高智商俱樂部裏的囚徒

世界第二聰明之人所做的泰半是愚蠢之事 Rick Rosner◎撰

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Illustration by Nishant Choksi

歷史記得的是天才的時刻。牛頓看見蘋果落地,提出萬有引力理論;阿基米德洗澡時靈光一現,發現可以用水量測量黃金的純度。這誰會知道!但是相形之下,過去一萬年來,人類可是經歷了十萬兆個平淡無奇、太陽底下無鮮事的瞬間;換言之,天才的時刻與非天才的時刻相比起來,可真是一令人洩氣的比例。其實,這個世界是為了非愛因斯坦、非天才之輩而設。天才經常讓人想起的是煎熬、邪惡和古怪,而非活潑開朗或適應良好。

家母對此知之甚詳。因此當我三歲就能無師自通地認字時,把她嚇壞了。我在智力測驗中戰無不勝,在操場上卻形單影隻,還成為各式拋物線飛行物的目標。六歲那年,有一個天才時刻是這樣子的:「一名惡霸從鐵網圍籬的另一端丟了顆石頭過來,圍籬網格的大小是二英寸見方,石頭的直徑是一英寸半;石頭不會被圍籬弄偏方向的機率完全可以忽略(百分之二十五的平方,也就是十六分之一),所以我用不着躲開。」然後石頭乾淨俐落地穿過圍籬,咚的一聲,打在我頭上。

擁有世界第二高智商的我可以告訴各位,當一個天才也有不好的地方。不如我聰明的朋友是這麼形容的:「一件事除了有正確的做法,還有羅斯納的做法。」我「羅斯納的做法」包括了初中時在派對上向一個女孩索吻,並可憐兮兮地問她:「你是怎麼親的?是用吸的還是用壓的?」結果我沒得到香吻,反倒是接下來那一整年,不斷有我不認識的小孩朝我大喊:「吸的還是壓的?」

我和許多超級天才一樣,人際技巧有待加強。大學畢業後我想對付這個問題,所以去夜店守門。我在夜店門口逮過好幾千個持假證件的青少年。碰見人後十秒內識破他們是否在說謊,這樣的挑戰令我着迷。智商高的人是很容易鑽牛角尖的。我變得對身分證癡迷,花費了十年的時間開發統計演算法,幫助我看出偽造的或借用的身分證件,正確率高達百分之九十九。但經過十年的研究,我的薪水依舊是一小時八美元,跟其他沒有統計演算法的保鑣一模一樣。

我為電視益智節目《智者生存》撰寫挑戰參賽者的題目,一天得交上二十四題。對於我這麼一個有頭腦的人來說,這數量似乎嫌不夠,所以我自訂配額,一天交出六十至一百題。我不知道老闆是按題目遭剔除的數量來衡量出題者的功力,我寫出來的數量有其他人的三倍之多,退件數高居第一,結果被炒了魷魚。

有一年多的時間,我為了能去上益智節目《危險邊緣》展開自我訓練,我研讀了數百本書,花費了數十個小時練習按一個手持計數器,好加快大拇指按鈴搶答的速度。經過五次的試鏡,我終於上節目了……但輸了比賽(我不敢動用「每日雙倍分數」的權利,加上後來沒能認出沙烏地阿拉伯的國旗,拱手讓出領先優勢)。我還弄丟了一條備用長褲,被另一名參賽者誤拿走了。

我也花了幾乎同樣長的時間用心準備,打進了《超級大富翁》的電視益智節目。來到獎金一萬六千元的問題時,主持人瑞吉斯.菲歐賓問我的是:「海拔最高的首都是哪個城市?」我答:「加德滿都。」《超級大富翁》主張正確答案是基多。其實,世界最高的首都公認是玻利維亞的拉巴斯,但不在答案的選項裏。我狀告節目製作單位,用數千小時的研究支持我的論點,比較我的題目和《超級大富翁》裏的其他十萬多道題,指出這道題有瑕疵。後來我才終於明白,法官對於益智節目的訴訟沒有多大耐心。我輸了官司,接着提起上訴,又再度敗訴。訴訟費花了我數萬美元,讓我成了《超級大富翁》有史以來最大的輸家。

