduct a successful conversation if they have the social skills to begin with.
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      Aug 29 2012: Hi, Rick. By social skills, do I understand you correctly to mean the choice to engage respectfully, to listen carefully to what the other is saying, and to stay basically on subject?

      Sometimes wonderful discussions can involve healthy disagreement in open, on-subject discourse.
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        Aug 29 2012: Yes.

        I try to conduct my discussions using the basic principles of debate (although I'm only human and may screw it up too sometimes): "You can "attack" your opponant's views, ideas, or position on a subject. But you can NOT "attack" the individual PERSON." Sadly, I see that happening here too often.

        Kinda like what I see when I watch my country's televised Congress channel on TV. The opposing parties may hate each other, but you will always see them say something like this:

        "With all due respect to my Distinguished Colleague, your IDEA is full of cr*p !!!!"

        Keeps things at least SOMEWHAT respectful. ;-)

        Name calling, assigning "trigger words" to people, and the other assorted stuff should be beyond the members of this community.
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          Aug 29 2012: That's what I thought you meant, Rick, and I am out of "thumbs up" for you this week. I asked only because I think one can have meaningful discourse with people who could be said to lack some social skills but who, for example, hold to the principles of conduct you put forward. It is, indeed, very hard for some to get past hate and prejudice, but the future may depend on it.
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      Aug 29 2012: Excellent point. Reminds me of the movie "The Mask of Zoro" with Anthony Hopkins and Antonio Banderas.
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    Gail .

    • +1
    Aug 29 2012: I know exactly what you're talking about, & you aren't a nerd. You're intellectually curious, and that's a rare quality today. Intellectual curiosity, inherent in children, is educated out of them.

    On April 24, 1984, my worldview CRASHED. In one blinding moment, I realized that liberty, justice, and equality wasn't part of the American experience, and I didn't even know if they existed at all. I reached my hands up to ask God what just happened and at that moment - in another crippling flash of awareness - I saw all of the inconsistencies and lies that were part of my Chrisitan view. It was devastating.

    So I began educating myself in order to establish a new worldview that would not fail me in a crisis. It was then that I began to realize how many lies Americans are told about their own history, and how much RELEVANT information is being withheld in other areas. The day came when I understood that I was living in a dystopia - exactly like the one George Orwell referred to in "1984". Americans call war, "peace"; slavery "freedom"; and ignorance "strength".

    Americans have been told that a diploma or degree(s) means that one is educated. But that's just part of the lie. One may be educated in a field or two, but the base of education is never big enough to allow one to connect the dots. If one does connect the dots, that person becomes a danger to the worldview of others, thus you find yourself isolated and criticized for an essential quality of a well-lived life.

    I do not personally know anyone who is as well educated as I am. My learning never stopped and now it's my hobby. It's not that I don't know many intelligent people, I do. It's that I do not know any well-educated people.

    I believe that is why America is allowing itself to keep going forward in spite of the cliff that lies a short distance ahead. That's why we have a fear-based culture. People don't know what a human is or how the human experience CAN work. Fear is a cruel task-master.
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    Aug 29 2012: Sounds good Feyisayo, if your ever in Denver, Colorado look me up! ;-)
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    Aug 29 2012: Invite engineers and scientists to have dinner. You might will have intellectual conversations with them as you want. Or you can just relax and talk casually.
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      Aug 29 2012: Lol, thanks Chung. It appears as though the engineers and scientist are in short supply. I prefer to have casual intellectual conversation. :-)
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    Sep 28 2012: Alcohol is the ultimate medicine for communication problems among different types of personality and different levels of intellectual development.

    *Checked on unnumbered social meetings and relationships
    *May cause health problems

  • Sep 28 2012: When I arrived back from India last year, having worked in education management conversing with all sectors of society and hearing about and experiencing daily life out there, I became easily bored and frustrated upon arriving in the UK. Conversation seemed mundane, with references to the latest reality tv shows. You guys defnitely are not alone! The key is to find others interested in stimulating conversations. Quite often I have tended to continue bringing up topics that other may not usually discuss in hope that they will be interested.. if not, again they just assume I am the crazy girl interested in history and culture. The key is to keep the topics interesting - energising stories, and try to erlate them to the people you're talking to.
  • Sep 27 2012: I will tell you a true story. When i was a boy a used to read a lot, i still read but because of work i do it with less intensity. When i went out to play with my friends and when someone made a question that required a scientific answer there i was with the answer. Of course my friends regarded me as some sort of strange creature that knew it all. So i had to keep my mouth shut and not sound too scientific. Otherwise i would have been stigmatized. And i know what it is like to be with a group of people who will not like to talk about LHC, or the Great Attractor or the String Theory. The common bystander thinks science is something for scientists ( I am a graphics designer). My final words "welcome to the club".
  • Sep 24 2012: Nah, you can find people to have conversations with. Just keep your eye out and remember that some folks just have nothing to talk about that interests you. By the same token, if you are talking about the Higgs Boson to a guy that has an avid interest in football why change the subject. Talk intelligently about football.
  • Sep 22 2012: No, I only associate with those with whom I can have an intelligent conversation and/or very good sex.
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    Sep 19 2012: I didn't realize it for the longest time; but, I tend to be the one taking pictures, video, or getting people to talk about their family histories. The first two keep me busy in the absence of interesting conversation, and still makes me "cool to have around". The family histories are interesting; but, more importantly, focuses people on something better than TV. Sometimes, if the person has a bad family history, it backfires. I end up being their confessor/therapist. Then things get weird. So, in that sense, being aloof and taciturn isn't all so bad.
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      Sep 20 2012: As a suicide counselor I used to have the same problem. As soon a people find out what you do, they start crying on your shoulder.
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  • Sep 19 2012: Oh man can I relate to that!

