Thursday, July 17, 2008

The Outsiders

I had a fascinating correspondence with Grady Towers in the pre-email days of my Prometheus Society membership. Grady succeeded me briefly as president. I remember this essay coming out in Gift of Fire, the in-house publication poorly-printed in the days just after mimeographs. It convinced me to stick around and give the society one more chance. The essay starts with a discussion - fascinating but based on unreliable (and probably exaggerated) information - of William James Sidis, who, it is claimed, had the highest IQ in history. But the meat of the essay is the extended discussion whether the superintelligent are more likely to be socially inept and isolated. Grady and many others lean toward the explanation that people of high-to-very-high IQ are better socially adjusted than average, but that something starts to happen around the 155 range, and there is a large percentage of misfits.

The update is that Asperger Syndrome was little-known and poorly understood at that time. There is growing speculation that some manifestations of AS or High-Functioning Autism are common in the extreme range of ability for certain disciplines, which would be a confounding factor in measuring the social adjustment of those of ultra-high IQ. Incidentally, I no longer see or classify myself as an ultra High. I think test accidents and personality traits made it look that way, but were partly an illusion.


Anonymous said...

I put what you said on Fire List and added this...

Well I think David's last two sentences are wrong! And I also think the comments on Asperger's are wrong. Aspergers is applied to everything nowadays and explains nothing. It usually is a label given to everyone who either:

1. Misses some clues given in nonverbal signals during social interaction. Who doesn't?

2. is somewhat withdrawn and obsessed about some narrow subject, like Sidis apparently was in his later years. Again, so what? Go to the standing room section of the Metropolitan Opera and you will see people who get so much aesthetic joy out of opera that they stand in line for hours every week just for the privilege of standing and watching an opera. You could coin a term and say that they suffer from "Classical Music Intense Appreciation Syndrome" What does this add??

Assistant Village Idiot said...

I work as a psychiatric social worker. In the last two weeks we have re-diagnosed two schizophreniform disorders as AS. If we did not have an increased awareness of this moderately common and sometimes functional syndrome, those two young men would likely be wrongly treated and less functional than they could be.

Lots of things are overused as diagnoses - ADHD, for example. That does not mean that the category does not give important insights.

Or, you could let those poor bastards have ruined lives. That remains an option, I suppose.

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Nocti said...

"I work as a psychiatric social worker. "

In other words, by definition you not only agree with and have a vested interest the accepted pathologizing categories of the status quo, but likely live in them as a fish does water, without even the least awareness that other environments exist (at least, until the fish get hauled to the surface in a net).

As to your comparison of alternatives for the "patients" you mention, in effect you are saying a blow on the head beats a poke in the eye with a printed stick. Here's a novel suggestion: How about "none of the above"?

While the following authors certainly have their flaws, I suspect a does of Szasz, Laing, and Foucault would do you some good.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

I have read all of them, Szasz has some merit. I am actually deeply aware of other environments, and if you had read much around here at all, would realise that I am a reasonably objective person who can get some distance. I did not start with these views, after all.

You, on the other hand, have tipped your hand as a person with an agenda who fires first and asks questions later. I have no idea why, but one of the possibilities is that there are uncomfortable truths you refuse to face, and thus, need to discredit people with alternative opinions.

Nocti said...

"I have read all of them"

Which doesn't answer the question of how well you understood them.

"if you had read much around here at all"

Why would I? I found this post while doing research on Grady Towers. Your comments above gave ample evidence of your views, in any case.

"You, on the other hand, have tipped your hand as a person with an agenda "

What is that agenda, exactly, other to call out sloppy thinking and an obvious blind acceptance of dubious psychiatric categories.

"who fires first and asks questions later"

Ah, you mean, as opposed to your balanced and carefully reasoned response to "Anonymous", above? Beware of your glass house.

"there are uncomfortable truths you refuse to face, and thus, need to discredit people with alternative opinions."

This statement seems to fit you far better than it does me. Good old-fashioned Freudian projection, as a matter of fact.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

The accusation that people who work with the mentally ill have a vested interest in the psychiatric status quo looks possible at first, but when one considers that we are undermanned and always have too much business, it falls apart. My patients make this accusation frequently, trying to prove that they really aren't sick at all, it's just this ridiculous social construct that prevents us from seeing that they really are brilliant scientists who are receiving communications from other galaxies on their satellite dish, or great prophets who would improve the world if others would only listen to them.

I have yet to hear anyone defend that POV with anything other than insult and vague reference to the idea that some people disagree with us. You didn't call out "sloppy thinking," you just made accusations.

Has anyone suggested a diagnosis for you that you disagreed with?