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Native intelligence and skill


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Originally posted by SonOfSwamp

Brother Katen wrote, back when we were talking about immigrant labor:id="blue">

"In addition to attitude, I'd make my choice based on basic intelligence and ability to learn and adapt. Attitude is great, but it doesn't make up for lack of brain cells."

I say: id="blue">

I agree heartily. It's funny, though, that when one brings up native intelligence in the context of work, the penalty is to be cast as some kind of snob or mean guy. As if it's possible to reach out through the ether and knock somebody into dumbassland.

Truth is, each of us is only as good as his brain. Whether it's rocket science, poetry, ballet or tackle football, a person's output is going to be a direct result of his wetware.

A while back, my daughter's speed/agility trainer engaged me in a conversation about Mensa, the organization for people who can prove that they have an IQ in the top 2% of the world population. (Trainer had recently joined up.) Anyhow, I got interested, did a little Internet research, and found charts that show the average IQ of the average PhD. candidate, physician, poet, upper-management person, clerk, typist, all the way down to menial laborer.

Bottom line is: Really dumb people can't get much done. It's not necessarily their fault; they were just born with 1-cylinder engines. These days, such engines are outdated. If we want work (say building, for instance) done right, we're just going to have to find workers who are smarter than the current crop.

A Sisyphusean task, I think.


Oh, how you love to rock that boat. I do admit it is fun, so let's rumble.

While you say you agree heartily with Brother Katen, your argument departs from what he wrote. While he writes, "In addition to attitude..." you write, "Truth is, each of us is only as good as his brain." You make no mention of "in addition" to anything else.

Native intelligence is one of the greatest gifts a person can have. But it is a resource. Resources can be used to do great good or great evil. Now I am not talking about touchy-feely good and evil. You can't argue logically with that sort of crap. I'm simply stating that there are positive and negative consequences of using any resource.

I suspect that the person with the greatest native intelligence at any particular time in history is likely to be pulling a rickshaw. But that person has the potential to do more good - or at least less bad - than the brightest person with power and a greedy soul. Additionally, that rickshaw operator can't get much done, not because he has only one cylinder, but because it is his current lot in life. (Or her, obviously.)

So far as needing to find "workers who are smarter than the current crop," I see that as a partial truth. The potential of the current "crop" is unknown. Given consistent, rigorous, academic and practical education, I have little doubt that many would fail and many would succeed. That seems to me more a matter of laziness than native intelligence, however.

I managed to graduate at the top of my class in college. I was the president of two discipline-specific honor societies and I am an active member of Phi Kappa Phi. Graduating at the top of my class meant that I had the best grades, but I know for a fact that I was not the smartest person - I just worked harder.

I'm pretty sure I wouldn't want to be the "smartest" person. There seems to be a social inaptitude that often accompanies genius. I prefer Guinness.

And so far as pushing boulders uphill, just to watch them roll back down, I think that's what people do from generation to generation. It's my kids' turn now.[;)]id="green">

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Your agreement with Brother Katen misled me since he states, "Attitude is great, but it doesn't make up for lack of brain cells."

(And I'm not trying to get all picky here - just having some fun with someone I respect.)

You are saying attitude is a direct result of brain cells. In fact everything about a person is due to his/her brain. I have to agree with that! I can't feel, reason, or do much of anything but piss with my kidneys. And the kidneys are useless without the brain. Personality, motivation, and attitude all come from the various regions of the brain.

In artificial intelligence circles - over 20 years ago - programmers viewed the "brain" as the hardware of a person and the "mind" as the software running in the hardware. I don't know why people have such a need to oversimplify everything. That mass of stuff between our ears is likely a frontier we will not fully understand before our sun cools.

I agree with you, Walter. (It's generally dangerous to do otherwise.[:-thumbu])

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I don’t know if I’m even smart enough to discuss this. People are born with different sets of smarts. Some have the smartability to write prose. Some have the smartabilty to understand mathematical calculations. Some have that smartability to memorize books. And some have that smartability to become professional athletes.

We are born with an innate amount of intelligence. This intelligence in most cases has to be nurtured,. Look at the underdeveloped countries where tribes are more common then indoor plumbing. Some of theses humans are probably “geniusâ€

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You mean, especially in this country.

