Sunday, 31 May 2015


Poul Anderson's "Genius" contains a lot of exposition but it works because the exposition is well presented, interesting and about very basic issues. For example, the psychologist character argues that the grammatical distinction between nouns and verbs blinds us to the fact that the world consists of processes, not of objects. Thus, even an early pulp story by Poul Anderson repays closer analysis.

"'The ordinary man is just plain stupid. Perhaps proper mind training could lift him above himself, but it's never been tried.'" (Call Me Joe, p. 217)

I do not agree that the ordinary man is stupid but I appreciate being made to think about this question. Proper mind training is deployed in Anderson's Psychotechnic History.

We are convincingly shown that social conditioning and social pressure account for most behavior. An individually pacifist scientist will usually engage in war research if asked, and paid, to do so. But this can work the other way. Individually aggressive people will not act aggressively if conditioned and pressured by a peaceful society. The population of geniuses sees no reason to settle their differences by warfare and sees every reason to devise an international language as soon as speakers of diverse local languages come into contact: Babel in reverse.

We can learn a lot by considering the behavior of more intelligent human beings.

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