    I am just not into 'small talk' - it bores me to tears.
  • Sep 18 2012: I love great conversations. And I too found that most social exchanges were typically shallow, even with friends and family in our fast-paced, digital culture. So when I came across a set of hand-made conversation starters on glass stones, I was intrigued. Questions like "what you'd love to try", "favorite summer memory" and "person you'd most like to meet" took conversations to the next level, where we were sharing, laughing and getting to know each other. I ended up creating Penny Stones ("a penny for your thoughts...") Ice Breakers and started my own company, CMD Gifts. People have let me know that these prompts have started real conversations, ones that deepen relationships, which just makes my day! And my biggest surprise has been how school counselors and speech therapists have taken to them. Since it feels like you're playing a game, people are willing to talk about topics they wouldn't introduce themselves. You can find them on my pennystones dot com site or amazon. One suggestion for you - first find something you have in common with the other person and then introduce a topic you'd like to talk about. And remember the rule of 3: keep it to 3 sentences initially. If they're interested, they'll ask questions. If not, move on to the next topic. All the best to you!
  • Sep 17 2012: PI isnt really an infinite quanity.PI is a circular boundary in a two dimensional plane.Very limited within still more limits.

    If you were to draw a cirlce and have a 4 year old child trace their finger around the perimeter until they came to the end and got them started it does not take long before they exclaim-there is no end.

    This is the type of insght a super computer cannot master yet.It follows the instrucion to find the end of a continuos line endlessly and never reaches a conclusion.

    The vexing question I have is whether or not the PI ratio and its infinite non repeating digit quality hold significance outside of the boundary of circular two dimension plane.A commutation of its infinite ratio property outsdie of its dimensional boundaries if you will.
  • Sep 15 2012: Well, It happens to me quite often too, so don't be worried. I do not think that it depends on I.Q though. For instance, there is a friend of mine who studies aerospace engineering and he's just a genius at maths and physics, he would talk about those subjects for hours and hate you if you ever dared interrupt his flows of words, but if you start talking about something else e.g. classical music he'll start staring at you like a nitwit. The same happens if you start talking about literature. After all it has long been discovered that intelligence can have different forms. My math teacher was just awesome at solving geometric problems, but when she opened her mouth to speak about other different topics, she was able to say such trivial things that you would all become pale if I mentioned them here. Or else, people who speak five languages can be very dumb at scientific subjects, and they would rather talk about the new winner of the Big Brother rather than have a conversation about the new theory of Stephen hawking. So, According to my empirical expirience there is no relation between intelligence and the ability to "engage in intellectual conversations", because you have to take into account what kind of conversation you want to have. I think it's all about passion, we want to engage in things that we please. And not all the conversations are based on issues that we love.

    The problem starts to emerge when talking people have NO INTERESTS, no hobbies and they are as hollow and shallow as hell. But even in this case, maybe they just do not want to talk about things that they like because they are too jelous of their passions and they are afraid to be mocked by their interlocutors, and they'd prefer to appear dumb rather than share the ideas they have in their mind. although i do admit that the last hypothesis is as optimistic as rare.
    • Sep 17 2012: I agree. Intellectual thought is more about taste than ability. My cat likes watching TED.
      • Sep 18 2012: I appreciate the fact that you have such an intelligent animal :D though I did not mean that intellectual thought is more about taste than ability. The two things are quite related, since you need to develop some skills in order to be able to create or deal with intellectual thoughts.
        And you have to consider that "talking" itself might be considered a skill. Rethoric is a subject wich had been thaught for millennia in schools.
  • Sep 15 2012: Exactly, when I mention Higgs Boson, everyone is like what are you talking about ? and I said, u know CERN ?? I have now grown two horns

    I love illuminating conversation on politics, science, technology, religion, art ...not for the sake of having an argument but for learning purposes.

    I love listening to people .... I want to know their ideas, their thoughts , their feelings... Being human is such a complex thing that I want to know how they function and what makes them think the way they do..

    So Please... Help..... I am no Dork and I love a good movie and a good fiction... but when there is a need for deep discussion, please send me people who is interested and want to learn as much as I can :)
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      • Sep 15 2012: Thank you........ and believe me , I had to explain CERN
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    Sep 14 2012: If your not pissed off, your not paying attention....at what is happening to our once garden planet. You younger generations should really pay attention, as your lives will be very different.... Anticipate what the future will hold..
  • Sep 14 2012: I do have those thoughts too, but I also find it hard to engage in such conversations myself, and prefer to do so in writing, such as on the internet, as I am doing right now.

    In a conversation, a spontaneous reply is expected, and on top of that, there may be a lack of knowledge about the subject. When you reply in writing, you have more time to think about your response, to compose your reply, and to do some background research if needed. I know what the Higgs Boson is in general, but I do not not the specific details, which might have made it hard to continue a conversation.

