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Rick G. Rosner: Giga Society, Member; Mega Society, Member & ex-Editor (1990-96); and Writer (Part Three)

Mr. Rick G. Rosner


Part three of six, comprehensive interview with Rick G. Rosner.  Giga Society member, ex-editor for Mega Society (1990-96), and writer.  He discusses the following subject-matter: arguing for reinstatement of metaphysics into physics, their present estranged relationship, necessary relationship between logic and metaphysics, formal argument for the derivations from logic to physics and connection to metaphysics, unsuccessful attempts at metaphysical thinking, ancient Greece’s lack of experimental science, the opposite trend today with much experimental science, the depth of understanding the business transactions of the universe on a macro scale, possible purposes for these transactions for the universe, brief overview of the universe’s development, related objectives of organisms, purpose of laughter illuminated by George Saunders, and effective economy of thought for a possible grounding for the universe; methodology of science, derived facts from the methodology, and constructed systems of knowledge, a determined universe, free will as an internal sense of willing something, compatibilist and non-compatibilist free will, quantum mechanics, moral axiologists, free will and ethics implying moral accountability, considerations of this with an increased understanding of the world through science, framing the appropriate question for an accurate answer to the free will question, some peoples’ arguments for the ability of free will based on quantum indeterminacy, impetus behind free will appearing to be not wanting restrictions “by genes, by creeds or institutions, by mental limitations,” a better question for understanding the free will issue, evolved creatures not necessarily constructing the most accurate views of reality, evolutionary examples of hijacked thought, Plato’s Cave, the ‘freakout’ over determinism based on Newtonian mechanics, technical rather than transcendent aspect of thinking, and lack of determinacy of the universe based on quantum mechanics; free will intrinsic to an individual consciousness, free will for the penultimate armature of the universe, derived-from-armature free will for an individual consciousness (or set of them), the more important angle of informed will, and targeted thinking; and set of mainstream physicists considering the universe to exist in 11-dimensional hyperspace in string theory, constraints of the universe’s structure based on the specification of dimensions, implied limitations of a three dimensional universe, analogy of Donald Rumsfeld and Errol Morris’ The Unknown Known, origin of the phrase with John Wesley Powell, John Keats and Robert Browning mentioning the phrase too, the universe as an optimized information map, commonalities of the universe exist close to one another while those far apart have less in common, 30% of the speed of light (.3c) of objects moving away from us equating to ~4 billion light years away, forming a sphere of that radius about twice the radius of everything moving away at 15% the speed of light (.15c) away from us with four times the area, further considerations and calculations with the reciprocal Lorentz factor from special relativity, redshift and information in common, Big Bang universe, size proportional to age of universe (look farther away, the universe appears smaller because younger, or larger because older), Hubble redshift, a non-Big Bang universe having lack of uniformity with an active and burned-out center with collapsed outskirts clustered to T = 0 (Time equates to zero or absolute beginning of the cosmos), inverse-square law, and an economy of dimensions likely defeating an 11-dimensional universe posited out of string theoretic constructions.

Keywords: Apple, armature, Big Bang universe, Dave Damashek, determinism, Donald Rumsfeld, Donald Trump, Dyson spheres, Errol Morris, economy of dimensions, ethics, evolution, experimental science, fields, fixed orbits, free will, galaxies, George Saunders, Giga Society, gravitational wells, Greece, Hubble redshift, hypersphere, indeterminate, infinity, informed will, inverse-square law, John Keats, John Wesley Powell, laughter, life, logic, long-distance particles, Lorentz factor, mathematics, Mega Society, metaphysics, Michael Scott, Microwave background radiation, moral axiologists, morality, neutrinos, particle physics, photons, physics, Plato’s Cave, principles of existence, quantum mechanics, Rick G. Rosner, Robert Browning, science, ‘The Unknown Known’, thought, toxoplasmosis, unconscious biases, universe, unpredictable, writer.

24. You think metaphysics needs to be reinstated into physics. Yet, they have an estrangement.  You mean physics and metaphysics together.  Indeed, I would reason much further than this.  Metaphysics needs logic; logic needs metaphysics.  Furthermore, mathematics derives from logic, physics derives from mathematics, and hence – for a more comprehensive framework – physics needs metaphysics and vice versa.  At root, we have a deep relation between physics and metaphysics.  This estrangement seemed temporary before someone directed appropriate attention to the need for conscious reunification of the two.

Compared to science, metaphysics has been very unsuccessful, to the extent that few people, scientists included, do much metaphysical thinking. Science has helped us build the modern world. Metaphysics can’t even definitively answer its own questions. Pondering “What is being?” doesn’t bring us Apple products. Our era is kind of the reverse of ancient Greece, which was all “Why is everything the way it is?” and not much for doing experimental science. The Greeks should’ve performed some experiments. It’s hard to do effective metaphysics if you don’t have sufficient information about how the universe works. It’s like solving a crime without evidence.

But perhaps by now, we have almost enough information, via physics, to come up with a system which has some “whys” as well as “hows.” We’ve learned a lot of “hows” about the universe: how it transacts much of its business – on a macro scale, via fields and long-distance particles such as photons and neutrinos. We should be able to use our knowledge of these transactions to propose theories of how the universe might benefit from these transactions, asking “Why? – What does the universe gain?”

Via these processes, the universe becomes simpler in some ways – over billions of years, stars boil down – and more complex in others – across billions of years, life arises. The universe becomes more stable in some ways – matter accretes into galaxies and stars which are cradled in fixed orbits and gravitational wells and the universe clusters on a range of scales, adding to stability and informational compactness. As my friend Dave Dameshek likes to ask, “To what end? To what end?!”

Take a look at a business model for a system with “whys” – with goals we kind of understand – thought.

Thought has several related objectives – manage an organism’s normal activities, look for exploitable regularities, and avoid error, all within the context of constructing a model of reality. The brain has a finite capacity, so it wants to compress information to reduce the chance for error and make room for more information. The brain likes finding analogies and shortcuts – they help compactify information.

Thought involves risk. If the brain can figure out how to make knowing fewer things as helpful as knowing more things, it can know those few things with greater certainty and less distraction and chance of confusion. Think of it in terms of sending a message – if you have a 15-word message but can compress it to 5 words, better to send the shorter message 3 times to increase the likelihood the message gets through.

I view laughter as delight at finding a shortcut and as a signal to other people that a shortcut has been found. George Saunders has the same theory. “Humor is what happens when we’re told the truth quicker and more directly than we’re used to.” ― George Saunders, The Braindead Megaphone

So we have a rough idea of the brain’s informational priorities and procedures. Similarly, we can speculate about what the universe is up to with regard to information.

The universe does what it does, which I believe is information processing – thinking, even – within some context. It’s grappling with – thinking about – some world beyond itself – a world that includes the physical structure that makes the universe’s information-processing possible. We can assume that the universe has objectives in that world. We can assume that the universe has an economy of thought – that its thinking is effective because some rules of information are in place. We can try to figure out those rules, dagnabbit.

25. You think that people may be better able to answer philosophical questions today than in the past because of more accurate depictions of reality through the methodology of science, derived facts from the methodology, and constructed systems of knowledge: quantum mechanics, particle physics, chemical sciences, biological sciences, psychological sciences, and economic sciences onward with inclusion of every relevant discipline and subdiscipline.  Of note, traditional ‘great’ questions can have placement in complementary scientific frameworks.  For instance, in a determined universe, freedom of the will, ‘free will’, does not exist because determinacy reigns supreme.  Either branch of determinism, compatibilist or non-compatibilist, bears little or no proper fruits.  Why? Quantum mechanics shows either deterministic branch of the tree to be barren. Therefore, zero factual streams to hydrate and nourish the roots.  Unless individuals defy the larger systemic laws (they would not) behind the hypothetical determinate universe.  Furthermore, in an indeterminate universe, free will does not exist due to 1) no genuine point of contact for free will and 2) any utility of free will dissipates into meaningless randomness and noise.  Peoples’ ability to freely will represents the fulcrum for each stream of reasoning, which makes intuitive and immediate experiential sense. Our universal, internal sense of willing something, of choosing one thought or act over another.  Moreover, free will implicates ethics, morals, and legal systems, which binds upon bearers with the ability to freely choose right over wrong.  Moral axiologists connect “right over wrong” to value systems.  Value systems found in theological and non-theological contexts.  Therefore, an important question for most people to consider with due ratiocination. In short, free will and ethics implies moral accountability. With increased understanding of the world through science, what do you think of this issue? What evidence and argument most convinces you of this answer/these answers?

We can use physics to start to address whether we’ve even been asking the right metaphysical questions, such as, “Is there free will?” Free from what, exactly? From being trapped in determinism? Thanks to quantum mechanics, we know that the world isn’t pre-determined. (However, it’s easy to imagine that, even with quantum indeterminacy, our thoughts in any given situation could pretty much be pre-determined (unless we explicitly build in randomness just to be contrary). I don’t think that quantum indeterminacy has much to do with whether we think one thought or another. Other people disagree.)

“Free will” can mean “thought that is independent from material constraints.” Under this definition, if thought takes place in the material world, then it’s materially constrained. Material constraint doesn’t bother me. I believe a more important question is, “Can we make decisions free of unconscious biases?” Are our conscious minds running the show, or are we puppets of our selfish genes? And can we overcome this puppetry?

In the past, some people thought there was ordinary matter, the tangible stuff that comprises the world and there was mind-stuff – special, as-yet-undetected twinkly stuff that does your thinking. (But even with two forms of stuff, there’s still the question, is this mind-stuff free of material constraints? Are we free to think what we want to think without the material world constraining our mind-stuff?)

I think today, the situation is clearer. Our thinking consists of the information in our awareness and how we manipulate it with our hardware – our brains. We are our information. There’s no mind-stuff that freely thinks independent of information.

When you ask the question, “Why am I me?” the answer turns out to be, “Because all of your information pertains to you.” All your information came into your head, was processed by you, and pertains to you (if only because you perceived and processed it.) You can imagine jumping into someone else’s head, Quantum Leap style, but in that case, you’re taking your information and your mental history and the ways you process information into somebody else’s situation. You’re not taking some abstract mind-stuff that’s free from information with you – you are your information and your mental tendencies.

So there’s not free will (as I understand the question – there are other interpretations of free will) because there’s no mind-stuff judging from afar, independent of information. To be clear, information is not matter, but neither is it independent, free-floating, twinkly mind-stuff. Information in this context is representations of things presented in such a way that we can think about them – they’re part of thought – they’re mentally manipulable in our mind-space. This space isn’t made of or facilitated by a special form of matter. Information is tightly coupled to and facilitated by our brains, which are concrete and material.

I’m vastly oversimplifying, but the impetus behind the interest throughout history in free will seems to be concern about whether thought is to some extent a sham – whether we have exalted powers to stand apart and above from the grubby, clockwork stuff of the world, and beyond that, whether can we avoid having our thoughts controlled – by genes, by creeds or institutions, by mental limitations.

We would want free will because that would mean we’re not the beyotches of the pedestrian, earth-bound material world.

But the better question is, “Can we be in charge of our thinking?” That is, can we think without bias? Consciousness is always playing tricks on us, because consciousness is a product of evolution, not a pure product of a desire to give us the most complete and accurate view of the world. (But we don’t need to be products of evolution for our brains and biology and consciousness to have hidden agendas. The biases are there, regardless of what put them there. Just ask any grad student in psychology about what must be thousands of experiments which show that consciousness gives us a highly filtered and biased and monkeyed-with view of the world. Each of us is our own Fox News.)

There are a bunch of parasites that transact business by messing with the brains of their victims – parasites that make mice attracted to cats (toxoplasmosis) or bugs attracted to light – so they get eaten and pass on the parasite to the next host in their life cycle.  The hosts’ brains have been hijacked. To some extent, everyone’s brain is hijacked by what our genes want us to do. Reproducing often runs counter to the well-being and continued existence of individual organisms, but the process that made us is based on reproduction, and it tends not to be denied. We are greatly manipulated by our sexual thoughts and drives. It’s so crazy how fascinated we are with boobs and butts and symmetrical, easy-to-read faces, but all those things carry information about reproductive fitness that we’re hardwired to scrutinize.

We can make and are making progress in understanding our thought processes. Figuring out the limitations and biases of our thoughts and perceptions and how to overcome them are how we slowly extricate ourselves from Plato’s Cave.  We can never get all the way out of the cave – never see and understand existence exactly as it is – but we can make unlimited progress, stacking up level upon level of scientific, philosophical, aesthetic and moral understanding. (If thinking entities are common throughout the universe, then not only scientific understanding is necessary. Thinking entities have narratives and morality.)

People freaked out over the idea of determinism which got a big push from Newtonian mechanics. They didn’t like the idea of being locked into a perfectly predictable machine universe which seems to make consciousness unnecessary. How can we really be thinking and why do we need to think if our brains are just molecules bouncing off of each other in a completely predictable way? But thinking shouldn’t have to be and isn’t transcendent – it’s a technical process involving considerable amounts of information simultaneously shared among a bunch of specialized subsystems. Doesn’t matter if it’s just electricity and bouncing molecules – the mental chatter is an unavoidable aspect of the processing. While not transcending mechanics, thinking, as an inescapable aspect of high-level information processing, may be the frame for all of physics (since the universe engages in high-level information processing), which makes thinking kind of transcendent, after all.

The universe turns out not to be deterministic – quantum events are, within their probability functions, perfectly unpredictable. (Future quantum events (which includes everything, really) precisely follow probability functions. We don’t know the outcome of a quantum event. But we do know the probability curve that decides the outcome. That is, once we’ve narrowed down the possible outcomes as much as possible, what’s left – the unpredictable, indeterminate part – is completely, inherently unpredictable except in terms of precisely defined probabilities.)

But this isn’t good news for free will, because quantum unpredictability doesn’t liberate thought from being a mechanistic process.

Consciousness is a technical thing, not a mystical in the realm of angels thing – it’s a property of high-level information-sharing via bouncing molecules, etc. – not necessarily in a completely predictable way, but also not in a way that thought can bend or defy physics through thought itself.

Consciousness creates an information space (or mind-space) that owes itself to the physics of the brain but isn’t comprised of the atoms of the brain. (It’s as if your brain is running a video game environment which contains representations that come from (processed) sensory information and from imagination (generally not the Willy Wonka kind). It hasn’t built a physical world – a scale model of the outside world like a model train set – but rather a system that allows the mind to envision and manipulate mental representations. As we think, we don’t see neurons firing – we see what is represented by patterns of neurons firing.)

But hey – if you have your mind-space – an abstract arena for the information in your awareness – why so serious about the physical foundation of the space? Your brain is made of stuff – get over it. Legitimate concerns related to free will include not being in charge of what gets to enter your mind-space, how information has been sharpened, simplified, amplified or otherwise tweaked on the way in, and unconscious glitches in your information-processing.

There’s the ass-covering, bogus storytelling nature of consciousness. Your unconscious or some specialized subsystem pulls the trigger on a decision, followed by your consciousness telling itself a story after the fact about why it made the decision. Happens all the time. Your consciousness is always telling you, “It’s cool – got it – I’m the boss.” Sure you are, consciousness – you’re the boss like Donald Trump or Michael Scott is the boss – you can be a blowhard with an exaggerated sense of your own skills.

If you observe carefully, you can spot some of the mechanics of consciousness and watch your thoughts being assembled. One small example – when there’s a name on the tip of your brain, sometimes you get clues – it’s five letters, it starts with a B or an M. You can glimpse some of the mental landscape where the little ball of inquiry is rolling around, trying to drop into the pit that’s the answer. But now you’ve thought about it too much – you’ve scrambled the landscape – you have to forget your inquiry and let it settle. Come back to it a little later, and often, the answer is right there for you.

