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In an alternate reality, the world is governed by geniuses. Geniuses may debate on which economic/social theory is most applicable to our world leaving the peasants to fend on their own. Or they may be too engrossed in their own thoughts and forget about the world around them. Isn't it likely that genusies will never rule effectively?

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    $\begingroup$ Most influential men and women down history that we today consider evil were probably very intelligent in one or more areas, be it social, political, militarily, etc. Are we to assume these geniuses are also perfectly moral (whatever that might be), and have experience and clarity in matters of governance to match their intellects? $\endgroup$ – Ranger Nov 3 '16 at 23:43
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    $\begingroup$ The typical threshold for genius in psychology is an IQ of 150. A typical student admitted to highly selective college or graduate school program has an IQ of 135 and many would be at 150 or more. A very high proportion of the top leaders of the US are graduates at the top of their classes at highly selective colleges and graduates schools where the average IQ is probably over 150. I suspect that we are already ruled by geniuses. Then again, life can feel pretty dystopian at times. $\endgroup$ – ohwilleke Nov 3 '16 at 23:44
  • $\begingroup$ A more interesting experiment involved the Reconstruction South where many political leaders were freed slaves or subsistence family farmers with no formal education and no political or management experience. There hearts were as much in the right place as today's politicians but some of the day to day work done in political institutions in those days was downright whacky because the politicians had no sense of what was and wasn't normal in that context. $\endgroup$ – ohwilleke Nov 3 '16 at 23:47
  • $\begingroup$ I would have a hard time describing anyone who actually wants to rule as a genius (regardless of IQ). Did the masses rise up and coerce geniuses into running the world? If so, it's probably a dystopia since there is almost nothing worse than the passive-aggressive revenge of a genius doing something he doesn't want to do :-) $\endgroup$ – David Cram Nov 3 '16 at 23:53
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    $\begingroup$ Just remember that in a world run by "geniuses," you can only get this title by agreeing with the current crop of "geniuses". $\endgroup$ – EvilSnack Nov 4 '16 at 1:14
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Many of the answers and comments seem to assume that geniuses are simply the smartest people in the room. This was a phrase used about the people who ran Enron. That didn't end well.

There is more to genius that simply being smart, intelligent or having a high IQ. It also includes being highly motivated and focused, and working very hard. This means they're usually workaholics. Also, because they spend more time thinking about, studying, and working with their area of expertise they end up knowing and understanding more about it than almost anybody else.

This isn't exclusive of science and engineering, art, music, and, yes, politics too. There are obvious political geniuses. Politicians who can communicate their ideas, their vision, and where they want their political institutions to go. This can be for good or ill. For every good politician of stature, we can always name a bad one. We've seen a few elected recently, and there's a few running for election somewhere right now.

This doesn't need to be at country level, it could be in local government, or state and provincial level. Even in your local club or society, so expect a demagogue to take command of your neighbourhood tennis club and rule it for a thousand years.

If this model resembles the world as we know there's a reason. Basically many politicians are intelligent, highly motivated and determined, display all the characteristics of a workaholic, believe in what they're doing, usually they have a strong self-belief in their ability to achieve their objectives, and sometimes they have an interesting capacity for self-deception. While they display many of the characteristics of genius they are trying to deal with complex, chaotic and unpredictable human social systems, they will fail more often than they succeed. More than genius is required to control any society. They have their share of human failings.

Our conventional model of a genius would be closer to the theoretical physicists who wrestles with mathematical concepts and what happens in nature. These geniuses don't confront deceit or contrariness or intractable political institutions, this make them look more brilliant than they otherwise are. Unlike their cousins in political genius who are readily undone by lies, backstabbing, betrayal, conventional ideologies, and entrenched self-interest.

If this is dystopia, then we are already there and we have been for all of history. It's not good, but it's not too bad, because remember it could always be worse. There are parts of our planet where is it is definitely worse.

