David Hamilton

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Will ideas that are "smart", ever be "popular"?

Is the word "smart", in fact, diametrically opposed to the word "popular"? In the sense that... Smart, is a relativistic value judgement... So the definition of the word smart, tends to imply, that someone has a greater abillity to accurately see and describe the world around them, than the "average" person.

If, "smart" people, by definition, see the world around them differently than "average" people... and "average" people, are the majority... again, by definition... Will, what is smart, ever be, what is popular?

Can humanity ever elect, through free will, a competent, forward thinking, smart individual? Or, does the election process itself, by relying on popularity, guarantee, than no one "smart", will ever be in charge?

Is democracy, a race to the middle? Does it actually have no potential whatsoever of being progressive? Or, am I just in a particularly cynical mood today?

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    Jan 20 2012: David is looking for some form of elitism in terms of the intelligencia running the show; we already have a technocratic system where "smarts" is monetarily rewarded.
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      Jan 20 2012: Interesting... I totally disagree that our current societal model monetarily rewards "smarts"... Pure capitalism, was designed to do that, for the most part, but that's a bit of a myth nowadays. I actually think that was part of my point. I think we've democratized education, to the point where what is popular, is actually considered correct whether it is verifiable or not. I'm also not really interested in the intelligencia running the show.

      It would be nice if the leaders of the free world weren't handicapped children, though... I'm remotely curious if there is anyway to improve our current state. Winston Churchill always said that "democracy is the worst form of government, except of course, every other system that humanity has yet tried"... Is there a next step?

      Will we try something better eventually? What would it look like? A competition perhaps, where people who understand and solve complex problems move to the top. I'm also curious as I said, if democracy could ever be capable of electing anyone who is actually above average at anything, or are we destined to elect the lowest common denominator? Is a race to the middle the best we can do? Perhaps, I just hope not.
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        Jan 21 2012: The system of indirect democracy that the United States adheres to is intentionally adversarial; two warring factions constantly push against one another leading to a protracted stalemate where stagnation and non-progress are part and parcel of the status quo. We also have a population that is largely non-participatory; which means that the people power that we should have is merely illusory. We can look to history for examples of political change in a democratic direction. We begin to see an unfortunate trend, the more oppressive and authoritarian a regime, the more animated the reaction of the oppressed--I'm thinking of the Russian revolution concomitant with the bread riots that were taking place in its beginnings. People need to get pissed before any real change comes to pass.
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    Jan 19 2012: Smart has always been and always will be sexy.

    Most things that are "popular" are things that are above average: pro sports, music, theater, professional drivers, skills, etc. Besides, smart doesn't always have to be a ratio (you can always slice the pie differently) and intelligence is measured in a number of ways (see 9 Types of Intelligence: http://skyview.vansd.org/lschmidt/Projects/The%20Nine%20Types%20of%20Intelligence.htm)
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      Jan 20 2012: Interesting... I haven't seen any evidence that smart is sexy. I personally believe that I find smart women attractive, but living in Los Angeles, most of the really brilliant people I know, are outcasts, and rarely involved in sexual relationships. IQ directly corellates to a lack of children... I think that used to be true, but culture has somewhat devolved over the last generation.

      I'm not a fan of the 9 types of intelligence, I think it's an excuse to change the definition of the word "intelligence", so that we can tell everyone they're smart and no longer make distinctions. There are values to understanding spatial reasoning, emotion, etc. I just think they are different values than the ones that make you a brilliant mathematician, or engineer... and those are pretty much the people that invented everything that changed the world.

      I find it interesting that nothing you listed in your "popular" category, in my mind requires high end cognitive abillities. Sports, driving, music, theater, not exactly intellectual activities. That's really all I was talking about, there seems to no longer be anything cool or popular about knowing facts, and I find that troubling.
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        Jan 20 2012: Well, those were just some examples of "above average" areas that were popular. There are a number of popular people based on intelligence such as Ken Jennings (longest running Jeopardy! champion), Stephen Hawking, many authors, many of the presenters at TED.

        Even high-IQ societies such as Mensa realize that intelligence can be measured in many different ways.

