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Conversation with Dr. Benoit Desjardins, M.D., Ph.D., on Background, Academics, Intelligence, Science, and Philosophy: Academic Physician; Member, Mega Society (1)

July 8, 2021

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Interviewer: Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Numbering: Issue 27.A, Idea: Outliers & Outsiders (22)

Place of Publication: Langley, British Columbia, Canada

Title: In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal

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

Individual Publication Date: July 8, 2021

Issue Publication Date: September 1, 2021

Name of Publisher: In-Sight Publishing

Frequency: Three Times Per Year

Words: 1,492

ISSN 2369-6885

Abstract

Professor Benoit Desjardins, MD, PhD, FAHA, FACR is an Ivy League academic physician and scientist at the University of Pennsylvania. He is a member of the Mega Society, the OlympIQ Society and past member of the Prometheus Society. He is the designer of the cryptic Mega Society logo. He is member of several scientific societies and a Fellow of the American College of Radiology and of the American Heart Association. He is the co-Founder of the Arrhythmia Imaging Research (AIR) lab at Penn. His research is funded by the National Institute of Health. He is an international leader in three different fields: cardiovascular imaging, artificial intelligence and cybersecurity. He discusses: growing up; extended self; family background; youth with friends; education; purpose of intelligence tests; high intelligence; extreme reactions to geniuses; greatest geniuses; genius and a profoundly gifted person; necessities for genius or the definition of genius; work experiences and jobs held; job path; myths of the gifted; God; science; tests taken and scores earned; range of the scores; ethical philosophy; political philosophy; metaphysics; worldview; meaning in life; source of meaning; afterlife; life; and love.

Keywords: academic physician, Benoit Desjardins, intelligence, Mega Society, science, University of Pennsylvania.

Conversation with Dr. Benoit Desjardins, M.D., Ph.D., on Background, Academics, Intelligence, Science, and Philosophy: Academic Physician; Member, Mega Society (1)

*Please see the footnotes, bibliography, and citation style listing after the interview.*

Scott Douglas Jacobsen: When you were growing up, what were some of the prominent family stories being told over time?

Dr. Benoit Desjardins[1],[2]*: Nothing interesting. A very ordinary family, trying to stay afloat financially. I found out on my wedding day that my father was adopted, which added mystery to the family for the first time in my life. But I chose not to investigate further out of respect for his wishes.

Jacobsen: Have these stories helped provide a sense of an extended self or a sense of the family legacy?

Desjardins: No, not much of a legacy. My family history did, however, make me prioritize financial stability as one of my main goals in life.

Jacobsen: What was the family background, e.g., geography, culture, language, and religion or lack thereof?

Desjardins: French Canadian, catholic, I grew up in Montreal. I was a first-generation college student, although I never really attended college and was fast-tracked directly to medical school and graduate school. We were not a very religious family. A priest had cursed my mother to get a physically disabled child when she was pregnant with me because she missed mass, and my parents then dissociated from the church. I was fortunately not born with any handicaps.

Jacobsen: How was the experience with peers and schoolmates as a child and an adolescent?

Desjardins: Not great. I was not good with human interaction. I was a bit of a recluse, although I did attend school but did not have many friends. I went to an all-boys high school. I only became comfortable interacting with girls a few years after high school. Now I have a wife and kids. Happily married for 34 years.

Jacobsen: What have been some professional certifications, qualifications, and trainings earned by you?

Desjardins: My path was unusual. I was fast-tracked to medical school in Canada because of my exceptional intellectual abilities, skipping college. But medical school did not satisfy me intellectually. So, after medical school, I received a very prestigious Award to pursue four simultaneous graduate degrees in the US, combining Pure Mathematics, Artificial Intelligence, Formal Philosophy (Logic), and Theoretical Physics. I called this my “intellectual interlude”. I then completed the medical curriculum (internship, residency, fellowship) to earn a living as an academic physician. So, I have an MD degree, a PhD degree, half a dozen Masters, and medical post-graduate training certificates. I also completed several additional certifications on the side, like recent certifications in hacking and cybersecurity. I love to learn new things, and these certifications force me to learn new fields very thoroughly.

Jacobsen: What is the purpose of intelligence tests to you?

Desjardins: Their purpose is to attempt to evaluate intelligence. I just take those tests for fun as I love to solve complicated problems.

Jacobsen: When was high intelligence discovered for you?

Desjardins: It was in high school since I was pretty much a recluse before that.

Jacobsen: When you think of the ways in which the geniuses of the past have either been mocked, vilified, and condemned if not killed, or praised, flattered, platformed, and revered, what seems like the reason for the extreme reactions to and treatment of geniuses? Many alive today seem camera shy – many, not all.

Desjardins: It usually depends on the mindset of the society in which they live. If it is not open to new ideas or non-traditional ideas, geniuses get vilified, sometimes imprisoned (e.g., Galileo), or killed (e.g., Socrates). On the other hand, if it values new ideas and risk-takers, geniuses get praised or platformed (e.g., Gates, Jobs, Musk).

Jacobsen: Who seem like the greatest geniuses in history to you?

