12/30/2000:

SAT-Practice Word of the Day: stolid
Intermediate Word of the Day: debouch
Difficult Word of the Day: chthonic

    What I'd really like to see is an experiment in which 20 or so of our brightest and most promising adults were given an assured, adequate income for a few years, with, perhaps, a percentage of whatever royalties or other income their products happened to bring in. Then I would like to see them coached and supported in their attempts at good works. (Special attention alone, without income, might produce some satisfying results.) I'm saying "good works" because I don't think that "great works" would be necessary to justify special attention, and I should think that it might be better to under-promise and over-deliver than the other way around.
    Central to this discussion is the recent discovery that once the IQ exceeds about 120, there seems to be little correlation between IQ and success, including intellectual success. Ruth Duskin was one of the long-term stars on the old Quiz Kids program, and had a childhood IQ in the 200+ range. A typical example is embedded in the following quotation, taken from Ruth Duskin Feldman's 1981 book, "Whatever Happened to the Quiz Kids?"

      "An important study on the ingredients of success is under way at the University of Chicago. There were no child prodigies among the one-hundred world-renowned mathematicians, concert pianists, Olympic swimmers and tennis players under age 35 whose histories have been dissected by Professor Benjamin S. Bloom's researchers. In fact, few of these topflight achievers stood out as unusually gifted at the age of 5 or even 10. Some did not show as much ability as siblings who started with similar parental encouragement and early training. One thing that made the difference was motivation; an all-consuming will to excel. Fired by recognition and fueled by expert coaching, these young people concentrated on developing their talents, often to the exclusion of social life and other activities. Similarly, among the Terman group, the top achievers were those who, from childhood on, evinced noticeable drive, ambition, initiative, independence and persistence. Those who chose a vocation rather than drifting into one.
    "Of all the Quiz Kid stars, Harve Bennett showed that fiber. The product of achievement-oriented parents, it was he, not they, who insisted he try out for the show. It was he whom his perceptive colleagues singled out as "most unlikely to fail". And it is he who has come closest to the zenith in his chosen field.
    "Fundamental to success is the ability to focus on and pursue a goal, as Harve did. Being well-rounded, as Quiz Kids were supposed to be, some of us have found it difficult to do that."
    "Multi-potentiality is a mixed blessing for many gifted youths."

    These results are typical of many other studies, including prospective studies like the Terman Longitudinal Study of Gifted Children, and follow-up histories of grown child prodigies. There are the most momentous changes as IQ's go from 80 to 120, but once an IQ of 120 is reached, it has been demonstrated that higher IQ's seem to confer no particular advantages in life.
However:

  1.  Dr. Hans Eysenck has estimated that the average IQ of historical geniuses lay between +3 and +4 standard deviations above the mean.
  2. Leading mathematicians and physicists must surely have IQ's in the 3+ sigma range. Our own Ultranet and Promethean physicists and mathematicians, with documented IQ's that lie above the 4 sigma level, have estimated that some of their compeers also fall above the 4+ sigma level.
  3. Why should an IQ of 120 comprise any particular break-point? If pluck, luck, and fortitude is what counts, why not an IQ of 90 or 100? The only thing that happens in the 120 region is a  rapidly-increasing scarcity of people with IQ's above that level. About 78% of the population hav IQ's between 80 and 120, inclusive. Only about 2% top 131, 1% top 136, and 0.1% exceed 149. There are more than 1,000 individuals with IQ's of 120 or above for every one with an IQ of 160 or above. It would only take one frog-prince among the hundreds with IQ's of 125 or 130 to muddy the waters*. Super-bright people have been known to fake lower test scores to fit in with their neighbors.

