Skip to content

Rick G. Rosner: Giga Society, Member; Mega Society, Member & ex-Editor (1991-97); and Writer (Part One)

October 8, 2014

Interviewer: Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Numbering: Issue 6.A, Idea: Outliers & Outsiders (Part Two)

Place of Publication: Langley, British Columbia, Canada

Title: In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal

Web Domain: http://www.in-sightjournal.com

Individual Publication Date: October 8, 2014

Issue Publication Date: January 1, 2015

Name of Publisher: In-Sight Publishing

Frequency: Three Times Per Year

Words: 4,703

ISSN 2369-6885

Mr. Rick G. Rosner

ABSTRACT

Part one of eleven, 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.

****************Footnotes and bibliography in Archives “6.A” PDF*****************

License

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

Copyright

© 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.

Advertisements

From → Chronology

Leave a Comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: