Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Genius and Insanity

“Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”


~Albert Einstein


"In truth, it's not easy to predict who will turn out to be a visionary and who a crank, says psychologist Angela Duckworth of the University of Pennsylvania, who studies the traits that lead to success. Geniuses and catastrophic failures share many of the same characteristics, including determination, intense concentration, passion, and a disregard for conventional wisdom. "And both are willing to persist when everyone else thinks it's a ridiculously low-probability idea," she adds."

From: The Boy Who Wants to Live Forever... and Other Champions of the Lost Cause



See also: www.crackedpots.org


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13 comments:

Uncle Al said...

1) Einstein never suffered Wincrap XP. I'ts like plugging leaks in cheesecloth stuffed with cat hair.

2) The divergence between genius and insanity includes a)literature references, b) reduction to practice, c) consistency with all prior observation.

Is the vacuum anisotropic (pdf) toward opposite parity mass distributions? Crackpot idea supported by toy theories! - unless it is empirically true. It's easy enough to test with big budgets (Eotvos balance) or small (html) budgets (and nothing prior would be contradicted).

Rae Ann said...

Genius and insanity are both "anomalies" of the brain. That they often occur together isn't too surprising. Both manifest in greater than average creativity in thinking, but the trick, which is harder than it appears to many, is to know if your creativity is "reality" based or not.

I'm sure Uncle Al is some kind of genius because 75% of the time I don't understand him. ;-) Well, I guess it could also be that he's insane too. Or maybe, I'm the insane one? ;-)

This reminds me of a Latin saying:

Marcus Tullius Cicero: Catonis admodum scitum est, qui mirare se aiebat quod non rideret haruspex haruspicem vidisset.

"What astonishes me, is that when two diviners meet, they can keep from laughing at one another."

CarlBrannen said...

I've got my relativistic gravity simulator running. It gives demonstrations of various gravity things like the stability of orbits around black holes. And you can stop it and change the initial conditions.

As a known crackpot, despite the above simulations, of course I don't believe in even special relativity, but think it is just an elegant and convenient approximation.

Anonymous said...

Hi,

“Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

Was Albert hinting on quantum physics? with this remark..

QP never seemed to be his favored cup of tea!

Greetings

Klaus

Arun said...

Klaus beat me to it, but clearly Einstein also dealt with classical probability, e.g., it is not insane to keep throwing dice and expecting different results, so by results here,Einstein included probability distributions.

Pioneer1 said...

If I remember correctly you (Bee) said in one of your comments to me that "knowledge is not identical to intelligence." I agree. There is no evidence that genius knows more than not genius.

Genius, and its cousin fame, is the criteria the Big Media uses to classify humans because fame is the only quantity the Media understands. Hard work and effort and honesty are more important qualities of humans than an unquantifiable notion such as genius.

amaragraps said...

Thanks for the article, Bee. I was/am more interested in the topic of the title and what I discovered on page 5. Pleasantly surprised, in fact. The immortalists/ longevitists/ transhumanists (there many labels) are in, of all places, Psychology Today! And the author did not paint them/us as flakes, despite the title of the piece.

Here's to all of those Not-lost Causes, that human beings feel passionate about!

Bee said...

Hi Amara,

I too found that interesting, though it didn't fit too good into the context of the article. There are definitely stranger versions of afterlife that much more people believe in. It seems to me though that such attempts crucially rely on the conviction that scientific knowledge does never get lost, and that progress goes on, esp. for those who want to be frozen in with the hope that someday in the far future someone will come reanimate them (and why would somebody want to do that?)

Hi RaeAnn,

but the trick, which is harder than it appears to many, is to know if your creativity is "reality" based or not.

True. One could say the difference between being ingenious and insane is whether or not the majority agrees on your version of reality...

I like the quotation! Didn't know that before, thanks :-)

Hi Klaus, Hi Arun,

yeah, I think so. I am not really sure though from which context the quotation stems.