In addition to constraints on thought, there are constraints on existence itself. Our thoughts are fairly tightly bound to reality, and reality seems bound to some pretty inflexible principles of existence. Creatures that are the result of evolution in a natural (un-engineered) cosmos probably all live in three spatial dimensions with linear time and rules of physics which are fairly consistent among all the different possible universes. (I don’t believe that the universe can take on any crazy dang form, with physical constants and number of dimensions at the mercy of 12-sided dice, and not just because the special effects department only has the budget to cover a couple of extras in blue body paint. There are reasons for gravity and 4D space-time, etc.) Whether advanced civilizations can circumvent these somewhat uniform conditions and construct truly weird universes remains to be seen.

Evolved creatures are persistent creatures – they’ve evolved to persist by propagating offspring across time. If the general scheme of the universe is decipherable – if we can decode its physics and metaphysics – then advanced civilizations (at least those which retain the will to persist that they evolved with) will figure out the universe and be forced to address it on its terms (which we have to anyway, even without understanding it). Every civilization cooks from the same Mystery Basket – the universe.

So civilizations are locked into a template – they react to the conditions of existence, constrained by their persistent characteristics and by physics, resulting in a limited range of possible paths for civilizations. You hear people say, “There are only seven basic plots for movies.” Well maybe there are a limited number of basic plots for civilizations. Some might be empire-builders. Though maybe not – in the words of Enrico Fermi, “Where are they?” It might be more efficient to stay close to home and exploit local resources for computing power – turning nearby planets into Dyson spheres and the like. Some might fall into decadence. Some might devote themselves to figuring out what the universe means and wants. Some might become artists, engaging in grand feats of beautiful, frivolous engineering. Maybe your standard advanced civilization is a mix of all the major reactions to existence, kind of like a TV lineup – comedy, drama, glitzy excess, hedonism….

The rules of existence will turn out to be fairly mathematical – not ordained from above, with God saying, “This is the precise and perfect Number One. It’s the basis of counting,” but hemmed in by slippery, iron-clad but fuzzy and evanescent tautological necessities such as non-contradiction – something can’t both exist and not exist (except when it can because of quantum uncertainty) – with existence entailing space and time and matter and their delineation via interactions – a big, messy ball of bootstrapped logic. (Numbers seem inherently exact, but that’s how we define and use them. We’re really borrowing an infinity of information (about the relationships among numbers) to do so. Numbers are as bootstrapped as everything else, but they’re amenable to procedures which hide that.)

Given that we’re constrained by math-like rules, it’s not unreasonable to think that we’re math-like entities, with our existences boxed and bound and constrained by having to belong to the set of all possible things.

Imagine, for example, the mind-space of a sponge, which has no neurons but which can respond to stimuli. (A sponge can sneeze when it gets filled up with schmutz.) It has a tiny-to-the-point-of-nonexistent, fuzzy mind-space – a pretty close to minimum-possible mind-space – which could probably be replicated with a simple mathematical model. Then there are roundworms with 302 neurons. It would take a much more complicated model, but you could still build one, once the math of mental spaces is understood, which would encompass all possible roundworm mental states. Which means that the mind of a roundworm is a mathematical entity.

Now imagine the brain of a chicken. The (always reliable) internet suggests it might have 100 million neurons. Hard to imagine precisely and accurately modeling a chicken’s mental space. But on the other hand, it’s a chicken. We’ll eventually be able to do this. We could build Chicken (and Pig and Cow) Heaven. Sorry we keep killing and eating you, chickens, but we’ve replicated all possible chicken mind-spaces in this computer. You’re in there somewhere, having what passes for a great time for a chicken.

There’s no way we won’t, in the next 50 years, try to build the mind-spaces of Abe Lincoln and Jane Austen and Shakespeare. “Have you read Joy and Jealousy by Jane Austen 3.3? Way too much sex.” Yes, Star Trek Holodeck, I can see you. You can put your hand down. Characters in video games will have their own mind-spaces. People who freeze their heads might find themselves brought back to fight World War Two over and over in Shell Shock 4 for the Goopple PlayVerse.

But we’re saved from our constraints by infinity. Assuming (which we may never be able to prove) that possible universes can be of any finite size, and that the number of universes of any given size is proportional to the size raised to some exponential power, there’s an infinity of possible worlds and destinies.

26. Free will might operate beyond present explanatory powers. It may exist intrinsic to an individual consciousness, or set of POVs, in the universe overriding/incorporating quantum indeterminacy or exist based on an intrinsic characteristic in a larger system.  For instance, an armature of the cosmos beyond present explanatory powers.  What of this armature for the universe?  What if free will for the universe inheres in this armature? Intrinsic freedom of the cosmos.  In other words, what if conscious creatures relate to such an armature and have derived (intrinsic to them or derived from armature) freedom of the will?

[Asked in a Seinfeld voice] What’s the big deal about free will? I’m not overly concerned about free will; I care about informed will. Consciousness can function to somewhat optimize mental resources, with the objective being, the better the model you have of the world, the better your understanding of that model and the more angles and tactics you can deploy based on that understanding, the better your chances are of achieving your goals.

This is not free thinking. This is targeted thinking, based on where and what we are in the world. We’re not free – we’re part of the world, and we have to think about it. We can think freely about philosophical issues – about whatever we have the mental chops to think about – but even this kind of thinking is some kind of strategic reaction to the world. I would rather think well than think free. Freedom comes from knowing what’s up and being able to react effectively to it. But you’re still anchored to what’s up.

And about the universe’s armature – I think the universe is thinking about the world that the armature is part of – the outside world that contains the mind or mind-like thing that is our universe. The universe’s information processing or thoughts pertain to – are anchored to – its outside world. Everything that thinks is thinking about a world – it’s thinking in an anchored context.

27. Out of another set of mainstream physicists, even while some claim lacking direct observational evidence, arises the possibility of additional dimensions as postulated in, for example, string theory with everything in existence operating inside of 11 dimensional hyperspace.  How do these conceptual and mathematical frameworks hold in your view?

It takes information to build and specify dimensions. Where does the information contained in 11-dimensional hyperspace come from? Does the universe contain enough information to have all these extra dimensions? Maybe so, if the dimensions are small enough to not contain much information at all. But on a macro scale, the universe barely has enough information (from observing itself) to hold open three spatial dimensions.

I don’t love string theory. Maybe if I knew enough math and physics to work with it, I’d like it better. But in my current ignorant state, it seems unnecessarily complicated. I hope there’s a simpler explanation for the way the universe works, with string theory being one of a variety of helpful ways to conceptualize physics. I’m hoping we develop a toolkit consisting of a number of different but consistent angles on physics and the universe, each being handy for certain operations, and acting as cross-checks and sources of insight for each other. It would kind of suck for string theory to turn out to be the simplest way to understand the world.

Why does the universe have three dimensions? I think we live in a Rumsfeld universe. Donald Rumsfeld famously said, “…there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns — the ones we don’t know we don’t know.” (Errol Morris, who made a great-as-usual documentary interview with Rumsfeld called The Unknown Known, traced the idea of unknown knowns and known unknowns back to the explorer John Wesley Powell. He also notes that John Keats and Robert Browning also mention the “known unknown.”)

Suppose that the universe is an optimized information map (of itself, the same way we could imagine an information map of the mind, which when optimized would be a map of itself), with the distance between objects roughly based on how much information they have in common. Parts of the universe with almost everything in common will be very close to each other. (By “in common,” I mean shared information – they’ve been exposed to largely the same history – belonging to the same group of active galaxies – as the universe unfolds.) Parts of the universe with very little in common will be distant from each other (and red-shifted and time-dilated). (Dormant galaxies which are distant from and mostly uncorrelated with each other can be hauled into stronger correlation with each other by bringing them into the active center (kind of like popping open windows on a giant glass touch-screen on a cheesy CSI-type show).)

In an information-map universe, it takes information to hold space open. The number of dimensions depends on the amount of information available to specify the relationships among objects in these dimensions.

Every part of the universe at the same distance from us has about the same amount of information in common with our neighborhood. Say, for example, that we’re looking at parts of the universe that appear to be moving away from us at 30% the speed of light; they’re about 4 billion light years away. Everything that’s four billion light years away from us forms a sphere of that radius, about twice the radius of everything that appears to be moving away at 15% the speed of light, with four times the area.

Just for fun, say that the amount of information in common with us is approximately (at low v) the reciprocal Lorentz factor from special relativity: the square root of (1 – v^2), where v is the redshift velocity (how fast that part of the universe seems to be moving away from us). For v = .15, information would be about 98.9% in common, or 1.1% not in common. For v = .3, information would be about 95.6% in common, or 4.4% not in common. For low redshift velocities, information not in common is proportional to the ratio of velocities squared.

This sets up a locally three-dimensional universe. At each redshift radius v, information not in common with our neighborhood takes up a region proportional to v squared, or the surface of a sphere of radius v. (Each redshift velocity corresponds to a (Hubble relation) distance from our galaxy.)

I’ve left out multiplying the information not in common by the information in common. The less information in common, the less you can distinguish the spatial relationships among distant objects, and space at that distance as we see it shrinks proportionately.

So here’s a Rumsfeld way of thinking about the dimensionality of space. Distances from us are the known known – we know how much information we have in common with other neighborhoods and objects in space. Spatial relationships among other objects shade from the known unknown to, at higher redshifts, the unknown unknown. We know a lot about neighborhoods with almost all information in common with us, but, having almost all information in common, they don’t spread out across a lot of space. The less information neighborhoods have in common with us, the more information space they could occupy, but the less we know about them, the less we know about their spatial interrelationships and the less we can see those relationships, and space at large cosmological distances is effectively shrunken (and smeared out as we look at it).

In a Big Bang universe, we can see across nearly 14 billion light years. (Microwave background radiation has spent nearly the apparent lifetime of the universe reaching us.) But we’re not looking at a sphere 14 billion light years in radius, because the background radiation comes from a very small, young, recently exploded universe. (There’s a maximum radius we can see as we look across greater distances and farther into the past. Beyond that radius, we’re seeing increasingly smeared-out images of our universe when it was younger and smaller. Of course, every image we see is of a younger universe, but it’s usually only younger by a few billionths of a second – the time light takes to cross a room.)

If we could see to infinity, we wouldn’t see Big Bang space as completely filling three-dimensional space. Looking farther and farther, we’d see the universe getting smaller and smaller (because younger and younger), until it’s a point at T = 0. But that’s just because we’re looking back in time. Though we can’t see it because of the finite speed of light, a Big Bang universe can be a fully three-dimensional surface of a hypersphere.

But I don’t think we live in a Big Bang universe. Due to the nature of an information-space universe, it looks quite a bit like a Big Bang universe, and that it started with a Big Bang is a natural first conclusion to reach, based on general relativity and the Hubble redshift. Note that the idea of the Big Bang – space exploding from an initial point – while seeming indisputably established, is less than 100 years old, and has been the predominant theory of universal structure for less than 50 years.

A Big Bang universe is nearly the same everywhere – the result of a uniform outward expansion. But a universe that doesn’t blow up all at once isn’t the same everywhere. It has an active center and burned-out and collapsed outskirts clustered close to what looks like T = 0. This universe may not be perfectly three-dimensional – space is highly curved and riddled with collapsed stuff near the apparent origin, which may mean that space is effectively less than three-dimensional at great distances.

If space doesn’t extend outward from any given point – if, on the outskirts, it tucks into itself – maybe it’s lacking dimensionality. (Or maybe the scale of space is (relativistically) collapsed, allowing for space to be squeezed into less space. On the outskirts, you might be able to have an unlimited number of neighborhoods separated by high apparent relative velocities, because you can add relativistic velocities forever without reaching the speed of light – stuff just gets more contracted.) If the outskirts are less than three-dimensional, this might explain large-scale gravity not falling off according to the inverse-square law.

(If there’s an actual collapsed outskirts not just a visual ghost of the early universe, can you build a rocket and travel close to T = 0? Probably not. For one thing, it’s a many-billion-year trip, even at the speed of light. For another thing, space filled with collapsed stuff may have a smaller scale and contain even more distance than we can see from here. And there would be heavy radiation including lots of neutrinos.)

To get back to your original question about string theory and 11 dimensions – I think there’s an economy of dimensions. Self-defining systems of information don’t have enough information to hold open a space greater than three dimensions (not counting gravitational wells) (and maybe not even three dimensions over great distances).

**********************Bibliography at end of part six***********************


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Rick G. Rosner: Giga Society, Member; Mega Society, Member & ex-Editor (1990-96); and Writer (Part Two)

Mr. Rick G. Rosner


Part two of six, comprehensive interview with Rick G. Rosner.  Giga Society member, ex-editor for Mega Society (1990-96), and writer.  He discusses the following subject-matter: health advice, longevity, mortality, Pythagoreans, Transhumanists, future scenarios of downloadable consciousness, aims for immortality, rewriting genetic code, partial/full mergers with biology, technological and medical futurists, United Nations on lifespans, Dr. Aubrey de Grey divided subproblems for solving aging, figuring out the mind as the ultimate longevity solution, consciousness and evolution, discounting of some animal consciousness by people, and the possibility of the same consideration for human consciousness; personal vitamin and nutraceutical consumption, considerations of efforts for longevity, aspirin and statins, and Life Extension magazine; possible negative interactions of nutritional supplements, circumin, vitamin d, Metformin, Type 2 Diabetes, resveratrol, methylene blue, Fen-Phen, and flossing and inflammation; possible negative interactions with ingested nutritional supplements taken alone or together with another nutritional supplement, and the reasons for considering his current set of nutritional supplements safe; obscure and mainstream thinkers on the progression of technology, some thoughts to do with the Law of Accelerating Returns, Dr. Ray Kurzweil, extrapolations of current technological trends from the past and the trends’ influence on us in the future, and relevant extrapolations beyond this century; entrance into the world of trivia,Who Wants to be a Millionaire?, first and second times on the show, and Noesis issue 150’s articlesThree Letters of Protest Regarding “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?” and Request for Assistance from Mega Society Members; rectifying the situation; mastering multiple intellectual fields, 12 years of university credit in one year at Excelsior College,  and reason for pursuing this method of education accreditation; moving beyond academics into acting and physique building (bodybuilding), films with J.D. Mata, and reason for entering into this kind of work; and nude modeling, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, and time spent at the gym.

Keywords: animal, aspirin, consciousness, curcumin, consciousness, Dr. Aubrey de Grey, Dr. Peter Diamandis, Dr. Ray Kurzweil, Dr. Terry Grossman, Excelsior College, evolution, Fen-Phen, future, Giga Society, God, gods, immortality, inflammation, J.D. Mata, Law of Acclerating Returns, Life Extension Foundation, longevity, Mega Society, Metformin, methylene blue, Michael Bay, mind, mortality, nutraceutical, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Pythagoreans, Resveratrol, Rick G. Rosner, Saul Kent, statins, supplements, Transhumanists, Type 2 Diabetes, United Nations, vitamin d.

15. Furthermore, many people in history followed health advice.  Some provided it.  Today this persists.  Primarily for well-being with a secondary benefit of longevity.  Although, most people in recorded history accepted mortality of the body as fact, but in most cases attended to ritual, scripture, incantation, sacrifice, prayer, meditative practices, and propitiation to a god, the gods, or God to attain immortality as a spirit, a disembodied awareness, an existence in another realm, or through continuous re-incarnation as a mortal creature in this world.  These tendencies of thought wax and wane.  For instance, Pythagoreans searched for immortality.  Even today, an emergent sub-group of a modern school of thought, Transhumanism, aims for immortality through hypothetical future scenarios of downloading their minds onto computers, re-writing of genetic code for extended life, and partial/full mergers of biology with machines for bodies and minds immune to the present higher levels of degradation based on the degrading effects of time on our bodies. Some people come to mind such as Dr. Ray Kurzweil, Dr. Terry Grossman, M.D, Dr. Aubrey de Grey, Dr. Peter Diamandis, M.D., Saul Kent of the Life Extension Foundation, and others.  What do you think of the many ideas and arguments behind these various groups for longevity – even outright ‘immortality’?  What makes their arguments and our situation different, and better, enough to have such possibilities arise in practicality?

