The myth of ‘mad’ genius

(aeon.co)

107 points | by baddash 4 days ago

18 comments

  • commandlinefan 4 days ago

    I've always wondered if a lot of "eccentric" people aren't just behaving the way everybody would naturally behave if they could get away with it. I say and do a lot of things because I have to if I want to have food to eat and a place to sleep, but I'll never know how different my behavior _might_ have been if I were rich enough or brilliant enough that people would just put up with whatever I happened to feel like doing at any given moment.

    • majos 4 days ago

      On a related note, I think this idea explains the appeal of smart jerk god characters (Doctor Who, Doctor House, Rick Sanchez, Sherlock Holmes...) to a sizeable portion of nerds (including me). "So smart they can't help but need you" is not a healthy goal, but damn if it isn't seductive.

      • Ntrails 3 days ago

        To me it's not so much "So smart they can't help but need you", as it is "being right is more important than anything else". The world doesn't work like that (often), but it's an attractive ideal in some ways

        • teaspoons 3 days ago

          it's time for the smart jerks to die along with their stupid expositional picture-walls

        • dfee 3 days ago

          I’d be considered eccentric. It’s not discipline or the lack thereof. There is a piercing focus that overwhelms the demands of normalcy.

          But I won’t talk about me. I’ll talk about a friend of mine. He stepped away from his role with the US Gov’t and spent the last year wandering through Africa and Eastern Europe. I don’t concern myself with him having a roof over his head, because he always will. He just doesn’t define himself by living in SF and putting a roof over his head; nor does he bemoan what could have been. He just is.

          • opinionator1 3 days ago

            ^ Low-value humblebrag that adds nothing to the conversation.

          • nur0n 4 days ago

            Are people brilliant because they don't care or do they not care because they are brilliant? Seems to be a little of both...

            • geezerjay 3 days ago

              > Are people brilliant because they don't care or do they not care because they are brilliant? Seems to be a little of both...

              IMHO, it's neither. If others want something from you then they pamper you to get what they seek, and the more indispensable you are the more they tolerate. Over time you feel no pressure to adapt your behaviour because those who deal with you feel compelled to adapt to you.

              • azhu 4 days ago

                Or perhaps brilliant people care a lot and just have the ability to pull it off so well that everyone else thinks they don't care. The real answer to how to be happy is not to not care how you affect others, it is to master your ability to affect them how you intend to. Those who recommend the "not giving a fuck" approach step on their own bootstraps given how large a fuck they give about not giving a fuck.

                • vorpalhex 3 days ago

                  Not giving a fuck isn't the same as apathy. Today I spent an hour waiting for some poor chap to repin a simple lock at the hardware store - I didn't give a fuck that he was a bit clueless and flying by the seat of his pants - but if someone scammed me tomorrow I would absolutely jump into action.

                  There are things that don't matter (someone a bit clueless working earnestly) and things that do (scammers, violence, etc). The goal is to differentiate and respond appropriately.

              • kizer 4 days ago

                I think I behave in an eccentric manner because I was raised by two liberal parents and am an only child. Although I always made friends just fine. I'm bright, but no genius. At least not yet. I often feel somehow that the eccentric behavior and intelligence are the result of a latent property, like some kind of general freedom of mind. Also I have (will inherit) some assets that generate money on their own. So I guess I can "get away" with it.

                • anonytrary 3 days ago

                  > I'm bright, but no genius. At least not yet.

                  Is your comment supposed to be satire? No one has ever said "When did they become a genius?" about someone who is considered a genius. I think, at least colloquially, genius is considered to be innate.

                  • proverbialbunny 3 days ago

                    The brain physically changes in response to life's experiences. To dismiss life experience and believe genius is exclusively innate is a hard pill to swallow.

                    By understanding how a thing works, the more power one has to change it. Therefor, the better one understands their own intelligence, the more power they have to change their intelligence. However, being able to tease apart intelligence requires a high prerequisite intelligence, muddying the water between innate and not. In whole, I do not think intelligence is exclusively nature or nurture.

                    Asking someone, "When about do you think you became a genius?" is a great question. I might have to steal that one next time I bump into a genius offline.