    Instead, perhaps we could take it upon ourself to help get the conversation rolling. In the example you gave, perhaps you could have gave them a little more information, explaining in simple terms what that meant, and how it affects us and our understanding of our surroundings.
  • Sep 14 2012: YES, I HEAR YOU LOUD AND CLEAR BROTHER!!! Though times, they are a changin'
  • Sep 13 2012: Henry Ford said it best; "Thinking is hard work which is why so few people do it." You and those like us crave intellectual stimulation that comes from the exchange of conceptual thoughts rather than stimulated neural responses. Count yourself fortunate that you are able to feel this frustration and know that your life will be a constant search for like-minded people who will bring joy every time you find one.
  • Sep 12 2012: Not possible most of the time, intellectual conversations doesn't appeal masses. More than 90% percent of worlds population(masses) is born to serve less than 10% of masters. It is possible if two persons from that less than 10% happen to meet, probability plays a spoil sport even with those meetings. Though what I said seems pessimistic but true.
  • J Ale

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    Sep 9 2012: Short continuance: and Yes Jake, there are few to speak about this stuff with...and I am talking about a conversation about the intellect its very self, to say nothing of natural philosophy wherein we can speak about the Higgs Boson. I have 3 freinds who are as excited with these intellectual pursuits as I am. 2 have pHD's in philosophy. One has a minor in the same and a degree in Chemical Engineering.

    I often find that the same things are spoken of over and over. I often wonder how people keep from getting bored with the same old thing.

    Thanks for a good question.
  • Sep 8 2012: I like your comment, because I often find myself in the same situation. I write from Switzerland, and here as well the main conversation subjects are about soccer (for men) or reality shows (for women). I actually think that it's the way the politicians, the corporations and the media are trying to keep the population busy with nothing, preventing them to question about the real problems: what happened really on 9 11? Why should we allow Nestlé to privatize even the drinkable water? Why Europe is giving so much money to Greek and other countries only to save the banks and not for helping the population? Which are the decisions of the members of the Bilderberg Club? And many, many other questions!
    It is a paradox that in the era of internet most of the people decide to stay more and more ignorant!
    PS: for the Higgs Boson, I bet its discovery will open more new problems than solve old ones...
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      Sep 8 2012: I think you're spot on with your assumptions Esra. I'm not a conspiracy nut but I also believe that the Bilderbergs are indeed a real legitimate organization that meet annually to discuss and enforce policies that suite their own personal agendas. BTW, you live in a beautiful country my friend. As well as English and most likely German, you probably speak a bit of French and Italian as well, which is three more languages than most Americans speak. :-) I''m envious you're so close to the LHC! You should take a tour of the facility. Take care.
      • Sep 20 2012: Hi - I don't have time to read all the comments on this right now, but I so appreciate the topic and those I've read so far. First of all, kudos to your wife for inviting people over. This doesn't happen enough! And is partly why people actually do not know how to converse. We've discovered the hard way, with many disappointments, that good conversation is a skill that can be developed. Yes, time spent in front of the boob tube doesn't help. Also, people need to feel safe with each other to open up - so repeated times getting together, leads to getting to know and trust one another better and then better conversations can happen (sometimes not though!). I think it's good to have something to do like a game as an icebreaker (or a book, as in a book club - although I've been in several book clubs that didn't spend much time or get into much depth discussing the book) that can provide a common point of reference. But all this said, I have despaired of this myself. Also, notice the ratio of male to female comments on here. I yearn to hear more intellectually (and creatively) from women especially, myself. That's partly why I've started an online magazine (sort of the same idea as TED, apparently). www.talk-mag.com I was hoping to have a forum where people could engage on topics related to art and life.
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    Sep 7 2012: Yep. It happens to me too but I just get enthusiastic about what I'm talking out and try to win them over. Also bear in mind that not everyone gets excited about this stuff and that's OK too.
  • Sep 7 2012: I've never run into many problems with starting up intellectual conversations. I don't really have much of a problem with actually sustaining an intellectual conversation as well. It really just depends on the audience that is around you. I've had hours of conversation and debate covering things from healthcare to the problems of the moral panic regarding various media issues like fan creativity as a reason why copyright law needs heavy revisions and whether violent media causes a violent society or is just a harsh mirror saying that society's already violent. There's more intellectual topics that I've had discussions and debated about as well. Then again, that also doesn't stop me from having those less intellectually stimulating conversations for the fun of it as well. It's all a matter of finding the right audience for either.
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      Gail .