  4.     As one goes from an IQ of 80 to an IQ of 120,  there are the most dramatic changes in socioeconomic status and in life outcomes. The smarter 1/5th of a class is said to learn 5 times as fast as the slower 1/5th. I would expect a similar 5:1 ratio in learning rates as the ratio IQ rises from 120 to 160 (corresponding to a deviation IQ of, perhaps, 150). Similarly, I would expect another 5:1 ratio as the ratio IQ further increases from 160 to 200 (corresponding to a deviation IQ of, perhaps, 174).
* - When I was in high school, we were informally given an IQ test in a high school psychology course. I was sick and running a fever the day the test was given, but I wanted very much to take it. I took it with my head whirling, and missed two questions on it, earning an IQ of 128! (The test ceiling was IQ 132.) Luckily, my official IQ was on file, and my 128 was irrelevant. But if it had been the official test.... Although people generally get several tests along the way, a low IQ score can often hang over one's head like Banquo's ghost. Because of insufficiently high ceilings and ceiling effects, there are few, if any, conventional IQ tests that are accepted as reliable measuring instruments for IQ's much above the three-sigma level. In my own case, I know only one of my childhood IQ scores. If it had been spuriously low, I might have been branded with an incorrectly-low IQ score for the rest of my life, and might have been one of the "frog princes" who could possibly have skewed the research results of a research psychologist.

Funding an Experiment That Would Mobilize the Hyperbright
    I have been trying to think of ways to fund a multi-year, proof-of-principle experiment that would engage the capabilities of the hyperbright over a period of several years in helping solve important real-world problems. I've also been wracking my brain searching for practical, attainable ways of supporting them. What I'm going to mumble here and now is nothing more than initial brainstorming. I'll welcome ideas and feedback.
    By definition, there are about 260 individuals in the United States and about 30 persons in Canada whose intelligence lies at or above the 1-in-1,000,000 range, for a total of about 290 such whizzes. Of these, perhaps 30% would lie below the age of 22, perhaps 20%, or 1-in-5, would be past retirement age, and something like 50%, or 145, would be permanently in the workforce. That would leave the other 50% (145) who are supported either by their parents or (we hope) by retirement plans. What we might seek would be enough individuals (15? 20? 25? Fewer? More?) that we're not placing all our eggs in one basket, and yet, not so many that we couldn't provide them individual attention and support.
    What would be the least expensive way to support them?

At Zero Cost
    The least expensive financial support would be none at all. We could simply provide them with recognition, connections, opportunities, coaching, and even free labor. We could bring their work to the attention of top-level officials and the news media. We could set up an award system that would reward winners with certificates, plaques, and publicity.
    Cost: $50 per year.

Using Monetary Prizes
    A slightly more-costly set of emoluments might consist of donated monetary prizes to accompany the awards, plaques, etc. These prizes and awards could be named after their donors, who would also be recognized and publicized (assuming they wanted it). Any gifts so donated could be written off as charitable contributions. Another kind of gift could be the opportunity to stay for a week at a choice resort, or to spend a week in someone's vacation home, or on someone's cruiser. These gifts might also be tax-deductible as charitable contributions.
    Alternatively, this money might take the form of travel and equipment funding.
    Cost: $500-to-$50,000 per year

Supplying Supplemental Income
    The next step in this progression might be to provide partial income (e. g., travel funds) as well as actual part-time labor reimbursements. It's important to note that we're not talking about just charitable contributions, but about 20 supremely brilliant individuals hired part-time, and perhaps, producing some marketable products.
    Cost: $50,000-to-$1,000,000 per year.

Supplying Full Income
    At the highest level of cost, the experimental subjects would be hired full-time to  work more than full-time. This costs the most, but it also offers the greatest return. It would cost no more than the employment expenses of 20 senior individuals, and would select 20 of the smartest individuals in the U. S. and Canada. Quite a bargain!.
    Cost: $1,000,000-to-$2,500,000 per year ($50,000-to-$125,000 total burdened salary cost per person, including overhead, fringes, and leave.) (This assumes that paperwork could be minimized. If proposals, progress reports, and the usual bureaucratic paperwork is required, then costs would jump to about $80,000-to-$200,000 per person, depending upon the salary level.)

    We would want to distinguish between

Part 2: Some Universally-Desirable Grand Challenges

Grand Challenges

    I should think that our prodigiously gifted are in the best positions to decide what challenges are best-suited to their talents and to society's needs. I also think that there are certain initiatives that many of us would gladly pay to support. Here are a few such "Grand Challenges" that come to my mind. You may be able to think of many others. The first three of these are bootstrapping areas of endeavor that would facilitate other objectives. They're of the kind that go: "If I had three wishes, my first wish would be for three more wishes, as would my second and my third wish, so that I'd end up with 9 wishes. And then I'd expand my wishes over and over again until I had all the wishes I wanted." I should think that whatever we can do to make ourselves smarter and/or longer-lived would potentiate our ability to perform other tasks.
    One background observation is that our society is making rapid research progress across the board without drawing upon its hyperbright. And that's a good thing.