                    • musage 3 days ago

                      Genius or not, I have an IQ of 142 and don't understand my intelligence one bit. I don't even understand what "understanding one's intelligence" would mean. But I think being used to being able to learn things on the fly or solve new problems gives a lot of confidence to keep doing that, and that really helps. Often I feel friends or relatives are struggling with something because they aren't really trying, if they don't know the solution they don't spend enough time to find or even invent one.

                    • kizer 3 days ago

                      By that I meant that I haven't proved to be a genius so far. If I were to become a Nobel laureate in the future, people would see that I was a genius in retrospect.

                  • hyperpallium 4 days ago

                    power corrupts, or... powerlessness conceals?

                    • baxtr 4 days ago

                      I catch myself often wanting to behave more eccentric, but then somehow societal laws keep pulling me back. I wish I had the guts (like Steve had) to be blunt to anyone

                      • vkou 4 days ago

                        Steve was a huge asshole to a lot of people, when he had power over them. There's eccentric behaviour, and there is being a jerk. One's harmless, if odd - the other goes out of the way to ruin someone's day. You don't want to be the second one.

                        Consider the interaction between John Carmack and Steve Jobs that was posted the other day:

                        > One time, my wife, then fiancée, and I were meeting with Steve at Apple, and he wanted me to do a keynote that happened to be scheduled on the same day as our wedding. With a big smile and full of charm, he suggested that we postpone it. We declined, but he kept pressing. Eventually my wife countered with a suggestion that if he really wanted “her” John so much, he should loan John Lassiter to her media company for a day of consulting. Steve went from full charm to ice cold really damn quick. I didn’t do that keynote.

                        Do you really want to be remembered for anecdotes like that?

                        • 3 days ago
                          [deleted]
                        • sullyj3 4 days ago

                          It doesn't take guts to be blunt to people you have power over.

                          • tluyben2 4 days ago

                            People that (potentially will) have power over you, often respect you being blunt to them. That does not make it easier as there is a significant group of egomaniacs that cannot stand it so you need to know who you have in front of you.

                        • hyperpallium 4 days ago

                          It's related to conformity. If you automatically, naturally and agreeably fit in with what everybody else does, you won't tend to think outside the orthodoxy.

                          But if you question everything, try to work things out from first principles, and wonder what happens if things are done differently... well, you're "eccentric", at best.

                          It seems logically possible for a person to be a perfect conformist socially, and a wild free-thinker intellectually, but it wouldn't usually happen that way.

                          https://xkcd.com/242/

                          • RealityVoid 3 days ago

                            I honestly do not think that is the case. Using a sample size of one(me) I can tell you that while I'm very agreeable and sometimes too nice to people around me, when it comes to my opinion about things or digging for the truth, I will push and dig and (sometimes recklessly) support unpopular opinions, even if in the minority. I surely can't be that unusual.

                            • hyperpallium 22 hours ago

                              Here's the Psych 101 background to my view: people don't just pretend to conform, their perceptions conform https://wikipedia.org/wiki/Asch_conformity_experiments

                              By its nature, it's hard to notice this in yourself. I like to think of myself as capable of independent thought. But when I've been solo camping for a few days, some of my perspective evaporates on contact with others, like a dream on waking. It's hard to even notice it leaving. I imagine they leave imperceptibly in daily life.

                              • RealityVoid 6 hours ago

                                That is an interesting experiment you highlighted. I was not aware of it. I will point out though that the group that did not want to seem out of step were seemed to be the lest numerous. So while agreeableness seems to have a certain correlation to independent thought I do no think that for the majority of people that is the main blocking point.

                                I think I know myself pretty well, better than most, and this allows me to make a pretty good guess about the way I would react. I think that if I were to answer wrongly to the Ash experiments, I would do so because of what is described in the Wikipedia entry as "distortion of judgment". This stems mostly from my view of the world and my belief that human observation, without aiding tools and methods of quantification, can be very unreliable. That applies for me as well, leading to poor confidence in my direct observation.

                                Thankfully, creating new ideas or solutions has several steps, observation being just one of them, another being the processing of the stimuli into the final idea. This, I consider, is where I am far better than the observation stage. Given a set of observations I arrive at a pretty complex solution and/or idea, and this is where most of my deviation from the norm usually stems. But I am aware of the possibility of mistaken input data of vicing this process, and forming the wrong conclusion because of it.

                                Anyways, sorry if I came of a bit arrogant, this was more of an introspection exercise and me musing and a little bit over-generalizing about the way people think.

