How Smart Are You?

Have you ever wondered about the status of your own intelligence? Have you ever wondered just where you stand on the bell curve? Sure there are formal tests, most of us have taken one or two in our day. There are also those “only a genius can spot the difference” clickbait schemes we see on the interwebs. But do these really tell us what we are asking if we ponder such a question?


We could look back to grades or educational achievement, and to be certain there are many among us that would want us all to believe that degrees and grades prove intelligence but I am not so certain. In fact, I am rather certain that most ‘A’ students are not highly intelligent at all. They are high-functioning midwits that work hard and follow rules. Students that desired ‘A’ marks but could only manage ‘Bs’ are doubly worrisome, as they are likely not even high-functioning midwits. In the new scheme of five and six-point grading scales many more people are really ‘B’ students given a curve than most realize.


I have always suspected that ‘C’ and ‘D’ students that could make ‘As’ if they merely tried were some of the smartest among us. Not the smartest, but just below that group. Of course, one probably never finds such a student in an Ivy League program. Such a person will never obtain a Ph.D. from a state college, probably they could not even mail off for one from Pheonix University. One has to be smart enough to know the rules and dedicated enough to play by them for all that.


I have worked with my share of Ivy League types, I once led a team full of them, me the only outlier. Such people paid more attention early on than others, they gathered more information at a younger age, but I have never been struck by the idea that they are the smart people. It just never seemed so to me.


If we were to ask in an informal and pseudo-anonymous poll for people to tell us who they believe the smart people are and to rank themselves as in or out of that group I suspect we would find the answers aligned to the grade analogy above. ‘A’ students that saw the rules and followed them would think they and people like them were smart. ‘B’ students, in a private poll, would admit the thing they fear all of their lives, that they really are less than the people that they want to be. Both groups would look down upon the others, those below them.


I always suspected the super-smart among us made ‘As’ or ‘Fs’, depending upon what they decided to put up with. These are so rare most of us have never really met such a person, not a real super genius – the sort that is two to three standard deviations above average.


But what of the really smart folks, those just below the super-smart? People, that are one to two standard deviations above average. This group can pass for either crazed lunatics or super-geniuses in the eyes of the mundane. This group is noticeably smarter than 95% of the population but very often at a cost. They are not so much smarter as to be understandable by the ordinary and less than ordinary. These are not the super-geniuses that understand the ordinary better than the ordinary understand themselves (sometimes).  I have always suspected that these sorts were ‘C’ and ‘D’ students, seldom the types to achieve academic success, never Ph.Ds. Many probably achieve only mediocre success in life, hated and misunderstood by the hard-working rule followers. Early in life, they encountered bosses and professors who either could not understand them, or if they did notice the superior intellect they feared and hated it.


The population of the United States in 2022 is just over 332 million souls. If we accept historical IQ test results this means that 129 million fairly stupid people live among us (IQs between 76 and 95) and 295 million midwits that believe they are smart and accomplished.


This leaves about 12 million really smart people. Studies over the years do not paint a consistent picture. How many of these withdraw, cannot adjust and become their own versions of Ted Kacynski we can not know. For the sake of argument, let's assume half just do not make it in life, leaving us with six million very smart people out there in the world. These can do almost anything they set their mind to. They are so smart that they overcame the objections of lesser men early on, they have social intelligence along with their innate general intelligence. Smart people often begat smart children, and we would probably detect some degree of generational wealth and privilege among many (but not all) in this group. In a very real sense, these are the elites of our world, and it is this group that the smarter, more accomplished from the ordinary group assumes that they themselves must be a member of. Of course, the super-smart are fine occasionally allowing a midwit to hold that fantasy, so long as they do not cause too much trouble.


This leaves us with 29.8 million of the ‘C’ and ‘D’ students described above. People with IQs between 116 and 125. This group was always smarter than their teachers and bosses and smart enough to see the absurdity of the world but not always smart enough to fool the mundane midwits that dominate most of life.


We live in a country where 6 million control and dominate 129 million feckless souls that are not smart enough to fully understand their own limitations but are just swift enough to know they have to find a side and some rules to follow so that nobody ever calls them out for their deficiencies. Somewhere, in quiet rooms, perhaps turning to alcohol or drugs sit the other half of our genius class, people that tuned out long ago because they solved the equation early on. And then we have God’s ironic joke, the 29 million that had to work for idiots and are continuously misunderstood by morons.


Sometimes I wonder how smart I am. I know that the harder I seek answers to fundamental questions the more I find that I was previously wrong about small parts of the equation. I know I am not a midwit, I cannot think as a reductionist and simplify the equation to such a degree it becomes a mere addition problem. The equation becomes more complex for me with each variable I solve. I also know I was neither an ‘A’ or a ‘B’ student. I was all ‘Ds’ and ‘Cs’, always late with assignments, and never focusing on the reading I was assigned.


My conclusion?  My IQ must be between 66 and 85!  Thank God! I would hate to find myself among those delusional midwits.