Unspeakable Arrogance

Pretty much everyone thinks they are better than some of the people they meet. Not better on all possible features of course, but better on the features that matter most to them. But it seems to be arrogant to say “I often think that I am better than other folks I meet”, and especially so to say it about particular people. As in, “I am better than George.”

But for the purposes of this post, I’ll have to own up to this. I am in fact often disappointed by the people I meet. For me it is mostly about their intellectual curiosity and abilities in conversation. They either show little interest in fundamentally interesting things, or they show interest but seem incapable of effectively engaging such topics. C’est la vie.

Interestingly, my feelings often go beyond mere disappointment into full irritation – it bothers me to share a room, a department, a firm, a stage, etc. with them. Sometimes I am even angry. Yet such irritation makes a lot less sense that it would seem.

Consider how I would treat a dog, or a young child with similar intellectual capabilities. Abilities that are disappointing in someone with whom I’d share a stage could be quite impressive in a dog or a young child. I imagine I’d be quite happy to associate with such a dog or child, and hardly irritated at all by their lack of capacity. I could easily find activities that they and I would find mutually enjoyable. And I imagine that if I were a racist, classist, or sexist, surrounded by those who shared my racism, classism, or sexism, I could find ways to associate comfortably with my race, class, or gender inferiors, as long as it were clear to all that they were my inferiors.

I’m led to conclude that it I’m not so much irritated by the low abilities of associates, as by rivalry and how my associating with them will reflect on me. If they don’t share my low opinion of them, I’ll have to either hide my opinion, or to create a conflict by expressing it. And even if they do share my opinion of our relative abilities, others might see me as arrogant to visibly acknowledge it. Since there are lots of ways to lose and few ways to win this game, I’d rather not play.

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  • cerebus

    Consider how I would treat a dog, or a young child with similar intellectual capabilities. Abilities that are disappointing in someone with whom I’d share a stage could be quite impressive in a dog or a young child.

    Classic Hanson.

  • http://technologeekery.blogspot.com Hendy

    For me it is mostly about their intellectual curiosity and abilities in conversation…. Interestingly, my feelings often go beyond mere disappointment into full irritation – it bothers me to share a room, a department, a firm, a stage, etc. with them.

    Wow. I relate with this tremendously, especially having deconverted from Christianity amidst two years of investigation. I find myself similarly irritated in the presence of friends (whom I now fundamentally disagree with on a previously shared common ground) who I have found are aware of their ignorance when it comes to justification for their beliefs and faith-based actions, yet also admit to seeing no need to remedy that situation.

    Thanks for this post; I’ll be thinking about this more — I’m not yet sold on the idea that the source of these emotions is how my image is affected by relating with these individuals. I don’t have an alternative suggestion at the moment, either, though.

  • Matt

    This is probably where hypocrisy and dishonesty would come in handy. I have a feeling that if you had large ambitions of becoming head of your department (or whatever) you would “feel” more “understanding” of different opinions (and probably think you were better for it). I think having felxible standards is probably an important aspect of having a highly political position.

  • http://squarelyrooted.wordpress.com/ Squarely Rooted

    Writing this post was either very brave or very stupid, or maybe both. I think it would be very difficult to have a conversation with Robin Hanson after reading this and not assume he thinks you’re an idiot. Thank goodness for tenure! :)

    • http://suntzuanime.wordpress.com suntzuanime

      I’m arrogant enough myself to think I could give him a good tumble in the intellectual hay.

      • http://infiniteinjury.org Peter Gerdes

        Wow, are you coming on to Hanson?

    • Preferred Anonymous

      No, no, everyone already knows what he’s like.

      I’d also like to point out, I get as irritated by people who get irritated by others for these reasons, as I get irritated with people who aren’t perhaps up to par.

      I think its a personal problem, and its not really related to how others might see you; learning to live with other people, who may be less, more, or equally intelligent/competent is just part of life.

    • Citizen Mork

      It’s a brave and stupid new world for the pompous.

