Sunday, December 07, 2008

Comic Book Guys

And, while on the subject of intelligence, Frank Rich wonders if Obama is making the Kennedy mistake of thinking clever people understand the real world. It depends what you mean by clever, of course. There's clever meaning stupid, as in those bankers and mathematicians who created VAR, or there's clever meaning smart, as thinkers like Nassim who can both talk the talk and walk the walk. The difference is the degree of attachment to the real world, Nassim being very attached. Yet cleverness tends to be associated with detachment, valuable in the case of Einstein, fatal in the case of anybody with power. The image that should haunt us all is that of Comic Book Guy, the cleverest man in Springfield. 


  1. First off, I'm glad I was incorrect on the prediction of the election. You nailed it.
    Nevertheless, I still maintain that it was stupid to put the result at risk for narrow agenda, but hayho.
    Now to the post. Clever people, I'm never really certain what this means. But if one can hold any definition on the term it is surely better than the other side of the coin. While, as to Kennedy, he cannot have been so bad if after almost 50 years he can still rise that amount of passive-aggressive bile.

  2. However clever or not Team Bam is, the trappings of power will morph them all into the philosopher kings that will fail us all.

  3. "The real world". Dread phrase! Unless you're schizo, there is only one. Frank Rich's best point is that someone who's been through the fire understands the world better than someone who hasn't. So the key qualification is wisdom rather than cleverness, "the product of hard-won, often bitter experience", not letters after your name or pots of money.

    I guess the worry is that Obama may be inviting hubris if he appoints people who haven't had enough experience, particularly of adversity. Whether they are "clever" isn't that important by comparison.

    As for Comic Book Guy, it's hard not to have a soft spot for him. Hiding out in a comic shop, handling disreputable videos and deliberately avoiding experience of the world is a tough path to tread. He's a hard worker if nothing else.

  4. A former colleague of mine once told me that Bell Labs used to recruit the very cleverest graduates from the great technical schools in the US. They were so clever that they couldn't actually do things that normal people do, like get dressed or remember to eat. While their huge brains pulsed with the sort of cleverness that brought us laser technology, other less clever but infinitely more practical people were employed to make sure they got up in the morning and tied their shoe laces so they didn't fall over.

    When things go wrong, I want the practical guys on my side.

  5. Clever people gave us esperanto, Marxism, concrete tower blocks, the atom bomb, the terrible causes of global warming, the terrible solutions to global warming and The Future.

    And they have better sperm.

    I vote stupid.