Sunday, February 5, 2012

Do not be a nerd. Just be smart.

Lately, there has been a pleasant trending away from the iconic nerd.  In the past, Americans often held positive views of what essentially amounts to neglecting social ability. They did this in favor of  maximizing technical skills in mathematical and verbal reasoning. The idea that it is better to be good at something than to be related to someone who is good at it formed the root of this ideal. Nerdiness really lends itself to ideas like anti-racism, since racism amounts to over-valuing membership in a group. It also lends itself to honest hard-workingness, since social abilities can be used to take unfair advantage of a hierarchical system.

While when seen like that nerdiness has a cogent appeal, the argument is narrow-minded. It turns a blind eye to important traits and qualities excluded by the extremism of what it means to be a nerd. Being able to do a task more efficiently or even more creatively than someone else does not take into account the real necessity of the ability to organise into social groups.

As well as sometimes being unfair, group affiliation is absolutely necessary for human enterprise. Everything humans as a species have accomplished they have done so through a naturalistically unparalleled ability to work together. Most every human-made item in the typical surrounding came from a corporation, a formalized social group of humans dedicated to producing a demanded commodity or service for profit.

The ideal of a nerd is someone who would have a lot of trouble interacting in the real world. The truth is that the smart guy in high school who has no friends does not learn as much about how to get along with others as does the jock, and the nerd might never catch up. Truthfully, to the average individual, pursuing nerdiness is harmful. And for the super-intelligent individual, it is patently bad decision-making.

Nerdiness is a condition exclusively focused on a primary factor, which is however utterly dependent on less obvious factors. The most obvious factor driving success in school and in the world is intelligence. But there are no shortages of examples where some other factor besides intelligence made the difference between one individual's success and his being beaten by too many other people, called failure.

Social ability is probably the next most obvious means of success. An individual who is much inferior in intelligence to another can easily beat uninformed competition. When, as is often the case, the common teacher is not as good an instructor as third party resources, an ability to befriend the individuals who own the third party knowledge means more than being able to use it most effectively. No matter how intelligent an individual might be, that individual must be exposed to the right information in order to use his ability. Oftentimes, other people are the best sources of  truthful and critical information, and those other people are not always the most easily attained contacts.

Aside from being sources of critical information, other people might even be able to create a better way to use information. Thinking together in groups has sometimes been condemned as being unproductive, but the method has many advantages. Individuals who can excel take longer to learn when teaching less capable people, but they also benefit from having access to people who can complete busy work, work that can be shared, and other tasks.

The importance of social ability begs a different question. It is not how did nerdiness ever become popular. The more specific question is how did successful people ever work together to popularize a trend causing people to lose the very same skills needed to create the trend. It was a social, cultural movement that gave birth to nerdiness. Elite children claimed to be people who had no social skills in order to bid into the mythos of the oppressed social midget who later becomes wildly successful. However, everyone from Bill Gates to Barack Obama met their achievements through countless hidden factors, some perhaps even more important than intelligence or drive.

It is not really good at all to be a nerd. The only thing it is good to be is smart. So do not lack social ability.

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