      Not sure how, “a dog, or a young child with similar intellectual capabilities” is even remotely related to Robins ability to be in the same presence with someone of lesser ‘intelligence’ than him on a stage or in the classroom.

      But, Quote…’C’est la vie’ Unquote.

      I hope Robin takes pity on us stupid people and the dog who just smiled at him from behind the curtain…At least he acknowledges his shortcomings. I’d have a beer with him

  • http://ambientchallenge.blogspot.com Lee Kelly

    Squarely Rooted,

    If I were talking with Robin Hanson, I’d probably agree with him.

  • john

    Hendy,

    What about — as the source of these emotions — that you just look down upon these others because you see their beliefs as obviously false.

    Holding false beliefs is contemptible, particularly to someone who prides himself on striving for and maintaining rationality against his own hypocritical nature.

    • http://technologeekery.blogspot.com Hendy

      Yeah, perhaps it’s as simple as that. Do you see a significant difference between this type of situation and Robin’s though? Or is mine due to the beliefs themselves vs. Robin’s irritation more with the fundamental person?

      I find myself pretty condemning of the persons as well (not just that they hold wrong beliefs), especially when I know that they judge me to be wrong while having little or no knowledge of the subject matter.

      • john

        I think Robin’s case is quite like yours, you just did a better job of describing it.

        In his case too, he’s turned off by the low intellectual abilities and/or honesty of others. He probably thinks those people waste their brain-cycles(and lives) on truly trivial pursuits. After all, he spends his time advocating technologies which may allow some of our descendants to freeze themselves indefinitely and/or live forever! These others may spend much of their time thinking about which sports bar to visit or worse, which church to attend.

        The obvious question is whether these feelings are appropriate.

        If you’re 100% sure of your own beliefs then it seems appropriate to think less of someone who disagrees. What use is there arguing or even interfacing with someone who claims 2 + 2 to be 5?

  • Mark M

    Better at what?

    Once you answer, remember that whatever the answer, there are other ways to be better. It’s OK for other people to value things differently than you. That doesn’t make them worse, or better, than you. It’s just different. Perhaps you prefer the sunrise while I prefer the sunset. Which of us is better? (Answer: Me. Because sunsets are awesome. The fatal flaw of the sunrise is its unfortunate timing, occurring too early in the day for waking minds to fully appreciate).

    I know you know this. It’s one thing to know it and another to truly believe it so it’s part of the way you think. Or rather, it’s removed from the way you think. Then you stop evaluating using sweeping generalizations. You can certainly be content with being a better economist or public speaker than George while admitting that George may be better than you in other ways that aren’t readily apparent, like trimming hedges or juggling.

  • http://www.uweb.ucsb.edu/~criedel/ Jess Riedel

    My own arrogance is at least this bad, and I don’t remotely have Robin’s track record of insights to justify it. For me, the most (but not particularly) effectively technique has been to dwell on my own selfishness. It’s easy to see that both my above-average ability to reason and my inherent interest in it is largely driven by accidents of history (which others might not share) but my selfishness is a choice I make day in and day out. Meeting and remembering a few truly altruistic people—who may or may not be brilliant—can ease the over-active ego.

  • Adam M

    It’s hard to say for sure, but I think that people specialize their signalling methods more as they get older. Kids all compete on a number of dimensions, and in the meantime they begin to figure out what talents they have and what talents society rewards. Adults have decided on a more absolute idea of how they fit into society.

    I’ve noticed similar feelings of irritation before. When they get disruptive, that may indicate a lack of lifestyle variety. Then one should try to compete on a different social plain for a while. Take up a team sport, maybe. Find something else to be proud of.

  • http://coffeetheory.com Greg Linster

    This post reminded me of the following aphorism penned by Nietzsche: “Arrogance in persons of merit affronts us more than arrogance in those without merit: merit itself is an affront.

  • http://www.hkdsystems.com/blog/ GPE

    “The marvel is not that the bear dances well, but that the bear dances at all.” —Russian proverb.

  • Ilya Shpitser

    You must be so lonely.

