Smartest People in the World

Nov 9, 2007

John P from One Man’s Blog has posted a “Massive List of Geniuses”. These are apparently the smartest people alive:

An interesting list. But what strikes me is how many of these people are unknown quantities. How many of these people have you heard of? Or do you know what they have done? Most of us probably know the likes of James Wood and Sharon Stone. A number will know who the Paul Allen is. But Philip Emeagwali? Or Kim Ung-Yong? As a math geek, I know of Andrew Wiles, but even then my knowledge is limited to the fact that he solved Fermat’s Last Theorem. Non chess fans might not even recognize the names Robert Byrne and Judith Polgar.

I’m not trying to knock these people. I admire their intelligence, and I’m very sure they’ve done well in their field, and contributed in some manner. Full credit to them. But what I do want to highlight is how the people that have made the most contributions to our lives, the ones that have really pushed the boundaries and changed things, aren’t really on the list. From the world of technology, has Paul Allen’s contribution been any more than Steve Jobs, Steve Wosniak, Bill Gates, Sergey Brin or Larry Page, for example? I personally don’t think so. Is he smarter than all of them? I don’t know.

Also, it’s interesting to note that no prominent businessman, those whose products and decisions tend to affect our lives, is on the list. Donald Trump or Richard Branson, for example. Would anyone disagree if I said they are two very intelligent people? Certainly the decision-making and foresight of all these people (Steve Jobs, Donald Trump, etc) are really good as well. Just as good as the likes of Christopher Langan, perhaps?

What am I trying to say? Firstly, that I believe the IQ testing procedure is flawed. There are so many facets to intelligence. IQ tests tend to test more of the academia aspect of it, in my opinion. Jim Loy has a short, interesting writeup on it. A quote from there: “Someone once said that IQ tests measure your ability to take IQ tests.” I think that’s a very good statement. The controversies around IQ tests are well documented, I believe, so I won’t go into it much. But just want to say where I stand in the debate.

The second and more important point, if you ask me, a high IQ is not an accurate measure of the impact one can have on society, and the difference a person can make. I doubt anyone will say that Sergey Brin has made less of a difference in the world than Kasparov has. You don’t have to have a high IQ to be significant. And that’s the most important thing that the list reflects, in my opinion.

I doubt any of us have IQ levels of the people in the list (if you do, I would really love to hear from you). I know I don’t. But even then, it doesn’t mean you can’t change the world.

Link via Hoovaloo: The Massive List of Geniuses