It sucks to be among the last generations of humans who don’t have a choice about dying. Medicine will advance tremendously in the next century, and so will life spans. Even the U.N., which isn’t a hotbed of science fiction-ish speculation, says that living to 100 will become common.

Transhumanists like to argue that to be effectively immortal, you don’t have to live until immortality is possible. You only have to live until medical science can extend your life at a rate of one year per year.

Researchers such as Dr. Aubrey de Grey say that aging will be conquered by breaking it down into a set of sub-problems and solving each of them. While not part of de Grey’s sub-problems, figuring out the mind and consciousness can be seen as the ultimate longevity solution. If you can make the contents and actions of the brain transferable, then keeping your body going may become just one of a variety of longevity strategies.

But figuring out consciousness may be a good news-bad news thing. Consciousness constantly acts as an advertisement for itself, telling you that your life and thoughts and experiences are interesting. Evolutionarily, it has to do that. If you quit paying attention to your life, you make more errors, which might kill you. We come from millions of generations of ancestors who paid attention.

For instance, deciding when to cross at a traffic light. (Traffic lights seem to pop up in discussions of consciousness.) For you not to be killed crossing at a light, your lifetime error rate of observing and stopping for red lights has to be reasonably close to zero. If you weren’t sufficiently interested in not being killed, your error rate would rise dangerously. Of course we see this with digital devices being so interesting that people become insufficiently interested in clear, real-life risks (texting while walking or driving a car or even a train being the sadly typical example).

Once we figure out consciousness, it may turn out to not be so awesome. Consciousness may be seen to incorporate a bunch of sensationalistic tricks to keep your attention, like a Michael Bay movie, and there may be a letdown – we’re the saps who bought tickets to the movie.

We have little problem discounting consciousness in other creatures – the billions of chickens Americans eat each year, for instance, cows, pigs, octopi. The chickens live their short lives, they’re killed, no big deal. A minority of people say it’s the ultimate deal – that every creature’s experience is important. But what happens if our understanding of consciousness leads us to believe that human consciousness just isn’t that big a deal – not much more important than other animals’? That could be a bummer. (But this bummer might partially be addressed via biotech brain helper add-ons that make our moment-to-moment awareness more super-duper.)

We’re gonna live longer, we’re gonna get weirder, gradually turning into the augmented but still very human beings that will come after humans.

16. Granted, death stands atop the mount of costly adventures.   You take high-level double digit numbers of vitamins and nutraceuticals every day. Even so, these measures for slowing, potentially halting or reversing, aging seem excessive and even dangerous.  For instance, do they all have FDA approval?  Where do you base your efforts for longevity?  What research and evidence?

Mostly, I take vitamins and nutraceuticals, which may not do much – one way or the other. And most of the other stuff is apparently very safe and widely tested – aspirin and a half-dose of statins, for instance.

I research supplements and nutritional strategies on the internet, trying to separate the BS from the crumbs of actual information. Life Extension magazine is pretty good, even though it’s trying to sell fancy vitamins. At least the claims in the magazine are backed up by some studies.

The purpose of the pills, of course, is to put off dying as long as possible. Will exercise, a semi-careful diet and mostly mainstream supplements increase my mortality? I hope not, and most statistics are on my side.

17. For instance, which ones of these nutritional supplements have sufficient clinical testing in favour of their individual use?  What about potential negative interactions of an individual supplement or drug?  What of negative interactions between two or more of them? 

I mostly take nutritional supplements. Their effects are probably not as helpful or as potentially harmful as pharmaceuticals, though they haven’t usually been through the same clinical trials as prescription drugs. (Some vitamins, however, have had more than a century of testing, and clinical testing is not a 100% guarantee.)

I take a big but not crazy dose of vitamin D and a lot of curcumin, both of which are currently very well-regarded. They’re being studied extensively, and the studies are returning encouraging results. As with anything, future research may debunk them, but I don’t think they’re hurting me. People in India have been using curcumin for centuries, and this seems to be correlated with lower rates for some inflammation-based disease.

Some of what I take may be considered a little wacky. For instance, I take Metformin, a drug for Type 2 diabetes, even though I don’t have diabetes. Among other effects, Metformin helps your body use insulin more efficiently. Along with resveratrol, it’s one of only two drugs I know of which trigger some of the positive effects of calorie restriction (without the misery of calorie restriction). And Metformin is a more effective calorie restriction mimetic than resveratrol, because orally administered resveratrol gets knocked out by your liver.

Metformin is the most widely prescribed anti-diabetes drug in the world, with 48 million annual prescriptions in the U.S. alone. It’s been used in the UK since 1958 and the U.S. since 1995. Negative side effects are rare. There is some evidence that Metformin may reduce the incidence of cancer. I like the stuff.

I sometimes take methylene blue, which may act as a detergent to loosen amyloid plaque in the brain. (Amyloid is sticky gunk thrown up by damaged brain cells.) MB is currently in Phase III trial for Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. (It turns urine a bright emerald green!) If I were in the NFL and taking a bunch of shots to the head, I’d use methylene blue like Splenda.

Most of what I take doesn’t negatively interact. A couple of minor vitamin depletions are covered by a good multi-vitamin. (For instance, Metformin may reduce absorption of B12.)

You don’t often hear about people dying early from vitamins. Occasionally, there’s a study which might say something like, “People who take vitamin E might have slightly elevated mortality.” Then you look at the study, and it’s hard to apply to your specific situation, but you cut back on vitamin E. In the 70s, people went on the liquid protein diet. But it depleted potassium and caused heart attacks. A couple of people died – it was big news. In the 90s, Fen-Phen, a combination of diet drugs, killed people. Again, big news. If vitamins were knocking people off like crazy, we’d hear about it. So I take my chances.

Hey – here are two very safe things you should do to add years to your life – take half an aspirin or a baby aspirin each day, and floss your teeth. Unflossed teeth spread inflammation throughout your body.

18. In some sectors of the population, some obscure, and other more – as of recent – mainstream thinkers have extrapolations based on many highly complex technological innovations in society regarding the progression of technology. Some will use general hunches, e.g. things seem more complicated and, therefore, will become more complex.  Others will use mathematical modelling through extensions of such things as Moore’s Law, e.g. the Law of Accelerating Returns a la Ray Kurzweil.  How do you see these technological trends and changes influencing us in the far and recent past?  What extrapolations do you consider most likely for this century and past it?

Many of the developments predicted by science fiction eventually happen, though often not as soon as science fiction predicts (the iPad, the atomic bomb, the internet and computer viruses, to name a few).

I think that will be the case with many aspects of the Singularity. (The Singularity is when, according to believers in the Singularity, artificial intelligence will be able to answer any question and solve any problem, and all our wishes will come true, sometime around the year 2040.) Humanity or some version of humans plus technology will get smarter and smarter, but it won’t all happen at once or as soon as 2040.

But things will get weird. Good manners and considerate behavior will have an increasingly difficult time keeping up with changes in tech. It would be nice if people would stop being annoying or dangerous with their devices, but I can’t see how manners will ever catch up with the accelerating development of technology. Tech will keep making people smarter but appearing to be stupider.

I don’t think the future will be humans fighting robots. I think we’ll become our own half-robots. We’ll keep augmenting ourselves, adding devices around and to ourselves until our artificial systems do more information-processing than our natural systems. (We’ll build expert devices of increasing sophistication, but for the near future, the most expert systems will be human brains plus tech. We already are expert systems – right now it’s most effective to add onto us.)

Some people argue that the brain has hidden, possibly quantum, information-processing capacity and that we won’t be able to emulate the brain. Obviously, the more complicated our brains turn out to be, the harder it will be to emulate them and interface with them. But we’ll still keep going in that direction. We’re already pretty good at piping information into our heads nonstop via our current devices.

One big though gradual change is we’ll be able to change our drives, motivations, judgments and values. Much of what drives us is pretty thoroughly wired into our brains via evolution – sexual attraction, tastes in food, aesthetic preferences, to name some big ones.

Sex makes just about everyone crazy at one time or another, demonstrating that, to some extent, we’re pawns of the need to reproduce. It’s just weird that one of the primary engines of human progress is a compulsion for males to insert fleshy tubes into females’ fleshy pockets. The entire history of the 21st century hinges on a few instances of oral sex, like this – Al Gore gets mad at Clinton for sullying the Presidency with Oval Office BJs. Gore underutilizes the still very popular Clinton in his Presidential campaign and narrowly loses some important states. And there you have it – President George W. Bush and the 21st century.

The fascination with and rituals around eating get pretty weird, too. And look at magazine covers – all the time faces – just pretty faces.

As we better understand our brains, we’ll be able to change our drives and desires. Suppose your spouse has put on 160 pounds. Is it better to be resentful of your spouse or to rejigger your sexual tastes to fit your super-sized spouse?

I think by the end of the century, consciousness will begin to be transferable and average life spans will increase by at least 40 years. We can hope this will lead to a reduction in the rate of population growth. People who can look forward to very long lives should on average have fewer kids and have them later, if at all.

There will be glitches, of course. Nanotech will have to be watched. The benefits of increasing technology will have to be made available worldwide in such a way that it’s more attractive to join the modern world than to try to take down the modern world.

I doubt that we can count on non-selfish behaviour to turn around the degradation of our planet. A conscientious Prius-driving, recycling American still generates a lot of waste. (On a related note, smug Prius drivers are almost as bad as Audi drivers. “Ooh, I’m making less pollution, so I can drive however I want.”) And the world population will keep growing until living indefinitely (and, later, consciousness becoming digitizable and transferable) reduces the production of offspring.

Eventually, high-tech measures will have to be deployed to fix the worst messes we’ve made – wide-spread extinction, global warming and the acidification of the oceans, and the like. (This will be followed by more tech to correct the negative effects of previous high-tech fixes). Large swaths of the globe will be Disneyfied – artificially restored and made pretty and sweet – like what New York did with Times Square, but on a global scale.

19. At some point, you entered the world of trivia. In particular, professional competition of trivia via the game show ‘Who Wants to be a Millionaire?’.  You did not have a good experience with them on your first, or second, time qualifying to compete on the show, which you recount, somewhat, in Noesis issue 150’s articles Three Letters of Protest Regarding “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?” and Request for Assistance from Mega Society Members.  What happened, Rick? 

Every quiz show has occasional glitches in which factual errors survive the fact-checking process. (It should work like this: a writer writes a question and cites a source. The question goes to a fact-checker who finds additional legit sources to confirm what should be the facts behind the question Fact-checkers, writers, and producers eliminate ambiguity and make sure the answer is “pinned.” I did an interview about the process.

On most quiz shows, most glitches don’t affect the outcome of the game. On Jeopardy! for instance, a glitchy question might come up, and no one answers it. The game goes on. Or someone gives an unexpected acceptable response. Judges check the answer during a commercial and perhaps award more points.

On Millionaire, however, since a player had to answer every question (at the time I was on the show) or withdraw from the game, a factually flawed question often knocked the player who received it out of the Hot Seat. It was Millionaire’s policy to rectify factually flawed questions, but they were getting sick of it – they’d had to do it many times. During our briefing, a contestant asked the executive producer what to do if we thought we got a bad question. A contestant had, very shortly before, gotten a bad question. The EP said, “Don’t worry about bad questions. Just play the game. If a question is wrong, we’ll look into it and make it right.”

In my case, they thought they could weasel out of it by claiming a non-straightforward and non-traditional interpretation of the question. The flawed multiple-choice question was:

“What capital city is located at the highest altitude above sea level?”

with the possible answer choices of Mexico City, Quito, Bogota, and Kathmandu. Because of faulty writing and fact-checking, Millionaire failed to include the actual correct answer of La Paz, Bolivia. (For people who’d like to quibble, Bolivia has two national capitals, and La Paz is one of them. It’s about four kilometers – two-and-a-half miles – above sea level.)

Millionaire tried to avoid responsibility for their error by arguing that they meant “Which of these four cities we gave you is the highest?” This interpretation goes against common sense and standard practice. I looked at 110,000 questions from productions of Millionaire in the U.S. and throughout the world, and their standard practice, as well as any other reasonable quiz show’s standard practice, is, if you mean “Which of these?” you write “Which of these?”

Since 1987, I’ve worked on a bunch of quiz shows, writing more than 10,000 questions. I co-created a quiz show which ran for a season on VH1, was co-head writer of the show, edited all its questions, and acted as a judge. Quiz show questions are my business. (Additionally, I’ve tutored the SAT and related multiple-choice tests since I was a teenager and have looked at more than 40,000 SAT-type questions. Multiple-choice questions are also my business.) I’m probably the person most likely and qualified to take a dim view of Millionaire’s ad hoc, disingenuous, self-serving, lazy and dishonest interpretation.

I concur with standard practice and common sense. No writer or producer would reasonably expect a contestant to know the relative altitudes of four arbitrarily chosen capital cities. It would be more reasonable to imagine that a contestant might have heard of the world’s highest capital city, but that city was absent from the answer choices.

The writer of the question (who’d never before written for a quiz show and who didn’t last very long) built the question from a list of altitudes of 30 random world cities in the World Almanac, apparently failing to realize that the omission of 96% of the world’s cities from the list might be a problem.

During legal proceedings, I saw Millionaire’s fact-checking notes on the question, which indicate that they wanted the highest capital, didn’t realize they didn’t have it, and fact-checked only the altitudes of the cities they did have. Someone noted that he or she thought that Ecuador might have two capitals (that would be Bolivia), but this wasn’t further pursued. Not knowing about La Paz, they had no knowledge of any quibbles about La Paz being a de facto capital – their research wasn’t anywhere near that thorough. (Currently, a Google search for the phrase “La Paz is the world’s “highest capital city” returns 97,800 results, while “Quito is the world’s highest capital city” returns just 7 results, a ratio of 13,970 to one. Of course, back in 2000 when Millionaire was fact-checking the question, Google wasn’t the go-to research tool.)

(And another thing – world cities have no official point from which altitude is measured. Quito’s city limits extend down into river gorges and up the side of a volcano. Altitudes found within its city limits vary by a couple miles. Miles! From Today in Ecuador: “The Metropolitan District of Quito (DMQ) covers an area of 422,802 hectares (almost 1,050,000 acres), with altitudinal ranges from 500 to 4.800 meters above sea level.”

Quito has a single altitude like Olympic athletes have a single height. The facts behind the altitude question are messy and ambiguous at best. Had Millionaire done a better job researching the question, they would’ve been forced to throw it out before it ever got to a contestant.)

If Millionaire’s writers and researchers, with all their resources and unlimited time to check their work, can’t come up with the correct answer, then they shouldn’t expect some schmuck alone in the Hot Seat to be able to come up with the answer. That schmuck should be invited back (and many contestants were invited back, until I came along).

Eventually, I sued them, but no one has ever won a lawsuit against a quiz show. After I sued, Millionaire changed the official rules so that they’re no longer obligated to come up with the correct answer. Contestants must choose the best answer from those offered, even if the correct answer isn’t among them. Nice!

Discussing soccer, the executive producer of Millionaire said that people need to accept bad calls from judges and referees, in soccer and on game shows. This is a lousy parallel to draw. A call in a World Cup match would need to be reviewed immediately (with just a few angles captured on video). Changing a call after a game could affect the rest of the tournament, not just the teams but also billions of fans, so it’s impossible to undo a call hours or days later. But a bad call on Millionaire affects just one person in the Hot Seat and his family. And researching a faulty question isn’t like reviewing a soccer call – you’re not looking at video in the middle of a soccer game – you can take time to do adequate research. It doesn’t change anything for anyone else to rectify a bad quiz show call for one person. You don’t even have to televise it.

20. What would rectify the situation to you?

This happened more than 14 years ago. The past 14 years haven’t been the greatest for the world. Next to it all, the Millionaire thing is nothing. I can continue to be annoyed by it, but I would be a big baby to still be crusading for rectification.