  • http://offsettingbehaviour.blogspot.com Eric Crampton

    Was there a College Faculty meeting recently, Robin?

  • http://reviewsindepth.com Dan Haggard

    Lol – academics.

    Very brave statement – which sums up a lot of what I’ve personally experienced trying to relate to academics. All at once so dominated in their thinking by the status game, and yet completely terrified by it.

    One thing that I personally feel entitled to be arrogant about is my ability to not give a crap about status during the precise moment I say something stupid. Of course I worry a little about it after the fact – but since the damage has been done – there is little else I can do but shrug my shoulders.

    One upside of this habit is that the people who tolerate me also have a great capacity for not stressing about status and appearance… they are very dear to me for this reason and we have a lot of fun together.

  • http://daedalus2u.blogspot.com/ daedalus2u

    My experience has always been that the more arrogant the person, the more they are exhibiting the Dunning Kruger effect.

    Often such people can’t feel or even feign interest in certain topics because of cognitive dissonance from trying to think rationally about something irrational. Very frequently this happens to political partisans.

    http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/01/10/mistakes-and-ideology/

    What is strange is that they think that other people can’t see it, sort of like the Emperor’s new clothes. That is what they get for hanging around people who are good at all that signaling and posturing and sucking up to those with higher status.

  • Captain Oblivious

    I’m curious how you decide what things are deserving of the title “fundamentally interesting”… Is there really something fundamental about them, or are they just things that you happen to find interesting? Did you always find them interesting? If not, that’s evidence that your interests have changed in the past, which means your interests are likely to change again in the future – which makes the “fundamental” title a bit presumptuous.

    Do you think that other people who have different interests put YOU down as being uninterested in things THEY think are “fundamentally interesting”? Maybe everyone should be a little less judgmental, and simply accept that different people have different interests, and neither is necessarily wrong.

    I read something not too long ago (maybe here?) about things being “right” (in some global sense) vs “right for me” (no less right, just without the expectation that it’s necessarily right for everyone). I think it’s important to know the difference between these two.

  • John

    If everything social is about status then could Robin’s irritation stem from recognizing that he’ll never be able to have higher status than them in their eyes? Spending time around them will gain him no status so his brain tries to get him to go somewhere else. The different feelings he has about children and dogs could be a result of the obvious higher status he has over them – he may see them as easy to impress.

  • Ari T

    A lot of alpha males are bothered about beta males presence as it makes them look bad, and they look pitiful. You are possibly bothered about people’s lack of knowledge or ability for abstract thinking. What is the real difference, and why is this such a problem (apart from negative signalling)?

    Also, incentives hello? I don’t think this is a problem in regards to professional specialty. Are physicists bitter that normal people don’t understand quantum mechanics? In my opinion, it is only a problem regards to politics where people don’t have incentives to act rationally. I praise people for whatever they are good at. Specialization is foundation of modern economy. It would be madness to expect everyone to have expertise-level knowledge about economics, philosophy, psychology. Apart from efficiency justifications, who cares?

    I mean, I can enjoy socializing with almost anyone who is friendly, and their ability for abstract thinking has very little problem in this regard. Being an atheist, I’d assume a lot of other atheists don’t really care about their friends’ religion as long as it does not hurt social interaction. Yes sharing a room with a person who believes in crazy things can be awkward, but honestly I’ve got much bigger things in my life to worry about.

    I’ve been in this position, in completely unacademic and unpolitical subjects, so I know what it feels like to be a part of small group who knows and how a lot of others do not. The real question is here do you care because of your personal status or for because things you believe to be true are not accepted. Easiest solution is just not to care, and enjoy good things in life.

    I guess Robin has a lot of human capital in regards to fixing our society / institutions, and he is saddened that he can’t be rewarded by market and society efficiently for this. Like being a Steve Jobs in North Korea.

    However had Robin been born when humans were near apes, the ability for abstract thinking probably had been meaningless compared to muscle strength. I have seen similar posts by Bryan Caplan making these moral not-efficiency-based arguments for productive people not being rewarded more highly either by wealth or social status. What matters is efficiency, and what people deserve to me is less obvious. Given that I doubt Robin believes in free will either, I simply don’t see the moral argument here. It is a matter of chance.

    However I see one fatal flaw here: premise that knowledge is centralized like Gaussian distribution. Market is a great place to see how decentralized knowledge really is, especially in mid-to-long run. You’ll run less into arrogance there. Another good place is aesthetics. I remember Robin once asking about an expert in aesthetics and Tyler Cowen saying that he doubts there is such a thing. Expertise is much more local, and always subject to whims of entropy.

    In any case, person like Robin is scary in a way. He knows your motives, and is not afraid to tell the truth which is often ugly like the real world is. But we should praise such people.

    • http://www.uweb.ucsb.edu/~criedel/ Jess Riedel

      Are physicists bitter that normal people don’t understand quantum mechanics

      Yes. Well, I am anyways.

    • rrb

      I doubt that when we were near apes, the ability for abstract reasoning was meaningless compared to muscle strength. We evolved into modern humans, so natural selection must have favored more abstract reasoning, and less muscle strength.

  • http://www.darshanchande.com/ Darshan Chande

    You spoke the mind of every intellectual philosopher.

    //And even if they do share my opinion of our relative abilities, others might see me as arrogant to visibly acknowledge it. Since there are lots of ways to lose and few ways to win this game, I’d rather not play.//

    Impressive!

  • richard silliker

    Get some sleep and things may seem better tomorrow,

    Thanks for the disclosure.

    If it is any help, “We sacrifice the whole truth of any experience for the value to which we are constrained.”

  • 44EB38AE

    People’s lack of ability, as well as their lack of focus on important problems, angers me because I know I can’t solve these important problems all by myself, yet I also know I stand to lose a lot (and so do they) if they aren’t solved (or solved fast enough). Consider life-extension for instance.

  • juan

    Everyone experiences this to a degree. We don’t want to be seen with those of lower status than us because of the fear that others will see us as lower status.

    Guys don’t want to be seen talking to ugly chicks. Girls don’t want to be seen hanging out with the loser guys.

    I think that is the fundamental source of the anger/irritation that we all have felt at times. We are angry because the other person is bringing us down just by their proximity. So we get visibly angry and irritated in the hopes that they get the hint and move away.

    I think it’s not a conscious process. Humans are very good at perceiving their relative status. We get involuntary pleasure from being around higher status people, and we get involuntary pain when around lower status people.

    This fundamental human trait stays with us from childhood to school to work to the faculty lounge to the retirement community.

  • The Pompous Illiterate

    Stimulating conversation is like a drug, unstimulating is like having withdrawals.

    • http://www.nancybuttons.com Nancy Lebovitz

      That’s pretty much how I interpret Robin’s post– status doesn’t have to be a major part of the explanation.

      Another piece is probably that it’s more frustrating when something resembles what you want, but isn’t actually what you want. Thus, an adult human *might* be able to supply stimulating conversation, so Robin’s expectations are activated in a way that a child, an animal, or a table wouldn’t.

      Judging by my own experience, the shortest route to getting angry at someone is believing that they can and should behave differently. It’s very tempting to people to believe that their strong points are easily available to everyone. All those people who are showing less intelligence (about a preferred topic) or willpower (about a part of life which one has managed well) must just be slacking! And that goes double for people who don’t believe things I think are completely obvious.

  • anne

    I see/read you as being humble, not arrogant. If humility is being honest with yourself about your strengths and weaknesses, which is how I understand humility, then Robin Hanson, at least via this blog, is humble.

    Maybe the anger comes from the disconnection you can’t help but feel when you’re interacting with people who have a lower IQ.

    • bens

      There is also anger and frustration from a conversation not going as pleased. It could be frustrating when there isn’t an audience for someone to share their intellectual thoughts and receive an appropriate status boost from the insight. If people aren’t able to contribute to an intellectual conversation, then talking about your views, probing with questions, or otherwise showing intellectual dominance can be considered rude.