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      Sep 13 2012: I wonder how much age has to do with this. Intellectually stimulating conversations were the norm when I was younger. Now that I am living in a seniors' community, there is a dearth of intellectual curiosity at a time when free time is at a maximum and there is so much time for learning about the amazing discoveries happening in so many fields. Very isolating. (PS - I discovered too late that I live in a mostly Christian community so that eliminates almost everyone here)
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        Sep 13 2012: I think many people lose their dexterity in scientific areas with age but not in other areas. Of course memory is affected by age, which could make it harder to support arguments with specific evidence..
      • Sep 13 2012: In my experience, it really don't have that much to do with age. For example, in 2009 my grandfather died at the age of 97. Until the last days of his life, and a couple of times of dealing with various ailments, he was always sharp as a tack and always wondering about different topics, especially if it was something that I was working on for school. There's a lot of things that come into play, trauma, mental illness or brain injury for examples. What is the brain other than a muscle? If exercised regularly and you don't run into various types of ailments or a lot of distractions, you'll be interested in more intellectually stimulating discussions on various topics. Ultimately though one of the biggest things about intellectually stimulating conversations is that you sometimes have to get people to realize that the topic is actually important.
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    Sep 5 2012: You need to fight harder to inspire people to listen. Don't be defeated yet. Accept that people belong on different levels of insight but have the capacity to always move to higher ground. So don't give up on them.
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    Sep 5 2012: It is easy if people know that the goal of our life is to keep our DNA alive rather than to have invalid happiness.
  • Sep 5 2012: Yep, same problem here. Have to actively seek out stimulating convo -- certainly is not plentiful.
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    Sep 3 2012: After much collaboration with other in this TED question I would have to answer "NO" to Jake Maddox's question. Most of the intellectual people here are easy to talk to and engage with on just about any question. It does take some time to recognize and accept the difference in each personality but all are pretty well defined and open to criticize.
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      Sep 3 2012: I think it was Albert Einstein that said "It should be possible to explain the laws of physics to a barmaid." Intelligent people are the easiest to talk to. You should read about Albert Einstein or see on YouTube the way Milton Friedman debated with people that are completely out of step with common sense.

      Those who claim to be smart, by defining what they are not, are not actually smart. They like to be called smart -self proclaimed. Real intelligence is not just knowledge - It is understanding.
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    Sep 1 2012: Once upon a time in Central Europe it used to be polite to have intellectually complex and challenging dinner topics. Regretfully, widespread consumerisation of the societies in the region is slowly wiping out this tradition. I, however, am not letting it go myself and will willingly challenge the diners with interesting topics. Should they all resist I devote my attention to the regional wines which are constantly improving :)
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      Sep 1 2012: I drink wine. The wife and I like dinner parties. :) Where do you live?
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    Sep 1 2012: All husbands are nerds to their wives.......so you are not alone :)

    It's a matter of finding a common ground to keep on coversation going........but not sure how much it is linked with intellect.....or how much it is linked with knowledge......

    One can be highly knowledgable about literature and can go on for hours on conversation when it is literature but can find discussion on mathematics simply boring & vice versa.
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      Sep 1 2012: Dear Salim....that is simply NOT true! I am single now, but for the 24 years of marriage, I never thought of the hubby as a nerd, and I know lots of wives who do not perceive their husbands in that way.....you take that back!!! LOL:>)

      I agree with the rest of your post...good communications are about finding common ground:>)

      I am happy to have experienced so much common ground with you here on TED...I appreciate you:>)
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        Sep 1 2012: Hi ColleenI know you were a great wife....I have no doubt about that......

        Well that's a joke only (i.e. about being nerd).....by the way though it's a joke I made, please make sure it doesn't reach my wife.....ha ha ...:D

        It's my pleasure always Colleen, to come across your wisdom ....have a good day.
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          Sep 1 2012: Me a great wife? Probably not not so much Salim....thank you anyway:>)

          I think I knew it was a joke Salim, and I told your wife anyway!!! I'm just kidding:>)
          Joke on joke on joke:>)

          I love coming across your wisdom and your jokes as well Salim.>)

          It is indeed a beautiful day here, and I've been in the gardens all day....hope your day is lovely as well....nice talking with you as always:>)
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      . .

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      Sep 1 2012: " It's a matter of finding a common ground to keep conversation going." Thank you Salim :):)
  • Aug 31 2012: It seems really difficult to find people who care about important things. By important I mean things that actually effect the world, not sports etc. Mention the environment, corruption, physics, AI, robotics, etc and most people just turn off. I don't understand it but I have come to expect it.
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      Sep 1 2012: Ralph,
      You say you "have come to expect it". Do you think that people sometimes live up to our expectations? I have no expectations, I am open to possibilities with each and every new interaction, and I feel surrounded by people who genuinely care about many different things that effect the world and everything in it. Why do you disqualify sports as not effecting the world? In my perception, it certainly does have an impact in our world.
      It is when carpooling to sport adventures, during the sport, and directly after many sport activities that I have some of the most interesting conversations with my friends.
      • Sep 1 2012: " I have no expectations, I am open to possibilities with each and every new interaction, and I feel surrounded by people who genuinely care about many different things that effect the world and everything in it."
        Good for you.

        "Why do you disqualify sports as not effecting the world?"
        It does in a minor way, a constant battle to see who can run the fastest, which football team will win this season, which will win next season and which will win the season after etc. But it doesn't make any difference to the important things, it's just a score. People care so much about a group of people (team) kicking a ball into a particular rectangle area on a field of grass, but care so little about global warming, corruption, the future of technology, scientific discoveries and other things that will really change the world. Sports simply don't interest me, and I can't understand why people are not more concerned about the big world problems and more excited about the big possibilities of the future. But that's just the way things are and I have come to reluctantly accept it.
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          Sep 1 2012: Perhaps when we focus on any one thing to that extent, we lose touch with other aspects of the life experience?