21. You have mastered multiple intellectual fields, especially with respect to having earned 12 years of university credit in one year at Excelsior College. In fact, you did this through a little-known system of taking tests, which continues your long-experience with the obsession of IQ tests into the domain of tests of general and specific knowledge.  How did you discover this method of earning credit?  Why did you pursue this means of earning tertiary educational credit rather than traditional classroom-based forms of education?

In high school, I wanted to go to Harvard. (I almost certainly would’ve gotten in. My SATs were in the top 1% of Harvard applicants, grades were excellent (until my senior year meltdown), was student body co-president, came from a geographically underrepresented part of the country, and back then, Harvard admitted about 18% of applicants, compared to about 6% today.) Then I freaked out, scuttled my application, and ended up attending my hometown school, the University of Colorado, which I didn’t take very seriously. Did well in classes I liked, blew off classes I didn’t, so lots of As and Fs. Didn’t graduate.

Years later, I’m underemployed in LA. My wife is working at a fancy company in Santa Monica. She comes home and talks about the flashy clothes and jewelry worn by the other women who work there. Can’t afford to buy her jewelry from a store but I do some research and find out that jewelry is marked-up like crazy – sometimes 500 or 1,000 percent. Start making jewelry for my wife – the individual components are affordable. But I need access to equipment. Turns out CSUN, a local university, offers a jewelry-making class. I go back to college to make jewelry.

At CSUN, I think, “I’m in my 30s and more mature and would probably be a better student this time around.” So I decide to sign up for real classes – astronomy, advanced stats, econ, group theory – and get my degree. Turns out I still hate sitting in a classroom, plus CSUN has a bunch of general education requirements I don’t want to deal with.

About this time, someone in the Mega Society tells me about schools that let you test out of subjects, which leads me to Regents College of the University of the State of New York (now called Excelsior University), an accredited school that awards credit in a subject if you get a high enough score on the GRE test for that subject. (The GRE is the SAT for grad school.) The GRE comes from ETS, the same company that does the SAT, and I’ve always done well on their tests.

So I go on a rampage. There’s an ETS testing center in Pasadena that offers GRE subject tests once a month. For a year, I take a test a month, studying for each test while working as a doorman at a bar called Mom’s Saloon in Brentwood. (The loud music doesn’t bother me – I used to study for Jeopardy! while bouncing.) I get good scores, earning a year’s worth of college credit in each of 12 subjects and fulfilling the requirements to graduate with eight majors.

22. Not limited to the academic domain, you have entered, somewhat haphazardly, into other domains of inquiry and human endeavor such as acting and physique building. In particular, you have some short films featuring you, directed by J.D. Mata.  What compelled entering into yet another domain of work?

I’ve always been a pretty decent actor but just didn’t have the fortitude to go through all the rejection that usually accompanies trying to be a professional actor. (One key to acting is not going overboard with emotional intensity. Most moments aren’t moments of extreme emotion.) Plus, I’m not overly photogenic. I act on the infrequent occasions when someone offers me the chance. (I’ve always hoped to sneak into acting by becoming famous enough to be cast in cameos as a curiosity or inside joke.)

23. Furthermore, based on your work in nude modeling, and so on, you have years of experience with bodybuilding and sculpting. However, this seems to have come attached to a downside of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD).  How many times do you go to the gym every week and month?  How much circa 10 years ago?

Currently go to five gyms a day. They’re in a circuit, with a mile or two between each gym. Luckily for me, L.A. has a lot of gyms, and I have cheap membership deals. Takes about two hours to do the circuit, which includes 80 to 100 sets. At my most OCDish, I was averaging nearly eight workouts a day, with a long streak of working out at least 50 times a week. At earlier, less-obsessed times, I averaged about ten workouts a week.

**********************Bibliography at end of part six***********************


In-Sight by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.


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Rick G. Rosner: Giga Society, Member; Mega Society, Member & ex-Editor (1990-96); and Writer (Part One)

Mr. Rick G. Rosner


Part one of six, comprehensive interview with Rick G. Rosner.  Giga Society member, ex-editor for Mega Society (1990-96), and writer.  He discusses the following subject-matter: geography, culture, and linguistic background, and attenuated Jewish cultural influence during upbringing; Noesis issue 57 article entitled When Good IQs Happen to Bad People, and early signs of being a child prodigy; experiences in grade school, junior high, high school, and college; long history of forging identities beginning in entering high school another time, and many more, motivations for the behavior, outcomes for him, and tease for upcoming book entitled Dumbass Genius; ideas on cosmology and physics beginning at age 10, coming to a realization at age 21, Noesis 58 comments on the equivalence, and subsequent development of the equivalence to the present day; discussion on a mathematical model to represent the equivalence and a layman analogy for this equivalence; coined phrase of “lazy voodoo physics,” definition of it, and relation of this to considerations about 20th and 21st century cosmology and physics; entrance into the ultra-high IQ community, the Mega Society, forging another identity, pseudonym of Richard Sterman, Noesis, and eventual amends for forgery; three trends in Noesis of high-level material across arts and sciences, mix of scatological material (circa 1990-96), and his time as an editor from 1990-1996, earning position of editor, and thoughts on fulfilling the purpose of the journal’s constitution; My Problem With Black People (1992), argument at the time for equivalent intelligence of the races, differing views of other Mega Society members, and current stance on the issue; current membership in societies and personal use through membership; Intelligence Quotient (IQ) pervading American culture, Raven’s Progressive Matrices (RPM) and the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale (WAIS), some independent researchers’ work and test constructors’ productions for those achieving maximum or near-maximum scores on mainstream tests, and this setting the groundwork for his obsession of IQ tests; Titan Test perfect score, and range, mean, and median for best high-range IQ test scores; criticism of some intelligence tests and solution through non-verbal/‘culture-fair’ tests, and recommendations for identifying giftedness; and interest in health from a young age and the reason for it.

Keywords: arts, child prodigy, college, cosmology, equivalence, Genius, giftedness, Giga Society, Intelligence, IQ, Jewish, mathematical, Mega Society, Mega Test, Noesis, physics, Rick G. Rosner, Richard Sterman, Raven’s Progressive Matrices, sciences, Titan Test, Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale.

1. In terms of geography, culture, and language, where does your family background reside?  How do you find this influencing your development? 

I grew up in Boulder, Colorado, with my mom, stepdad and brother, and spent a month each summer with my dad and stepmom and their kids in Albuquerque, New Mexico. My ancestors came from Eastern Europe and the Baltics by way of Cincinnati and Shreveport. I’m Jewish, but out west, Jewish cultural influence is somewhat attenuated.

2. In Noesis issue 57’s article When Good IQs Happen to Bad People, you describe some of your experience as a kid.  Could you elaborate on some of the history before entering grade school?

I showed some signs of being a child prodigy – by the age of about 18 months, I’d learned the alphabet, and by age 3 ¾, I’d taught myself to read at a near-adult level, which was unusual for the era. I was good with puzzles and math – but this wasn’t encouraged. My parents thought I’d do better growing up as a normal kid, which did not go smoothly.

Some non-prodigy stuff – the theme music to Perry Mason scared me – I’d have to go hide behind the couch. My first crush was on Patty Duke on The Patty Duke Show, who I somehow conflated with my dad’s sister, Aunt Janice, whom I saw during summer visitation with my dad in Los Angeles. My first memory is of the Raggedy Ann & Andy curtains and bedspread in my room. We had a very nice cocker spaniel named Tinkerbell, who died when I was four. (This is before cockers became overbred and high-strung.)

I was terrified of swimming, which was part of my generally being a wuss – had to be peeled off the side of the pool by the swim teacher.

3. What about your time in grade school, junior high, high school, and college?  In particular, what do you consider pivotal moments in each of these cross-sections of latter portions of your early life?

I grew up nerdy and interested in science, deciding at a young age to make it my job to figure out the universe. At age six, I was left with a scary babysitter, which led me to start spinning clockwise, chanting to God, and to be sent to my first shrink.

I was uncoordinated. Each year, I’d enter the 50-yard-dash on track & field day, and each year, would come in last. (Maybe the other not-so-fast kids knew not to enter the race and avoid the embarrassment.) Even as a kid, I had gross caveman feet with weirdly long second toes. I used to take off my shoe to make girls scream and run away – I liked the attention.

In the 1970s, there was no such thing as nerd chic. If you were nerdy, you were probably lonely. But, like many misguided nerds, I thought my intelligence and niceness would inspire a girl to look past my nerdiness. I spent the second semester of ninth grade building a Three-Dimensional Gaussian Distribution Generator to demonstrate to my honors math class. The machine dropped a thousand BBs through a pyramidal tower of overlapping half-inch grids into a 24-by-12 array of columns. It was a supercharged Plinko machine with an added spatial dimension, forming a half-bell of BBs, thanks to the laws of probability. During its construction, I thought, “A girl will see this elegant experimental apparatus, think I’m brilliant, and become my girlfriend.” I completed the BB Machine in time to demonstrate it to the class on the last day of school. No one cared. Of course they didn’t – it was the last day of junior high, and a dweeb was pouring BBs into a plastic pyramid.

Realizing that my nerdiness was standing in the way of ever having a girlfriend, I began changing myself – lifting weights and wearing contact lenses.

Towards the end of high school, I saw my IQ test scores, which maxed out at about 150. I decided that a 150 IQ wasn’t high enough for me to become the world-changing physicist I wanted to be, so I decided to become kind of a meathead – a stripper and a bar bouncer. At about the same time I was beginning my meathead career, I started to take high-end IQ tests, scoring in the 170s, 180s, and eventually 190s. I also found out that among the reasons I’d never scored much above 150 on school-administered IQ tests is that the tests themselves don’t go much above 150. (This makes sense – if you’re a teacher or administrator trying to figure out whether a kid needs educational enrichment, it doesn’t matter much whether a kid’s IQ is 150 or 165. With either IQ, that kid will go stir-crazy in a regular classroom.)

I’d never quit thinking about physics, but my new, high scores gave me more confidence that I might eventually be able to theorize productively. Of course, a few points should probably be subtracted from my IQ for basing my life on IQ scores.

4. You have a long history with forging identities beginning with entering high school another time, and many more.  What motivated this behavior?  How long did you pursue this ‘calling’ of entering high school?  In particular, how did each experience turn out?  How many times did you do this?

Though I had started trying to de-nerdify myself as early as ninth grade, it wasn’t effective. In my small town, my classmates were well aware of my nerdiness – there was no erasing that. After years of trying to be cool and failing, I was very frustrated and had something like a freak-out. I decided that I would not leave high school a virgin. So after graduating high school with the class of 1978, using forged transcripts, I went back to high school for a second senior year (class of ’79) with my other family in Albuquerque. I only lasted ten weeks and didn’t come close to even making out with a girl.

A note on inappropriateness: I think standards have changed since I did this. The creepiness factor has increased. But since I was just 18 – still roughly high school age – and barely talked to any girls much less date them when I returned to high school, it was pretty harmless.

1980: Went on a double-date to a high school prom because my girlfriend (who, like me, was in college) had a best friend who was still in high school and thought we should all go to her prom.

Also 1980: I went to L.A. to try to sell my back-to-high-school story to a Hollywood producer. Thought it would help sell the story if I were back in high school at the time. Tried to talk my way into a couple of L.A. schools without any transcripts, just a class of ’81 letterman’s jacket.

I eventually spent several more semesters in high school, but rather than tell about them here, I’ll just tease my forthcoming book, Dumbass Genius, which will detail my more than ten years as a sometime high school student.

5. In terms of your ideas related to cosmology and physics, at 10, you began thinking about the universe.  The reason for existence.  At 21, you came to a realization.  You note, “All the big theories are built around big equivalences.”  Namely, your realization of an equivalence between the operation of information in an individual consciousness and the operation of space & matter in the universe.  Both have self-consistency.  In addition to this, and later in response to a similar topic in Noesis 58, you state, “I believe in matter and space as information held in some vast awareness…” What do you mean by these?  In particular, the idea of a great equivalence.  How have you developed the idea from the original equivalence to the present day? 

I’ve continued to think about this stuff and think I have a pretty good theoretical framework, though it needs more math.

I believe that it’s almost impossible to have a large, self-consistent system of information without that system having some degree of consciousness – probably a high degree. Consciousness can be characterized as every part of a system knowing what’s going on, more or less, with every other part of the system, within a framework that assigns (emotional) values to events perceived by the system. (Of course there are processes which are peripheral to consciousness – most of the time, we’re not aware of the finer points of breathing or walking or why we like looking at cat videos and butts.)

Plenty of people think that the universe is a massive processor of information. Quantum mechanics mathematicizes the limitations of the universe’s information-processing ability. Being finite, the universe cannot observe itself with infinite precision.

6. Provided the nature of these particular equivalences, especially related to the universe, do you have a mathematical model to represent this equivalence?  Furthermore, do you have a layman analogy for this equivalence?

I think the most efficient model of the information contained in a complex, self-contained and self-consistent system of information looks like the universe – locally three-dimensional (spatially) with linear time and particles and forces that transact business more or less the way they do in the universe itself.

I don’t believe in the big bang – instead, I believe that what looks like a big bang is kind of a trick of perspective, based on the universe being made of information. Parts of the universe which have less information in common with us are more distant and red-shifted. The apparent age of the universe is a measure of the amount of information it contains (or has in play). Somewhat similarly, train tracks don’t really touch at the horizon.

Kind of picture the universe as being at a slow boil. Some parts are energy-rich and expanding, while other parts are burned out and pushed to the outskirts by the expanding regions, waiting for their chance to expand again.

7. You have coined the phrase “lazy voodoo physics”. How do you define “lazy voodoo physics”? Why resort to this form of considering major interests such as the structure and fate our universe, or existence of other universes, and other concepts arising from 20th and 21st century cosmology and physics?

Lazy voodoo physics is my term for crappy metaphysical theorizing (which I’ve done some of, particularly as a little kid). I prefer to think that my current metaphysical theorizing is less crappy.

It is possible to think about the universe without a full mathematical arsenal. George Gamow, who came up with the big bang, was notoriously unschooled in math. Immanuel Kant was among the first people to endorse the idea of galaxies, and Edgar Allen Poe offered a reasonable solution to Olbers’ Paradox. Einstein himself had to be pointed towards the mathematical framework for general relativity by his friends. Trying to imagine the processes of the universe with the math to come later is not voodoo physics. Metaphysics doesn’t have to be voodoo physics, either.

8. When did you enter into the world of the ultra-high IQ community?  In particular, the Mega Society.  In it, once more, you forged an identity.  What motivated this resurgence of forging an identity?  For instance, the use of the pseudonym Richard Sterman within the publications of the Mega Society journal, Noesis.   To make amends, and needing stating, you did apologize to members and readers of the journal for the false identity portrayal. 

When I first qualified for the Mega Society in late 1985, I was depressed from a bad breakup and would try to make myself less depressed by doing stupid stuff. After receiving a score on the Mega Test that qualified me for the Mega Society, I wrote to Marilyn Savant (who must’ve been in charge of membership at the time) and asked, “Hey, can I join your club…and want to go on a date? I’m a stripper.” Marilyn wrote back and said my score didn’t qualify me for Mega. She had no response to the personal invitation. (Later, my score did turn out qualify me for Mega. My score’s IQ equivalent jumped around as more scores came in and the test was repeatedly recalibrated.)

On the Mega Test, I had tied for the second-highest score in the country. The CBS Morning News called to invite me to be on the show. I asked the producer if I should wear my tux or my loincloth. She immediately cancelled me for being a crazy person. In my defense, I worked in bars until two in the morning and didn’t wake up in time to see what morning news shows were like. I thought, stupidly, that the CBS Morning News would want somebody really fun. (Fun = loincloth.)

The other people with high scores were two Los Angeles math professors, Solomon Golomb and Herbert Taylor, and the Governor of New Hampshire. People seemed really annoyed that I, a roller skating waiter, stripper, bar bouncer, and amateur undercover high school student, was in their company.