  • choncan

    Consider also the likelihood that your judgment of them devalues their opinions, thus removing the opportunity for you to be praised or otherwise demonstrate your skills and traits and flaunt your knowledge (and whatever else you do along the various lines along which you value yourself) in a way that would be meaningful for you. If they criticize you, what do they know, they’re idiots, there’s nothing to learn from and there’s no fun in debate, since they’re unlikely to understand your arguments anyway, simple plebes that they are. If they praise you, of course they praise you, they’re morons, you must seem like divinity to the unwashed. Many of the points you may wish to make, or discussions you may like to have, are on some level your desire to flaunt your peacock feathers — ooooh, that’s a particularly insightful/counterintuitive line of thought, this is a true intellectual, I as someone who thinks of himself this way hadn’t ever thought of this, oooooh — and the simple unsophisticated tribal people aren’t able to grasp the subtle differences between your theories and those of the lesser would-be imitators. Think of Hume’s discussion of aesthetic appreciation.

    Tongue somewhat in cheek for tone, but conditional on your self-diagnosis I do think this is likely to play a role.

  • RJB

    XKCD got there first, and more humbly.

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  • http://madhurchadha.com madhur

    Are you not giving up too soon? Also when you say, lack of intellectual capacity on things “inherently interesting thing”
    That’s where this entire thing stems. There is nothing inherently interesting or boring, its a frame of reference
    Science is also still grappling with the non permanence of everything, there is no static frame of reference and every observer is right as per their frame

    What matters here is you try and look in their frame of reference, what is life may be interesting to you but the hidden symbolism in cartoon comics might be the other persons cake
    If you close yourself up, you probably miss a golden opportunity

    • Matt

      Exactly. Hanson’s complaint here is generic, and not even really a matter of arrogance, just narcissism. It is the same complaint that everyone has in their teenage years: Why isn’t everyone more like me? Why don’t they find the things I think are “inherently interest” interesting? Why don’t they talk about things in the manner in which I am most comfortable or prefer talking about them?

      Is the disdain he describes different in form than that felt by a popular teenage girl engaging with a less popular teenage girl who does not have the knowledge or vocabulary to talk about clothing in a way the other finds enjoyable?

      • http://daedalus2u.blogspot.com/ daedalus2u

        Exactly, it is narcissism and a desire to not associate with people who are not like him. This is due to the uncanny valley.

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uncanny_valley

        He feels discomfort and so rationalizes the discomfort is because the people he is with are inferior when really they are just different and he is unable to appreciate the difference because he can’t perceive it.

        Children and animals are far enough away that they are not perceived as negatively.

        The reason that people act this way, and especially as teenagers is because it is during the teen years that the cognitive hardware that instantiates the pattern recognition that triggers the uncanny valley gets “fixed” and becomes permanent. Once your hardware becomes fixed, anyone who is sufficiently different will trigger xenophobia by the uncanny valley effect. That goes both ways, if someone triggers the uncanny valley in you, chances are you trigger it in them.

        This is why people who want to move up the social status hierarchy need the ability to brown nose those who are above them, no matter how they feel about it. This is also why they can’t associate with people who are far down the social status hierarchy. When you hang around people, the automatic pattern recognition neuroanatomy self-modifies to be able to perceive what the people around you are like. What that means is that you become more able to understand them, you necessarily become more like them. This is the physiology behind the quote from Nietzsche:

        “If you gaze to long into the abyss, the abyss gazes back into you.”

        To perceive what is in the abyss, you need to have a model of the abyss in your pattern recognition neuroanatomy. To perceive what poor people are like, you need to have a model of poor people in your neuroanatomy. It needs to be a real model, to to actual perception, not a faux model to do self-deception with. Avoiding contact with such people allows the faux models to persist, perpetuating the state of narcissistic delusion, fostered by feeling uncomfortable due to the uncanny valley.

