Supergenius

IdleRich

IdleRich
I remember reading that when John Von Neuman reached fifteen his wealthy family were able to employ an internationally recognised maths genius to teach him... when this guy spent an hour with JvN and grasped his level of understanding he broke down in tears of amazement. That story reminds me of Maradona being shown to a club scout as a child and the guy insisted it must be a trick being played on him, he thought it had to be a midget dressed as a kid cos it was impossible for a child to be THAT good at football.
OK two examples of prodigies who seemed unbelievable as children and yet delivered on their insane abilities.... who else was like that? Does it give us hope for humanity that there are these people who are so far above us in their field? Or is it depressing that they exist, do their thing, and life carries on?
 
Everyone has fantasies about being world-beating genius superstar in some form. We mostly don't talk about them out of shame. These fantasies feel like they're a necessary part of the human psyche to me, the rudder. Some people take the fantasies very seriously in an almost tragic way, and some get results, others are doomed to depression. In more zen moments we can take the view that people are products of environment and relationships, so the sports freak needs the competition and audience, and we're all co-creating shit and incredible stuff and ideas and art in a complex feedback loop of trial and error, affirmation, negation, fandom and criticism and hype, but the little ego gremlin will always return hungry for the adulation, to own and dominate. It keeps things moving.
 

Corpsey

call me big papa
If it's any comfort (it is), a lot of these geniuses are totally miserable and/or mad. Or so Hollywood movies suggest.

In fact, maybe that's why there's a notable number of Hollywood Oscar-bait movies about tragic geniuses ('Shine' and 'A Beautiful Mind' spring to mind but there must be many others) ? it comforts the rest of us, with our mediocre-or-worse intellects, to think that being a genius is a cross to bear.
 

Corpsey

call me big papa
mj, tiger woods
These are a different kind of genius to the maths wizzes, of course, because it's not necessarily all cerebral.

Then again there is a definite mindset to even the physical geniuses which sets them apart.

In the MJ documentary that recently came out, somebody who knew him talks about how he was always 'in the moment' when playing (and possibly generally, although he bore grudges for years if not decades) ? so that he never worried about missing a shot, which fucks up most players.

Perhaps that sort of mindset can be trained and cultivated.

Savants don't seem to be trained to think as they do, it's innate and irrepressible.
 

hucks

Your Message Here
These are a different kind of genius to the maths wizzes, of course, because it's not necessarily all cerebral.

Then again there is a definite mindset to even the physical geniuses which sets them apart.

In the MJ documentary that recently came out, somebody who knew him talks about how he was always 'in the moment' when playing (and possibly generally, although he bore grudges for years if not decades) ? so that he never worried about missing a shot, which fucks up most players.

Perhaps that sort of mindset can be trained and cultivated.

Savants don't seem to be trained to think as they do, it's innate and irrepressible.
Lol I thought he was talking about Michael Jackson. One of the interesting things about Jordan in the doc was that, as a kid, he was just really, really, really good. Amazing but not quite genius level. I think he was the number 2 pick in the draft? He then attained genius level, which is maybe more impressive I dunno
 

IdleRich

IdleRich
But are they really unhappy? I reckon that's a kind of comforting myth.... of course some of them are but I'm not sure Maradona is particularly tortured, just a bit of a wanker with loads of money, but not as a result of his phenomenal abilities, and I get the impression Von Neuman was quite a happy chap, just pottering around enjoying the life of the mind. Easier to do if the general public can't even understand what field you're working in than if you're a superstar obviously.
 
I did mean Michael Jackson, and I read all of Corpsey's comment thinking he was talking about the child Michael Jackson too. Even talking about missing shots it didn't click.
 

Corpsey

call me big papa
But are they really unhappy? I reckon that's a kind of comforting myth.... of course some of them are but I'm not sure Maradona is particularly tortured, just a bit of a wanker with loads of money, but not as a result of his phenomenal abilities, and I get the impression Von Neuman was quite a happy chap, just pottering around enjoying the life of the mind. Easier to do if the general public can't even understand what field you're working in than if you're a superstar obviously.
Well, the documentary about Maradona suggests he is pretty unhappy, actually, although a big part of that was the crazy level of fame he attained. (Also something Jordan had to contend with, not being able to walk around without getting mobbed, rarely having any time to himself, etc.)