"I personally believe that U.S. Americans are unable to do so because some people out there in our nation don't have maps and I believe that our education like such as in South Africa and Iraq and everywhere like such as and I believe that they should our education over here in the U.S. should help the U.S. or should help South Africa and should help Iraq and the Asian countries so we will be able to build up our future for us"[:-graduat

Ms. Upton

Honestly, we all have our stupid moments.

How about this one:

"Home inspectors in NY can't inspect new construction."

What kind of idiot says something like that?

Knowing how to laugh is often the most intelligent skill.[:-slaphap

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Originally posted by randynavarro

Wow, you guys are gettin' over my head.

But the question remains; does it take a high IQ to frame a subfloor correctly per the codes and mfr's specs?

It wouldn't hurt.

I think it would be a challenge if you had an IQ that's significantly below average.

- Jim Katen, Oregon

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In such jobs one of the problems is how to KEEP thinking, day after day, when you are doing pretty much the same thing, day after day.


For example, consider a few of the many different kinds of "intelligence" that make for a decent rehab crew member:

The ability to anticipate: "If I do step A now, will it make it difficult/impossible to do step D later?"

Good spatial imiganation: "What is on the other side of this place where I'm about to drill this hole?"

Attention to detail in repetitive work: The ability to drive 500 nails when hanging siding without over-driving the 501st

Creativity: The first time you are asked to move the claw foot tub out the 24" door and down the stairs to the dumpster, do you reach for the hand truck or the sledge?

You need a certain level of "native intelligence" to do such work. but how good you will be, and what you will be best and worst at, depends a *lot* on the proportions in which fate has ladled out these "talents", IMO at birth or before.

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I once remodelled gas station showrooms. We got *kits* with thousands of pieces; brackets, panels, nuts, bolts, thingys. I would still be reading the directions if it wasn't for my partner who immediately picked up pieces and started putting them together, correctly. This was one of those "if you don't do step A before B, you're screwed when it comes to steps W, X and Y". He just looked at the pieces and *saw* how they should go together. Smartest guy I ever worked with.

K-Mart sucks.

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I clearly got shorted on the whole gig; it's the primary explanation for my career as a home inspector. [:-banghea

Although, when it comes to windsurfing, I get in the zone pretty well. It's like skiing down a double black diamond mountain, only the mountain is moving and there's an avalanche, AND, you have to intuit the wind shifts to keep it all connected.

Not sure how it all works; as soon as you start thinking about what you're doing, you explode.

Phil Jackson called it being in the zone. Sounds about right.

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But, too, there are different kinds of intelligence and innate abilities that we are simply hardwired with from birth. My best friend--who now owns a successful company with 100+ employees--and I were roommates throughout most of college. I remember staring into a Calculus textbook when we were freshmen, and saying aloud, "I simply don't get it. This makes no sense whatsoever."

He'd say, "Of course it does," and then explain it as if it were as logical as 2 + 2. When it came to writing, though, or truly understanding something he'd read, he was at an utter loss. To this day, and I love him, if he wrote a one-page description of anything, you'd swear it was created by an eighth-grader. It wasn't a matter of one person being more gifted than the other, it was just the way our brains perceived whatever we were looking at. Even now, he's a Sudoku solver whereas I work the NY Times crossword every day.

And it's not that I'm not logical or incapable of solving problems--I once belonged to Mensa 'cause I thought it would be a cool way to meet chicks--it's just that my brain isn't wired to wrap itself around calculus equations.

I did pass, oh-by-the-way. But only barely.

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Now entering the realm of personal opinion: I wouldn't want anybody with an IQ below 100 working on anything. 100's average.

More interesting to me, right now anyway: There are gifted athletes with low IQs. Where do their superhuman skills come from?

The other day, I was watching one of the science channels, and saw techs prove that Jerry Rice can go into forward motion in less time than a lightning bolt lasts. The same show showed how top basketball players can keep a 360-degree view of the court in their head, based on a previous scan of the court. (Hence, the no-look pass.) And, finally, a major-league hitter has to calculate the speed and location of a ball in less time than it takes to blink an eye.

In the book, "Newton at the Bat," athletes say that they can't explain how they do these amazing things. They just make it happen.

Getting pretty close to metaphysics now...


The human brain is an absolutely fascinating piece of equipment. Look at the phenomenon of autistic savants. (Commonly referred to as idiot savants.) A processing deficiency in one or more areas is far from a total inability to function.