      • epistememe

        I think labeling this as narcissism is way off the mark. Hanson is just expressing a desire to among people of similar mental abilities and understanding. Life is more interesting when one can discuss the great ideas with someone that can add to the conversation. Surly you have been to a dinner party where the conversation is insufferably mundane, i.e talking about the weather, football, Oprah, etc. Is it narcissism to want a stimulating and deeper conversation about something of import.
        An analogy might help. How about if I was an expert skier. I regularly do heli-skiing and off piste steep descents that most people would consider insane. I have a group of like minded friends who enjoy similar pursuits. We occasionally go to regular ski areas and mix-it up with the crowds there. It is fun and one has to do the beginner and intermediate runs to get to the more challenging ones, but I certainly don’t want to spend any more time than I have to on them, I find them boring and unchallenging. Am I a narcissist for not wanting to spend more time than I have to on the green and blue runs? The analogy is certainly not perfect but I think it is instructive. Hanson just wants to be challenged and to grow and that is best accomplished with avoiding the average and mundane and seeking out the stimulating and accomplished.

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  • genauer

    @ Riedel,
    being an “old” physicist (PhD in 1995, solving complex coupled PDEs on the side : -), I have to say Quantum mechanics is not really that important in the life of most people.
    My problem is more, that most people don’t understand elementary statistics, constantly overinterpreting just noise in their everyday life.

    @all
    are there any readers of this blog in Germany? Very Curious ! Just answering with your citiy name ?
    I am here in Dresden

    • http://www.uweb.ucsb.edu/~criedel/ Jess Riedel

      I have to say Quantum mechanics is not really that important in the life of most people.

      But that’s exactly the point. People shouldn’t be interested in quantum mechanics because it’s useful; people should be interested in it because it’s among the deepest and most important aspects of reality. This is probably how some artists feel about people who make no effort to appreciate art. The only difference is, quantum mechanics is a lot more important than art :)

  • DANGER

    You are on the way to the right solution — cultivate a superiority complex!

  • Konkvistador

    This observation reminds me of something I read in The Selfish Gene:

    If you are a monkey, a monkey
    who has beaten you in the past is likely to beat you in the future. The
    best strategy for an individual is to be relatively dovish towards an
    individual who has previously beaten him. If a batch of hens who have
    never met before are introduced to each other, there is usually a great
    deal of fighting. After a time the fighting dies down. Not for the same
    reason as in the crickets, though. In the case of the hens it is because
    each individual ‘learns her place’ relative to each other individual. This is
    incidentally good for the group as a whole. As an indicator of this it has
    been noticed that in established groups of hens, where fierce fighting is
    rare, egg production is higher than in groups of hens whose membership
    is continually being changed, and in which fights are consequently more
    frequent. Biologists often speak of the biological advantage or ‘function’
    of dominance hierarchies as being to reduce overt aggression in the
    group. However, this is the wrong way to put it. A dominance hierarchy
    perse cannot be said to have a ‘function’ in the evolutionary sense, since
    it is a property of a group, not of an individual.

    In many ways an egalitarian society is a psychologically stressful society. We are constantly frustrated by our unspeakable arrogance. A well defined transparent pecking order saves cognitive and other resources.

    Since I seem to be for whatever reason less envious than is the norm of those that do better than me, I think I might on net prefer life in such a society.

    • http://daedalus2u.blogspot.com/ daedalus2u

      Interesting that you bring up group selection in chickens. Group selection is a factor in evolution, and that has been specifically tested using chickens.

      When hens are housed together and are selectively bred based on individual relative productivity of each chicken in the group, the group productivity plummets.

      When hens are housed together and are selectively bred based on productivity of the whole group, productivity increases dramatically.

      http://scienceblogs.com/evolution/2009/11/truth_and_reconciliation_for_g_12.php

      Individual selection selects only for relative productivity. It is much easier to pull down someone else’s productivity than increase your own, so that is what is selected for. In a few generations you have a hen house full of psycho-chickens.

      Group selection selects for individual productivity as well as group productivity, so it selects against psycho-chickens and selects for cooperative chickens.

      Does this have any relevance for humans? Enron is a good example. Enron had a policy of firing the lowest 10% of performers every year.