                              • hyperpallium 1 day ago

                                This is interesting. Voicing an unpopular opinion is not "agreeable", but if you can't ever act on your truth, you may as well not have ever had it.

                                My comment, in the context of yours, comes across as childishly excusing/justifying antisocial behaviour. I'm not sure what to thinkn= of that. But I just meant that tendencies tend to transfer.

                              • heavenlyblue 2 days ago

                                I believe if you're _really_ brilliant - then you are as aware of the beliefs of other people around as much as you're aware of the inherent truths you have discovered for yourself.

                                These two sometimes works together, against each other or are absolutely ambivalent to each other.

                                So the question of eccentricity becomes a question of how do you need to project yourself upon others.

                                "All the world's a stage" as they say.

                            • toomanybeersies 4 days ago

                              As much as I like to joke that the greatest artists were all deeply flawed people, so I'm trying to become an alcoholic arsehole in order to become a better author, as the article states, there are a lot of good and great artists/creatives who are not substance abusing wife beaters.

                              I think there are a couple of factors at play here. The first is that you never hear about how normal an artist was. Nobody talks about how Ansel Adams didn't beat his wife and wasn't an alcoholic, because that's just normal. We only talk about Hemingway's alcoholism, or Van Gogh's mental condition. So we're conditioned to believe that artists are flawed people.

                              The second factor is that people want to justify why they're not a great artist. "I'm not a great writer, but at least I don't emotionally abuse everyone I know and I'm not a raging alcoholic".

                              • darawk 4 days ago

                                That's a reasonable theory, but it doesn't explain why this phenomenon is (somewhat) unique to art. The explanation you gave applies equally well to say, Basketball players and business tycoons. And for the most part, there's no social wisdom i'm aware of that says you have to be a drug addicted asshole to be one of those things.

                                • toomanybeersies 4 days ago

                                  I think that it does apply to sports, it's a common trope that athletes (especially in contact sports) are domestic abusers. Business tycoons are often stereotyped as sociopaths.

                                  Plus there's doping in athletics. People love to criticise Lance Armstrong for doping (among his other flaws), but there's no way, even with doping, that the average person would be able to compete in pro cycling, all the steroids, clenbuterol, EPO, and other PEDs in the world couldn't dope you up enough to be competitive at that level.

                                  People love to justify their mediocre existence (not that there's anything at all wrong with mediocrity). They could be a businessman if they were more sociopathic, they could be an athlete if they used steroids, they could be an artist if they took drugs or were more eccentric.

                                  • watwut 3 days ago

                                    Then again, there are people who dropped out of sport, because they thought they would have to take doping or were pressured to. There are people I know personally who refused jobs that required them do something they found unethical - despite higher pay and benefits. It is profoundly unfair to label them as mediocre just because they have moral or ethical lines they don't cross. Doing that is nothing but rationalization of bad acts.

                                    Maybe the average mediocre person is not just justifying their mediocre existence.

                                    Maybe you are rationalizing bad acts bad on idea that being socially celebrated matters more then ethics and moral.

                                    • krageon 3 days ago

                                      Being socially celebrated gets you all the things people teach you mean success as you're growing up: Money, probably a beautiful wife, the admiration of your peers. I agree with you that doesn't have to matter but I don't think you should underestimate how much that flies in the face of what most people have been taught matters most.

                                      • watwut 3 days ago

                                        Which is why I am objecting against knee jerk labeling of people who resisted the temptation as "mediocre" and knee jerk celebration of those who did not resisted as "the others are mediocre anyway". It is tempting even without that.

                                        The beautiful wife will get old as any other women, unless you exchange her ever few years. Being wife merely as a social status trophy is not the kind of relationship I would find attractive at all. I know that some girls are raised to believe that is what they are supposed to be, but that is another category of things I would rather avoid.

                                        • musage 3 days ago

                                          Teached by whom? My parents teached me a million things but none of what you said ever came up. Same for school. Hollywood movies certainly "teach" that, gangsta rap does, but what else?

                                          By the way, spectator sports is the original "if you're not paying, you're not the customer" -- so people get paid a lot to be good at sports, cycling in circles, kicking a ball back and forth, that sort of thing, to shovel eyeballs in front of advertisements. Nietzsche said all there is to say about money and those who need it, and as for the admiration of peers, that too is the consolation price for those who don't have confidence, who don't know themselves. What you're describing isn't some sort of elite person, you're describing people who are the best and work the hardest at being perfectly mediocre. Which, by the way, is a detestable thing, and a wasted life.