In 1990, when the Titan Test came out, I remembered how appalled at me people were after the Mega. So I decided to take the test using my girlfriend’s last name instead of my own, figuring that if I did well on the Titan, I could get a fresh start at talking to reporters without being tainted by being the person who shocked people the first time around. If this sounds dumb, it’s because it was. My Twitter handle is @dumbassgenius because I tend to do a mix of smart and dumb stuff (not usually on purpose). I wasn’t trying to fool anyone for test purposes, I was just trying to sidestep my stupid past.

I did really well on the Titan, finally joining the Mega Society and becoming editor of the Mega Society journal. After a few months, I told everyone, “Hey, I’m the same guy who did well on the Mega Test.” I don’t think anyone was outraged. (I also took the Mega Test for a second time as Richard Sterman. But I soon came clean.)

9. In reading through the available literature of Noesis, i.e. available online, three trends persist to me.  One, the range of high-level and engaging material across the arts and science, e.g. the lucid description of relativity by Chris Cole at the end of issue 69 entitled Relativity – A Primer.  Two, the mix of the occasional scatological material in the writing, mostly c. 1990-1996.  Three, the length of your time as the main editor from 1990-1996.  How did you come into the world of the Mega Society?  How did you earn the position of editor for six years?  Do you think the journal fulfilled part of the purpose stated in the constitution to “facilitate interaction among its members and to assist them in gaining access to resources to accomplish their individual purposes”?

When the editorship was offered to me, I was underemployed. I’d written for some TV quiz shows and thought that work would continue but didn’t know how to get that work. The publisher of Noesis said I could have the subscription money if I’d edit it. It wasn’t much, but everything helps when you’re a bouncer and nude model who’s trying to cover a mortgage and pay for hair transplants. I edited Noesis for six years because no one else was clamoring to do it. Towards the end, I started getting TV work again, and became even less reliable about getting issues out on time. Other members volunteered to take over.

As editor, I didn’t do too much editing. Most material submitted to me went straight into Noesis. I may have left out some crackpot submissions claiming to have disproved Einstein and perhaps some angry letters from people who thought they deserved to be admitted to Mega though they didn’t meet the entrance requirements.

Some of the writing you term scatological may have been my writing about myself. While most of the material submitted to Noesis is at a high intellectual level or at least reflects striving in that direction, I was trying to be entertaining and tell the embarrassing and I hope funny truth about myself. I eventually became a professional comedy writer, and, without looking back on my writing for Noesis, I’m sure much of it was goofier and more obnoxious (and perhaps more entertaining) than the average article.

I’m fairly pessimistic about the effectiveness of most high-IQ journals, though I’ve seen some good ones. My editorship was at the very beginning of the internet era, so most communication was by snail mail. Now, of course, high-IQ organizations are online, which speeds up discourse. The Mega Society online journal has some good material and discussions.

10. Amidst the busywork of editorials and organization of the material, upon reading Noesis, one article struck me regarding the title and content entitled My Problem With Black People.  At the time, August 1992, other members of the Mega Society argued for the possibility of intellectual inferiority of blacks.  You argued otherwise.  In that, by your estimate, all races have about equal intelligence.  Although in defense of all parties involved in the discussion of issue 72, the articles were written in 1992.  Much work written in public discourse has progressed on the issue of intelligence and race: ‘does race count as an appropriate scientific category?’, ‘do IQ tests measure intelligence?’ and so forth.  Where do you stand on this issue now?

I don’t have a problem with black people – in my juvenile manner, just wanted an attention-grabbing title. I believe that most work which tries to or claims to establish a relationship between intelligence and race has elements of creepy bullshit. Little good and lots and lots of bad has been done by people who claim that certain races or nationalities are mentally inferior to others.

Intelligence has a fluid relationship with environment, and all sorts of things can happen during an individual’s lifetime which may or may not bring his or her intelligence to fruition. Sometimes, being imperfectly adapted to an environment may elicit the expression of intelligence – think of perfectly adapted jocks who never had to learn to think versus awkward nerds who, because of physical imperfection, have to follow the riskier strategy of original thought. So, people who want to eliminate or reduce the reproductive opportunities of groups that may be considered inferior (according to crappy, wobbly, arbitrary, prejudiced and culturally loaded standards) may actually be trying to eliminate one of the triggers for intelligence – being at odds with one’s circumstances. More great art has been made by people who are ill-at-ease with their world than by people who are perfectly at home in it.

Furthermore, this is a particularly dumb time for arguments about racial differences in intelligence, as more and more of our effective intelligence comes from our interaction with technology. Tech is turning us all into geniuses, though it doesn’t seem like it when you see so many people behaving stupidly with their devices. Since World War Two, the average IQ of all of humanity has gone up by 15 points – the Flynn Effect. One of the main suspects in this upslope is the pervasiveness of complicated modern culture. Culture and tech will keep getting more complicated, and humans in conjunction with our devices will keep getting smarter. Tech that’s built into our bodies isn’t too far in the future. More than one percent of the population already has built-in computers – pacemakers, cochlear implants, etc. So who cares about some hard-to-measure few-IQ-point alleged difference among groups when we’re all going to end up being increasingly augmented geniuses?

People who insist on racial inferiority are creeps. We can discuss cultural differences – for instance, there seem to be cultural differences in causes of passenger jet pilot error – but the idea that some races need to be babysat by other races is gross. We’re all going to need to figure out how to work with each (augmented) other as tech reshapes the world.

11. How many societies do you have membership inside of now?  What use do you get from these societies? 

Don’t know how many societies I belong to. People ask me to click on things on Facebook, and sometimes clicking means that I’ve joined something. Could be 8 societies, could be 15. I’m not very good at Facebook and don’t live on it, as does your Aunt Angie, with her constant posting of cat and casserole pictures. Currently living on Twitter.

12. Intelligence Quotient (IQ) pervades American culture more than most, based on my reading of the culture, with a litany of reactions ranging from reverence to laughter to skepticism – and serious scholarship.  Many neuropsychological tests developed by those with appropriate qualifications have developed some of the most well-used and researched tests such as the Raven’s Progressive Matrices (RPM) and the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale (WAIS).  However, mainstream standardized intelligence tests tend to have maximum scores at 4-sigma above the norm (160/164/196; SD-15/16/24, respectively).  In the development of this work, some independent researchers and test constructors began to make tests for those earning maximum, or near-maximum, scores on mainstream tests.  In the process, tests and societies developed for the high-ability population.  This environment set the stage for the flourishing of your obsession: IQ tests.  For example, on a high-ability test called the Titan Test – one of the most difficult, you set a record score.  In fact, you earned a perfect score.  You have taken many more.  What are some of the other tests?  In particular, where does your range, mean, and median lie for the set of high-range IQ tests taken?

It’s hard to pin down what my actual score might be. It’s silly to even think that people have one set IQ and that it’s precisely measurable. My lowest scores probably reflect less than my maximum effort, and my highest scores probably grant me some extra points due to crazily high levels of diligence plus vast experience with these tests. It doesn’t really matter unless we want to turn IQ testing into a reality show sport. And we should – why do we have a bunch of competition shows about people cooking from Mystery Baskets and none with IQ showdowns?

13. In the testing of intelligence, much criticism exists towards the potential for bias inherent in the tests themselves.  For example, the use of an examinee’s non-native language in intelligence tests.  If an individual speaks a different native language than the test provides, they may score low in the verbal section, which may decrease the composite score.  To solve this problem, non-verbal/’culture fair’ tests exist.  However, many of these culture fair tests have lower ceilings.  What do you see in the future for high-range non-verbal tests?  How will this change general intelligence testing and the identification of gifted individuals?

Intelligence testing has always been kind of a mess, often arbitrary and unfair. I think the best, easiest thing to do is test kids repeatedly, using a variety of tests. There are plenty of good, long-established tests. Trouble is, school districts are broke and don’t have the resources for repeated testing.

We can hope that tech will make schools more responsive to individual needs. Schools can be a little behind the curve. A century ago, school was the most interesting part of a kid’s day – it’s where the information was. Now, with the rest of our lives being so information- and entertainment-rich, school can be relatively uninteresting, which isn’t helped by politicians and people who don’t like paying property tax starving schools of resources.

School needs somewhat of a makeover – increasing automation and personalization, which the ongoing tech wave should help make possible. Don’t know if a push for better giftedness-finder diagnostics needs a special push. Would guess that this won’t be overlooked as part of high-tech changes to education.

Currently a crazy thing is the pressure on a few tens of thousands of high-end students, with endless AP courses and brutal study loads, for a seven percent chance of getting into an Ivy. When I was in school, the average AP kid took 1.3 AP courses; now it’s more than 7. I assume our weird college admissions system will get somewhat straightened out by technological advances in education, or will become weird in exciting new ways.

14. You have great interest in health.  In fact, you had interest in health since a young age.  Why the deep interest in the health from a young age?

At first, I wanted to build muscles to impress girls. (This sort of worked, but it took many years of de-nerdification.) People were fit in the 70s – clothes were tight and high-waisted. The Arnold Schwarzenegger documentary, Pumping Iron, which came out in 1976, introduced many people to serious muscle-building. Weight training incidentally introduced me to some healthy eating habits, plus I’ve always been a little fat-phobic and perhaps over-disciplined.

Only much later did I read Kurzweil’s book, Fantastic Voyage: Live Long Enough to Live Forever, and go from a few vitamins a day to a zillion. I don’t buy Kurzweil’s entire argument – that the Singularity will happen around 2040, and anyone who can live until then can live forever – but I do think there will be many biotech breakthroughs in the coming decades which may offer extra years of life. I want to stick around – the future is where you can find a lot of cool stuff.

**********************Bibliography at end of part six***********************


In-Sight by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.


© Scott Douglas Jacobsen, In-Sight, and In-Sight Publishing 2012-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.  All interviewees co-copyright their interview material and may disseminate for their independent purposes.

Reverend Ivan Stang: Co-Founder & Author, Church of the SubGenius

 Reverend Ivan Stang


Interview with co-founder of and author for the Church of the SubGenius, Reverend Ivan Stang, discussing the following subject-matter: geographic, cultural, and linguistic heritage for family background, and their concomitant influence on his development; youth and coming to this point including grades, young sexual frustration, and general anger toward the world at a young age; design, development, and foundation of the Church of the SubGenius, and key components to the foundation of a religion; pivotal transition to the design, development, and foundation of the Church of the SubGenius; three key things to know about J.R. ‘Bob’ Dobbs; definitions of ‘Bob’, ‘The Conspiracy’, and ‘Slack’; the way in which The Church of the SubGenius differs from mainstream religions; the way in which the Church of the SubGenius differs from fringe religions; controversial nature related to the Church of the SubGenius; infinite funding for an organization; unpopular reactions to the church; Church of the SubGenius and other groups going in the near, and far, future, and work on a screenplay or radio play; recommendation of The Onion; and fear, worry, or concern for the Church of the SubGenius in the future.

Keywords: Association for Consciousness Exploration, Chas Smith, Christian, Church of the SubGenius, Dallas, Dr. Hal Robins, Dr. Philo Drummond, Federico Fellini, Fleischer, Fort Worth, Frank Zappa, G. Gordon Gordon, Harvard, H.P. Lovecraft, Hunter Thompson, Jay Kinney, Jimi Hendrix, John Birch Society, MAD Magazine, McGraw-Hill, Monty Python, Orson Welles, Paul Mavrides, R. Crumb, Ray Harryhausen, Reverend Ivan Stang, Rip Off Press, Robert Anton Wilson, Robert Shea, Robert Williams, Seculars, Simon & Schuster, South Carolina, Steve Wilcox, The Firesign Theatre, The Merry Pranksters, The Onion, The Three Stooges, Tim McGinnis, Tom Wolfe, Warner Brothers, WASP, Zap Comics.

1. In terms of geography, culture, and language, where does your family background reside? How do you find this influencing your development?

Long story short: we were seculars surrounded by the religious. I am technically a standard WASP, but “mixed race” — half Yankee, half Southerner. My father is from a small town in South Carolina but is a Harvard-educated lawyer and retired Navy captain. My mom was raised in Connecticut by a Bronx Irish mother and an award winning writer/architect father (with the worst stutter I have ever heard, to this day). While my father is an expert on the Bible and even teaches somewhat subversive Bible studies at the local Methodist church, he is nonetheless what ignorant people would call an atheist. I was raised on science and science fiction. “Pappy” tried to get me interested in hunting and horseback riding, but that didn’t take. I’m more a wildlife photographer and amateur zoologist than a hunter. I hike in the woods and hunt in video games.

I grew up in Fort Worth and Dallas — most of my family now lives on a big ranch outside the Metroplex — so culturally I was surrounded by Southern Baptist kids. I had to pretend to be a Christian; I suppose one might say I got just a wee bit tired of that.

I knew I was an outsider during my first weeks of Kindergarten. At age 5 I was interested in sex (although I didn’t know what it was) and I was NOT interested in baseball. I knew every dinosaur’s name — which was easy in 1958 — but I couldn’t tell a hot rod from a Volkswagen.

I was a nerd before it was cool, in other words.

2. How was your youth? How did you come to this point?

I did fine in school until we moved to Dallas and my parents put me in a private school for males only, St. Mark’s School of Texas. We were not rich and once again I didn’t fit in. I went from straight As and foiled interest in girls to struggling for Cs and NO GIRLS AROUND AT ALL. I had to hang with the theater club because that was the only part of school that involved girls, imported from other schools. My love life was adversely affected at this critical age, which helped make me angry at the entire world, and it also led to my foolishly getting married at age 20 to the first young lady who would give me much more than the time of day. Luckily she was a very nice person and the perfect mother.

Did I mention anger? I was a very angry and lonesome young man. At that time my parents were fighting continuously and drugs/alcohol were a problem across the board; of course, for this was the early 1970s, post-hippie, pre-punk, but all drugs.

I had lots of interesting friends at that private school, though, and was voted Weirdest in the Class of 1971. I campaigned hard for that post; I earned it. I had been doing weird art projects, mostly monster/sf oriented but later more consciously surreal, since the age of 10, when I bought my first 8mm movie camera with money earned by cleaning dog kennels.

By age 15 I had won grand prize in the Kodak Teenage Movie Awards for a stop-motion short I’d done in “claymation.” This led to international film festival awards and a big head. By college I thought I was the next Orson Welles, and produced an ambitious 45-minute 16mm underground film called LET’S VISIT THE WORLD OF THE FUTURE. This was heavily influenced by a lucky early exposure to “underground comix” — the work of R. Crumb, Robert Williams, etc. in things like Zap Comics — and by The Firesign Theater, a pre-Monty Python American comedy group that remains way ahead of its time. The weird art that I was discovering helped keep me from suicide — because I felt that maybe this was something I could do right. Weird movies, weird art. But mostly movies, then.

Instead of finishing college I got married and took a documentary film job on the Rosebud Lakota Indian Reservation in South Dakota. For two years I had an often adventurous and educational time in this bizarre “prairie ghetto.” It was there that I learned that when everybody else is seeing a UFO, I CAN’T!

When we returned to Dallas, my sister in law introduced me to an interesting fellow, Steve Wilcox, aka Dr. Philo Drummond. He was the first person I had ever met who was into comic books and Captain Beefheart and everything else weird and kooky. This describes half the people I know now, but then, it was a first! We compared our collections of fringe publications, UFO paperbacks, kook pamphlets, etc., and at one point thought, “Hey, we could make a fake brochure just like this little John Birch Society pamphlet, and leave it in Laundromats to freak people out!” That notion became SubGenius Pamphlet #1, which we printed on Jan. 2, 1980.

3. Before moving into the core discussion on the design, development, and foundation of the Church of the SubGenius, you have discussed the core elements of any religion, what three things does any religion need to have to flourish?

