Thursday, October 9, 2014

Genius Thinking?

Have you ever been shocked/surprised/blown away by the reasoning or behavior of someone you consider an outstandingly smart individual?

Here are some patterns observed on how genius thinks.  

Chaplin and Einstein
Extremely talented at going up and down levels of abstraction. Geniuses tend to be able to fit seemingly unrelated facts into the big picture almost instantly, and drill down to any level of detail. On a related note, when learning they tend to learn at every level of abstraction at once, rather than simply building from the bottom up or top down like most people.

Make a lot of assumptions. This may seem counter-intuitive - we've often heard that creative thinking requires breaking existing assumptions. And this may be true, but it seems like geniuses tend to make a lot of assumptions very quickly, test their hypotheses, and then change their assumptions very slowly if it's necessary.

Come up with unique ways to compress information.
 A smart person might see a difficult Mathematical theorem as a connection of ten steps, whereas a genius might visualize it and see it all as one picture.

Separate emotion or external thoughts from their thinking.
 At least in science, geniuses tend to never attach any external meaning to their thoughts-as an example, they could think about how to efficiently invade a country or release a horrible weapon without feeling phased by the image of the devastation that would involve. Similarly, they can often focus on their work no matter what they're going through-whether it's loud noises or personal trauma.

Connect seemingly unrelated things. 
A genius will frequently follow a T-shaped model of learning: be an expert on one things and dabble in a lot. They will frequently get inspired by or make connections between things that are unrelated to their main research.

I'll not argue for or against these observations, but present them as an interesting data point worth taking a moment to consider.

Satvik Beri wrote this on Quora.  You can see more of his thoughts here.