          I observe that sometimes people don't like to talk about some of the bigger issues because they don't have enough information about the topic, and sometimes, if we DO have some information and we don't know how to deal with it, it may seem overwhelming to some folks. Some people need to have the answers, and sometimes do not like the exploration unless they DO have the answers, so they simply get lost in another interest/activity.

          I find that sometimes, I can introduce a person to some of the simple to understand perspectives of global warming for example. I have gardens, which people visit at times, and when talking about sustainable ecosystems, for example, I can slip in a little info about some of the bigger issues. Sometimes the conversation continues, and sometimes not, and I'm not attached to an outcome:>)

          I think that we can find ways to indroduce the bigger issues sometimes, if we present them in a way that people can understand on different levels. I'm a "Pollyanna"....always noticing the positive side of everything...LOL:>)
  • Aug 31 2012: I've been thinking about this same question myself lately as I have recently started a new job. Part of getting acclimated to a knew job is getting to know my new co-workers.

    I'm in that phase now, and I'm a little disturbed.

    Disturbed because the process has forced to make a realization that I have long put off.... the selfish gene DOES exist and it is flourishing!

    As an avid fisherman you have seen proof of the 80/20 rule, 20% of the fisherman catch 80% of the fish, (although I think it's really more like 90/10) well the same thing applies to intellectualism.

    You just have to find the 20% that cares because I think 'not learning' equals 'not caring' and as possible stewards of the planet it should be our responsibility to learn.

    my favorite song.. you'll love it too ..its about the LHC

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      Aug 31 2012: Hahahahahaha! That song is awesome! I think she covered everything! See now I wish I could find those types, i.e. funny, cool, nerds. Lol. It's the C to the E to the R to the N...coming straight outta Geneva (in the Stephen Hawking voice) Lol Classic.

      Check this out, even uses a TED talk (Brian Cox):

    • Aug 31 2012: I was in that phase too. And I could have been considered to be a bit cocky. So I tried not to have intellectual conversations with my peers in order not to offend them. There was a time when the people I tried to have a conversation with embarrassed me. An instructor asked students to pick a topic for a presentation, and each one of students could choose any topics. I chose philosophy, and it was about utilitarianism. They were like, "utili...what?! What the heck is that?" It was pretty embarrassing. Ever since then I’ve never talked about that kind of philosophical thing with them again. By the way, I have a question for you guys. I often try to be careful when I say something to people--especially to older ones—in order not to be seemed to be arrogant and to fit in with them. However, whenever I do that I realize that is not what I want, and I find myself miserable. (Don’t get me wrong.) Sometimes I really don't know what to do. Ironically, when I am with some people who are smarter and more intellectual than I am, I would fear them, but simultaneously, I start to admire them and want to talk with them more frequently since there must be a lot of things I can learn from them. So, it depends on people's attitudes. Whether they are intellectual or not, if they are open to any intellectual conversations, they can be quite agreeable people to talk with.
      Making proper environment for intellectual conversations also matters. Unlike Americans, many Koreans tend to think that people should be not only polite, but also modest when it comes to expressing their opinions. Even though fundamentally, it's a pretty considerate attitude, sometimes, it can be a huge barrier that hinders true, and intellectual conversations. It seems to me that being able to have good intellectual conversations depend on how well I keep the balance between relationships and intellectual desires. I really hope… I can satisfy both of desires.
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        Aug 31 2012: My dear Elizabeth,
        You can hold your own in any intellectual conversations with anyone!!!

        So, what do you mean by this..."I often try to be careful when I say something to people--especially to older ones—in order not to be seemed to be arrogant and to fit in with them. However, whenever I do that I realize that is not what I want, and I find myself miserable. (Don’t get me wrong.)"

        I think/feel that to "fit in" is a skill that benefits all of us. The ideal, is to "fit in" while sharing our own thoughts, feelings, ideas, opinions and beliefs, which you do exceptionally well Elizabeth.

        The part of your statement I am not understanding is..."I find myself miserable"....why/how do you feel miserable....I don't understand.
        • Sep 1 2012: Dear Colleen :) ,You might not be able to understand that part because you might not know how it feels like to be too different from other people—I recently realized that actually I am not, btw. lol It sounds strange, isn’t it? I've met a lot of people, and have had a lot of--meaningless--conversations with them. Mostly, I was disappointed in the people and myself because we weren't able to have fruitful, intellectual and meaningful conversations—doesn’t always need to be intellectual, though.
          Well, I would have some fruitful debates with a few wonderful people from time to time(and those days were the most thrilling time I'd ever had.) But I realized that I couldn't quench my thirst from having conversations with most people I know of. Quite a lot of people I know of are too engrossed in their appearances, celebrities, bf/gf, money-making, gossiping, computer games, and smartphone....Even though I respect their affairs and their matter of interest, if those are all they want to talk about, I would get sick and tired of talking about superficial things..but they are just satisfied with the conversations even though they are really intelligent people in different ways.... I may seem to be—outwardly--fond of talking with them, but at my heart, I don’t get them. I am sometimes disgusted with myself when I force myself to enjoy having those conversations with them with an insincere smile….I often try to change the subject, but doesn't last long. Btw, by which I mean by ‘miserable’ is because of this. This complicated feeling.....I constantly ask myself, “Am I looking down on them? Am I being arrogant? They and I are not that different! Same people… with same culture!” That makes me feel a bit guilty. But I’ve been changing..with more sincere open attitude:)
          And, btw, TED is a hole I can always breathe through. It’s kindof a funny way to put it, right? lol I can quench my thirst on this website...and you're one of the most amazing TED friends I can enjoy talking to. :)
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        Sep 2 2012: Hi Sweet Elizabeth,
        I will never totally understand you, because we are different people. That being said, however, we are the same in many respects, one being the feelings that we all share as human beings.

