What is it like to have an extremely high IQ?


Alexa Davies, First year engineering student, 140 IQ,ADD 工科一年级学生,智商140,注意力缺陷障碍

140 is relatively “extremely high” but compared to some of the other numbers answering I’m low. Whatever, though. Still answering.

Picture this:



Until you start middle school, you’re bored. Everything is too easy, you don’t have to try, you don’t understand why everything is moving so slowly. You also notice that when your parents ask you to do chores, you go off with the intent to do them and then find yourself sitting on your closet floor two hours later reading a book. But whatever, chores are boring and you’re like, 8 years old. That’s normal.



You get diagnosed with ADD. The psychiatrist confirms you have a genius level IQ as well, and explains that it’s extremely rare for someone with that level of intelligence to not have some sort of learning disability. You’re relieved that you have the answer to your problem, and that things will be okay now. As soon as you start medication.



You manage to develop study skills. You work your ass off and force yourself to learn years of behaviour in a few months. You’re constantly stressed and crying. You get into your program of choice, but you aren’t sure if it can be attributed to your hard work or simply being lucky enough to be born with high intelligence. Around the same time you’re diagnosed with depression and mild OCD. Your doctor tells you it’s extremely common in people with high IQ’s, much like the learning disability that stole half your education.


You’re fucking bitter. You have a learning disability, multiple mental illnesses, and you don’t know basic math seeing as you didn’t start learning in school until grade 11. And you’re still having to work as hard as anybody else for good marks. Your high IQ is a fucking burden.



· Popular culture is incredibly boring. Almost anything on TV or coming out of Hollywood is too predictable to be entertaining, and the fact that people can enjoy listening to the crap that gets churned out by the music industry and consumed by the masses makes you lose hope in humanity, reducing the human race to idiot beasts. On the other hand, sometimes you are jealous of the “ability” to tune out and go into a trance.



· You see and hear logical fallacies everywhere, and ride a roller coaster between frustration bordering on violence and complete apathy. The ubiquity of cognitive dissonance baffles your mind and seems like a huge barrier to the success of humanity. If someone has an opinion on something like economic policy or climate science or evolution or anything else, you ask questions in order to ascertain if they have any underlying knowledge on the topic at hand; if they don’t, they are “out,” probably irreversibly so. The political dichotomy (I’m from the US) makes no sense when we now have the technology to make decisions on individual issues. (oh wait, it’s because people don’t really care enough to do anything about the fact that our political system is owned by corporations and powerful individuals/families).


· Depending on your field and the situation you go into, coming out of school, a place where your talents are immediately recognizable, and entering the work force can be a harsh awakening. I sleep-walked (slept-walk? sleeped-walked?), through high school and college while outperforming everyone around me and assumed that would just continue. Bad assumption. A geneticist by training, I joined a corporate biochem lab out of school and proceeded to rot for a few years. (See the first bullet point about working in teams above). The pace is excruciatingly slow and the environment stifling, and while you think you should be shooting up the ranks, the things you might bring to the table are completely missed by everyone around you. I’m assuming this is largely due to my particular situation. Should have gone to work for a startup or done my own thing I suppose.


· Things you can’t immediately understand are like a drug. This could be a cause or an effect of high intelligence. If I find something that boggles my mind, but seems eventually solvable, I will literally burst out laughing in euphoria at some point as I try to break it down. This can be said of individual situations (for example, walking the streets the first time I visited a “developing” nation) or of entire branches of knowledge (recently got into programming).

· The things I have written above seem of insufficient depth. I worry that without adding in clarification, exceptions, etc. people will get the wrong idea or think I mean something that I don’t.



Bob Smith, Advisor and Academic (2000-present) 智商高于160(我也是完美主义者,所以这一定程度上会影响我的感知能力)

I have a tested IQ of 182 (though I appreciate all the problems that come with both the measurement and my reporting my IQ here). I state the number simply to say I am qualified to answer this question.