(1)  Research into brain boosters and  Alzheimer's disease.
(2)  Research into slowing, arresting, and reversing aging.
(3)  Fundamental biological understanding
(4)  Fundamental research into the nature of cancer.
(5)  Artificial Intelligence and Robotics
(6)  Research in fundamental theoretical physics
(7)  Research into better ways of structuring organizations to improve fairness and to reduce unproductive kinds of competition.
(8)  A better understanding of human interactions and institutions.
(9)  Research into better ways of utilizing our prodigiously gifted.

Part 3: Coming Up with the Money

Funding Sources

  1. Individuals
  2. Charitable foundations
  3. Corporations, singly or on a subscription basis
Individuals
    It seems reasonable to suppose that most of us who contribute to causes have generally amassed the money we can contribute by practicing frugality and deferred gratification. We probably also often feel that we've worked hard for our money. We want to be very sure that our contributions are well-used, and that our money doesn't go for fat salaries and hidden perks for the staffs and the managers of the charities. We want the bulk of our contributions to go to the advancement of the cause we want to support, and we want our gifts to be utilized as effectively as possible to further the cause.
    It's also the case that we may tend to contribute to the causes that we think are the most worthy, and/or those with whose areas of endeavor are those with which we're involved.
    It might be possible to find ways of rewarding us for making our contributions. One such approach is that used by organizations like the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) that gives us a subscription to "Science" in return for a certain-sized donation.
  1. A more-powerful way to accomplish this might be to establish a direct relationship between us donors and the researchers whom we're helping to support. That way, when our researcher(s) make a discovery, publish a paper, or are cited by the press, we could feel a part of their world and could identify with their accomplishments, bragging about them to our friends and our families. We would also be sitting on the edges of our seats following what was transpiring at the cutting edge of the field. And we would know exactly how our money was being spent, and would know that it wasn't going astray.
  2. Money given directly to individuals, with no spending strings attached, would be worth a great deal more than than money given to their organizations (which can load the projects with other people they want to support).
  3. Money given in the form of "fun money" to buy anything the recipient wanted would be worth far more than salary or other household maintenance money. Most of us never see or get to enjoy most of the money we earn.
   (This is a work-in-progress.)

Charitable Foundations

Corporations, singly, or on a subscription basis
 

Incentives for Donors

    How can donors be rewarded in return for their sought-after dollars?
 

  1. Newsletter, bulletin boards
  2. Pipeline into research
  3. Investment guidance
  4. Personal counseling
  5. Patent income
  6. Corporate shares
  7. Let the donors retain their money, contribute income? Have a say in how their money is spent?
  8. A club
  9. Get pledges. Contribute monthly, quarterly, annually? Tax-deductible.
  10. .Bumper Stickers
  11. T-shirts
  12. Pins, stationery, cards


Part 4: Problems with Actual Implementation

    This gets into the problems that might rear their ugly heads in blending with existing research programs and their highly competitive researchers, and with enduing our hyperbright with the credentials and that will facilitate their meshing with the world (as in Ph. D.'s*, and, hopefully, training in advanced "people skills".).
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* - Distance learning options, including Bachelor's, Master's, and Ph. D. programs, are becoming available from major universities. These programs are expensive, but they can be taken at one's own pace. Dr. Quinn Jackson has gathered information regarding programs that, at the undergraduate level, allow freedoms that aren't as readily available in brick-and-mortar institutions. Tommie's and my daughter-in-law is earning her Ph. D. in education using a distance learning program. During the summers, she spends a week or two at workshops and with her dissertation advisor. She will soon complete her doctoral program. Such arrangements might be made-to-order for our extremely intelligent, who find it difficult to sit through lectures, and who can learn extremely rapidly.

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Poems For a Little Girl

She is a lovely lady.
In her small face, I see
More beauty than a generous earth
Has ever shown to me.

Fairer than buds in April,
Fairer than leaves in June,
And quieter in sleeping
Than frost beneath the moon.

        --"Window to the South."
                  Vivian Smallwood