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    $\begingroup$ I agree. Intelligence and smart are not the same thing. The fastest CPU with poor software may be worse than ancient CPUs with mediocre software. Our society is fairly bad with who we call smart or a genius, mostly praising immoral conmen and people who have simply specialized in one category and worked very hard. Both are fairly malignant personality types overall and they are actually among the least "intelligent" of the category. $\endgroup$ – Durakken Nov 4 '16 at 7:09
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    $\begingroup$ @Durakken We're on the same page. I've meet some really intelligent people whose ideas are plain nuts. Just like the fastest CPU running rubbish software. The European witch hunting craze was fomented by some of the brightest of their generation. This bubble was eventually broken by less bright persons who realized this was witch stuff was nonsense. Ordinary people can sometimes see through nonsense better than the smart set. Good ideas can be powerful tools, better than our best brains. Sometimes. Never easy. $\endgroup$ – a4android Nov 4 '16 at 7:36
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Quality of government is determined by leadership not intelligence

The ability and skill of a person to lead matters far more than their intelligence. If the leader was intelligent and had no leadership abilities they would make the same types of mistakes as someone with normal intelligence who also had no leadership abilities.

A good leader knows to surround themselves with wise counsel and listens to those below them and around them. The ability to do those types of things is independent of IQ. So you would have the same chance of a government turning into a dystopia regardless of how smart the leader is.

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    $\begingroup$ Leadership is an aspect of intellect. Your claim that the same mistakes would be shared by genius and non-genius is only true as far as those map to leadership, and not to the rest of their policies. Also, wisdom is not independent of IQ, they are simply distinct; Wisdom is easier to generate the better able to process the various lessons of life one is gifted with. $\endgroup$ – The Nate Nov 4 '16 at 3:02
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Nope.

Not all geniuses would govern well - you are correct. There is always a posibility of selfishness or self-preferece. That doesn't mean that geniuses will never rule effectively.

A) Intelligence and Leadership are not Strongly Correlated

While some intelligent people may abuse power, there is no strong, widely proven correlation between intelligence and corruption or abuse. Furthermore, a group of intelligent people would probably peer-review each other - straining out all selfish or unwise decisions. Finally, if elected democratically, these people may have some sense of morality - people generally like morals in leaders. They may not be perfect, but as intelligent people, they will be far from bad at their jobs, and they will consider the needs of others, as everyone does.

B) "Dystopian" is Different from "Bad"

Even if intelligence is correlated with corruption, although it isn't, there is no reason to call a poorly governed society a dystopia. Dystopias involve total, pervasive lack of goodness, morality, or habitability. If a government neglects the majority of people, then those people may freely find a new government, make a new one, start an anarchy and overthrow the geniuses, or continue with their normal lives while disagreeing with those in power. That is not the same thing as "everything is bad".

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    $\begingroup$ "Finally, if elected democratically, these people would have some sense of morality." This assertion is quite radical and optimistic, thus warrants some support. $\endgroup$ – The Nate Nov 4 '16 at 3:05
  • $\begingroup$ The dystopian suggestion doesn't come from nowhere. High IQ societies are known for destructive leadership and infighting, which is bad at the Mensa level and only gets worse at each higher IQ level's societies. The brilliant mad scientist myth isn't entirely divorced from reality. A genius can have so much intellectual distance from average people that they lack empathy for them, and can fail to develop strong social skills because they have few true peer interactions. This matters because people start evil and only mature into well socialized people over time through social interactions. $\endgroup$ – ohwilleke Nov 4 '16 at 4:17
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    $\begingroup$ Your first sentence in part A) is wrong. There are studies that shows smart people are better rationalizing their own bad acts than ordinary folk. Rather like the intelligent people who rise into leadership positions in our world. $\endgroup$ – a4android Nov 4 '16 at 4:38
  • $\begingroup$ @TheNate True. Edited sentence, let me know if it's better now. $\endgroup$ – Zxyrra Nov 4 '16 at 4:39
  • $\begingroup$ @ohwilleke Could you evidence the statement that high IQ societies are known for destructive leadership, because that correlation doesn't seem realistic - if anything, intelligence would produce quality - but prove me wrong. Additionally, while intelligence may cause lack of social skills, a group of people constantly interacting to run a country will develop the social skills, empathy included, to understand their citizens. $\endgroup$ – Zxyrra Nov 4 '16 at 4:43
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What is your definition of "genius"? When I think of a genius, I generally think of a great scientist.