        Also, I wasn't speaking of "sexy" in the strict behavioral sense (especially since sexual behavior and attraction are, for the most part, subjective experiences), I meant that intelligence is cool, hip, something worth pursuit. Though, there are multiple S&M and swingers chapters of Mensa
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        Jan 20 2012: Also, in regards to your comment about the 9 types of intelligence, you mentioned that you viewed "smart" as "someone has a greater abillity to accurately see and describe the world around them, than the "average" person" and that it " is a relativistic value judgement" anyway. It'd seem to me that those two ideas are incongruent since the very idea behind 9 types is superior discernment and calculation of the world in a number of areas in ways that average people aren't cognizant of.

        Just an observation :)
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          Jan 20 2012: Wow... Very well put, and honestly... I have to admit... True, I was a bit wrong... but, I'll still defend the impetus behind my response.

          Admittedly if "someone has a greater abillity to accurately see and describe the world around them, than the "average" person", this can exist in spatial reasoning, emotional understanding, and the other 7 types of intelligence.

          I think my only issue, is that I would call "spatial reasoning" aesthetics, and I would call aesthetics a skill, but I wouldn't call it a sign of intelligence, simply because, I don't think aesthetics has ever saved the world... I tend to see engineering, biology, chemistry, physics, and math, as fundamental forces of the human world, that alter it dramatically... I don't feel the same way about aesthetics... I think Kurosawa films were brilliant, in a way that is entirely distinct from aesthetics. I think Kurosawa understood, the biology, and chemistry of the human world, and put it into artistic terms we could understand.

          I think Kurosawa was brilliant, but I don't necessarily think the director of "Across the Universe" was brilliant... at least not in the same way. I choose "Across the Universe", because I think aesthetically, it was a beautiful, and entertaining film, but intellectually, I don't feel I "learned" anything from it. I learned something about the universal human experience from films like "Ikiru", and "Record of a Living Being", but "Across the Universe" was just fun and beautiful.

          I'm not discounting the value of fun and beautiful, merely suggesting that it is an entirely different value than "smart". I think "smart" people, are historically, associated with the five sciences I talked about, and I think there is a valid reason for this. I think engineering, chemistry, biology, physics, and math, do more for the world than, other forms of "smart"/intelligence.

          On reflection, this may be a personal bias... but, I don't think so, I think we all like brilliant scientists.
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          Jan 20 2012: I think art, is more subjective, same with emotion, and a couple of the other "intelligences". I also think that we all like brilliant scientists... but, we're not all attracted to them sexually.
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        Jan 20 2012: I think it's also to remember that there's a huge variety in sexual preferences. Like you mentioned, " art, is more subjective, same with emotion..."

        I can't remember the exact term for it right now, but I know there's an entire group of people who label themselves as specifically only attracted to someone for a skill or intellect (the slang for it is "asexy"). I have a few friends that do research in sexual studies, if I get the answer I'll let you know. It's fascinating stuff. Speaking of which, I'd highly recommend the book "Boink: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex" by Mary Roach; it has interesting, deep studies about sexual research.

        She also presented at TED: http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/en/mary_roach_10_things_you_didn_t_know_about_orgasm.html
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          Jan 22 2012: I try to adhere to that philosophy... but I think people know that there are subconscious mechanisms that effect our abillity to do so. It's not easy to only care about skill and intellect, it is a worthy approach however.
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        Jan 21 2012: IQ directly relating to lack of children may be a result of lack of patience.

        Children and I have about a one hour limit of interest in each other - and that's when I have deliberately slated the time to spend with them (usually in the form of helping a friend out). It's actually kind of amusing, we lose interest in each other right around the same time and then it just becomes perfunctory.

        I simply adore children but I couldn't eat a whole one.
        ~Hexadecimal (Reboot)

        I am a proponent of Multiple Intelligences (my results are here - 8 of them anyway: http://www.mypersonality.info/gigim/ and other than the - what I would say is - strangely low Verbal/Linguistic, it's a pretty accurate picture).

        "People with Visual intelligence are artistic. They are very aware of their surroundings and are good at remembering images. They have a great sense of direction. They like to draw, paint and read maps. They learn best through drawings and visual aids."