A religion really needs only one thing: to make believers feel like they’re better than everyone else. A perceived oppressor and a perceived savior are helpful, but the main thing is telling people what they most want to hear.

I have observed seemingly educated people falling for the most blatantly ludicrous notions simply because it was what they most wanted to believe. As my Pappy said recently, “I believe what I need to believe.” To me that sadly sums up the human condition. I have seen some extreme and depressing examples of this, resulting in my having to personally deprogram the gullible from my own fake cult! In some notable cases, I failed.

4. What do you consider a pivotal moment in the transition to the design, development, and foundation of the Church of the SubGenius?

The primary thing was my friendship with Philo Drummond. All of the basics of the Church came from our verbal “jam sessions” in 1978 and 1979. There was a third main contributor very early on, “Dr. X,” the late Monte Dhooge, but he died young. Another pivotal event was probably when the late Tim McGinnis, a young book editor in New York, found SubG Pamphlet #1 in the back seat of my sister in law’s car on a picnic in 1982, flipped out, and offered us a book deal — which in turn allowed us to score a literary agent, the late Jane Browne of Chicago.

Prior to Tim’s offer, we had sent Pamphlet #1 as a possible book project outline to every publisher I could find in Writer’s Digest. We got 150 rejection slips, including ones from McGraw-Hill, Rip Off Press, and Simon & Schuster, all of whom later made decent money off our books and comics.

In the trashcans of Rip Off Press and Last Gasp Comics, two artists, Paul Mavrides and Jay Kinney respectively, found that Pamphlet, and they were the ones who helped us put it in the hands of other artists and also reviewers — that was our big leg up in the early 1980s.

Yet another pivotal moment was in 1990, when I was invited to speak at a pagan festival called Starwood, run by some folks in Cleveland, the Association for Consciousness Exploration or A.C.E. That in turn introduced me to a lot of people in Ohio who ended up being huge contributors, not least of all “Princess Wei R. Doe,” my wife. Cleveland, perhaps ironically considering its rep as a rust-belt dump, turned out to be much friendlier ground for me than Dallas had been. I changed into a happy man after that move. I got Slack.

5. As you have stated many times in public forums, and maybe private ones too, for those unaware of J.R. ‘Bob’ Dobbs, i.e. ‘the unsaved’, what three things do they need to know?

If they don’t instantly see what’s funny about it, they should probably avoid it. 2. If they can’t read between the lines, they should probably stop reading. 3. If they often confuse MAD Magazine, or Saturday Night Live, with the news, they should RUN FOR DEAR LIFE.

Beyond that, the key points are “Bob,” Slack, and The Conspiracy.

6. Regarding ‘Bob’, ‘The Conspiracy’, and ‘Slack’, how do you define each term? Why did these become a foundation within the creation of the Church of the SubGenius?

Slack = the goal, what we all want (although it’s different or each person). The Conspiracy (of the Normals) = what hinders Slack. “Bob” = the magic formula which facilitates Slack. But a major aspect of “Bob” Dobbs is the graphic portrait of “Bob.” That single image, inexplicable as it is, somehow ties all of it together. The moment that Philo showed me his book of clip art and we both simultaneously saw that damn halftone face was when we both knew we had something. We still do not know what.

7. How does the Church of the SubGenius differ from most mainstream religions, e.g. Christianity (Roman Catholicism, Protestantism, Eastern Orthodoxy, Oriental Orthodoxy, and Anglicanism), Islam (Shia, Sunni, Sufi, and Kharijite), Hinduism, Chinese Traditional Religions, Buddhism, various Ethnic Religions, African Traditional religions, Sikhism, and so on? 

I suppose the biggest difference is that we admit we are bullshitting you. In that respect it is a remarkably honest religion. Also, we don’t define Slack; it’s different for each person, so there are no absolute values — except maybe for the tricky part about not robbing others of their Slack. Most religions become ever more specific about “right” and “wrong” and are essentially formulas. We do not provide any stable formula; in fact we illustrate that trying to fit human behavior into codified formulas is folly.

Also, we pay taxes.

One of my favorite lines is, “We’re like any other religion. It’s not that we love “Bob” all that much, it’s that we love the idea of everybody else going to Hell.”

I hope it goes without saying that most SubGeniuses don’t even believe in “Bob,” much less Hell.

8. Furthermore, how does it differ from other fringe religions, e.g. Christianity (Restorianism, Chinese Originated Churches, Church of the East, and Unitarian Universalism), Juche, Spiritism, Judaism, Bahá’í, Jainism, Shinto, Cao Dai, Zoroastrianism, Tenrikyo, Neo-Paganism, Rastafarianism, Scientology, Pastafarianism, Mormonism, Arceusology, Discordianism, Paganism, Crowleyites, and so on?

We’re much, much funnier than any of them, even Scientology.

9. What do you consider the most controversial part of your church compared to the mainline religions? In addition, what do you consider the most controversial compared to the other fringe religions? How do you examine the issue?

Some people become sincerely upset that we portray the God of the Bible as a monster from outer space. No punishments are threatened for sins like gluttony, adultery, addiction, etc. I guess the main point of contention is that we are making cruel fun of literally everybody’s most cherished beliefs, often simply because they are cherished. We are the Balloon Poppers, the Antidote to All Placebos.

10. If you had infinite funding, what organization would you found? What question would you research for an answer?

The world doesn’t need another organization, but if I had infinite funding I have a very expensive movie screenplay I’d love to see produced (with my son, an actual Hollywood director, directing), and a video game idea that would cost more to produce than Grand Theft Auto 5. If it was TRULY INFINITE funding, I suppose establishing a Fun Police would be good. We’d force everyone to have his or her idea of fun. That would not be cheap, due to all the special cases. Also we would start the Mind Your Own Business Police.

11. Did you ever have unpopular reactions to your church? Can you provide an example? 

We get more butthurt grief and criticism from stodgy New Agers of various stripes than from, say, Christians. It’s not on the average person’s radar, but attracts attention from people who are already fanatics about something. It’s Kook Flypaper. We get hate mail from pseudo-intellectuals for not being serious enough, and for being grossly ambiguous (one of our specialties that I’m most proud of). I used to get death threats from white supremacist groups because of my unkind reviews of their literature, to the extent that I’ve had to call the FBI a couple of times. On the other hand, we got investigated as a hate group by the Secret Service and the FBI, but they must have found us relatively boring.

The worst thing that ever happened to us on a personal level was a child custody case in which a simpleton New York state family court judge denied custody to a very worthy mother because of her involvement with the Church of the SubGenius. (Google “Bevilacqua SubGenius Child Custody Case.”) She regained custody when the father proved himself to be a complete and utter scoundrel, but for 3 years a sane, hard-working, educated mother was denied access to her child mainly because she had taken part in our “cult,” and Judge Punch didn’t have what most people would call common sense.

12. Who most influenced you? Can you recommend any seminal books/articles by them?

I read a lot and seek out unusual movies, so my list would be practically endless. As far as really deep influences, I’d have to say, in this order: my parents (both had sick senses of humor), the Warner Brothers cartoons, The Three Stooges, Popeye cartoons (the Fleischer ones), monster movies in general but especially those by Ray Harryhausen, underground comics in general, The Firesign Theater, Jimi Hendrix, Frank Zappa, H.P. Lovecraft, the writer Colin Wilson, Robert Anton Wilson/ Robert Shea for their novel ILLUMINATUS, Federico Fellini, Hunter Thompson and Tom Wolfe, The Merry Pranksters, and many friends including Philo Drummond, G. Gordon Gordon, Puzzling Evidence, Paul Mavrides, a bunch of guys in Little Rock once called Doktorz 4 “Bob,” the late Chas Smith, Lonesome Cowboy Dave, Dr. Hal Robins, “Nenslo,” Rev. Susie the Floozie, Dr. K’taden Legume — that list could go on and on too.

13. Where do you see the Church of the SubGenius and other groups going in the near, and far, future?  Do you have a precise itinerary?

The world ends at 7 a.m. on July 5, 1998, and that’s honestly all we know regarding the future. I’m slowly fiddling with a screenplay and/or radio play.

14. Besides your own organization, what others can you recommend?

The Onion.

15. What major fear, worry, or concern do you have about the Church of the SubGenius in the future?

My biggest worry is that after Philo and I are dead, some asshole will be able to convince gullible chumps that it was all REAL — that is, supernatural. I have gone to great lengths to insure that hard physical proof exists in many places of exactly how this whole nutty mess developed. It was the work of many wiseacres, just having fun.


  1. [General Public] (2012, April 10). Ivan Stang at Baltimore SubGenius Devival 2007. Retrieved from
  2. [Ivan Stang] (2011, April 26). Let’s Visit the World of the Future. Retrieved from
  3. [Ivan Stang] (2006, November 3). SubGenius Commercial. Retrieved from
  4. [Ivan Stang] (2011, April 26). The Making of MTV-SubGenius. Retrieved from
  5. [niza310] (2007, December 9). Robert Anton Wilson Discusses Discordianism, “Bob” & Freemasons With Rev. Ivan Stang. Retrieved from
  6. [PuzzlingEvidenceTV] (2011, May 17). SubGenius at Burning Man 2000. Retrieved from
  7. [PuzzlingEvidenceTV] (2012, May 30). SubGenius Panel: Future of “Bob” Nov 1981. Retrieved from
  8. [PuzzlingEvidenceTV] (2010, September 10). The Rant of Ivan Stang Nov 9 1985. Retrieved from
  9. [Scott Beale] (2007, December 9). Ivan Stang Explains The Church of the SubGenius. Retrieved from
  10. [The New World Manifesto Project] (2012, August 26). Episode 6: Reverend Ivan Stang & the Church of the Sub Genius. Retrieved from
  11. Stang, I. (n.d.). The Office Pulpit of Rev. Ivan Stang. Retrieved from
  12. Twitter (n.d.). Ivan Stang: @IvanStang. Retrieved from


In-Sight by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.


© Scott Douglas Jacobsen, In-Sight, and In-Sight Publishing 2012-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.  All interviewees co-copyright their interview material and may disseminate for their independent purposes.

Dr. Wendy A. Suzuki: Professor, Neural Science and Psychology; Center for Neural Science, New York University

Dr. Wendy A. Suzuki


An in-depth interview with Dr. Wendy A. Suzuki, New York University, of the Center for Neural Science, Professor in the department of neural science and psychology.  She discusses the following: educational background and major positions; seminal youth experience influencing career trajectory, freshman experience at University of California, Berkeley, Dr. Maryanne Diamond, GoogleUniversity; ‘clicking’ with a teacher; original dream in her life; major areas of past and present research; hypothetical research; various paces of exercise for memory enhancement; controversial research topics; relation to some other health research such as research on life-extension with Rhodiola Rosea, and caloric restriction; philosophical foundations; robust short-term changes in neural architecture for long-term benefits, Susanne M. Jaeggi et al from 2008, 2009, and 2012 based on a ‘dual n’ back’ task, and the Raven’s Progressive Matrices (RPM, Non-verbal intelligence test); advice for young psychologists; and the responsibility of scientists to society.

Keywords:  Controversial, David Amaral, Dr. Elizabeth Loftus, Dr. Mahtab Jafari, Dr. Maryanne Diamond, Dr. Wendy Suzuki, Eric Kandel, exercise, GoogleUniversity, Hippocampus, Larry Squire, Long-Term Memory, Los Angeles, National Institutes of Health, Neural Science, neurogenesis, neuroplasticity, Neuroscience, New York, New York University, psychology, Raven’s Progressive Matrices, Rhodiola Rosea, Scientists, Society, Stuart Zola, Susanne M. Jaeggi, University of California.

1. What is your current position? What major positions have you held in your academic career?

I am a professor of neuroscience and psychology at New York University (NYU).  This is my first and only academic position that I got, which was after my Post-Doc.

2. Can you name a seminal experience in your youth that most influenced your career direction?

The most seminal experience was a class, which I took as a freshman at University of California, Berkeley.  It was a freshman seminar.  A small number of freshman with an expert in her field.  She was a neuroanatomist.  Dr. Maryanne Diamond, her speciality was on neuroplasticity and the experience of an enriched environment on brain plasticity.  That made me want to become a neuroscientist, and I became a neuroscientist.  At present, she is emeritus there.  Her presentations on GoogleUniversity are number 1 or 2.  She teaches biology.  She has an amazing gift to make, even boring subjects such as gross human anatomy, which is a lot of memorization of different structures and she made it fascinating.

3. That’s a common experience. Once a student ‘clicks’ with a professor, especially in terms of teaching style, they tend to keep going to them.

Yes, exactly!

4. Where did you acquire your education?

I got a BA at University California, Los Angeles, Ph.D. at University California, San Diego, a Post-Doc at National Institutes of Health, and my current faculty position at NYU.

5. What was your original dream?

I wanted to do something in science.  I did not know exactly what, but I wanted to get tenure as a neuroscientist to design my own experiments and run my own research lab. That was my original dream.

6. What have been your major areas of research?

My major areas of research are parts of the brain that are important for long-term memory formation such as the hippocampus and related structures.  I began this research at the start of my career in graduate school.  However, I have branched off recently to study humans because all of the work in long-term memory systems have been with animal model systems.  More recently, I have begun a new area of my research lab dealing with the effects of aerobic exercise in and examining, in particular, humans.

7. Does this mean short, fast or long, slow exercise?

We look at both.  We look at the effects of acute exercise by going to the gym for an hour.  What can that do to your cognition?  How long does that last?  Mainly, I am interested in the long-term effects of the changes in fitness to your long-term cognitive abilities.  How does long-term exercise change your cognitive abilities?  I want to see the way this can be incorporated into a university of school program.

I have two newest areas of research: one of exercise (last four or five years) and how time is represented in your memory.

This happens before the consolidation process.  I focus on the following: during encoding of an episode, how is time represented in these areas that are important for memory?  Consolidation is after you encode it, including all of the temporal stuff, how do you retain it?

8. If you had unlimited funding and unrestricted freedom, what research would you conduct?

I am fascinated by exercise.  I would find a way to combine my experimental work in long-term memory systems with my human work in the effects of exercise on long-term memory.  I would want to leverage my understanding of long-term memory systems to make it better.  Exercise enhances neurogenesis in the hippocampus, a structure critical to long-term memory formation.  I want to understand: how does that happen? How much exercise you need to happen best?  What kind of tasks are more effective at it?  And what does that mean in your everyday life? If I had unlimited funding, I would throw all of my funding at that.  Plus, I would get it implemented into schools or in patient populations where it could be helpful, which is what I am doing now.  But I do not have the funding!  That is the goal.

9. Much research exists on caloric restriction providing benefits to many signs of aging related to preliminary non-human animal models of life-extension research. In particular, Dr. Mahtab Jafari, she worked with Rhodiola Rosea in terms of extending the general lifespan of Drosophila.   However, this comes from many fronts, which includes mental health by slowing cognitive aging in other ways such as exercise.

Absolutely, that is one of the goals.  What kind of exercise is the most effective?  In that, is it running, kickboxing, weight training, and so on?  What in that form of exercise?  And how much of it?  In turn, what is improved?  Is it a frontal lobe attention-focusing task?  There is probably a large proportion of studies on humans showing the improvement in the ability to focus your attention.  There have been some good research on positive long-term improvement of memory.  I want to improve memory.  I want to improve my own memory.  What are the optimal practical implications of exercise on memory?  It is related to attention because you cannot attain better memory without attention.  So if you can attain better attention along with memory, I want that too.

10. What is your philosophical foundation? How did it change over time to the present?

I think, if you can call it a philosophy, I am a firm believer in the idea that brain is very flexible and plastic.  Lots of things can influence it.  Both for the good and for the bad.  My whole scientific career has been based on trying to understand that principle.  I do not know if this is necessarily a principle or a philosophy.  I think there is a lot of potential for change and to grow.  The brain has an enormous amount of potential to change and to grow.  I want to explore those possibilities and the way to harness it for the betterment of mankind.

