The Cult of Smart

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Years ago, someone, somewhere in my life, asked an interesting question. “Would you rather date someone smart, or someone kind.” Sure, it’s not a groundbreaking question by any means, and it is most likely one that most people have been asked before. The first half of the question, and more precisely, the word “smart” has been on my mind. What does it truly mean to be “smart.”

Intelligence in the modern world is often boiled down to IQ. Yet, each individual’s IQ is subject to many degrees of variance. For example, your score could be radically altered by how well you slept prior to taking the test. Additionally, it is easy to make an argument that IQ is a valueless metric when trying to ascertain where someone will end up in the game of life.

Complicating the concept further is every individual’s unique perception of what makes someone smart. Being from a predominantly blue state, “smart” is often characterized by someone who is a Democrat, reads the New York Times, and is cultured to some degree. As much as the above description is a caricature that you might see on television, it is also how plenty of people in this part of the U.S.A. operate. Yes, people are generally becoming more intelligent as time moves forward, but we can’t all be rocket scientists, right?

Certainly, there are plenty of people who fit the caricature of an intelligent person, and are actually intelligent, but what about the ones who are just pretending? Do the truly intelligent people know that they are actually intelligent, or are we stuck in a vicious reoccurring cycle of the Dunning-Kruger effect? And if we are in a world full of people who believe themselves to be smarter than they actually are, how can the truly intelligent, change anything?

What is “smart” when it can be turned into such a grand illusion? Anyone can fake intelligence. With our current knowledge of psychology and neuroscience, it’s been proven that intelligence can be faked without insidious intent, or without even trying at all.

Kindness is difficult to fake, and unless you are a con-artist, it has few incentives attached. Maybe the perception of intelligence is appealing to many, and they get trapped into the idea of dating the illusory “smart” person. Kindness, to me, seems like the far better option.

 

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