Interview with Jesse Peterson

Jess: I read that your previous you are a pretty smart guy you are a game designer, accomplished musician, and member of Mensa, a high IQ Society. Is that true, you’re really a smart guy?

Vox: Yes. I’m a National Merit semifinalist, which is actually considerably more difficult than Mensa.

Jesse: So were you born that way?

Vox: Yes.

Jesse: What is a high IQ?

Vox: Well, you know, IQ is best understood in terms of its standard deviation, so 100 IQ is normal, the Mensa level IQ is the top two percent of the population, so one in 50, that’s about 132, you know. I’m in the 3 to 4 standard deviation range, so I’m probably around the one in a thousand, one in 1500 level. There are plenty of people like me, but not a whole lot.

Jesse: Do you feel smart? I mean, how do you know that you’re that smart?

Vox:  I guess the easiest way for me to explain it is to put it in terms like this; I’m also slightly colorblind. There are some differentiations between orange and green that I literally cannot see. You can point it out to me, you can trace it, you can draw it, and I cannot see it, no matter what. Being highly intelligent tends to be like the other side of that, you know, you see things, and you think they’re obvious, and it’s very, very surprising to you that other people can’t see them. So, I would say that in terms of your day-to-day relationships with other people, it’s often just having to understand that other people can’t always see what you see, or they can’t always reach conclusions as quickly as you can.

Perhaps this exchange may help put the Jordan Peterson thing in perspective and explain why so many smart people managed to miss the insidious nature of his philosophy and his rules for life even if they happened to be in the unusual position of having actually read his books. For example, Peterson wrote some things that I immediately knew to be wrong in Maps of Meaning, mostly because I had previously been reading Umberto Eco quoting Aristotle and analyzing Aristotelian categorization in some detail the day before at the gym. Setting aside the small likelihood that the average person is going to read any of the relevant books without being paid a significant sum to do so, it was necessary to understand what Aristotle had written, understand what Eco was saying about what Aristotle had written, remember what Peterson had written, and also have understood that well enough to see the contradiction between the two on the one hand and the one on the other that rendered Peterson’s statements false. Anyone could be walked through that process, but it takes a relatively high level of cognitive processing power to understand all three elements well enough to immediately connect them even when there is no obvious connection, since Peterson never refers directly to Aristotle. Or, for that matter, to Eco.