Matt Perryman

High IQ man says “Too smart to do anything with it”

By Matt Perryman

Here’s a neat quote I saw on Xitter the other day:


High intelligence leads to multiplicity of interest and a sharpened capacity to foresee the consequences of any action. Will is lost in a labyrinth of hypothesis.


That’s attributed to author John Fowles back in the 1960s. Unlike most internet quotes, this one strikes me as authentic.

Not everyone is a thinking person, so maybe this doesn’t ring your bell, but thinking people know this “labyrinth of hypothesis”. Besides a sharp turn of phrase, it is a deadly accurate description of a familiar trap.

There’s too many options, it’s too easy to see how things will go, and you convince yourself that it’s all pointless and hopeless, so why bother.

Meanwhile the guy who doesn’t think, who doesn’t care, who takes action and gets things done, he reaps all the rewards.

It’s a real life meme of the Chad Electrician, living a happy life with a respectable income versus the Virgin Degree Holder with six figures of debt and no job prospects.

You find this a lot in the bodybuilding and strength coaching worlds. You’ll get these guys who won’t do a workout unless they can cite 100 peer-reviewed papers as evidence. Go down to the gym, and the biggest, strongest, and best looking people barely know how to read.

Am I kidding? You make the call.

Intelligence dilutes the will and frustrates action.

These are character flaws. A high IQ doesn’t make you weak-willed, unfocused, or despairing — but it does help a lot of people end up there.

It’s all fake. It’s manufactured self-paralysis.

That ability to foresee consequences is not as powerful as it seems.

Intelligent people are better at matching patterns based on past behavior. They are rarely good at imagining different possibilities — or understanding that history does not move in straight lines.

Believing that you know what will happen is not the same thing as knowing what will happen.

The trap begins with misplaced over-confidence. The fear, anxiety, and constant self-doubt follows from that arrogance.

Philosopher Elizabeth Anscombe once said that modern philosophy forgets the virtue of hope. We’re told that humans act for rational pursuit of self-interest, making us all into over-thinking nerds. But we aren’t oracles like Paul Muad’Dib. We can’t see through the veil of time.

Us mortals live in existential uncertainty. Gods may know the future, but we don’t. Despair of “knowing” the future is nothing but the sting of pride.

Matt Perryman 

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