        So it's not just a matter of creating, it's also the way you learn/view the world.
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          Jan 21 2012: I find this kind of tests ridiculous. They may reveal only the way one sees herself/himself or the way s/he would like to be but not the way they are.
          I think, the real test which would tell what you are like should be based on tasks that would indirectly talk about your capacities.
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          Jan 22 2012: You know. The more I think about it, the more I think the reason I don't like the "types of intelligence", is simply that I have a personal, and perhaps biased definition in mind, but that is also relatively broad and inclusive. When I say "smart", what I mean is critical thinking, problem solvers.

          This might also suggest why the people I'm talking about, don't have children very often... Aren't children, pretty much, permanent problem generators? You could actually probably make the same argument of permanent contractual sexual relationships... Of course, that's the part of it that appeals to me, I love a challenge : p

          My only issue with artistic and emotional intelligence, is that, we have such huge engineering, biology, chemistry, math, and physics related questions and problems to answer right now... and we already have boat loads of brilliant art and music. I don't think a lack of art is a big problem... A lack of critical thinking problem solvers, seems to be a big problem we have right now, so I'd like culture to let those people reclaim the title "smart" for awhile, and make it a bit more popular.
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        Jan 22 2012: Well, Julija, that is possible, depending on how honest you are with yourself when you answer them. If indeed that were scored strictly as how I see myself, I wouldn't be surprised by any part of the outcomes.
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          Jan 22 2012: In addition, there are many studies done in this field beyond asking you what you like that directly correlate to skill, talent, and performance in each of these areas. Unfortunately, most of these tests can be quite expensive or are implemented by researchers (perhaps volunteer when someone is looking?).
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    Jan 21 2012: The answer to your question in 2nd paragraph seems to be clearly no.
    But there is probably nothing undeniable. To leave generalities aside, and think about a certain 'smart' idea that needs to be popular to be realized, well measured 'presentation', 'introduction' to it for 'average' people could make an exception.
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    Jan 21 2012: Depends on the person who is making the assessment.
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    Jan 20 2012: many smart ideas are also popular. we don't dwell on those much.

    there are four categories, says simple analysis:

    smart and popular: we take it for granted

    smart and unpopular: some thinkers fight to change the public opinion

    dumb and popular: some thinkers fight to change the public opinion

    dumb and unpopular: you never hear about these
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      Jan 20 2012: There is definately some truth to what you say, we do take ideas that are smart and popular for granted... I'm just trying to think of one, that has held up to the test of time. I honestly, don't know if I can think of a single objective fact, that people agree on anymore. I think everyone likes the wheel, but when it comes to leadership, and big ideas... I don't know, I'm really finding it difficult to think of one idea that is both intelligent, and popular. I mean, neither pollitical party believes in The Bill of Rights anymore... I used to think those were intelligent ideas that people would never let become unpopular, but here we are.

      The "War on Drugs", the "War on Terrorism", SOPA, Torturing citizens... All very incompetent ideas, that no one with a brain could support, and all very popular across all spectrums in America. It seems like we've crossed a threshold where smart people just aren't reproducing enough to fight to change public opinion for the better anymore. I have been a bit cynical lately though.
  • Jan 19 2012: I think popularity comes higher than whats smart. But, if u are looking at political issues, it might be a different aspect of popularity and smartness,

    In my opinion, the real smart guys can't easily win political popularity because politicians lie a lot.

    I think democracy is the better political way to power....even if the elected politicians end up practicing thier own priorities than whats best for their nations. Anyway, its the wealthy men playing games....we are just there watching....which ever way the ball moves.

    am i on the right wtruck? lol
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      Jan 20 2012: We need to get in the game... Wealthy men in politics right now are self destructive liers... and we've let that happen. I agree with you, but I find it intolerable.
      • Jan 20 2012: I agree that if something needs to be changed, it demands actions. One of the bad sides of democratic system is that, wrong public leaders use it as a way to keep themselves protected against public opposition.

        If it wasn't for poor political decisions at different levels and contexts, the world would have been by far a better place to live in.

        If we see it from the point of view of adding value to the society, there are lots of valuable guys that need credit. The majority of them are from the hard sciences...physics,biology, maths, chemistry...as you have mentioned it above.

        For instance, take a university professor who spent all his life researching for vaccines or a medical doctor spending all his days looking after sick people. They are by far smarter than lots of politicians talking all the day without changing what they promised to do.

        Anyway, the status quo needs to be challenged.