        You say that I might not know how it feels to be different...maybe I do a little bit:>)

        My father was very violent and abusive, and when I was a young person, I was embarrassed for our family...I felt shame, and "abnormal" because of my father's behavior. My seven siblings and I kept our violent experiences in our home to ourselves as much as possible. When I was interacting with my friends, they didn't know anything about the abuse/violence, so I felt different. I felt like everyone had a beautiful loving home experience except me. I tried to spend as much time as possible in the homes of my friends, to "escape" my own home, and I was grateful that their families welcomed me into their homes like I was part of THEIR families. I often wonder if they knew about my home environment and nobody spoke about it? Who knows....that was 60 years ago!

        I also worked from the time I was 11....babysitting. By 13, I was babysitting for a family of 3 children under the age of 6, for 5 days a week while their parents worked . I did that in the summer, and attended school the rest of the year. That was different from my firends.

        At age 17, I was hired as an operating room assistant for the summer, and on call for emergency surgeries on weekends and week nights during my last year of high school. That was very different from my friends who were always concerned about the dance, the football game, who had a date for the weekend, etc. etc. etc. I often got impatient with the friends for being so incredibly concerned about this trivia, as I was observing and assisting for life/death surgeries.

        I enjoyed the trivia and superficial talk with friends because it gave me a break from other life experiences.

        We may be more the same than different? Sending you love my friend:>)
    • Aug 31 2012: Anyway, this conversation is really awesome. Here, people can speak up without worrying about hurting people’s feelings or using euphemism lol
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    Aug 30 2012: I'd like to say something here. I'm not saying I'm better than anyone. I'm a sensitive guy myself. I better have my box of Kleenex if I watch the movie E.T. :-) My question simply asked, "Do you find it difficult to engage in intellectual conversation?" Many have understood my point indeed. Others have called me arrogant for saying such a thing and that I needed to step off my high horse and learn some respect and humility.

    Dare we ask any questions out of fear to be ridiculed and chastised for implying concepts and ideas that do not fit the social collective norm? They may have not liked when I said that most people around me seemed to be "intellectually challenged". It's an observation I made about the intellectual regression of America, that's all, and I think a lot would agree with me. I never said I didn't like them for it, nor did I imply it. How should I say it? Is it really a matter of proper phrasing or rather, "How dare he imply he is smarter than some other people! Who does he think he is? The arrogance! Preposterous!" I'm not saying that anyone on this post has gotten that upset, but it tends to be true more oftern that not. People who become defensive and emotional over a comment that insinuates that some may be smarter than others have underlying psychological issues stemming from insecurities. They often try to camouflage their anger and contempt by masking it in polite verbal etiquette, but the true emotion always bleeds through.

    The fact remains that indeed some people are able to grasp complex concepts, and others cannot. Some people are stimulated by knowledge and perpetual learning, others are not. Some people use logic, reason, and understanding to learn from mistakes in order to advance themselves mentally, emotionally, and even spiritually, others do not. How would you define these two groups? Which is the norm and which is the exception? Those who are the exception will have felt at some point in their life that they were "different".
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      Aug 31 2012: I don't hear anyone here denying that there are differences among people. What I hear people saying, or suggesting, are two other ideas. One is that differences need not seriously limit conversation about interesting issues if the parties seek interesting common ground.

      Second, I hear a question as to whether some people may have an exaggerated view of these differences and whether that perception itself might interfere with communications.

      That's what I am hearing here from some of the responses. I have not read them all.

      And I don't think either of these thoughts suggests insecurity on the part of those putting the ideas forward.
  • Aug 30 2012: Well of course it is difficult. The values taught to us nowadays is, the dummer you are, the better. In reality, it should be the other way around. Education is becoming more and more standardized, while we have a social system that truly takes the jolt out of life. It is no wonder we recur to 'Real Life' junk to reflect what our interests are. You are not alone Jake, and if you truly want to learn about the somewhat state of affairs, I recommend the following links:

  • Aug 30 2012: I have spent a lot of time in so-thought intellectual circles and, where you might expect a common willingness to engage, you can meet with the exact opposite--snobbery, dismissivness, the need to be "sponsored", vouched for or introduced by someone of establish notoriety. Willingness to initiate conversation without these established social entries is taken as boorishness--as if you have forever to kiss ring and earn audience. We're on are own, buddy. If you're not born into the right circle and find yourself a genius compared to your peers, the only thing that anyone seems to really respect is work that humbles them. Everything changes when you're "published", or have won some award, or invented something that has sold. This is a hierarchical society and there is very little or no chance to elevate yourself by words from mouth to mouth--it's even true on the Internet where 999 out of a thousand efforts to engage people intellectually will trigger contentiousness as if to ask for your credentials. I have been on this for a long time and see it as part of the neglect that is systematized into the factory model of education--or all education in which competition is god and cooperation among peers evil or cheating.