But there's no reason to believe that a brilliant nuclear physicist would make a good king or president, or that he would make a particularly bad king or president. Knowledge of physics has very little to do with ability to lead a nation. Presumably such a person is generally smarter than the average person, so maybe he wouldn't make the sort of dumb mistakes real leaders do. On the other hand he might know he's smarter than the average person, and he gets egotistical and thinks he knows everything, and so he makes stupid mistakes that someone with practical experience wouldn't have made. Like, suppose we are considering what sort of government assistance to the poor we should have. Some say we are encouraging people to not bother to work and just live off welfare; others say that's a non-issue and only a tiny minority would accept welfare if they could get a decent job. Whose opinion would be more valuable in such a debate: A brilliant nuclear physicist who has spent his life doing research at a prestigious university? Or a waitress making minimum wage who has been on welfare in the past and knows many poor people? But I wouldn't be surprised if the brilliant nuclear physicist gets it in his head that because his IQ is 160 and hers is 85, that he needn't bother listening to her opinion.

Are geniuses, as a whole, more or less moral than the average person? Fiction is full of "mad scientists" who think the pursuit of knowledge is more important than the lives of the peasants. And in real life there have certainly been such people: the Nazi scientists who performed barbaric experiments on concentration camp inmates are an extreme but certainly real example. On the other hand there have been medical researchers who devoted their lives to curing disease. And in the middle are many scientists who are absorbed in their work, who don't really care very much about people besides their own friends and family, but who wouldn't be thoughtlessly cruel.

Some geniuses get fanatical about their ideas. There have been plenty of political leaders in history who were so devoted to the utopia they wanted to create that they would crush and destroy anyone who stood in their way. They loved humanity so much that they hated people.

So all told ... I doubt that genius scientists would be particularly good rulers. I'd be very nervous about genius politicians with visions of utopia. What I'd really like, of course, are rulers who are so smart that they agree with me on all political issues but are more capable at turning them into reality. :-)

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What you describe is simply an oligarchy, and would run as well or as badly as any other oligarchy. The qualifications required to be one of the oligarchs won't make any real difference.

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  • $\begingroup$ And it is only dystopian if you aren't a member of the oligarchy. $\endgroup$ – SRM Nov 4 '16 at 7:28
  • $\begingroup$ No, he is describing a meritocracy based on intelligence. oligarchy has to do with the quantity of leaders, not their quality. $\endgroup$ – Innovine Nov 4 '16 at 10:26
  • $\begingroup$ @Innovine There can never be very many geniuses, since it's a relative term and if the general intelligence increases then so will the threshold for being considered a genius. And so rule by geniuses must be rule by a small number of people, and hence an oligarchy. $\endgroup$ – Mike Scott Nov 4 '16 at 10:44
  • $\begingroup$ uh, no. That's nonsense. $\endgroup$ – Innovine Nov 4 '16 at 11:32
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I suggest reading Socrates and Plato and their discussion of the advantages of philosopher-kings and rule by the most intelligent. These two thinkers definitely did not believe it would lead to dystopia. But they never had the chance to test their theories.

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    $\begingroup$ Incorrect. Socrates did not discuss this. Plato did in "The Republic" and yes he did have a chance to try it out shortly... And whether someone thinks it would be dystopic or not doesn't mean it was. Plato's Republic would certainly classify as a Dystopia. $\endgroup$ – Durakken Nov 4 '16 at 7:35

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