*Preface: Some people will take offense to the concept of intelligent vs. dumb and question whether objective intelligence exists. It’s a valid point, and let me state that I don’t consider myself to be highly intelligent. The way I define intelligence in this context is not necessarily in a sense of high IQ-test-score, but rather having a brain that thinks a lot.
Yesterday, I read this thread on Reddit asking sex workers about sad stories they had with clients (most of them were men just wanting to be held and given attention to – sad but not really surprising).
One story that I couldn’t get out of my mind was of a high-achieving medical professional with “a ridiculously profound ability to recall information”. What did he pay the sex worker to do? (trigger warning this is pretty disturbing):
He wanted to get kicks to the brain and do roleplays of his brain being eaten, and eventually begged the escort to drill into his head to remove parts of his brain. No roleplay, he really wished to essentially be lobotomized, lose his thinking apparatus and be made incapable of continuing in his profession (the escort obviously dropped him as a client when hearing those outlandish requests).
You could say this is just mental illness, but I think there’s a deaper truth here: It seems to be common for super-smart people to be unhappy.
I haven’t seen conclusive evidence that intelligence is beneficial for happiness.
Sure, some intelligence is necessary for making money and sticking to healthy habits, and if you don’t have any money it’s hard to live a good life.
From the people I know who are really smart, it always seems to come with some “side effects” like neuroticism, ADHD or depression. This effect seems to be more pronounced for creative people.
Elon Musk comes to mind, undoubtedly intelligent, and (for a while at least) the richest man on earth, being asked what it’s like being Elon Musk, and him replying “you wouldn’t want to be me”.
I’m not sure why that is and whether even neuroscientists have good answers. I think it’s not outlandish to say that having a high horsepower brain also simply leads to more thinking processes automatically happening all the time. There’ll always be something being analyzed in the back of your head or it’ll get bored, and more thinking is actually pretty bad if you try to live in the now, enjoy the present moment and be happy.
This will sound a bit edgy, but I can’t help but feel that being more simple-minded and asking less questions (like “is this true?”) would make me happier. I would have an easier time being religious (it’ll feel nice accepting that there’s a god taking care of me and that death isn’t the end). It would become more enjoyable to talk to people about the weather and other profanities and I’d feel like part of a community. I’d believe that politicians do a pretty good job, like my parents do. And I won’t second-guess the life script (education-job-house-marriage-kids) of most people and follow it down to a T. Most of these things would likely make my life more stable and fulfilled, and my parents could finally proudly talk about me and my achievements when chatting with the neighbours.
A lot of high-achievers try to slow down their thinking apparatus by meditating, working out intensely or doing drugs. Most drug addicts just want to escape their brains, and all the popular drugs essentially make you dumber and sabotage your ability to think rationally (especially alcohol, but this documentary about cough syrup abuse also comes to mind).
Most of us have the desire to shut our brains off.
In a way, it seems to me that mental illnesses can be traced back to a hyper-active brain. Being highly neurotic? It’s your brain making constant scenario analyses of what-ifs and what could go wrong and how painful that’ll be. ADHD? The brain gets bored quickly by mundane tasks and wants more stimulation. Depression? This might just be the objectively accurate result of taking off the rose tinted glasses and looking at life and where this world is heading and coming to the conclusion: “Meh. Being alive isn’t that great”
On the other hand, there’s Naval Ravikant’s point: If you’re really smart, you should be able to figure out a way to be happy.
Ok, point taken. But what if you come to the same conclusion as that crazy doctor?
That being dumber is better if you want to feel normal and happy, that your brain itself is the problem and needs to drugged to stop working that much, or ultimately needs to be ripped out of your skull.
What might help you find calm
Intentional ASMR Picks:
- I’ve enjoyed the French Whisperer for a while, he has the best sleep stories and nails combining learning something interesting with his relaxing voice and his French accent. Here’s him talking about Egyptian Mythology
- This was great, and I didn’t really know the channel ASMR Jas: A lice check and scalp exam
- A spa facial treatment by Maddie ASMR with nice layered sounds
- Zeitgeist’s steam themed ASMR with various triggers was great as well
What I’ve Enjoyed:
I’m not sure who came up with the idea but I enjoyed “oldies from another room” videos, e.g. from the channel Nemo’s Dreamscapes (these are usually bluesy love-songs from the 1920 and 1930s which I like quite a bit). I decided to make a version myself which songs I love which you can check out here.