Smart enough to know you're dumb.

On some days, in some ways, I feel as though I am just intelligent enough to realize how intelligent I truly am not.

I look at what I have and can accomplish and compare it to, say, developing number theory, composing a solar-accurate calendar, or theorizing about physics, and I feel as though I’m near retarded. Of course I also realize that necessity pushed each of those innovations…but wow!

I guess what I’m getting at; share an experience where someone/something has made you realize how truly little you actually knew. And what do you do when those feelings overwhelm you?

Last time I posted here was in '06…have I been lurking that long?!

A lot of those things were probably not done by one person alone. And most of the people who did do those things had some specialized training in those fields, training that you presumably do not have.

There’s a lot to be said for being smart enough to realize that you can be wrong at times.

I work in academia with a lot of people that are above average intelligence. Most of these folks are usually correct. Not all of them realize that they aren’t 100% correct.

There is nobody who is so smart that he or she has never been wrong about anything, and there never has been such a person. Einstein was wrong about quantum mechanics. Newton had some nutty ideas about alchemy that we now know were wrong, and may have resulted in his getting mercury poisoning.

The people who think they are never wrong about anything, they’re the really dangerous ones. They’re also the really hard ones to get along with, in my experience. They’re the professors everyone dreads working with, from their colleagues down to the department secretary, no matter how smart they are or aren’t (and they’re not always the smartest ones, either). I am thinking of a couple of colleagues of Mr. Neville’s here, who shall remain nameless.

Be that as it may, I still get depressed that Newton invented calculus by the time he was 23 and when I look at my 23rd year, I think my greatest achievement is making a chocolate mayonnaise cake.

Just make sure not to put mercury in it.

What?! Now you tell me!

Sometimes I think I’m a good engineer and pretty skilled at using Solidworks (a program for modeling 3-dimensional parts and assemblies). Then I watch this video.

Accept that although I may be above-average, I’m not a god.

This is exactly the kind of thing I’m talking about! That arrogant, intelligent jerk! He made all us 23+ feel a little underachieved.

Perhaps another avenue of this is how obscure the things we specialize in are. So you invented a really effective, efficient, fair way to apply the accumulated depreciate of air rights for a landfill? 99% of people won’t even know what you are talking about, much less achieved.

But then, maybe this is how Newton felt, as I doubt many people at the time realized what he had discovered.

I disagree that this is you NOT being intelligent. This is you just not knowing a fact (ignorant). If knowing facts were all there was to intelligence, then the internet is the smartest thing on the planet.

When I find topics that I don’t know much, if anything, about (which is why I love reading here; all the links to neat ideas) I don’t say to myself, “Holy shit I’m stupid.” I say to myself “This will be fun to learn about.”

Leibniz knew.
:slight_smile:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gottfried_Wilhelm_Leibniz

edit (Responding to AnthonyElite)

Also something like the general thing you’re talking about has a name:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Downing_effect#IQ

“Perhaps the greatest wisdom is the knowledge of one’s own ignorance.”
(John Steinbeck)

Socrates, was the first to come up with this line of thinking.

“A truly wise man knows he knows nothing.” (Or something like that.)

So don’t sweat it OP, you’re in good company.

Tom Lehrer said it best:

Lehrer was 33 when he said this.

I often get hit by the realisation that my brain just doesn’t think about complex things enough. All that time I waste playing solitaire on my iphone vs people who are reading research and developing new ideas!

I might know a little bit - but I need to spend a large amount more time learning to even know a tiny bit more.

Everybody is ignorant about something. Intelligence can be ranked, but should be qualified by what area of knowledge and reasoning in which one excels. One example: my son has always excelled in higher math, and I topped out at algebra. He has tried to explain basic calculus and trigonometry to me, and I just end up feeling dumb and a little dizzy. I don’t feel completely stupid because he still comes to me for help in the areas of history and literature. He see no point in poetry at all. When I feel overwhelmed, I remind myself that humility is good for the soul.

Of course, I used to think I was the smartest guy I knew. Then I met Cecil and the Straight Dope and realized I’ll only ever play 2nd fiddle :frowning:

“He that humbleth himself wishes to be exalted.”

I hate it when you come up with an idea, google it, and some mofo way back already expressed it.

My latest example: “Why should I fear death if I’ve already been not alive?”
Mark Twain said something similar

Wasn’t there something to that effect in Hamlet or somesuch?