    Western society is grounded on competition to a great fault. There is no perceived need for formal "social development" and thus the meat grinder continues on producing 1% winners and 99% losers and few seem to see how much potential is running off into the gutter. I know there is an answer to catalyzing change but I haven't been able to get an audience for it. It seems I'm left with having to pour it into a book and hope it gets read because people are either busy with their own mission or think that being entertained is what it's all about.
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      Aug 30 2012: James, it sounds like you are looking at a slightly different question or problem than the one Jake explained, which in his case was how to have substantive conversations with people who might not immediately be inclined to them because they are used to thinking about maybe less weighty topics.

      Others have broadened the discussion to include difficulties in communication within established communities.
      I hear your issue as having trouble getting particular sorts of people you have approached to accept you into their circle.
      This can, indeed, be difficult in situations in which there are many people knocking at that same door.
      In your case of seeking an audience for your work, would you fit into one of the online platforms for getting support for your work like Kickstarter?
  • Dan F

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    Aug 30 2012: Interesting admission.

    This problem may be the result in large part to a cultural influence on the young. Public education in the U.S. and elsewhere, take steps to mix together students of cultural diversity in a manner that minimizes conflict in the classroom and on the school grounds. An understandable concern, but at a cost. So what is the hot conflict area? Potentially offending an individual of any of the numerous religious faiths leads the pack. Consider the court battle to impose the teaching of creative design along with biological evolution as a science subject in public schools. Thankfully it failed, but that emotional issue and attitude is alive and well.

    It isn't necessary to tilt the public policy scales much to affect student behavior which naturally carrys on into adulthood. So what are the neutral things to talk about socially or involve yourself without creating much conflict in this environment? -- sports, celebrities, television shows, hair style, cars -- well you get the picture.

    The result has been to dumb down classrooms subjects and open discussions about topics considered politically sensitive, but central to developing one's intellect. Science in general, but biology in particular lead this pack. These people are not best described as nerds. I'm a naturalist and I'm cool - really! Actually, I tend to like nerds too.

    This reality is measurable and it does not reflect well on the U.S. public educatioal system. Is this the unrecognized elephant in the in the classroom?

    Am I alone in this half baked notion?
  • Aug 30 2012: be some topics that are still tabo at the dinner table or living room.I am a step father one daughter likes my scientific american the other 20 year old still reads17 and likes to watch say yes to the dress.At work lunch room talk is current events or gossip or managment bashing. I feel unless we can see how new discoveries will benifet us right away most persons could care aless
  • Aug 30 2012: Most people consider ignorance as a stigma. I think this is why people prefer to have low knowledge content conversations.
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      Aug 30 2012: Marc,
      I'm sure you realize you are accusing others of doing what YOU are actually doing?
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          Aug 30 2012: Brilliant... you are truly a master conversationalist.
  • Aug 30 2012: Yes I do MOST of the time.
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    Aug 30 2012: Oh yeah...I find ease in this matter when I can formulate questions that may get the best response. You may have to begin with something designed to bring them your way like "If I kept you around I would never need to watch Sportscenter again, what about....". A look into Socratic discourse may possess answers for your question. Making practical use of such a thing is quite another matter.
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      Aug 30 2012: Relax Don. :-) I'm not laughing I'm just happy. :-) Please be nice to my smiley faces. :-)
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          Aug 30 2012: "Devilish", why Don, what an ugly thing to say. I love you all, god bless.
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    Aug 30 2012: I personally think that the antidote for that kind of social circle is to become an instance anthropologist, "go native" on them.
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      Aug 29 2012: You know... Humanity invented this device called a dictionairy... and in it, there are "accepted definitions" of "words". By reading this, a member of society can find the language that is proper for him/her to use, in "conversation".

      Given that this device exists, and human beings worth communicating with, often understand most of the "accepted definitions" within... You can actually save yourself a lot of time, if you stop defining words on your own all the time Marc.

      Just start from the assumption that people know what words mean, or they will look them up, if they do not, and your communication style would be much more efficient and less patronizing... Just a thought.
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      Aug 29 2012: First, I'm a believer in the scientific method, so that being said...

      Not all things the scientic method discovers and accepts are "Truths". Some are just theories that rigorous testing has failed to prove wrong, so the THEORY is accepted. Yes, I accept the fact the argument can be made that if it wasn't proven wrong, it must be true. But the reality is it may not have been proven wrong YET because we haven't developed the technology to test it to the point where it MIGHT be proved false. Advances in our ability to observe and measure may later produce new evidence to disprove the original accepted theory, so it is then either discarded or amended. If that happens, it was never "true" to begin with...just an accepted theory based on our ability to observe and measure it at the time. Einstein's limit on the speed of light was considered a truth because we had nothing better for now. That may be about to change if some new current theories pass the rigors of the scientific method to disprove them.

      On the other hand, some things the scientific method discovers and accepts MAY be considered "truths" that we can use as smaller truths to achieve bigger truths. The cycle continues, until once the "ultimate truth" is reached. Then there would be no more reason to keep looking for answers to anything.