Having a very high IQ means ironically not knowing how smart you are. At least for me. Let me explain.




I was one of those ‘has so much potential’ cases until I was about 14. One of the cases that Quora paints as the norm for a high IQ set. I was bored of school. Getting bad grades. Spending all my time programming my Commodore 64 (if you can use the word ‘programming’ in any modern sense of the word). I knew I was smart. But after ‘the talk’ with my teacher and parents, I knew I wouldnt be a success— unless I changed my ways.

So overnight- I changed. Bought a Barrons series book about How To Study. Got all As after that. My life since has been the usual thing you think about for high IQ people.

Went to Harvard and Oxford. Studied for my PhD while an undergrad. I was surrounded by the smartest in the world. I didnt – and dont – feel smart by any stretch pf the imagination.

Then off to meet ministers and presidents while working for the UN. Again, absolutely everyone around me had elite pedigrees and a PhD. I was just another among many. Life is so full of trivia and banalities that its tough to feel smart. You are trying to get to work ontime. Learn how to get friends to support you in meetings. Learn how to game your reports, so you use the right jargon. Most of life does not require a high IQ.





So – like so many others – I had to mix academic life with work. Real life- full time- is just tooo boring. And anyway, who will respect you as a cog in the administrative machine? You need to become like the greats to make it. A fampus Harvard professor AND deputy secretary of Treasury (to cite one example). Fancy Columbia professor AND chief economist for the World Bank.

In these milieux, you get zero credit for having a high IQ. You are expected to. Back at Oxford, you were forgiven for being dull. Anyway, people just write – and there were/are no real consequences. Being surrounded by other high IQ types makes dinner conversations great. But thats about it. And no one talks about their IQ – or intelligence more generally. Wow, would that be gauche! :p



What is it like having a high IQ? Well, most times you dont notice it. Most of life does not require it. And there is no clear way of figuring out who has done something high IQ-y. I mean, so the guy figured out how to fix the dinner table with a napkin. Is that high IQ? Luck? Experience?

Work and research are so much group activities these days. Standardisation helps you far more than exceptional IQ-ing around.



You speak 5 languages, have fellowships in 8 prestigious academies and centres, and earn about $150k-$200k per year. All just like your friends and colleagues sitting next to you. You are all the result of decades of sifting through school, career, etc. Any misstep would have ended your run – for perfect grades and the Ivy League school. For the job before grad school where you show the Ivies (Ivy schools) that you are a doer, as well as a learner. Then PhD. Any off day. And bad mistake could end it all. The perfect record broken.


What is it like to have a high IQ? For me, it means getting to hang out with the world’s elite. Not the private jet owning, Davos set (necessarily). But the men and women who were both accomplished biochemists AND Olympic swimmers. Who are leading lawyers AND prize winning novelists. Who are beauty queens AND work for the world’s most elite consulting firm. It means having access to a milieu few get to see/experience. To go to places that money can not (necessarily) buy access to.

It means living a life you get to choose – instead of one others choose for you. Being with people who few have the privilege to meet. You are privileged not because of what they own, or can buy. But because of what they can do (and fundamentally who they are).



What is it like to have a high IQ? It is always being in a competition with yourself. For a goal you can never articulate. Knowing you have no special powers or immunities in a world where high IQ confers few privileges and benefits.

So you can guess whodunnit faster. And predict when your wife will flip out much sooner than the other guys. So what?



Worse still- with your heightened ‘power’ comes heightened responsibility. Not to laugh at the slower ones – even though they always laugh at you. To sacrifice and take up the bureaucratic job of lab manager or department head or district manager. Because…who else can? If you do not use your gift every day, you lose what makes it – and you – special.

If you dont use your high IQ all the time, you might get stuck in the dead end job. Or the dead-end relationship. Or not make the Ivy League. Or the Magic Circle law firm. Just like with everyone else…

If you dont use it all the time, you lose the advantages it conveys. And the enjoyment it confers.





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