Re: Eight-year-old physics genius enters university

From: Michael Anissimov (
Date: Sun Nov 06 2005 - 14:42:26 MST

Hi Jef,

Yes, the story does reek of publicity-enhancement. But all media types
gravely distort the truth about events such as this one. So that is
nothing unusual.

The claim of a connection between flying cars and string theory is
indeed quite silly. If the scientific literacy of the journalist were
slightly higher, perhaps they would not include such a bizzare claim and
instead focus on some other aspect of the boy's aspirations. Is the
flying car thing really what he is concerned about? Maybe. Even if so,
perhaps his view could mature over a few years - a 12-year old making
concrete contributions to science would be nothing to laugh at.

There is actually significant evidence that intelligence (g) operates
independently of context. The notion that intelligence is highly
dependent on context is reminiscent of the SSSM (Standard Social Science
Model), which asserts that humans are essentially blank slates whose
attitudes and abilities are shaped entirely by their upbringing and
environment. A few weeks ago, Michael Vassar posted an excellent
article, "Why G Matters", which is one of thousands of articles
presenting important evidence for the context-independent predictive
validity of g:

The predictive validity of g is powerful in all job domains, but
increases in intensity with the intellectual demands and abstractness of
the task. University physics is perhaps one of the most intellectually
demanding and abstract domains known to man, and therefore it should be
expected that a high g value will convey especially significant
benefits, regardless of context.

Michael A.

Jef Allbright wrote:

>On 11/6/05, Chris Capel <> wrote:
>>On 11/6/05, Michael Anissimov <> wrote:
>>>How much longer will it be before he starts making concrete
>>>contributions to science, I wonder?
>>It'll be interesting to see. Let's hope he's able to remain mentally stable.
>Mental health can probably be maintained as long as he is sheltered
>within an environment matching his particular abilities and
>Regarding scientific contributions, I see a significant probability of
>some novel but narrow insights, but probable disappointment in the
>context of general and practical applicability to real-world problems.
>While I don't doubt he's a prodigy, this story reeks of
>publicity-enhancement. The claim that he qualified for university by
>being able to recite an explanation of Shroedinger's equation is quite
>shallow and says nothing about all the associated understanding that
>would normally be expected. The gee-whiz claim that he's thinking
>about flying cars in connection with string theory says more about the
>child-like nature of his thoughts than about any kind of special
>insight, and the statement that his father speaks for him because he
>has not yet learned to communicate properly to adults using Korean
>social norms hints strongly about the uneven nature of his education
>and understanding.
>What I find most significant about this and similar situations is that
>the popular conception of "intelligence" does not include its extreme
>dependence on context. If intelligence is understood in terms of the
>capability of an agent to predict changes and thus respond effectively
>to its environment, then any isolation from the environment has the
>effect of reducing its effective intelligence in that broader context.
> For a system within a co-evolutionary environent, the mismatch
>becomes progressively worse.
>I hope that Yoo-geun gets the benefit of a special environment in
>which he can flourish and contribute to the diversity of thinking that
>promotes our growth, while not being hampered with the popular
>assumption that he sees more of the big picture than do others.
>- Jef

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