10/31/2009

Algernon reloaded

Keyes' "Flowers for Algernon" is another theme in Sd.'s blog. The first half of that story is about the consequences of a startling rise of of a young underachiever's intellectual skills and the environmental reaction on this. His troubles of adapting his growing insight into social structures, psychologies of others, his inflating mental horizon with structures of personality, perception, valuation and interaction coming from his dim and troubled past seem to some extent plausible, but beyond reality test - until recently, when a documentary was made on someone who seems to got stuck in that sort of transition zone Keyes describes. (Video: short version, long version). I think it is interesting to look after similarities and differences between the fiction and the person. Like in the novel, the dim past shines through in the real person's try to be 'smart' in the way a mentally retarded probably imagines it - winning trivial quiz shows and looking like Rambo. Or in his puzzled relation to women. The big contrast to the novel, where the main character achieves and transcendents an academic intellectual level, is that the real person barely scratches after long tries the level of science. Obviously something is missing. I guess it is hidden in the core personality, which stayed on it's old level of development and became disconnected to the intelligent part by the huge gulf of knowledge and sensitivity between them.

This let's one wonder again how this connection is in normal, but educationally processed people in institutions of scholastic training? Maybe Keyes' story actually targets that? An indicator of a troubled connection has just been published. This article in the SciAm announces: "When rational thinking is correlated with intelligence, the correlation is usually quite modest. Avoidance of cognitive miserliness has a correlation with IQ in the range of 0.20 to 0.30 . Sufficient mindware has a similar modest correlation, in the range of 0.25 to 0.35. These correlations allow for substantial discrepancies between intelligence and rationality." The same sort of disconnection could explain the reported independence of academic frauds from personal ethics as linked to in an earlier post.

Perhaps the unpleaseant incidents in the scientific community Sd. tells in her blog come from such simple causes. This could explain why the characters in this absurd and funny film appear like transfered from a slightely satirized science millieu. One recognizes the grad student as performance oriented eureka seeker, the vision driven senior researcher allways a little outside the main stream, the experienced old stager in eternal war with bureaucrats and still good for a darwinian fight if someone enters his territory. All are a bit out of their trolley and misunderstood by women (well-known, that stare, isn't it?), who never understand the lofty ideas that drive them.