Similarly, but on a much simpler level, my eldest son (age 17) was deprived of oxygen at birth due to the umbilical cord being wrapped around his neck and a protracted birth procedure. Some damage to his brain resulted from this. He can read a simple sentence and yet not begin to explain what it means. But his memory of places visited is amazing, as is his ability to easily remember numbers such as won/loss records or football and basketball scores. It's not like he memorizes them after hours of work--he reads them once and they are locked in.

As for me, it's a lost cause to expect me to remember names or faces -- even if I was just introduced to someone. Yet I can recall telephone numbers I haven't used in 10 years. And I can repeat conversations, almost verbatim, that happened years ago.


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I'd have to say it doesn't take a high IQ to frame a floor properly, but a moron will screw it up every time. It would greatly help anyone with even minimal intelligence if the guy training and overseeing them was good at his job, but that isn't always the case either.

The athletics, the mind/body synthesis, is fasinating stuff. Abilities like those Walters describes are possible for a number of reasons, including practice, instinct, and a young lifetime of singular pursuit. Those things, and the brains ability to calculate, measure, and make choices far faster in the unconscious parts of the mind than in the conscious. Anybody here ever played a sport like racquetball? At times the play is so fast you can't possibly use your conscious mind; no thought, just action and reaction.

My personal favorite is golf though. When I putt, I take a good look from the opposite side, maybe another quick one from behind if it's tricky-looking, two practice strokes, and go. The last thing I do before "going" is turn off the conscious; don't think about anything. It works great for me, and I can only say that I believe the back of my brain knows what to do if I'll just get the info in and keep the front of my brain out of the way.

Brian G.

The Unconscious Putter [:-cyclops

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Heres one of thought:

As far as intelligence goes, how do you think people view themselves? As humans do we understand and identify our individual level of intelligence?

For instance:

Am I smarter than I think I am? Am I smart and know it? Am I not smart but think I am. Am I not smart and realize and accept it?

Where do you think most people fall when they view themselves?

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I've stayed out of this discussion because I simply do not have the ability to express my thoughts and opinions in writing. Strange? Why would I think that? Couple of bullet points.

We all use abt 12% of available brain material

We are not all equal

It is wonderful that we are split into different levels of intellect and it has nothing to do with our worth or value.

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As you would expect, this topic goes all over the map.


You didn't get shorted. I've learned many lessons from you, my friend.


Consciously, most people likely believe they are smarter than they actually are. But the subconscious often shows through in the hostile defensive posture they take when questioned. The subconscious is often more honest.


Good points about youthful singular pursuit. It has been shown that there is a single physical attribute that gives a person an advantage in any team sport. Great peripheral vision makes a person appear much more responsive than anyone else on the team. I'm going to try your golf technique - my short game screws me every time.


Savants are indeed fascinating! Cosmic Bluetooth and wetware seem less like bullshift (Rob) when you experience the wonders of savants.


As usual, you show great wisdom.

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I feel better now.

As far as the short game......

Those we think of as masters have their goals in order to enhance their practice; the dubs practice continually thinking it achieves their goals.

Michael Jordan plays 54 holes of golf @ a run thinking it makes him better. Tiger Woods plays 18, then goes over to the practice range to work on the stuff that he screws up.

The point being.....Goals are transcient; practice is forever.

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I have always been very comfortable associating with those that are smarter than me. Most intelligent folks are also quite polite and pleasant. There is the rub. In this age of communication without physical contact, it puts the skills my parents taught me to the supreme test. I come from an era of conversation with the benefit of sight.

Spending time with a few of you in Missouri last summer was a joy for me. The knowledge, in and out of the classroom setting was enormous! It was free! It was there for my taking! I was at a proverbial "well" and I could drink as much as I wanted. We (present company) give and take the knowledge available. I have never seen Gary R, but suspect it would take about a second for a mind-meld to happen and there would be a copious free flow of info, facts, anecdotes, sarcasism, life experiences, smiles, frowns, and laughing! I would be taking from him and trying to give back. He, every single person I meet, has something to give me. I just have to continue to learn how to accept it. We are complex beings even when we leave emotion out of the equation.

I have always suspected I was born with a little more nature that was grown into nurture by the parents. I never doubt that my parents, friends and family are to blame for who I am.

Now I have to make an appointment for a PET scan and mark my calendar for the early on-set of Alzheimer's. The mad cow ain't gonna get me!

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