                                    • majormajor 4 days ago

                                      Less on the drugs (minus, say, steroids for athletes and cocaine for business folks in the 80s), but there is a lot of social wisdom that says you have to be an asshole to be best at those things. Nice guys finish last. Backstabbing corporate politics. "Killer instinct" for athletes. Steve Jobs, Michael Jordan, Kobe...

                                      • mikekchar 3 days ago

                                        It's unusual to find someone so far ahead of the pack that somebody who gains an edge by acting unethically can't use it to overtake that person. I think it occasionally happens, but people in the top tiny percentage just aren't that far apart.

                                        If you have an obsession to be number 1, then probably you need that extra edge (no matter how slim). But I think the deeper question is why does anyone need to be number 1? I think the reality is that most "nice guys" just don't care. You can be "successful enough" and ethics don't even enter into it.

                                        <insert big jerk who is massively successful here> will never enjoy the simple pleasures I do -- because they are driven to be a big jerk who is massively successful. (Not necessarily implying that I'm not a big jerk anyway ;-) )

                                      • minikites 4 days ago

                                        The article has a good response to this, artists generally have a more flexible work environment:

                                        >The creative occupations considered in these studies are overwhelmingly in the arts, which frequently provide greater autonomy and less rigid structure than the average nine-to-five job. This makes these jobs more conducive to the success of individuals who struggle with performance consistency as the result of a mood disorder.

                                        People with emotional problems or substance dependence wash out of more structured jobs pretty quickly.

                                        • gh02t 3 days ago

                                          Artists can also often work in isolation, especially someone already regarded as a genius. I suspect plenty of people have a tendency towards eccentric behavior, but suppress it because they need to participate in society in order to survive. A genius engineer for example is less able to be wildly eccentric, because an engineer is inherently dependent on others and depends on others to implement their designs.

                                          Another example is the stereotypical eccentric mathematical genius, of which there are endless examples. Pure math shares something with art here, in that a single gifted person can produce important results independently. I mean, I'm having a hard time coming up with very many examples of famous mathematicians who weren't a bit strange.

                                          • lmm 3 days ago

                                            Euler is the famous example: one of the greatest mathematicians of all time, who by accounts had an otherwise ordinary life and was a respectable family man.

                                            • gh02t 2 days ago

                                              Von Neumann was also fairly normal. I can think of a few, but I can think of far more who were crazy (many, quite literally).

                                              • opinionator1 3 days ago

                                                You make it sound as if he is the exception that proves the rule.

                                        • perfmode 4 days ago

                                          That was a cutting analysis; a pleasure to read and important to consider.

                                        • Semirhage 4 days ago

                                          The article focuses exclusively on mood disorders, which frankly isn’t what most people think of or mean by “mad” in any case. Nikola Tesla for example was mad as a hatter, but it appears to have been a delusional disorder. While depression for example can be psychotic, it tends not to be, and I think psychosis or at least delusional beliefs are the hallmark of what is commonly meant when the public talks about “madness.”

                                          • eigenstuff 4 days ago

                                            You're on the money. Tesla, Emily Dickinson, and likely Van Gogh all had schizotypal personality disorder. Which is not so much a personality disorder in the sense most people think of them so much as it's the Aspergers analog of the schizophrenia spectrum. I've seen it suggested that Einstein may have had it, which I find a lot easier to believe than the notion that he had Aspergers given that his son had schizophrenia and these things tend to run in families. (He may well have had nothing, though.) I strongly suspect that Edwin Land, the inventor of Polaroid, was schizotypal.

                                            There IS actually a proven connection between schizotypal traits and creativity where there really isn't with mood disorders (except bipolar to an extent), since you're "mad" but not so much so that you can't function well enough to execute your ideas. It's worth googling about.

                                            • a1369209993 4 days ago

                                              It's also not what most people mean by "genius"; I was hoping for something about Tesla, Nash, maybe Einstein and Feynman.

                                            • jpeg_hero 4 days ago

                                              Article and “meta-research” distinctly not related to genius.

                                              Genius is a distinctly one-in-a-million phenomenon, this is about people of above average creativity and how they relate to those of below average creativity. And very dubious categorization at that.

