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Anonymous asked in Social ScienceOther - Social Science · 1 decade ago

William James Sidis ?

What do you think of him ??, Do our best minds go unheard ?

( I mean internationally not just one country).

1 Answer

  • 1 decade ago
    Favorite Answer

    He was a truly fascinating man. I think the lesson to be learned from Sidis is that talent without desire is hopeless. It's not that he went unheard as much as that he had nothing to say. He had more raw talent than anyone else on Earth but he wasted it hiding from society and collecting bus tokens.

    Billy Sidis could learn a new language in a weekend but he never figured out how to make a decent living. I've met lots of doctors, lawyers and businessmen who were idiots. On the level of "Oh my god, I can't believe this person has a driver's license." But they had the desire to succeed. Billy Sidis could have had fame and fortune with ease. He was a celebrity by the time he was 10. But all he wanted was seclusion.

    The reason why it seems that our "best minds go unheard" is that we need to view everything in a context. If we can't place something into our understanding of the world, we discard it. That's why there is so much bitter political fighting. One party will think "Who cares about the economy? We're talking about the environment here!" while the others think "Why are they blabbering about trees? Our economy's suffering!" We don't make persuasive arguments, we just re-state our own opinions and wait for our opponent to suddenly see the error of their ways.

    Billy Sidis didn't fit into the worldview of most people. The things he cared about most were totally irrelevant to the general population during the 20's and 30's. He would work as hard as he could inventing a new language or tracking transportation systems and all he got for it was mockery. And it would be the exact same way if he had been born 80 years later. If anything, it would be worse, because the internet allows us to mock faster and more aggressively than ever before.

    So if you define "best minds" as just the smartest people, yes, they will go unheard most of the time. We only have the capacity to handle a little bit of new information each day and we usually waste it all on crap. The sheer dynamics of supply and demand mandate that most people, no matter how gifted, will go unheard.

    But if you define "best minds" as the most insightful and relevant commentators, then I disagree. The cream frequently does rise to the top. Famous novelist Thomas Pynchon is a total recluse who doesn't have a single recent photo on Google, but his last book (2006's Against the Day) sold well despite no promotion. Michael Jackson was painfully shy and suffered abuse at the hands of his father and a series of terrible plastic surgeons, but he still managed to become one of the top selling musicians of al time. Vincent Van Gogh never sold a painting in his life and cut his own ear off and he still made his mark. Friedrich Nietzsche was put in an insane asylum, and he's taught in every philosophy class around the world.

    Sidis wasn't failed by society. Sidis and society failed each other. Sidis didn't have anything to offer and society mistreated him because of that. If Sidis had teamed up with Albert Einstein or Henry Ford, he would be a household name today. He would have put his incredible talents to good use and produced something that we recognize as brilliant. But all of his accomplishments were unrecognizable, and most have been lost to time. So what more can you expect? William Sidis was the smartest man who ever lived and it still wasn't enough.

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