      “Instead of increasing overall productivity, they got mean chickens and actual productivity declined. They were selecting for traits like aggressiveness, sociopathic tendencies, and dishonesty.”

      http://nobscot.blogspot.com/2006/05/rank-and-yank-chickens-and-enron.html

      Of course when the “mean chickens” are guarding the hen house, of course the meanest chickens will be favored and not the most productive chickens.

      The chicken farmer can reduce this by regulating what the mean chickens can do (aka government regulation) and by removing the mean chickens (aka imprisoning regulation breakers). Of course the mean chickens don’t like this.

      I suppose an egalitarian society would be stressful for mean chickens and for sociopaths. We should not confuse unspeakable self-serving arrogance and other accompanying behaviors for productivity.

      It is pretty clear that the present economy is dominated by “mean chickens”. There is a tremendous amount of government owned infrastructure (roads, bridges) that are in disrepair and which need to be repaired. There is tremendous idle capacity to perform work on that government owned infrastructure. Interest rates are at historic lows. If the infrastructure is repaired efficiently, then it is a valuable asset and is well worth the investment. Why is there no repair of that infrastructure? Because the mean chickens won’t allow it.

  • Norm

    Dogs and children are quite different to me. Dogs are mostly boring and definitely my intellectual inferiors ( in curiosity and conversation). Children, although also my intellectual inferiors, are growing and learning and interaction with them is fun in some ill defined way due to a desire to help them grow and learn. This is a different pleasure than conversation with adults.
    I think it is reasonable to be irritated with adults who take my time without being interesting and to not worry about rivalry or recognition of my superior intellect.

  • Dave

    I have learned my from my intellectual inferiors and my intellectual superiors. That advantages me and indicates I have more curiosity than you.

    Here I won’t try to communicate by generalizing via abstruse formulia, while not mentioning any wider context that might be familiar to the public. You have already won that game because no one would dare admit that most of the time they don’t know what the hell you are talking about. You are terrible at communicating ideas clearly. Slinging around acronyms and proper names disguised as adjectives does not constitute a demonstration of brilliance, in my opinion.

    Instead I will use,(God forbid) a few humble examples from my experience.
    One time I was visiting a home for the mentally retarded. I got hungry and tried to get some potato chips out of a vending machine. I was unable to do so despite several advanced academic degrees. One of the retarded residents,kindly helped me.Lesson,smartness is not context free.

    I have also benefited from the kindness of people who were either smarter than me or knew more than me. It makes no difference to me which. Those people I honor as teachers. Sure ,they took the superior position in these matters but it was the love of teaching that impelled them. I haven’t learned much from intellectual showoffs,but how to be irritated at smart asses.

  • http://jcwitmer.blogspot.com Jake Witmer

    But for the purposes of this post, I’ll have to own up to this. I am in fact often disappointed by the people I meet. For me it is mostly about their intellectual curiosity and abilities in conversation. They either show little interest in fundamentally interesting things, or they show interest but seem incapable of effectively engaging such topics. C’est la vie.

    It sounds like Robin Hanson would be on the verge of suicide rather rapidly if he were forced to petition for ballot access for the Libertarian Party. That’s been my existence (on and off) for quite some time: continual disappointment with the belligerence and intolerance of my fellow man. Continual disappointment with the job the government schools have done. Continual immersion in the awareness that things aren’t going to get better any time soon.

    We need to improve our game if we want to improve our social structure. Right now, the libertarian and interconnected futurist movements aren’t trying hard enough, and they’re not engaging with joe voter.

    • http://daedalus2u.blogspot.com/ daedalus2u

      I would say they are trying pretty hard, trying hard to produce the bad governance dystopia they keep predicting. If they do manage to get things together, the destruction of civilization will be catastrophic.

      What is Paul saying? Cut a trillion from the US budget the first year? Does anyone really think that starving people are just going to passively die in the gutter with their children?

  • Harold

    I am in fact often disappointed by the people I meet. For me it is mostly about their aesthetic appreciation and artistic abilities. They are either little moved by fundamentally beautiful things, or they are moved by them but seem incapable of effectively contributing to the creation of such things.