Desjardins: One hundred billion humans ever lived on Earth, so out of those, there were quite a few geniuses throughout history. Here are a few: Socrates, Galileo, da Vinci, Einstein, Darwin, Newton, Aristotle, Turing.

Jacobsen: What differentiates a genius from a profoundly intelligent person?

Desjardins: Extreme creativity and long-term focused effort characterize genius. Profoundly intelligent people are much more common, and most don’t amount to much in life.

Jacobsen: Is profound intelligence necessary for genius?

Desjardins: Profound intelligence is usually a left-brain process. Extreme creativity is usually a right-brain process. So no, it’s not necessary.

Jacobsen: What have been some work experiences and jobs held by you?

Desjardins: The main path I followed is that of an Ivy League academic physician and scientist. But I have always pursued multiple sidelines in parallel. For example, one of my current sidelines is being a hacker and a cybersecurity specialist.

Jacobsen: Why pursue this particular job path?

Desjardins: Early in my life, I sought an intellectually challenging career, which generated good financial security income. However, I quickly realized that such a career did not exist or was very difficult to find. So, I decided to pursue two careers in parallel. I picked academic medicine to generate income and pursued many other activities in parallel to provide an intellectual challenge.

Jacobsen: What are some of the more important aspects of the idea of the gifted and geniuses? Those myths that pervade the cultures of the world. What are those myths? What truths dispel them?

Desjardins: There are many myths. For example, the myth that gifted people always do well in school. But, unfortunately, the structure of the education system is not always appropriate for many geniuses, who either do poorly in school or drop out (e.g., Einstein).

Jacobsen: Any thoughts on the God concept or gods idea and philosophy, theology, and religion?

Desjardins: God was an invention of prehistoric man to explain what he could not understand. Eventually, science explained more and more and made God and religion irrelevant. As for philosophy, it is a field that helps sharpen critical thinking, analysis, and writing. Therefore, everyone should take courses in philosophy, unless one aims for a job not requiring much thinking, like a farmer or a US congressman.

Jacobsen: How much does science play into the worldview for you?

Desjardins: I earn a living as a physician and scientist, so much of my worldview is based on science.

Jacobsen: What have been some of the tests taken and scores earned (with standard deviations) for you?

Desjardins: I took the Mega test and Titan test in the mid-1990s for fun. My scores on those were good enough to qualify for membership to the Mega Society. Whether they are appropriate tests to measure very high IQs is still an open question, but all similar tests face the same problems. I probably have taken other tests as a kid, but I don’t remember much. I also do puzzles and quizzes whenever they come up, such as Tim Roberts quizzes, and I usually finish first at most of them.

Jacobsen: What is the range of the scores for you? The scores earned on alternative intelligence tests tend to produce a wide smattering of data points rather than clusters, typically.

Desjardins: High enough to qualify for membership in the Mega Society. Narrow range, around five-sigma.

Jacobsen: What ethical philosophy makes some sense, even the most workable sense to you?

Desjardins: I take a little bit from each of the main ethical philosophies, depending on the context. Deontological ethics mainly guides physicians, but a utilitarian approach often makes more sense to me.

Jacobsen: What social philosophy makes some sense, even the most workable sense to you?

Desjardins: I value the “Live and let live” social philosophy with a set of practical constraints. As long as people’s behavior does not harm others, does not harm the environment, and does not harm the social fabric, let people do what they want to do. If they’re going to hurt themselves, it’s their choice. You can always provide them with the best possible advice to help them realize the consequences of their actions, but in the end, it’s their choice. Physicians use that approach a lot. For example, we inform patients who drink too much or do drugs about the consequences of their actions, and if they chose to continue, it’s not our role to forcibly stop them from harming themselves.

Jacobsen: What economic philosophy makes some sense, even the most workable sense to you?

Desjardins: Well, I cannot tolerate the cruelty and exploitative nature of predatory capitalism in the US. I instead value any economic system that provides people with the means to achieve their goals in life and reap the benefits of their hard work while at the same time providing a robust social net to prevent people from falling through the cracks. Canada, where I grew up, is a social democracy that provides all these features and makes sense to me from an economic perspective.

Jacobsen: What political philosophy makes some sense, even the most workable sense to you?

Desjardins: I oscillate between social liberalism and social democracy, depending on the context. Their basic policies are often the same. I value the power of the state but do not value as much the power of unions.

Jacobsen: What metaphysics makes some sense to you, even the most workable sense to you?

Desjardins: I have a purely atheistic scientific view of the world, and I do not need metaphysics.

Jacobsen: What worldview-encompassing philosophical system makes some sense, even the most workable sense to you?

Desjardins: As a scientist, post-positivism is the worldview philosophical system that makes the most sense to me. Reality is accessible through careful observation and scientific reasoning. Scientists make theories that can evolve, and they use observation to support or disprove a theory, knowing that all observations have a certain amount of error in them. Thus, science makes steady progress towards understanding reality.

Jacobsen: What provides meaning in life for you?