11. Lots of recent research, which you probably know better than me, about robust short-term changes in neural architecture for long-term benefits.

Yes, it is pretty amazing.

12. Three papers, which turned some findings on their head, came from Susanne M. Jaeggi et al from 2008, 2009, and subsequently in 2012 based on a ‘dual n’ back’ task. People were given the Raven’s Progressive Matrices (RPM, Non-verbal intelligence test), trained them for up to 19 days on the ‘dual n’ back’ task at increasing difficulty, and then gave them the RPM. They found an increase in fluid intelligence in a short amount of time, which lasted for at least a couple months after the training.

That’s fascinating.  I am interested in plasticity.

13. What do you consider the controversial topics in your field? How do you examine the controversial topics?

(Laughs) What are the non-controversial topics?  There are many, many controversial topics in memory including the things talked about: consolidation.  There are many difference theories about consolidation.  What is it?  How does it work?  There is a huge controversy in the boundary between memory and perception, and how you define it.  What is the appropriate way to define a perceptual function versus a memory function?  You would think this would be very straightforward, but when you get into difficult perceptual tasks.  There are so many elements that you have to compare.  You need a good working memory.  We are arguing over: is it pure perception?  Is it memory?  Or is it both?  There is big debate over that.  Those are the ones that I deal with the most.  How do you deal with them?  You need to do a lot of reading and try to keep an open mind, and try not to get into one camp.  I never had the urge to write an opinion piece before about five years ago, when I got tired of this perception versus memory debate.  I went to a journal editor and said, “Why don’t I write a memory piece?”  She said, “Why don’t we do a point-counterpoint?”  I said, “No, I do not want to do that, just let me write the piece.” (Laughs) No, I didn’t actually say that.  I said, “I’d love to do point-counterpoint.” (Laughs) I ended up doing it with someone I got along with, and it was a really informative and educational process to try and address a controversy fairly from one side knowing someone else is doing another side.  Then, we did a wrap-it-up piece together.  Obviously, we had to get along and have enough respect for each other’s views to be able to get through that project.  Now, we are working together on some projects, not this, but other ones.  The funny thing is, the editor was interested in doing a point-counterpoint because she had tried to do a great point-counterpoint, but people found it too emotionally charged.  I think that is probably the cause of the duration of these controversies: stubbornness on these scientists.  If they were more interested in engaging through point-counterpoint in the general public, within the form of scientific journals, rather than doing my first reaction such as ‘let me just write my piece’.

14. What do some in opposition to you argue? How do you respond?

It depends on the format.  In written word or a talk-situation – kind of a debate, I think one of the things that differentiates the different views is how much credit, or weight, you give different pieces of evidence.  All controversies have a whole bunch of studies that are more or less related to it.  Lots of people have different opinions on how they buy into certain findings over other findings.  I think my response is to try and explain both my theoretical and the strongest evidence – that I think – is there to back it up.  Whether experimental design or the results were significant.  For example, something well-designed enough to not make another possible interpretation for this experiment the best one.  I guess, the underlying hypothesis in my mind and the rank-order of the data, and, of course, I need to explain why data they might bring up is not that relevant.

15. What advice do you have for young psychologists?

I would say, “Make sure you are truly fascinated with psychology and that can be a driving force for many years of hard work, which you will have to do.”  To any young scientist, “be curious, be bold in jumping in conversations and debates.”  They are good experiences.  Do not be sitting there with the ‘big whigs’ figuring things out.  Become good at expressing your own views in some form, e.g. through talks or the written word.  I think the thing I see in my most successful colleagues is this innate fascination.  You need to make sure this a driver for you because it is hard to work for the funding.  The competition in science is strong.  It could become overwhelming.  It does become overwhelming for many students unless they are so fascinated with the topic.  Only they can decide that.

16. Whom do you consider your biggest influences? Could you recommend any seminal or important books/articles by them?

My major influences are my three dissertation advisors.  One of them was Larry Squire.  He and Eric Kandel have a really good book for neuroscientists and non-neuroscientists called Memory: From Minds to Molecules.  It was a Scientific American publication.  It lays out the whole range of the field of memory very nicely.  Stuart Zola, who was also one of my thesis advisors, a fantastic psychologist, scientist, and neuroscientist.  As well as David Amaral, a neuro-anatomist, who taught me great anatomical techniques and let me feel like an artist in a way.  I felt like an art critic while looking into a microscope and working with these various brain areas in monkeys during my thesis studying.  I will always be grateful for that.  People that influence you formative times of your career.  Those influences are long-lasting.  I would say those three teachers.  They were my greatest influences.

17. In an interview with Dr. Elizabeth Loftus from In-Sight Issue 2.A, I quote an acceptance speech for an award from the AAAS for Scientific Freedom and Responsibility. In it, she said, “We live in perilous times for science…and in order for scientists to preserve their freedoms they have a responsibility…to bring our science to the public arena and to speak out as forcefully as we can against even the most cherished beliefs that reflect unsubstantiated myths.” How important do you see criticizing ‘unsubstantiated myths’ in ‘perilous times’ for science?

“Criticizing ‘unsubstantiated myths’”, I would say, I agree with the statement to the point about scientists needing to speak out into the public.  Whether they battle myths or simply educate, in fact, I consider that more important to get to the general public out there.  So they know what a scientist does, even if it is the most esoteric things about something in fly brains because they get funding – if they are lucky enough to get funding.  To hone that message in a very, very clear way to let the public understand the importance of our work.  I think battling unsubstantiated myths is a subset of that, but I consider the most important part of that is the reason I am so fascinated with memory.  What happens if you lose your memory? How might my research help you?  How might devastating might that be to you?  Some people, and scientists included, do not always understand the importance of the work that we do.  More important is the public’s ability to know this and ultimately support the scientific effort with knowledge, full knowledge.


  1. [nyusuns] (2014, March 8). SUNS Interview with Dr. Wendy Suzuki. Retrieved from
  2. [UVAGTTP] (2012, October 10). Wendy Suzuki Inspiration. Retrieved from
  3. TEDx [Tedx talks] (2011, December 1). TEDxOrlando – Wendy Suzuki – Exercise and the Brain. Retrieved from
  4. TEDx [Tedx talks] (2014, March 2014). Wendy Suzuki at TEdxNYU 2013. Retrieved from
  5. Buckmaster CA, Eichenbaum H, Amaral DG, Suzuki WA, Rapp PR (2004) “Entorhinal cortex lesions disrupt the relational organization of memory in monkeys,” J Neurosci 24, 9811– 9825
  6. Czanner G, Eden UT, Wirth S, Yanike M, Suzuki WA, Brown EN (2008) “Analysis of between and within-trial neural spiking dynamics,” J Neurophys 99, 2672–2693
  7. Hargreaves EL, Mattfeld AT, Stark CE, Suzuki WA (2012) “Conserved fMRI and LFP signals during new associative learning in the human and macaque monkey medial temporal lobe,” Neuron 74: 743–752
  8. Jaeggi, S. M., Buschkuehl, M., Jonides, J., & Perrig, W. J. (2008). Improving fluid intelligence with training on working memory. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 105(19), 6829-6833.
  9. Jaeggi, S. M., Berman, M. G., & Jonides, J. (2009). Training attentional processes. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 13(5), 191-192.
  10. Lavenex P, Suzuki WA, Amaral DG (2004) “Intrinsic perirhinal and parahippocampal cortices of the macaque monkey: Intrinsic projections and interconnections,” J Comp Neurol 472, 371–394
  11. Lavenex P, Suzuki WA, Amaral DG (2002) “Perirhinal and parahippocampal cortices of the macaque monkey: Projections to the neocortex,” J Comp Neurol 447, 394–420
  12. Law JR, Flanery MA, Wirth S, Yanike M, Smith AC, Frank LM, Suzuki WA, Brown EN, Stark CEL (2005) “fMRI activity during the gradual acquisition and expression of paired associate memory,” J Neurosci 25, 5720–5729
  13. Lee YSC, Ashman T, Shang A, Suzuki WA (2014) “Brief report: Effects of exercise and self-affirmation intervention after traumatic brain injury,” Neurorehab, In press
  14. Loosli, S. V., Buschkuehl, M., Perrig, W. J., & Jaeggi, S. M. (2012). Working memory training improves reading processes in typically developing children. Child Neuropsychology, 18(1), 62-78
  15. Naya Y, Suzuki WA (2011) “Integrating what and when across the primate medial temporal lobe,” Science 333(6043): 773–776
  16. Paxton R, Basile BM, Adachi I, Suzuki WA, Wilson ME, Hampton RR (2010) “Rhesus monkeys (Macaca mulatta) rapidly learn to select dominant individuals in videos of artificial social interactions between unfamiliar conspecifics,” J Comp Psychol 124: 395–401
  17. Prerau MJ, Smith AC, Eden UT, Yanike M, Suzuki WA, Brown EN (2008) “A mixed filter algorithm for cognitive state estimation from simultaneously recorded continuous and binary measures of performance,” Biol Cybernetics 99:1–14
  18. Prerau MJ, Smith AC, Eden UT, Kubota Y, Yanike M, Suzuki WA, Graybiel AM, Brown EN (2009) “Characterizing learning by simultaneous analysis of continuous and binary measures of performance,” J Neurophysiol 102, 3060–3072
  19. Smith AC, Frank LM, Wirth S, Yanike M, Hu D, Kubota,Y, Graybiel AM, Suzuki WA, Brown EN (2004) “Dynamic analysis of learning in behavioral experiments,” J Neurosci 24, 447–461
  20. Smith AC, Scalon JD, Wirth S, Yanike M, Suzuki WA, Brown EN (2010) “State space algorithms for estimating spike rate functions,” Computational Intelligence and Neuroscience 2010, 1–14
  21. Smith AC, Wirth S, Suzuki WA, Brown EN (2007) “Baysian analysis of interleaved learning and response bias in behavioral experiments,” J Neurophys 97, 2516–2524
  22. Suzuki, WA (2010) “Untangling memory from perception in the medial temporal lobe,” Trends in Cognitive Sciences 14:195–200
  23. Suzuki, WA (2009) “Perception and the medial temporal lobe: Evaluating the current evidence,” Neuron 61, 657–666
  24. Suzuki, WA, Amaral DG (2003) “The perirhinal and parahippocampal cortices of the macaque monkey: Cytoarchitectonic and chemoarchitectonic organization,” J Comp Neurol 463, 67–91
  25. Suzuki WA, Baxter MG (2009) “Memory, perception and the medial temporal lobe: A synthesis of opinions,” Neuron. 61, 678–679
  26. Suzuki WA, Miller EK, Desimone R (1997) “Object and place memory in the macaque entorhinal cortex,” J Neurophys 78, 1062–1081
  27. Suzuki WA, Porteros A (2002) “Distribution of calbindin D-28k in the entorhinal, perirhinal and parahippocampal cortices of the macaque monkey,” J Comp Neurol 451, 392–412
  28. The Science Network (n.d.). Wendy Suzuki: New York University. Retrieved from
  29. Wirth S, Avsar E, Chiu CC, Sharma V, Smith AC, Brown EN, Suzuki WA (2009) “Trial outcome and associative learning signals in the monkey hippocampus,” Neuron. 61, 930–940
  30. Wirth S, Yanike M., Frank LM, Smith AC, Brown EN, Suzuki WA (2003) “Single neurons in the monkey hippocampus and learning of new associations,” Science 300, 1578–1581
  31. Yanike M, Wirth S, Smith AC, Brown EN, Suzuki WA (2009) “Comparison of associative learning-related signals in the macaque perirhinal cortex and hippocampus,” Cerebral Cortex 19, 1064–1078
  32. Yanike M, Wirth S, Suzuki WA (2004) “Representation of well-learned information in the monkey hippocampus,,” Neuron 42, 477–487


In-Sight by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.


© Scott Douglas Jacobsen, In-Sight, and In-Sight Publishing 2012-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.  All interviewees co-copyright their interview material and may disseminate for their independent purposes.

Dr. Jonathan Wai: Research Scientist, Talent Identification Program, Duke University & Case Western Reserve University (Part Three)

Dr. Jonathan Wai

(Link to Part One)

(Link to Part Two)


Part three of a three-part in-depth, broad interview with Research Scientist, Dr. Jonathan Wai, of the Talent Identification Program, Duke University, and Case Western Reserve University.  He discusses the following subject-matter: talent, productivity, Who’s Smarter? Republicans and Democrats in Congress (2013); success and underchallenged high-talent workers at the highest levels of ability; Is America “On The Wrong Side of History”? (2012), America as an unsustainable superpower, and educational declines in America as measured by PISA; interview with Enrico Moretti, globally competitive world while continuing to attract talent at home; concept of ‘intelligence’, measure of IQ tests, Richard Feynman, Discussions on Genius and Intelligence: Mega Foundation Interview with Arthur Jensen (2002), and Steve Hsu’s comments on Richard Feynman; societal worry about decline in STEM and educational competitiveness in a globalized world, international setting of so-called ‘soft power’, i.e. cultural influence, and ‘hard power’ advocates; additional pieces for reading; future projects; influences and inspiration; and final thoughts with a quote from Wagner.

Keywords: Dirac, Dr. Arthur Jensen, Enrico Moretti, Einstein, Gifted, Hard Power, James Watson, Mark Zuckerberg, Mega Foundation Press, PISA, Richard Feynman, Society, Soft Power, STEM, Steve Case, Steve Hsu, Talented, Vivek Wahwa, Wagner.

21. If we take the highest level of talent in a discipline, something like the top 5% of the ability spectrum tend to have the highest productivity and impact in their discipline.  We could provide a concrete estimate for the amount of talent falling through the cracks of society. Did anyone provide a calculable estimate?  For example, we could estimate the productivity and talent through measuring the current level of productivity and impact in a field through papers published and total citations – even per paper – for the top 5% of the ability spectrum through your estimates based on competitive undergraduate and graduate programs (Who’s Smarter? Republicans and Democrats in Congress, 2013), using the statistical estimates of the occurrence for the top 5% out of the general population, subtract the two of them, and have a relative estimate of lost/under-utilized talent out of the general population.  None of this seems out of the realm of possibility to me regarding the potential of creating a standardized measure for reference when measuring the improvement of utilization of the gifted and talented at the top 5% (or any other percent for that matter).  What do you think?  What other means could provide an accurate picture of the societal plight of underutilized talent?

This is an interesting idea.  Probably some of the strongest international evidence that the U.S. is not developing its talented students is from international comparison tests such as the PISA.

22. What do you make of the great divide between the maximum level of ability required for the most cognitively complex fields such as pure mathematics, medicine, and science, and the under-challenged gifted population with ability in excess of the mean level of ability requisite for those disciplines? In other words, for example, their field requires 1.5 or 2 SD, but they feel unchallenged because of having ability at 3 SD.

When someone has an ability level well beyond their peers they are likely to be quite successful.  Yet they also may not be as challenged as they could have been had they chosen a discipline with people as smart as, or much smarter than them.

23. You note the immigration of more talent in Is America “On The Wrong Side of History”? (2012), where China sees the US as an unsustainable superpower. However, this seems unreasonable.  International settings and competition, and global integration of political, economic, technological, cultural, and informational systems in the 21st century will disallow the viability of long-term immigration of the most talented, gifted, and appropriately skilled and motivated.  It seems to me nations will continue to compete for the talent worldwide at an increasing rate.  Of course, the US will stay attractive to the talented.  Even so, this will not last, especially in light of the educational declines occurring for some time now in the US as measured by such rankings as the PISA.  What do you think?  Why?  How might the US and Canada remedy such decline?

The solution is logical, but is not so simple to implement due to political barriers: encourage talented people to live and work in the U.S. or Canada or whatever your home country is.  There is always going to be a limited supply of talented people and because they can come from anywhere the competition will be worldwide.

