Aaron Clarey certainly has a tendency to argue based on his personal experience. However, there are limitations to that approach. I don’t think this has ever been clearer than in his book “The Curse of the High IQ.” The thesis of this book is that the world is a shitty place if you’re smart. There is a very strong and, quite frankly, pretty off-putting antagonistic vibe all throughout it.
Without wanting to toot my horn too much, I have to point out that I, just like Aaron Clarey, have a high IQ. I have faced plenty of the bullshit he describes in his book. Some of my problems, however, were due to my own making. Of course, mediocre people don’t like to be reminded of their own shortcomings. What is worse, if you are by far the smartest guy in the room, you tend to get cocky. What helped ground me, though, was to seek out an environment where that wouldn’t be the case anymore. For me, that change came when I attended an elite university. Of course, not everyone was brilliant there. On average, though, people were pretty damn smart as well as hard-working. Collaborating with smart people will seriously change how you view the world. You will no longer think that you’re head and shoulders above the rest. Instead, you’ll realize that you simply were the biggest fish in a small pond before, and now you’re in a different pond. You still have an IQ of 130+, but so do half of the people in your class, maybe even all of them, depending on the subject. Compare that to going to a state university where 50% of incoming students struggle with basic arithmetic!
Aaron Clarey points out the difficulties of finding a peer group if you’re really smart. He describes his difficulties with Meet-Ups, and his disappointment that very few people were interested in discussing Austrian Economics. There is a glaring omission, though: if you’re really smart, you normally don’t just dabble. Instead, you’ll get your smart peer group at work or a related professional setting. You may not want to hang out with those people in your spare time, smoking cigars, drinking whiskey, and playing poker, but if you put your IQ to good use and get a decent job, you will get all the mental stimulation you need. Sure, there will be a bit of bullshit to deal with, but it’s a far cry from what you have to endure in a regular job. To get back to Austrian Economics: Aaron Clarey may have an interest in this field, but I don’t think someone who has deeply studied this subject, for instance during a PhD program, would be too interested discussing this field with an amateur. I’m well-familiar with this phenomenon. There are a few subjects I have studied at considerable depth, but if you’re not at my level, I don’t think I would bother engaging you in a deep conversation about it. (Yes, I have attended Meet-Ups myself, and I found them severely lacking as the people there were, for the very most part, complete amateurs.) Similarly, if you know more about it than me, you may not care about what I have to say on it. In fact, the more you study a subject, the more specialized you will become, and the fewer people there will be to discuss it. Thus, I am not quite sure about the kind of conversational partners Aaron Clarey thinks he is missing. In my experience, thoroughly studying a textbook on X is enough to realize that at least half the people who claim to be specialists in X are hacks. If you don’t believe me, then take whatever subject you are knowledgeable about, go to the corresponding Reddit forum, and shudder at the ignorance you’ll have to face there.
I think the biggest issue is that Aaron Clarey is too obsessed with pushing back against society, when, in reality, there are plenty of people who can help you out, even if they may not be at your intellectual level. For instance, I really disliked my primary and secondary schooling, but in high school, I had teachers who tried working within the system and make my life a bit easier. For instance, I had an English teacher (we’re talking about a country where English is taught as a second language) who once took me aside and said that, based on my performance, there is nothing he can teach me, and said I could do whatever I want in class, as long as I don’t disturb the other students. Thus, I gained a few more productive hours a week. I still did the assignments, but they were trivial for me. My maths teacher, seeing that I was way above the rest, gave me separate assignment that went far beyond the curriculum — I did part of those during English lessons. But, sure, if you’re an asshole, you’ll get plenty of push-back. I got plenty myself, and it took me around two decades to learn my lesson.
Then there is the issue with work. Just like with school, you may have incompetent bosses or co-workers, but it won’t be the case that they are all, or almost all, incompetents, unlike what Aaron Clarey claims. Sure, you may be able to do a day’s work in two hours and slack off for the rest of the day, but what if you just slacked off for two just hours and spent the other four hours productively? Work on something, don’t be confrontational, and once you’re done, show it to your manager. I was once involved in a project where, based on my initiative, I was able to automate a few hours a day, day after day, of a small group of highly-specialized engineers. The result wasn’t that I got into trouble, or that my manager was fretting about having to fire half of those engineers. No, instead, they were happy that my work allowed them to spend their time in a more productive manner, so it resulted in a positive snow-balling effect. I think most people have a bunch of projects in a drawer they would like to devote some time to eventually. If there is anything to learn from that, it’s that for highly-skilled people there is always work left to do. I’m not just talking about STEM-degree holders. The same is true for skilled tradesmen. If you’re really good at your job, you may even have to turn down work. For instance, I know a highly-skilled tradesman who is so specialized and so good at his job that he has customers who are willing to wait for two years (!) for their turn.
So, you can either be a productive member of society, or you decide to go your own way and get pissed off because nobody wants to discuss Mises, Keynes or Hayek with you in your little corner of the world. If that’s so important to you, then go out into the big wide world and meet those people. Sure, to quote Aaron Clarey, there is plenty of “inferior scum” out there, but you can still make a difference. If you’re smart and driven, you will find it impossible to live a normal life. I agree that pastimes like watching sports may not be fulfilling for you, but this doesn’t mean that you can’t find your niche and arrange yourself with the world. I think a good indication of the confusion in Aaron Clarey’s “The Curse of the High IQ” is when he talks badly about the people of Wyoming. He likes the landscape, but not the people. Well, then pick what you want! You can’t have it all, and if you like a scenic environment and love your hikes, you may have to live with the fact that you’re just not going to bump into a critical mass of heterodox economists in your small town. Despite the difficulties you may face growing up in an antagonistic environment, life really opens up for high-IQ people and you will get plenty of opportunities. You don’t have to take them, but then you shouldn’t sit around, complaining how unfair life is.
Lastly, even though such comments are cheap shots, I have to point out that “The Course of the High IQ” has been poorly edited. You will come across glaring grammatical mistakes, some as shocking as confusing “your” and “you’re”, and quite a few typos. I’m referring to an early version of the paperback. It is possible that those mistakes have been fixed since the initial release.
“The Curse of the High IQ” is the first book of Aaron Clarey I have read that I cannot recommend. His experience is just too different from mine. What is worse, I consider a lot of his advice for high IQ people to be severely misguided. Yes, having a high IQ can be a burden. If you take Aaron Clarey’s advice on the matter, though, it will likely only become an even bigger burden for you.
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