                                              • aje403 4 days ago

                                                I don't know why you're getting downvoted, you're right (although the definition of 'genius' is always up for debate). This is just one of a million opinion articles on the same questions which happens to have a regression line behind it.

                                              • TangoTrotFox 3 days ago

                                                Speaking of the stereotype of 'mad genius', as opposed to the eccentric creative which this article is about, I would hypothesize that 'mad' is simply a mislabeling of the fact that those who are more intelligent are generally going to be less guided by social norms and more by their own logic and views. Being able to follow your own logic, without bounds, is something that is most people, for some reason, do not tend to do.

                                                Einstein is the best example of this. Relativity, and its implications, are intuitively insane and absurd. Yet his logic led him there and he invested an immense amount of effort and energy trying to prove it. And it turned out he was correct. In a parallel universe where the laws of physics are more sane, Einstein would have been labeled as insane for even imagining such an 'absurd' idea might be reality.

                                                • salty_biscuits 3 days ago

                                                  James Joyce said

                                                  "To say that a great genius is mad, while at the same time recognizing his artistic merit, is no better than to say he is rheumatic or diabetic"

                                                  His daughter had mental health issues. She went to see Jung and the exchange allegedly went

                                                  “Doctor Jung, have you noticed that my daughter seems to be submerged in the same waters as me?” to which he answered: “Yes, but where you swim, she drowns.”

                                                  • swayvil 4 days ago

                                                    I used to be nuts. And you know what, I went with it.

                                                    I could focus on a project 24-7-365. That's how great projects get done. And people who get great projects done are what we call "geniuses".

                                                    I'm better now. Sometimes I think of the great projects that I could do but then I think, "no thanks, life is bigger than that".

                                                    • TangoTrotFox 3 days ago

                                                      In what way is life bigger than that? You'll be dead in the blink of an eye relative to any meaningful timescale. And so will everybody and everything you know. All that will be left is what you create and leave behind.

                                                      Okay for some this is children, but that's hardly a legacy in many cases. You have greatness born to fools and fools born of greatness, so in the end you're just leaving your mark as a roll of the dice which is hardly unique in any case.

                                                      But what we create and help bring to light are things that can reshape and redirect humanity, changing our path forever.

                                                      • kizer 4 days ago

                                                        Good that you're better. Maybe try to work lightly (2 hours a day) on a project someday and see if you can complete it without herculean focus or dedication.

                                                        • rabidrat 4 days ago

                                                          It's not like that, in my experience at least. I can do amazing things in 6 weeks, but it involves eating, breathing, and sleeping the system/problem/project. It turns out there are 1000 hours in 6 weeks (including sleep time), and if you have the problem loaded into your brain as its 'default mode network', then it takes over and you can get massive cross-functional efficiencies (including dreaming up solutions in your sleep). Working the equivalent for 2 hours/day would take years and does not generate anywhere close to the kind of energy or output that the parent is referring to.

                                                      • ggm 4 days ago

                                                        An article about the status/role/context of insanity and society which doesn't mention Foucault's work? Published in the year of my birth (1961), which I like to think is a coincidence...

                                                        Foucault M. History of Madness. Khalfa J, editor, translator & Murphy J, translator. New York: Routledge; 2006. ISBN 0-415-27701-9.

                                                        • LifeLiverTransp 4 days ago

                                                          Yes, why should a shizophreniac who wildly connects everyday experiences to form strange conspiracy theories would have a natural advantage when it comes to wildly recombining seemingly unconnected ideas, to leap over boundaries every 100 recombination?

                                                          Of course, if there is a birth advantage there- all the meritocratic idealism and work wont get you or your kids there.

                                                          So its very very anti-equalizism. Its okay, though, if that "benefit" messes up someone elses life and strands him/her living in a box. That is just how the world is supossed to work. Sick people must suffer, if they do not fit into the world tailored for average people by average people. No sense in protesting gods wanted order. Move along.

                                                          • darkmighty 4 days ago

                                                            Have you ever experienced or met someone with schizophrenia?

                                                            It is hell.

                                                            Not only for them but often for those who care about them. It's not about a rosy, whacky persons that the society whimsically outcasts. It's often legitimately tortured people that almost always need serious treatment and constant care, otherwise they risk falling into a very dark abyss.