      So yes, I agree if someone continues to argue against a proven and accepted truth, there is a problem. But presenting opposing views against an accepted theory is not necessarily wrong. If the current theories challenging Einsten's speed of light limit amend the speed limit, it would be one of the biggest "Oops!" in the history of physics. It's not wrong challenging the limit just because it has been accepted for so long already.

      Science has learned this lesson the hard way on several occassions.
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          Aug 29 2012: I knew my reply was gonna cause confusion. ;-)

          Yes, there is Truth. All I was trying to say was it is entirely possible that what we believe to be true today may be proved to be untrue tomorrow.

          Is there an "Absolute Truth" that never risks being proven untrue? I don't believe so in the scientific method, but am open to opposing opinion about it. Maybe it exists in other disciplines that are faith or pure belief oriented.

          I was just trying to offer a different perspective (idea) on your post. Not trying to "disprove" it. :-)
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          Aug 30 2012: Truth always is relative to that one can conceive.

          From every new, larger perspective any truth can appear to be partly true or totally wrong.
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      Aug 29 2012: "The key is to START OVER again and again and get a little farther each time."

      What if moving farther gets exponentially smaller each time? Eventually you will get caught in a loop.
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    Aug 29 2012: The rituals we males dance to.I have on occasion blurted out or threw a fishing line out that, well, has been thrown back with the polite pause and stare of the "What is he talking about" look,which goes to show my social skills suck at evolving conversations or i'm just sick of talking about cars and sports,the prime minister and surprisingly no one wants to talk about climate change,I've found that to be a No-No.I'm no more intelligent than the next guy in the groups if not less when you take into account the degree's they have, but then i understand the pressures of their jobs and that those gatherings are time outs and display, as inadvertently we all seem to follow.

    This may seem strange but how about talking to an immigrant recently arrived,it'll surprise you but hey i'm no expert,far from it.
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    Aug 29 2012: Well spoken Don. Thank you for your advice.
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    Aug 29 2012: Also... Just realize that the IQ test is based on a bell curve, and adjusted every few years... So, if people with a 100 IQ, were actually answering questions less accurately, than they used to... No one would ever know. 130 IQ today, could be the equivalent of 100 before television, but it would still be 2 or 3 standard deviations from "normal".
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      Aug 29 2012: I get what you're saying David. And furthermore, I would just like to clarify that I do not feel as I am better than anyone, as some might misinterpret my post as pompous or self-centered. Just an observation that I made.
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        Aug 29 2012: It is a frustration felt by many of us today. I think in my profile I use the lines "I don't think reality is worth filming. I don't think History is "made every day" by people who cut down trees, and I don't think "Searching for Bigfoot" is a form of Discovery."

        That doesn't make me better than anyone else, but I don't like the idea that I'm supposed to pretend I'm fascinated by pop culture in order to "fit in" either.
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          Aug 29 2012: Lol, yeah I hated when they started appealing to the masses by puttng that garbage on "our" networks too.
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          Aug 29 2012: Gotta agree with you 100% their, David. I used to love The Learning Channel (TLC) in the past. Now all you can find on it is "reality TV". I'm trying to figure out what they are trying to teach me there. Or how the heck I'm supposed to learn anything useful from their highest rated show that is about a 5-year old with an attitude.
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    Aug 29 2012: Hmm, I don't know about Fear Factor or those other things, but for sports, maybe you should watch some of them, give some of your analysis on them, etc. and engage in stuff like sports strategy, tactics, who did the most badass plays, why one team lost, etc. I talk to my friends a lot about basketball anyways.
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      Aug 29 2012: I used to enjoy boxing but in the last few years I have enjoyed following MMA. My point James is that sports is really as deep as it gets, at least with most men. Sports and women. And this is coming from married men, which is a morality issue and is another topic entirely. I'm just ecstatic when I find someone that can discuss at depth science, philosophy, history, geology, anthropology, archeology, etc, as most cannot. The thirst and quest for knowledge is akin to a drug for me. Making a discovery, grasping a new concept, or contemplating a mystery is like a high. So yes I get high off of knowledge. Hahaha, maybe I am a nerd afterall. Lol.
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        Aug 29 2012: Nerd... What a horrible thing to be... Because jocks have made so many of histories greatest accomplishments : p

        There's something about mma that appeals to the brute and the strategist though, isn't there?
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          Aug 29 2012: Definitely! Sadly, humans are drawn to violence, especially one-on-one combat. It's the oldest game there is. It's why the gladiator games in colosseums of the roman empire were so popular. People are geneticlly identical now as then, and that quest for violence still resides in us. Today we just have a more humane approach to violence, but we still have gladiators and colosseums, they're just called football athletes and stadiums. :-)
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        Gail .

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        Aug 29 2012: Jake,

        You and I are much alike. Too bad we live 2,000 miles apart. I too find that learning is like a high or a peak experience. But I didn't discover that until I was in my 30s.
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          Aug 29 2012: I was also late in discovering it, my mid 20's. I would've had such a richer experience in High School if my mind was at the same level of maturity as it is now.
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          Sep 1 2012: TED Lover and Jake,
          I also perceive learning as a peak experience. I will remind you of what you already know in your heart. We learn by taking in new information when we are ready to learn, and not before. We expand our exploration of the life experience when we feel a need to do so......or not:>)
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        Aug 29 2012: You shouldn't force yourself to be with people where you guys don't have much interest with each other.