Desjardins: Three elements provide meaning to my life: my wife and kids, job and research work, and achievements. For the past few decades, I undertook a series of Grand Challenges outside work for personal growth and achievement. Each new Grand Challenge had to meet three conditions: (1) be something I had never done in my life, (2) enable me to grow as a person, and (3) have a well-defined end goal. I have pursued many such grand challenges, such as getting a Black Belt at Tae Kwon Do, earning a Wood Badge with Boy Scouts of America, becoming a pilot, becoming a competitive master marksman, etc.

Jacobsen: Is meaning externally derived, internally generated, both, or something else?

Desjardins: It’s both. In my case, my grand challenges are purely internally generated. However, other aspects such as wife and kids are externally generated.

Jacobsen: Do you believe in an afterlife? If so, why, and what form? If not, why not?

Desjardins: We either get cremated or eaten by worms and get recycled, currently into dirt, but eventually possibly into Soylent Green.

Jacobsen: What do you make of the mystery and transience of life?

Desjardins: Life is a beautiful thing. It appeared by itself out of nothing billions of years ago. It kept evolving until it produced Homo Sapiens, which could colonize and change the planet, and might eventually become interstellar. Science has taught us more and more about the mechanisms of life, so it’s becoming less mysterious with time. The transience of life is a good thing, as otherwise there would be 100 billion people living on Earth, 94 billion of them living in old people’s homes.

Jacobsen: What is love to you?

Desjardins: Love is an emotion that binds people to each other. I never thought of it more deeply or philosophically. But I express it regularly. For example, I’ve bought roses for my wife every month since we started dating, and I have not forgotten any monthly roses in the 37 years we have been together.

Appendix I: Footnotes

[1] Academic Physician; Member, OlympIQ Society; Member, Mega Society.

[2] Individual Publication Date: July 8, 2021: http://www.in-sightjournal.com/desjardins-1; Full Issue Publication Date: September 1, 2021: https://in-sightjournal.com/insight-issues/.

*High range testing (HRT) should be taken with honest skepticism grounded in the limited empirical development of the field at present, even in spite of honest and sincere efforts. If a higher general intelligence score, then the greater the variability in, and margin of error in, the general intelligence scores because of the greater rarity in the population.

Appendix II: Citation Style Listing

American Medical Association (AMA): Jacobsen S. Conversation with Dr. Benoit Desjardins, M.D., Ph.D., on Background, Academics, Intelligence, Science, and Philosophy: Academic Physician; Member, Mega Society (1) [Online]. July 2021; 27(A). Available from: http://www.in-sightjournal.com/desjardins-1.

American Psychological Association (APA, 6th Edition, 2010): Jacobsen, S.D. (2021, July 8). Conversation with Dr. Benoit Desjardins, M.D., Ph.D., on Background, Academics, Intelligence, Science, and Philosophy: Academic Physician; Member, Mega Society (1). Retrieved from http://www.in-sightjournal.com/desjardins-1.

Brazilian National Standards (ABNT): JACOBSEN, S. Conversation with Dr. Benoit Desjardins, M.D., Ph.D., on Background, Academics, Intelligence, Science, and Philosophy: Academic Physician; Member, Mega Society (1). In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal. 27.A, July. 2021. <http://www.in-sightjournal.com/desjardins-1>.

Chicago/Turabian, Author-Date (16th Edition): Jacobsen, Scott. 2021. Conversation with Dr. Benoit Desjardins, M.D., Ph.D., on Background, Academics, Intelligence, Science, and Philosophy: Academic Physician; Member, Mega Society (1).” In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal. 27.A. http://www.in-sightjournal.com/desjardins-1.

Chicago/Turabian, Humanities (16th Edition): Jacobsen, Scott “Conversation with Dr. Benoit Desjardins, M.D., Ph.D., on Background, Academics, Intelligence, Science, and Philosophy: Academic Physician; Member, Mega Society (1).” In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal. 27.A (July 2021). http://www.in-sightjournal.com/desjardins-1.

Harvard: Jacobsen, S. 2021, ‘Conversation with Dr. Benoit Desjardins, M.D., Ph.D., on Background, Academics, Intelligence, Science, and Philosophy: Academic Physician; Member, Mega Society (1)’In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal, vol. 27.A. Available from: <http://www.in-sightjournal.com/desjardins-1>.

Harvard, Australian: Jacobsen, S. 2021, ‘Conversation with Dr. Benoit Desjardins, M.D., Ph.D., on Background, Academics, Intelligence, Science, and Philosophy: Academic Physician; Member, Mega Society (1)’In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal, vol. 27.A., http://www.in-sightjournal.com/desjardins-1.

Modern Language Association (MLA, 7th Edition, 2009): Scott D. Jacobsen. “Conversation with Dr. Benoit Desjardins, M.D., Ph.D., on Background, Academics, Intelligence, Science, and Philosophy: Academic Physician; Member, Mega Society (1).” In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal 27.A (2021): July. 2021. Web. <http://www.in-sightjournal.com/desjardins-1>.

Vancouver/ICMJE: Jacobsen S. Conversation with Dr. Benoit Desjardins, M.D., Ph.D., on Background, Academics, Intelligence, Science, and Philosophy: Academic Physician; Member, Mega Society (1) [Internet]. (2021, July 27(A). Available from: http://www.in-sightjournal.com/desjardins-1.

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