                                                            They often wind up hobos or sometimes in prisons/asylums because they don't have treatment and a very supportive family available, falling in disrepair, not because an evil plot of society.

                                                            If this condition were the price to pay for breakthroughs, I'd consider the price too high. But indeed it isn't -- there are no examples of seriously ill paranoid schizophrenics that put out meaningful work. It's a massive hindrance, fogging your view of the world and yourself. Often cited cases like John Nash actually stopped being able to conduct any good work once the disease got hold of them. There are countless examples of extremely brilliant people productive through their lives that never showed signs of delusion, and almost no cases of delusional persons doing good work.

                                                            This disease largely embodies the obscurantism, mysticism, fear, distrust, that scientific enlightenment was idealized to fight against. I can't wait for its root causes to be found and it completely eradicated (along with MS, Alzheimer's Disease and Dementia, please).

                                                            • opinionator1 2 days ago

                                                              > there are no examples of seriously ill paranoid schizophrenics that put out meaningful work.

                                                              Utter hogwash. There are countless artists who struggled with schizophrenia and bipolar and produced beautiful, amazing work -- Syd Barrett, Brian Wilson, and Daniel Johnston spring to mind.

                                                              • Mediterraneo10 3 days ago

                                                                > there are no examples of seriously ill paranoid schizophrenics that put out meaningful work.

                                                                I daresay Adolf Wölfli is one counterexample. Institutionalized for most of his life, beleaguered by paranoid delusions (some of which found their expression in his work) but it was under the circumstances of that illness that he produced the art he is so acclaimed for.

                                                              • kizer 4 days ago

                                                                I can't discern your point. Are you saying that there is some kind of "equality" since the geniuses are doomed to suffer from mental illness?

                                                              • fladrif 3 days ago

                                                                Creativity seems to stem from being outside of the "mainstream" mindset, of going down paths not taken and trying unconventional strategies. Most of the time these don't work out putting an emphasis on the tried and true, but when it does it get labeled as a spark of genius, of creativity. I think it takes a certain type of person to continually beat down these paths and blaze unconventional trails and may be a mark of a 'mad' man/woman, but it may just take those kinds of people to not try and conform with conventional wisdom.

                                                                • cbanek 4 days ago

                                                                  It's interesting that there was no talk of anxiety. In talking about the availability heuristic, which is refereneced a lot in Daniel Kahneman's _Thinking Fast and Slow_, they also talk about how anxiety tends to activate System 2 (which is the one for deep thinking), as opposed to the intuitive and nearly autonomous System 1.

                                                                  Creativity and intelligence are considered different, but related, and Kahneman talks about how the activation of System 2 allows people to make more well informed (smarter) decisions.

                                                                  • 8bitsrule 3 days ago

                                                                    The Romantic stereotype that creativity is enhanced by a mood disorder

                                                                    That's postulated as a given. If it's not a given, then it's a red herring. The author supplies no evidence that it's a given. As far as I got, the phrase 'mood disorder' was undefined.

                                                                    ... But is there any scientific reason to believe in a connection?

                                                                    Science doesn't believe, science constructs and improves models based on repeatable observations. That which cannot be observed cannot be modelled. People can choose to 'believe' those models ... which is 'faith'. Which science was invented to get away from.

                                                                    So in the first two paragraphs, the author prepares us for the illucid neo-phrenology which follows.

                                                                    • carlmr 3 days ago

                                                                      >Science doesn't believe, science constructs and improves models based on repeatable observations.

                                                                      That's confusing the scientific ideal, with how actual scientists operate. Actual scientists hope that they get something right, they feel strongly about their research like the mother of a child, they're just as clouded by emotions as any other human being. And if you add corruption into the mix, then yes, what we call science is not as solid as it looks, but it still provides useful results sometimes.

                                                                      But we can still talk about a scientific reason to believe. Because the reason might be scientific, but it still might be something which we can believe or not. Because scientific reasons are about as flawed as their creators.

                                                                      The replication problems in many fields are evidence that science is only as ideal as the people producing it.

                                                                    • askl56 4 days ago

                                                                      I've always believed that "genius" is simply mental illness with an audience.

                                                                      People such as Mozart were known for feeling nervous anxious etc, until they wrote music which was cathartic, which nowadays I'm sure would be diagnosed as some sort of mental illness.