    (not really)

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  • bigmyc

    Two thoughts immediately come to mind after reading such poignant piece (at least it is to me and apparently, everyone else who has bothered commenting).;

    1) that it is important to remember, even when aware of it’s goal of ultimately making an illustrative point, that the analogy regarding the child or dog falls short of accurately depicting the situation as the frustration emanates from the fact that those with whom one is disappointed in aren’t dependent beings but supposedly free willed humans. Nietche’s bear never had the expectations that a typical human being is held to.

    2) what solace can one take when one’s best efforts to limit or completely stifle one’s own palpable arrogance while not compromising one’s ability to contribute successfully ultimately fail?

    With the second issue, an obvious solution would be to avoid situations where the collective level of acumen coupled with self doubt is rampant. After all, why should someone of aptitude invest much time there socially or constructively? However, the consistent pursuit of this remedy is folly. There will always be times where the bright bulbs cast light upon the best guarded and dimly lit shortcomings of others simply by being…well, bright. Of course, now and again, this will create resentment simply based upon the nature of one’s personality…depending again upon whose presence one is in. At this point, a basic game of “hide the intellect” ensues. Eventually, that attempt in and of itself is enough to alert people to your “irrepressible arrogance” by tipping oneself off or else by appearing aloof and unapproachable or altogether condescending.

    Damned if you do, damned if you don’t and then damned if you do.

    My only viable solution; “fuck ‘em.”

    *this post only applies to situations whereas the author finds himself in the company of the intellectually, spiritually and culturally bereft.

  • davver

    Every weekend my roomates drink a lot, “hang out”, and if they are very lucky bring a drunken girl back from a loud bar. This repeats week in week out. They have relatively few hobbies, read no books, and don’t really have a lot of life experiences.

    I suppose I could adopt an egalitarian stance that what they do is just as good as anything else, but quite frankly it seems boring as fuck to me. Mostly, they just seem lazy and not curious. I’d rather just get new roomates when my lease is up.

  • bigmyc

    Hmmmm…the more I read the other posts, the more I am realizing that my last position is not actually like Hanson’s rather it’s about not liking rude, petty and selfish dolts. :)

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  • Daniel Davis

    Patsy Cline has a wonderful song “Why can’t he be you?”

    You’re frustrated because people aren’t who you want them to be. They don’t show the values, virtues, or competencies you think they “should” have. You’re fundamentally not accepting reality.

    You imagine a wonderful world of people who are who you want them to be, and find the real world of real people lacking in comparison. You don’t look for value in what *is*, you bemoan what *isn’t*.

    Or at least that’s how it seems to me, likely because I used to do that as well. I try to look for the value in what is these days.

    You’re also a bit cheeky. You seem to expect others to share the values you have, and therefore necessarily agree that you’re greater and more wonderful than they are. Or, again, you think they “should” share those values. Are you a believer in Objective Value, by any chance?

    Sorry if I’m not as clued in on your views, responding to your blog and all, but I only came to this post from LW. Though your name has positive associations – I’m thinking that you were on my personal “worth reading list” on the old Extropian email list.

    • http://daedalus2u.blogspot.com/ daedalus2u

      This article discusses the mechanism. People who don’t have the intellect to understand how other people are thinking default to prejudice against them.

      http://news.yahoo.com/low-iq-conservative-beliefs-linked-prejudice-180403506.html

      It is pretty simple. If you don’t understand someone, you think they are stupid. Doesn’t matter why you don’t understand them, even if it is because you are too stupid to understand them yourself.

  • mjgeddes

    I cannot imagine who Hanson is talking about, but I promise I will search far and wide for these stupid people who dare to imagine they can share a room, blog, stage etc. with such towering intellects as ourselves.

    Let us find the stupids and flog them!

  • http://rebellionkidsblog.blogspot.com Rebellionkid

    Not obvious that this is the universal explanation. I for one do not enjoy spending my time with dogs or children, no matter how smart.