Hi Pioneer,

the media only uses characteristics that it can transport easily. Wit, good looks, intellect, scandals, well told stories. 'Genius' doesn't suffice, it has to come with a story. But then it's the story that is important. There is a long history of ingenious people who never made it becoming famous while alive. I.e. before somebody told their story.

Best,

B.

amaragraps said...

Aubrey de Grey is probably the best-known person working on longevity. The author in the article dismissed him, but I wonder if she ever heard him describe his ideas and work. Doesn't sound crazy at all. YouTube has some of those interviews, for example: This video: (excellent answers to common questions) (CBC Canada Now) (half of the comments were about his beard.. I hope he doesn't ever get rid of it, the beard is his trademark..) Another excellent video and interview is this one: Good Morning America.

On cryonics:
"It seems to me though that such attempts crucially rely on the conviction that scientific knowledge does never get lost,"

Not really. Cryonics suspension is one thing. You preserve with minimal damage what you think is the essence of a human and wait. The technology, as it is today, can do nothing else.

"and that progress goes on, esp. for those who want to be frozen in with the hope that someday in the far future someone will come reanimate them"

That is where nanotech or some other future technology (not now) can make a difference.

"(and why would somebody want to do that?)"

Why would I want to hear the music again of my dead cousin ? Why would I want to participate in the polymathic world of my dead grandfather? Why would I be interested to hear the next story of my favorite dead writer? Or touch the next sculpture of my favorite dead sculptor? Or hear that language again that disappeared forever when that last speaker died?

Why would parents want to animate their frozen embryo? Why would I want to have another decade or two or three or more to live (to develop my ideas, my friendships, my family, my hobbies)? Why do I like to love? Why do I like to learn? Why do I like to have fun?

It's part of who and what we are, that is to grow, develop, explore, and go beyond ourselves in every way possible (and enjoying the ride along the way).

Bee said...

Hi Amara,

It didn't sound crazy to me.

The technology, as it is today, can do nothing else.

That's the point I was trying to make. You rely on future generations developing the technology. This might happen. But it definitely requires that development and research is supported today and in the future.

Why would I want to hear the music again of my dead cousin ? Why would I want to participate in the polymathic world of my dead grandfather? Why would I be interested to hear the next story of my favorite dead writer? Or touch the next sculpture of my favorite dead sculptor? Or hear that language again that disappeared forever when that last speaker died?

That might be okay if there are, say, 100 people frozen. But who would want to unfreeze the whole population of China two centuries later? If you want to touch the next sculpture of your favorite artist, you'd focus on the creative and ingenious people, no? Those who have supporters, connections, money. Who makes this selection about who is going to 'live again' and who is doomed to stay frozen until eternity?

Best,

B.

Rae Ann said...

Maybe in the future people will marvel at today's frozen people in the same way we marvel at frozen whooly mammoths?

dark-matter said...

"Delusion - religious belief in a single set of dogma and expect total comprehension."

"Genius - Sees A when all others sees B, then proceeds to see C and use it to falsify B."

Michael Anissimov said...

Boy Who Wants to Live Forever here. I just checked and can report that I am blatantly not insane, in fact most of what I say is well thought-out. Cryonics is a real option and most of the stated objections do not hold water.

I am not insane in the least. Only genius here.

With a sufficiently large infrastructure, there'd be no problem at all with freezing many millions of people and then reviving them later. Cryonics dewars require only the replenishment of liquid nitrogen - no electricity needed. An industrial-scale pumping system could be developed to deal with this, though I doubt that so many people will choose to be frozen before the technology to revive them is developed (2030-2060ish).

All that said, Psychology Today is an extremely flakey publication. Like other pop-psychology magazines, they make the whole field look bad with their lack of rigor and flights of speculative fancy. For instance, I was psycho-analyzed in depth by the author when all she knew of me was a 30-minute phone conversation. It's just silly. Try reading publications associated with evolutionary and cognitive psychology, instead.