                                                                      • themodelplumber 4 days ago

                                                                        This is part of the reason why "mental illness" is a broken term for certain applications. Unevenly-matched skill (coping, etc) vs. circumstance (group psychology, social standards) is one alternate POV that better explains why a "mentally-ill" person could create genius works. They have become conditioned to exploring extremes by dint of circumstance and personal history; their liabilities, struggles, and even periodic victories in these contexts allow them to produce works the likes of which are rarely seen or even contemplated in "non-genius" company. The audience knows intuitively that they are experiencing some fundamental truth, though they cannot in a small number of steps arrive at the sequence that allowed the truth to emerge.

                                                                        • humbleMouse 3 days ago

                                                                          That last sentence is profound, nice comment +1

                                                                        • 4 days ago
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                                                                        • majos 4 days ago

                                                                          I don't get this article. As far as I can tell, it wants to prove (in spite of the headline) that mental illness and creativity are not really correlated. Then it goes on to say that measuring either mental illness or creativity is hard on its own -- in which case the meta-analysis done isn't terribly useful?

                                                                          My own unempirical take on genius is it's not so much "you need some insanity to have groundbreaking genius-level ideas" but "some people are so into doing thing x that they will choose to do it almost all the time, and some of these people have talent and luck in thing x too, which is a potent combination that looks like what we'd call genius".

                                                                          • taneq 4 days ago

                                                                            Well, the general take is that average intelligence combined with well-above-average drive (motivation, work ethic, etc.) has significantly better results than "smart but lazy". So you'd expect someone who's smart and also fanatical about something to get outstanding results in that field. Monomania also generally comes across as 'mad'.

                                                                          • dbxz 4 days ago

                                                                            I taught gifted education at a prestigious middle school for five years. Over 300 kids came through my classroom during that time.

                                                                            I saw it all. Seizures. Fistfights. One girl was pretty sure there were secret messages from the principal in the tests I gave. Lots of them started taking drugs early too.

                                                                            The culmination happened in the Fall of 2012, when one girl convinced her friends that, if they killed themselves, they'd wake up already graduated from college, with school behind them. Luckily, they didn't succeed. And so, in a class of 30 people, I had 6 out and in a mental hospital.

                                                                            Mad geniuses. They're real.

                                                                            • toomanybeersies 4 days ago

                                                                              I used to go to a gifted education class once a week when I was around 13 years old.

                                                                              Probably half the class or more had some form of condition, Autism, ADHD, depression, etc.

                                                                              Looking back at it now, I don't think it was the case that gifted people are generally "mad". I'm a fairly normal person, and so were a lot of other people in the class. I think that rather, it was that these kids didn't integrate well into conventional education, but this gifted education class was very understanding and accepting of people's "quirks", and had a much more open learning environment where people could grow in their own way. I ended up there because I struggled with the structured nature of normal school.

                                                                              I've met plenty of people over the years who could be considered gifted (in this case, top 5% IQ), most of them are completely normal and probably just dealt with the overly structured nature of normal school.

                                                                              • eeperson 4 days ago

                                                                                I wonder if this is a link between 'madness' and 'genius' or if this is the result of pressure put on kids to succeed at a prestigious middle school.

                                                                              • uxhack 4 days ago

                                                                                This article is trying to rebute David Horrobin idea that if everyone is creative then the world will soon be become crazy. It takes a geniuses to see a stick as a weapon. If Everyone starts becoming creative then the whole society will quickly devenigate.We need slme order. Horrobin arguement goes against the idea that everyone can be a creative genius. What is interesting about his idea is that how universal craziness is amongst a small proportion of the population, which means it is has been around a very long time.

                                                                                • Nasrudith 3 days ago

                                                                                  Reminds me of a differing but related idea. Society at large is already crazy but nobody notices because it has been so normalized being rational is looked upon as crazy.

                                                                                  The promoter of doctors handwashing wound up instituionalized. And it isn't a in the past problem. I mean look at interviewing etiquette and ideals for one. They distrust people who can't or won't put on a mask convincingly enough as untrustworthy. Not even as "unsuited for a job where it is relevant like sales or acting". That is frankly barking mad to only trust those capable of faking.

                                                                                • 4 days ago
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                                                                                  • madshiva 3 days ago

                                                                                    The text to the right paragraph is mad and bad. Don't want to read a text like that.