The thing about Jordan having to practice brings up a good point - which is that while "genius" is undoubtedly in part innate, it's also more often than not the product of hard, obsessive work. And to be able to push yourself that hard, so single-mindedly, suggests that you have a personality that could be extremely difficult for other people to get along with, and which could push you into unhealthy situations...

Jordan, to use as an example again, is OBSESSED with winning. He worked harder than anybody else in practices (according to teammates). His father in particular encouraged that mentality. And obviously it paid off big time for him as a basketball player. But he's also (despite his denials) an addictive gambler. He's so rich that it doesn't particularly matter, unless he bets a billion on black or something, but there's definitely a downside to every upside.
 

Mr. Tea

Shub-Niggurath, Please
Staff member
Tons of musical examples, surely? Mozart maybe the most obvious one.

Von Neumann is an interesting character. One of his many interests was game theory, in common with John Nash (subject of A Beautiful Mind, which by all accounts was a total whitewash of an actually pretty unsavoury character). If von Neumann had got his way, the site of every major city in Russia would currently be a radioactive crater.

It's widely supposed that the character of Dr Strangelove is based on Werner von Braun but I think he's modelled more closely on von Neumann and Edward Teller, another Hungarian, who was so paranoid he reported his former boss Oppenheimer to the House Committee on Un-American Activities as a potential communist spy.
 

IdleRich

IdleRich
Ha... game theory not very forgiving and didn't really work with people who didn't act like vicious super robots.
 

version

Who loves ya, baby?
von Neumann was apparently pretty sociable and well-adjusted for a genius. He'd attend cocktail parties and whatnot. I've never heard any stories about him melting down or being an arsehole or anything like that.
 

version

Who loves ya, baby?
The thing about Jordan having to practice brings up a good point - which is that while "genius" is undoubtedly in part innate, it's also more often than not the product of hard, obsessive work. And to be able to push yourself that hard, so single-mindedly, suggests that you have a personality that could be extremely difficult for other people to get along with, and which could push you into unhealthy situations...
There's this stupid thing about Messi and Ronaldo that one's natural talent, the other's hard work. I definitely think Messi's the more talented of the two and the way he plays appears more natural, but it's been twisted into this platitude for people to parrot online in order to avoid saying they prefer one over the other.
 

version

Who loves ya, baby?
If it's any comfort (it is), a lot of these geniuses are totally miserable and/or mad. Or so Hollywood movies suggest.

In fact, maybe that's why there's a notable number of Hollywood Oscar-bait movies about tragic geniuses ('Shine' and 'A Beautiful Mind' spring to mind but there must be many others) ? it comforts the rest of us, with our mediocre-or-worse intellects, to think that being a genius is a cross to bear.
... depends how miserable and/or mad you are yourself. If you're just as fucked without being a genius then I imagine it isn't much consolation.
 

Mr. Tea

Shub-Niggurath, Please
Staff member
von Neumann was apparently pretty sociable and well-adjusted for a genius. He'd attend cocktail parties and whatnot. I've never heard any stories about him melting down or being an arsehole or anything like that.
And yet he promoted a "nuke them before they can nuke you" doctrine. I think his main reasoning was that the Soviets were bound to have some highly placed man in their nuclear weapons programme who thought basically the same way he did. (Which they probably did, but thankfully more humane voices higher up prevented this from happening. Which means, I guess, er, Stalin?)
 

version

Who loves ya, baby?
I don't think that makes him uniquely tortured or maladjusted though. There are plenty of people who aren't geniuses who also think that.
 

IdleRich

IdleRich
Yeah in his daily life he was a famously snazzy dresser, loved rude jokes and dirty songs etc doesn't sound too unhapoy.
 
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