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Politics & Current Affairs

David Brooks Takes Another Whack at the Genius Myth

Add to the Gladwellian oeuvre on talent, precocity and its discontents, a few notes on how practice can make perfect from another pretty smart guy, David Brooks.

Brooks shies away from the neuro-chemical explanations that chart IQ from the moment of conception. Hooey, Brooks reports. Sit down at the piano bench or step up to the canvas and log in about 10,000 hours of hardcore practicing and it could get you to where you want to be just as well as the IQ express train. Plus, just consider the odds; your chances of having an off-the-charts IQ is pretty low.

You can examine the IQ Curve here.

Also consider the meme of IQ getting tied up in gender and race arguments, and the whole measure of intelligence by a universal yardstick starts to look pretty unsavory.

But diligence and dedication can have their fallout just like IQ, especially in competitive societies. As one commenter writes to Brooks, “If the price of excellence is brow-beaten, obsessive dedication to one topic (that may or may not results in success), I’ll gladly settle for “jack of all trades, master of nothing.”

Harvard law professor Laurence Tribe voices an argument for intelligence to be put into societal hands. What good will piano prodigies do in the terrorism or climate change debates anyway? It’s all about “collective intelligence,” Tribe argues, and, however we measure it, we could use a lot more of it.


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