The boy who knew too much: a child prodigy

This is the true story of scientific child prodigy, and former baby genius, Ainan Celeste Cawley, written by his father. It is the true story, too, of his gifted brothers and of all the Cawley family. I write also of child prodigy and genius in general: what it is, and how it is so often neglected in the modern world. As a society, we so often fail those we should most hope to see succeed: our gifted children and the gifted adults they become. Site Copyright: Valentine Cawley, 2006 +

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

A vote for President.

About four or five months ago, on a whim, I asked Tiarnan, four, an unexpected question.

“Who is smarter?” I began, catching his attention by the suddenness of my question.

His curious eyes peered up at me, in expectation.

“Daddy, or the President of America?”, I continued.

Daddy!”, he said without even a millisecond of hesitation, as if nothing else could possibly be true.

It was sweet to hear his certainty, but then his certainty led me to reflect: not only was it most likely to be true of me, but true, too, of millions of people around the world. There are almost certainly enough people smarter than President Obama, to populate a very large country with…yet, he is President, and they are not. Is this right? Is this wise?

The question here is: should the President of America (or any other nation) be among the brightest of the bright? From the point of view of understanding the issues and making wise decisions, I would say that the brighter they are, the better. Obama has, for instance, in my view, made decisions that show a lack of moral intelligence: he just doesn’t grasp the issues deeply enough to see the essential moral problems of the questions he is called upon to answer…so he gives immoral answers (Google my prior posts on Obama and ethics). However, there is one problem: leaders have to lead – and, in practical terms, people don’t tend to follow someone who is too much brighter than they are – because they just don’t understand them.

The rule of thumb is that a leader should not be more than 30 IQ points smarter than the led, to permit effective communication. This certainly holds in the case of Singapore, for Lee Kuan Yew admitted in one interview on TV that his IQ was in the 120s…this would place him above average and still able to communicate to his followers, but does mean that he is most certainly not the brightest of the bright. He is just good enough to guide a majority of people – which is all you need in politics.

So, Obama has a brain. Yes. However, it is not the best of brains. It is an adequate one – one that allows him to bring to him, the greatest proportion of the electorate. Were Obama much brighter, he would probably have not been elected, for his way of thinking would be too opaque and unreachable to his electorate. Thus, America will have to be satisfied with Obama, the above average. Unless the electoral system changes, there will never be an “Obama the genius”, in American democratic politics.

That is why the world is the way it is. The very bright sit at home and wonder at the stupidity of the decisions made by politicians who are only bright enough to do their jobs, moderately well, at best. The very bright rarely get the chance to play a role in such arenas, simply because of the way they communicate with the world. Only if we moved away from the present form of democratic governments, would this ever be likely to change.

Until then, little children the world over, can rightfully declare their Daddies to be cleverer than the President of the United States – and in many cases, it would actually be true.

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 6:31 PM 


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hmm... but wouldn't the alternative, leadership by the very brightest, have a greater potential for corruption and exploitation? I mean, if the people aren't smart enough to understand their leaders, the leaders could do whatever they want.

2:36 AM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Thank you, Safireau for raising this point. However, you should note that criminality tends to decline with rising IQ (high IQ types tend to be more law abiding). Even without this tendency to lawfulness, there is another factor which would work against the possibility of cunning exploitation of one's position: people can see the results of leadership and don't have to be very bright to do so. Therefore, people could judge the effectiveness of a very bright leader, even if they couldn't really understand them, on a personal level.

Some of the problems the world faces needs very bright leaders, to solve...not so so ones. Unfortunately, we are unlikely to get such leaders in present systems.

Best wishes.

10:29 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with you that a highly intelligent leader could greatly improve society. What I think you forgot to mention in this post is the value of personal character. Intelligence is an important quality in a leader, but not the only important quality.

Let's consider all the cases (because I'm a math person and I like to do this):

-A highly intelligent person, with poor morals
This is the worst case scenario, what I think I had in mind when I posted earlier. At worst, this type of person could only be described as evil.

-A not very intelligent person, with poor morals
Not good at all, one could only hope that their stupidity leads to their downfall. That is, that they make a mistake which reveals the type of person they are and that society catches it before they have to suffer under such a rule.

-A not very intelligent person, with good personal character
Unfortunately, good intentions do not necessarily lead to good results. Such a person can make many mistakes, and is easily duped.

-A highly intelligent, moral person
Clearly, the best situation. Society would progress in leaps and bounds. Unfortunately, I think such people are pretty rare and generally decide not to go into politics. I agree that the current situation needs to be changed, the system doesn't seem to reward people like this.

Also, a good leader needs to be mature and have experience.

4:36 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just reread your post and if you're considering moral intelligence as a type of intelligence then never mind.

4:37 AM  

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