Today I reflected about my life again and I had something like a revelation: A lot of the problems I have had and developed in my life could have been at least partially caused by the lack of support I experienced during my childhood. It was more or less clear that I could be classified as “gifted”, but I have never gotten any special support from my family, or school, or any organisation whatsoever. I haven’t even skipped a single class, even though that certainly would have been possible. Instead, I’ve run through the regular school system as all other slightly above average intelligent persons would have, too.
There’s an eye opening article about individuals with a high IQ that seem to be excluded from influential positions. It suggests that having a too high IQ may be similarly debilitating and socially isolating as having a too low IQ. The outliers seem to have to fight with social problems that seem to simply come from the difficulty of finding like-minded people. Therefore, it would be logical to offer outliers special support, because they have to deal with special problems that more average people don’t have to cope with.
This is an observation that is related to the IQ distribution, but it probably also applies to other distributions as well, for example of personality traits and different deviations from the “neurotypical” norm.
I suspect that special individuals also have rather special needs, and not providing for these special needs equates to a form of neglect. This is problematic in at least two ways: First of all, special individuals will find it extremely difficult to find the right conditions to thrive, since they have to find out how to deal with their special needs on their own. This may prove to be too hard with conventional means, so these individuals might seek refuge in drugs and extreme activities (with suicide as last resort once most other alternatives have failed). The second point is the view from society at large: Special individuals often come with their own special talents and strengths which will be very prone to being wasted when society doesn’t have the right structures for actually using these talents. And I don’t really see such structures in society. There may be a few, but they are rare and don’t represent a systematic effort to use the talent that is dispersed in society. That’s not only socially catastrophic, it’s economically tremendously stupid, because so much potential goes down the drain without being tapped in a meaningful way!
Even if society isn’t actively hostile to those who have special talents, the lack of support effectively excludes them from having a significant positive impact, unless they get lucky in some way, or find an exceptionally good strategy for entering or creating a fitting niche in society.
This is an issue that many transhumanists also seem to be affected by. As group they seem to have an average level of intelligence that seems to be significantly above the norm. Yet, few of them maintain centrally important positions in society. At the moment it may be difficult to judge whether that’s an actually statistically significant observation, since the number of transhumanists is still pretty low.
And it’s also an issue which seems to be psychologically difficult to address, since the common way of thinking about highly intelligent individuals is that they are more resourceful and therefore do not require special help to be hugely successful or at least appropriately useful for society.
It’s this common way of thinking which I believe is a huge problem. It justifies neglecting the creation of supportive structures for gifted individuals. And it doesn’t deal with the reality of a huge amount of wasted talent and potential. We need to dispel the notion that gifted individuals do not require special support! Deviating from the norm always creates tremendous challenges, whether it’s a “negative” or a “positive” deviation!
Anyway, I’m not sure how deep this rabbit hole goes. I’d be happy to find supporting or contradicting evidence for the claims in this post.
What do you think about these issues? In what way are or aren’t you personally affected?