24. Furthermore, the interview with Enrico Moretti tells of the desire for allowing more foreign-born talent to enter into the US by such business luminaries as Vivek Wahwa, Mark Zuckerberg, Steve Case, and others, which does assist the competitive streak of the nation. However, this seems more temporary, a short-term fix, with tremendous implications for the long-term if the investment in fields having higher economic return-of-investment (ROI), e.g. STEM disciplines, for the individuals and societies involved do not having adequate funding.  At some point, you cannot immigrate talent in a globally competitive world if the world integrates to a sufficient level of transport, exchange of information, trade, and so forth.  In an integrated global economy, it seems implausible for an indefinite period of time, and therefore I ask, what would you do for the long-term at the individual level?  How can the US appear more attractive to talented Americans to stay in their country of birth?

The solution, as I have outlined in my writings, is to both develop homegrown talent as well as encourage foreign talent to come and stay. Probably the driving principle that has attracted talent from the around the world is the freedom to innovate.

25. Do you ever question the operational definition of the concept ‘intelligence’ and subsequent measurement through IQ tests? For instance, Richard Feynman claimed to have an IQ of 125.  However, some replies do arise from an interview with Dr. Arthur Jensen from the ebook published by Mega Foundation Press entitled Discussions on Genius and Intelligence: Mega Foundation Interview with Arthur Jensen (2002).   In particular, the late Dr. Jensen stated in the book-length interview:

I don’t take anecdotal reports of the IQs of famous persons at all seriously. They are often fictitious and are used to make a point – typically a put-down of IQ test and the whole idea that individual differences in intelligence can be ranked or measured. James Watson once claimed an IQ of 115; the daughter of another very famous Nobelist claimed that her father would absolutely “flunk” any IQ test. It’s all ridiculous. Furthermore, the outstanding feature of any famous and accomplished person, especially a reputed genius, such as Feynman, is never their level of g (or their IQ), but some special talent and some other traits (e.g., zeal, persistence).  Outstanding achievement(s) depend on these other qualities besides high intelligence. (Langan et al, 2002)

As you have noted repeatedly in your writing with wit, “…The plural of anecdote is not data.” What do you think of this topic?  How might others with differing ideas than you argue?

Leaving aside the label “intelligence,” I think when it comes to psychometric measurement just about every mental standardized test will measure the g factor or general mental ability to a large degree.  On Feynman’s IQ, I will quote the physicist Steve Hsu, whose views I share on this topic (see my interview with him on Psychology Today):

Is it true Feynman’s IQ score was only 125?

“Feynman was universally regarded as one of the fastest thinking and most creative theorists in his generation. Yet it has been reported-including by Feynman himself-that he only obtained a score of 125 on a school IQ test. I suspect that this test emphasized verbal, as opposed to mathematical, ability. Feynman received the highest score in the country by a large margin on the notoriously difficult Putnam mathematics competition exam, although he joined the MIT team on short notice and did not prepare for the test. He also reportedly had the highest scores on record on the math/physics graduate admission exams at Princeton. It seems quite possible to me that Feynman’s cognitive abilities might have been a bit lopsided-his vocabulary and verbal ability were well above average, but perhaps not as great as his mathematical abilities. I recall looking at excerpts from a notebook Feynman kept while an undergraduate. While the notes covered very advanced topics for an undergraduate-including general relativity and the Dirac equation-it also contained a number of misspellings and grammatical errors. I doubt Feynman cared very much about such things.”

26. Oftentimes, the societal worry about the great decline in STEM and educational competitiveness in a globalized world seems too high. However, the pragmatic implementation of practice appears limited to me.  Regardless, much of this misses some of the major areas of great influence from a nation, which tends to have the greatest level of dissemination within an international setting of so-called ‘soft power’, i.e. cultural influence.  Of course, the worry about STEM arises out of global competitiveness.  In other words, this seems to me to give primacy to GDP over citizenry having adequate education, but with additional benefits to citizen education.  Soft power provides a foundation for similar influence in the world other than technology.  Although, using the technological platforms invented or improved upon by the STEM graduates.  In that, STEM graduates can assist the economic and political aims of ‘hard power’ advocates, but the platforms of technology emerging from the technological innovations of them allow the soft power influence to proliferate.  Where do you see more importance – STEM or arts disciplines/hard or soft power?  Or both? 

It would be reasonable to think it would be both.

27. Of those pieces which I appreciate most for further reflection: Lee Smolin Encourages Graduate Student to Stay in Science, Will We Ever Find the Next Einstein?How Do You Make An Intellectual Dream Team?, If You Are Creative, Are You Also Intelligent?, Is Spatial Intelligence Essential for Innovation and Can We Increase It Through Training?, Could We Create Another Einstein?, Is America “on the Wrong Side of History”?, How Do We Get Kids to Want to Be Einstein?, Intelligence: New Finds And Theoretical Insights (a very good interview with Dr. Diane F. Halpern), The Educational World Is Flat, Studying Too Much? This Government Will Stop You, Steve Jobs Leveraged His Intelligence To More Effectively Create, How Brainy Is Your Major, Are Elite Athletes Marrying Elite Athletes? (a great read for discussion on individual differences), How to Think Like a Scientist (good tips for general curiosity and critical thinking too), The Art of Communicating Science, Do Journalists And Academics Live In The “Real World”?, Teaching Without Words, Finding The Next Carl SaganDo Smart People Rule The World?, and How Science Writing Can Save Lives.  Do you have any recommended reading?

Thank you!  I recommend that everyone should read what they are most interested in.

28. What projects do you have in the coming years?

I am currently involved in many different research and writing projects which surround the role of talent and its impact on society.

29. Who most influenced you? Who inspires you?

The list of people who have influenced me are written on the numerous books and articles I have read so far in my lifetime.

30. To close with a quote of Wagner from your article Could We Create Another Einstein?, “Parents, teachers, mentors, and employers—we all have urgent work to do.” Do you have any final thoughts?

I don’t.  Thank you for these very thoughtful questions.


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In-sight by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.


© Scott Douglas Jacobsen, In-Sight, and In-Sight Publishing 2012-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.  All interviewees co-copyright their interview material and may disseminate for their independent purposes.

Dr. Jonathan Wai: Research Scientist, Talent Identification Program, Duke University & Case Western Reserve University (Part Two)

Dr. Jonathan Wai

(Link to Part One)

(Link to Part Three)


Part two of a three-part in-depth, broad interview with Research Scientist, Dr. Jonathan Wai, of the Talent Identification Program, Duke University, and Case Western Reserve University.  He discusses the following subject-matter: Tom Vander Ark in The Educational World Is Flat (2012), an interview between Marilyn vos Savant and Harold Channer in 1986, and specialists and generalists; Salman Khan and the Khan Academy, Einstein’s Ideas and Opinions (1960), and universality of English; risks of rote learning with Khan Academy, asian educational systems, and Bill Gates; flourishing of the gifted population with focus on the young; myths of the gifted population; responsibilities of the gifted population to society and culture; near and far future of the gifted population; The SAT Is Too Easy (2012) and a higher SAT ceiling; Karl Bates, The Art Of Communicating Science (2013), and C.P. Snow; and Project Scientist: Inspiring The Next Generation Of Females (2013), women in STEM, business, and leadership, and the example of Japan.

Keywords: Bill Gates, C.P. Snow, Canada, Einstein, English, Flynn, Gifted Population, Google, Harold Channer, Japan, Karl Bates, Khan Academy, Marilyn vos Savant, Salman Khan, STEM, Talented Youth, Tom Vander Ark, U.S.

11. One of the items most striking to me came from an interview with Tom Vander Ark entitled The Educational World Is Flat (2012), “In America we appear to have a strong emphasis on being well rounded. Einstein was someone who focused on subjects that he was interested in and tended to ignore subjects that he didn’t care much about.”  It reminded me of an interview by Harold Channer with Marilyn vos Savant (1986).  In it, she says, “…What I call a misguided effort to be well-rounded.  Why not let one person go and become another Einstein in his or her field? It doesn’t have to be something as impressive as physics.  There are all kinds of things.  But in this effort to make a well-rounded individual, we sort of turn them all off to everything, give them things too early.”  It seems further reason to consider catering to the most talented.  What do you think of specialists and generalists?  How might the US alter the educational streams for the gifted to allow to more specialization in an area of sole interest?

Today there is so much knowledge that specialization is almost a necessity.  I think, at least in the U.S., the value of being well rounded comes from parents who want their children to be happy in every sense.  Parents want their kids to fit in and be accepted by society.  Not being well rounded means you are more of an outlier, and especially if you are a social outlier, you have less chance of being accepted.  But this is always an issue for people who go on to become great.  Oftentimes the path to greatness is quite lonely because you are going where nobody else has gone before.  I think a general education is necessary, for example being familiar with history as Flynn pointed out earlier.  But if a student knows what they want to do at an early age and wishes to specialize, I think we should let them do that and not hold them back.

12. You have had interviews and articles on the use of modern technology such as computers and software to design, and upgrade, education. Even though, Salman Khan in one interview with you discusses the changes brought on through a decent online educational system called Khan Academy, which, of course, he founded and operates.  However, I see the foundational change to much of the educational world for the 21st century arising from one area, even though mathematics counts as a universal language.  The international language seems quite strongly English.  Relevant, to me at any rate, I remember reading the opening piece of Einstein’s Ideas and Opinions (1960), which I found once more for this, and he says, “As late as the seventeenth century the savants and artists of all Europe were so closely united by the bond of a common ideal that cooperation between them was scarcely affected by political events.  This unity was further strengthened by the general use of the Latin language.” [Italics added] The increasing universality of the English language, in my opinion, will likely improve the educational level of the world.  In this sense, organizations such as Khan Academy appear to be ‘piggybacking’ on the phenomenon of increased universality of a common working-language, namely: English – partially eliminating our literal, global ‘Tower of Babel’. What do you think?

This is an interesting idea, and perhaps a uniform language is helpful for learning everywhere.  I think what online learning has done is provided educational access to anyone anywhere in the world who has a computer, an internet connection, and the freedom to find the information they want.  Without question this should allow talented students from around the world have the opportunity to interact with one another and innovate together.

13. In the articles How Khan Academy Can Help Find The Next Einstein (2012) and Five Lessons From Salman Khan For Education (2012), you discuss concerns about how Khan Academy may be “enabling rote learning.”  This is a common criticism of Asian educational systems.  Yet in academic international comparisons, those Asian nations are outperforming America, particularly in math and science.  Bill Gates has said, as you quote in If You Are Creative, Are You Also Intelligent? (2011), “You need to understand things in order to invent beyond them.”  Do you have thoughts on this criticism?  How about ways to increase understanding and inventiveness?

I think Gates said it well already.  You have to have something in your brain before you can innovate.  Oftentimes rote learning just means you repeat it enough times until you have a concept always ready at your mind’s fingertips.  Today we have Google, which means every bit of information is available online.  However, innovation often comes from the synthesis or reorganization of existing knowledge in a novel or creative pattern or extension, and so to have many things memorized can be quite important, depending upon the context.

14. You share a concern of mine. In particular, the sincere desire to assist the gifted population in flourishing, especially the young.  Now, many organizations provide for the needs of the moderately gifted ability sectors of the general population, most often adults and sometimes children.  However, few provide for the needs of children (and adults) in the high, profound, exceptional, or ‘unmeasurable’ ability sectors of the general population.  Some organizations and societies provide forums, retreats, journals, intelligence tests, literature, or outlets for the highest ability sub-populations.  What can individuals, organizations, and societies do to provide for the gifted population?  What argument most convinces you of the need to provide for this sector of society?

There are two main reasons to invest in talented people.  The first is that by investing in them we help them fulfill their potential and live rewarding and meaningful lives.  The second is that by investing in them we are actually investing in our own future—that is, talented people invent a disproportionate share of things that benefit all of us.  The first reason should be enough, but today in the U.S. it is not.

15. Of the gifted population, there exist many myths.   What do you consider the greatest of these?  What truths dispel them?

Actually, one of the largest myths I encounter is that talented people tend to have a lot of problems (e.g. social).  However, longitudinal studies on talented students, such as the Study of Mathematically Precocious Youth, have shown that talented kids end up as well adjusted and quite successful adults who have families and friends just like everyone else.  Perhaps the stereotype of the nerd as being socially inept is comforting to many people, for whatever reason.

16. In turn, what responsibilities do the gifted population have towards society and culture? Why do you think this?

I believe that each person should have the freedom to choose what they want in life and be responsible for themselves and their actions.  They should try to be at least a net zero and preferably a net positive on society.  However, talented people in general have been given a head start in life, and therefore my hope is that they would fully recognize this, be responsible with their decisions that impact many others, and be wise stewards of their talents.  For their personal well-being, I would hope they would not waste the head start they have been given in life.

17. Where do you see the future of the gifted population in relation to society? What about the near and far future of the gifted population in general?

Talented people have always been and will always be important in society.  In the book Human Accomplishment (2003), we see the many amazing things that have been created largely by the gifted population.  I hope that society would place value on talented people, not for being talented, but for using their talent and working hard to create something that is helpful or beneficial to all of us.

18. You note one large, and mostly unstated, problem directly with the article The SAT Is Too Easy (2012). For instance, you raise the issue of the current SAT’s lack of ability to distinguish among the top candidates in the US.  Why not coordinate with high-ceiling test constructors to measure 4.5 and 5 SD above the norm with the SAT?

As I mentioned earlier, the better solution is either to use the SAT as it exists at an earlier age, or actually bring out the original SAT, which had a much higher ceiling.  Basically the idea would be to use an existing test with established reliability and validity.

19. Of the articles and interviews published, I consider the interview with Karl Bates, entitled The Art Of Communicating Science (2013), the single most important article from your blog posts. You cut to the heart of the issue of culture and the split described by C.P. Snow with the sciences on the one side and the humanities on the other – and never the twain shall meet.  We can talk about science.  We can talk about intelligence and creativity.  Regardless, without attention to understanding the separate streams of English language used in each major side, as set out by C.P. Snow, the other stuff seems secondary, even tertiary, to me.  Most cutting about the interview, I find, is the concision and pragmatic nature of the responses by both of you at the end of the publication.  Do you have any expansions on the topics discussed therein?

Thank you.  I think scientists and journalists don’t communicate as often as they should, probably in part because these groups have very different incentive and reward structures.  However, the problem to a large extent lies with academics who don’t understand that the rest of the world operates similarly to the journalistic world.  It is the academic world which is very much in an ivory tower.  A lot of different fields or disciplines, if they actually took the time to meaningfully interact, would come away with not only a greater appreciation for other disciplines, but also could improve upon their own craft.

20. In your article Project Scientist: Inspiring The Next Generation Of Females (2013), I felt thrilled reading it. More have begun to discuss these issues.  If we exclude one half of the talent pool, North America loses out. Provided the possibility of easier international travel, talented women with interest in STEM, business, and leadership fields in general will, in my opinion, likely travel to other areas with the opportunities.  For instance, this appears in Japan, where many of the talented, wealthy, and highly-educated Japanese women have begun to work against cultural and institutional structures to provide more fair opportunities for themselves.  Especially the increased possibilities of self-empowerment of these women, they choose to do it.  At least from my vantage, from the cost-benefit analysis of a talented and well-educated Japanese woman, travelling to a new place with better possibilities of equal opportunity compared to having to change a well-entrenched cultural and institutional foundation in Japanese society seems like a far better and more immediate solution.  Looking at our own societies, how can we empower women here-and-now in the US and Canada?

I agree that we need to empower women all around the world.  More importantly, I think we need to empower both women and men in various disciplines where they are typically underrepresented.  I also think we need to focus on helping empower the individual regardless of their color or their gender.  In the end, it is not about what people look like, but about who they are as an individual.  We need to respect individual differences.

**********************Bibliography at end of part three***********************


In-sight by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.


© Scott Douglas Jacobsen, In-Sight, and In-Sight Publishing 2012-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.  All interviewees co-copyright their interview material and may disseminate for their independent purposes.


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