Intelligence is Overrated

By Bargo



I've noticed over most of my life that American, and perhaps all of Western society has grown absolutely obsessed with this one human trait: high intelligence. Now, before we explore the reasons why let's make it clear that we're not here to bash on high intelligence; there's no doubt in anyone's mind that it is a powerful trait, and serves as a nice advantage to anyone. It's hard to think of a situation where lower intelligence is a better thing to have than higher intelligence after all. But why this obsession? And for that matter, why does it seem that this may be considered the most valuable trait for many people? What about strength, persistence, creativity? Join me as we explore how high intelligence took the crown of most valuable trait, why other traits have fallen into irrelevance, and how high intelligence is overrated.

What is High Intelligence?

This should be pretty simple. Intelligence is, mostly, our ability to problem solve, and how quickly we can do it. A high intelligence allows for advanced problem solving skills that the average person likely won't have, especially since intelligence is mostly genetic. Intelligence can be measured with an IQ test with a fair degree of accuracy so that we can effectively attach a number to it.

Life is, if you think about it, mostly about solving various problems, so having a high IQ should help a person do that more efficiently than a person with a low IQ. It makes sense then that high intelligence would be considered the top tier of traits for most people, and I won't argue against that, but I take one serious issue with it: intelligence is oftentimes an inactive trait capable of being easily manipulated, or distracted. Think, for example, of all the genuinely smart people you know who waste their lives playing vidya gaymes. Maybe you're one of them; I know I was wasting my life playing vidya gaymes up until recently, and if I didn't quit, I wouldn't have the sobriety to write this kind of critique.

So inactivity throws a large monkey wrench into the works of intelligence, that much we have determined. But we must determine where inactivity comes from.

Our Lifestyle is Inactive

You've already heard it a million times ad nauseam so I'll make it quick: the industrial lifestyle that we live is unhealthy for our bodies. We don't do a lot of physical work anymore since automation, and shipping work over to East Asia has become commonplace. Perhaps this inactive lifestyle has put the inactive traits like intelligence on a pedestal since they are the only applicable traits in this lifestyle. After all, in this society it is not required to be physically fit (obesity crisis anyone?), so why require traits such as strength and creativity which are very active?

All of this inactivity has effectively bred a love for intelligence that it doesn't really deserve. It's a regular situation where a parent or grandparent is actively worrying that their child is not smart enough for college which "they must go to" in order to succeed in life. Get those high standardized test scores, go to college, get a job, and become one with the system that we've made for ourselves which actively seeks to destroy ALL personal and small group autonomy. What absurdity! What a catastrophic way of life! But most importantly, why?! Because intelligence might be the only trait that matters now in an inactive lifestyle.

Indulge me in this hypothetical: what if it all fell apart, and an active lifestyle was required again for survival? What if the system was destroyed, and all that was left were 140+ IQ brainiacs? I'll tell you what would happen: they would all fail to adapt to the new environment, because they will have lost all those important traits required for survival. All of that abstract thinking won't have nearly the same value in this environment, and it would be far preferable to have a well-rounded person who is strong, of average intelligence, and possesses an iron will to live to take on this environment.


I'm sure you're already forming your own opinion on this, but I'll try to explain why high intelligence is overrated. As said before, it is valuable, but we seem to be hedging all of our bets on this one trait, thus creating a society of people who are only valued for their intelligence. Think about it: we say moronic things like "dumb jock," or "brains over braun" all the time (and mainstream media reinforces this), but have you ever considered that a man can be both strong and smart? I like to think of some ancient philosopher such as Plato who could not only beat me in a discussion of morality, but who could also whip me in the wrestling ring. What a chad.

Here at Bargain Bin Philosophy, we value one thing over everything else: autonomy. The nice thing about autonomy is that it doesn't care how smart, strong, or whatever you are; all it requires is a gritty resolve to make your own path in life at any cost, and having nothing but high intelligence to bring to autonomy's table is simply not enough. We all know too many people who are genuinely intelligent, but possess absolutely no sense of autonomy nor desire it, and that is shameful. That said, if you have high intelligence, I'm not trying to say you're a loser nerd who'll never amount to anything other than a desk-jockey, but I am saying that smarts are not always the solution to everything. I can imagine all day long about the best way to do something, but none of that matters if I don't do the work.

"But Bargo, you're crazy! This environment we live in isn't going to change anytime soon!"

Kid, if you're soooooo intelligent, then you should know that this way of life is unsustainable. Global climate change, resource depletion, overpopulation, the technological singularity, the list of problems coming to the 21st century are very big, and very scary. This isn't black-pilled doomer-speak. No amount of brain power will solve these, only a return to non-industrial life. If you'd like a good primer on the costs of modern civilization, check out Spencer Well's Pandora's Seed. If that's not red-pilling enough, I've got just what you need... read this.

Smarts are Great, Persistence is Better

Let's highlight one of the best human traits of them all: persistence. If you have the "never give up" attitude towards life, then you are far ahead of most people, especially if said people are intelligent, but completely unmotivated, because they will often rationalize their inactivity. Persistence is what drives us to completion on whatever the task at hand is, a real go-getter of a trait which allowed our species to survive up until this point, and what drives me and others to seek out a life free from worker-bee jobs, and mindless consoooomerism. Sure, being highly intelligent is a great asset to have, but what a waste of a trait if not applied in seeking out a better life or advancing knowledge in some way; imagine if a person like Isaac Newton, who was doubtlessly bright, decided it was too hard to explain gravity, or calculus... we wouldn't remember his accomplishments to this day. Persistence is not an inactive trait. It must be practiced towards all problems.


So there you have it, high intelligence is overrated, and if you don't consider yourself particularly smart (I know I don't, look what I just argued!), don't worry about it. Make it a point to be a persistent little bugger who won't stop until he gets what he wants. And most importantly, because I believe my readers are likely fairly intelligent: don't think because you're smart you can rest on your laurels! Your intelligence is an asset, not an award, not an accolade; combine it with other, more flexible traits that need developing too, and build the life of autonomy that you want.