Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Can anyone learn to be a genius?

This awesome question was asked in Quora and I think more people deserve to read about it, so I reprint here: What patterns can be observed in the way geniuses think and behave?

Satvik Beri:

Here are a few patterns I've seen among the smartest people I've met (primarily professors or graduate students). Not saying that these are replicable, or that doing so will make you a genius, just that these patterns seem to exist:

  1. They're extremely talented at going up and down levels of abstraction. Geniuses tend to be able to fit seemingly unrelated facts into the big picture almost instantly, and drill down to any level of detail. On a related note, when learning they tend to learn at every level of abstraction at once, rather than simply building from the bottom up or top down like most people.
  1. They make a lot of assumptions. This may seem counterintuitive-we've often heard that creative thinking requires breaking existing assumptions. And this may be true, but it seems like geniuses tend to make a lot of assumptions very quickly, test their hypotheses, and then change their assumptions very slowly if it's necessary.
  1. They come up with unique ways to compress information. A smart person might see a difficult Mathematical theorem as a connection of ten steps, whereas a genius might visualize it and see it all as one picture.
  1. They separate emotion or external thoughts from their thinking. At least in science, geniuses tend to never attach any external meaning to their thoughts-as an example, they could think about how to efficiently invade a country or release a horrible weapon without feeling phased by the image of the devastation that would involve. Similarly, they can often focus on their work no matter what they're going through-whether it's loud noises or personal trauma.
  1. They connect seemingly unrelated things. A genius will frequently follow a T-shaped model of learning: be an expert on one things and dabble in a lot. They will frequently get inspired by or make connections between things that are unrelated to their main research.

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