An ideal punishment for evil scientists or geniuses would be a judicially mandated, deliberate decrease in intelligence. Let's say that a judge ordered a person's IQ to be decreased from 200 to 110. How would the sentence be carried out?

Note that the sentence does not mean turning a genius into an idiot but a genius into a normal man. The procedure may be more or less painful or gruesome but the IQ should be not lower than the prescribed level and additional mental diseases should be prevented.

Let's assume that we use simple modern tech, e.g. have access to the medical and technological arsenal of our time. Refer to the answers of my question about deafening.

  • $\begingroup$ What's the tech level of your world? $\endgroup$ – Mołot Jul 28 '17 at 18:40
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    $\begingroup$ a lobotomy would do it. $\endgroup$ – A. C. A. C. Jul 28 '17 at 18:40
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    $\begingroup$ I know the first challenge would be that a surprising number of geniuses would learn how to throw their IQ tests really quickly, so that they can test at the sentenced rate with minimal damage to the grey matter! $\endgroup$ – Cort Ammon Jul 28 '17 at 19:33
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    $\begingroup$ From exactly "200" to "110"? You can't do that. You might be able to decrease the test scores the victim would get in an IQ test, but there is absolutely no way to decrease it by a certain well-defined amount $\endgroup$ – Raditz_35 Jul 28 '17 at 20:45
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    $\begingroup$ Do you have politicians in your world? Could you compel him to become. i don't know, communications director or counselor of a particularly crazy one for awhile? $\endgroup$ – Harper Jul 30 '17 at 0:18

This exact premise was explored in the truly excellent short story Harrison Bergeron, by Kurt Vonnegut. http://www.tnellen.com/cybereng/harrison.html

From the text

It was tragic, all right, but George and Hazel couldn't think about it very hard. Hazel had a perfectly average intelligence, which meant she couldn't think about anything except in short bursts. And George, while his intelligence was way above normal, had a little mental handicap radio in his ear. He was required by law to wear it at all times. It was tuned to a government transmitter. Every twenty seconds or so, the transmitter would send out some sharp noise to keep people like George from taking unfair advantage of their brains.

George and Hazel were watching television. There were tears on Hazel's cheeks, but she'd forgotten for the moment what they were about.

On the television screen were ballerinas.

A buzzer sounded in George's head. His thoughts fled in panic, like bandits from a burglar alarm.

"That was a real pretty dance, that dance they just did," said Hazel.

"Huh" said George.

"That dance-it was nice," said Hazel.

"Yup," said George. He tried to think a little about the ballerinas. They weren't really very good-no better than anybody else would have been, anyway. They were burdened with sashweights and bags of birdshot, and their faces were masked, so that no one, seeing a free and graceful gesture or a pretty face, would feel like something the cat drug in. George was toying with the vague notion that maybe dancers shouldn't be handicapped. But he didn't get very far with it before another noise in his ear radio scattered his thoughts.

George winced. So did two out of the eight ballerinas.

Hazel saw him wince. Having no mental handicap herself, she had to ask George what the latest sound had been.

"Sounded like somebody hitting a milk bottle with a ball peen hammer," said George.


Depending on the tech level of your world, I see a few different solutions being plausible.

1. A lobotomy

(as mentioned by A.C.A.C. in the comments) reduces the amount of complexity a person's brain can handle, by simply cutting out a portion of the physical brain. Lobotomies were widely used as a treatment for mental disorders in the 1940s and 50s:

They achieved their effects by "reducing the complexity of psychic life." Following the operation, spontaneity, responsiveness, self-awareness and self-control were reduced. Activity was replaced by inertia, and people were left emotionally blunted and restricted in their intellectual range. (from wikipedia)

One scientist referred to lobotomies as "surgically induced childhood," which would certainly be a solution to a criminal having too much intellect for their own good.

2. Brain-eating creatures

In some universes there are creatures that feed upon the brains of humans, while leaving the rest of their bodies intact. For example, Mind Flayers in D&D or Ceti Eels in Star Trek both affect the brains of sentient beings in a very damaging way. However, this method has the greatest potential for getting out of hand and reducing the victim to a vegetative state, or killing them completely -- therefore, those inflicting the punishment would need to exert strict control over the creature that was unleashed on the victim's brain, stopping them as soon as their brain has been damaged enough.

3. Intellect-affecting spells

If magic is a part of your world, a permanent variation of a Confusion or Curse spell could very effectively prevent their scheming. Another option is a spell of Bad Luck, which if powerful enough (and again, permanent) could effectively prevent them from making any significant intellectual breakthrough, thus foiling all their plans before they even happen.


The basis of this idea (e.g., chemically reducing intellect) has already been explored in an episode of "House M.D." (Ignorance is Bliss) The episode describes how it was medically accomplished. Methinks that's exactly what you're looking for.

From the synopsis on Wikipedia...

The remaining symptoms are explained after the discovery of his addiction to DXM [dextromethorphan] (mixed with alcohol to prevent brain damage), which he used to reduce his intellect.

From the Encyclopedia of Addictive Drugs, page 110.

Most persons find the drug unpleasant if the medically recommended dosage is exceeded, with unwanted effects such as easy excitability, memory trouble, nausea, itching, interference with male sexual function, slurred speech, trouble with thinking, and difficulty with moving arms and legs.

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    $\begingroup$ While this link may answer the question, it is better to include the essential parts of the answer here and provide the link for reference. Link-only answers can become invalid if the linked page changes. - From Review $\endgroup$ – L.Dutch Jul 28 '17 at 19:33
  • $\begingroup$ @L.Dutch, I added a quote from the Wikipedia website containing the pertinent information just in case Wikipedia deletes or changes the page thereby invalidating this answer in our lifetimes. $\endgroup$ – JBH Jul 28 '17 at 19:37
  • $\begingroup$ I can't find any confirmation it works like that outside TV show. $\endgroup$ – Mołot Jul 28 '17 at 19:46
  • $\begingroup$ @Molot. Reference added. It took me less than two minutes to find it via Google. My search string was using dextromethorphan to reduce ("i.q." || intellect || intelligence). $\endgroup$ – JBH Jul 28 '17 at 20:03
  • $\begingroup$ Yes, with a lot of side effects op does not want and without any mention of mixing with alcohol to prevent them. $\endgroup$ – Mołot Jul 28 '17 at 20:08

Tell them they can leave once they prove the Collatz conjecture.

They will begin overconfident, and then as they begin to realize the difficulties, they'll begin working through the night. Their tired minds will begin hallucinating of numbers, trees and streams of collatz numbers, connected and spiraling down toward one, Paul Erdos' words echoing in their head...

Soon, they will dream only of solving the Collatz conjecture. No more evil geniusing for them.

More seriously, some sort of psychological restraint - training them to have a pathological fear of fortresses, or focusing their thought on some sort of problem absolutely worthless - might be worth trying.

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    $\begingroup$ The last sentence reminds me of a story (or two?) by Wm Gibson: one character has an induced phobia of the Washington Monument, another an aversion to sex (imposed by her father). $\endgroup$ – Anton Sherwood Jul 29 '17 at 6:24

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