我倒也不是因為天縱英才而被害得凡事都事與願違。我擔任電視喜劇編劇已有二十五年的資歷,撰寫過成千上萬個笑話,執迷的個性和扭曲的觀點倒成了助力。我有一對可愛的妻女,會在我最天馬行空的時候拉住我。我曾以不到一年的時間修完一般需要十二年才能完成的大學學分,以五門主修畢業,因此要教女兒作業絕對沒有問題。我甚至發揮研究的功力,用二十種藥物和保健食品調配出一款合劑,讓我們家的狗兒活到相當於人類一百一十七歲半。

未來二十年內,我的腦力將變得不足為奇。因為聰明的技術與設備越來越多,我們全都會成為潛在的天才,能取用世界上所有的資訊和智慧。而且就像我一樣,諸位也會拿龐大的計算資源去做泰半愚蠢之事。

各位,「二○三六年四度空間消滅糖果大作戰」錦標賽再見啦!


根據《世界天才名錄》所載,作者的智商乃世界第二高(一九二)。



The Prisoner of Mensa

The world’s second-smartest man does mostly dumb stuff

History remembers moments of genius. Isaac Newton saw an apple fall to the ground and formulated his theory of gravity. Archimedes was taking a bath when he had his eureka moment: water displacement can measure the purity of gold. Who knew? But in contrast, over the past 10,000 years, humans have experienced about 100 quadrillion run-of-the-mill, nothing-­much-happened moments, which is a lousy ratio of genius to not-genius moments. The fact is, the world is set up for non-Einsteins, not geniuses. The words tortured, evil and eccentric are more frequently associated with genius than bubbly or well-adjusted.

My mother was aware of this. She freaked out when I taught myself to read at age three. But while I crushed IQ tests, I was a playground loner and target of projectiles. A moment of genius at age six: “Here comes a rock, thrown by a bully on the other side of the chain-link fence. The fence is divided into two-inch squares, and the rock is one and a half inches in diameter. The odds that the rock won’t be deflected by the fence are negligible (25 per cent squared, or one in 16), so I don’t have to duck.” Then the rock passed clean through the fence and clonked me on the head.

Having the world’s second-highest IQ, I can tell you genius has its drawbacks. My less-bright friends put it like this: “There’s the right way, and there’s the Rosner way.” The Rosner way includes trying to get a girl to make out with me at a junior high school party by pitifully asking, “How do you kiss – suction or pressure?” Instead of a kiss, for the rest of the year, I got “Suction or pressure?” yelled at me by kids I didn’t even know.

As with many brainiacs, my people skills needed work. I addressed this problem after university by becoming a nightclub doorman. At the doors, I caught thousands of underage people using fake IDs. The challenge of detecting liars within ten seconds of meeting them fascinated me. High-IQ people can easily become gripped by obsessions. I became obsessed with IDs, spending ten years developing a statistical algorithm to help me spot fake or borrowed IDs with 99 per cent accuracy. But after a decade of research, I was still getting paid $8 an hour, the same as all the other bouncers who didn’t have statistical algorithms.

When I was writing for the TV quiz show Weakest Link, we had a quota of 24 questions a day. This didn’t seem like enough for someone with my big brain, so I set my own quota of 60 to 100 questions a day. I didn’t know that my bosses were evaluating writers based on how many of our questions were rejected. Writing three times as many questions as every­one else, I made the top of that rejection list and was fired.

For more than a year, I trained to get on ­Jeopardy!, studying hundreds of books and spending dozens of hours clicking a hand-held counter to make my thumb faster on the buzzer. After five auditions, I got on the show … and lost (by chickening out on a Daily Double and then surrendering the lead by failing to identify the flag of Saudi Arabia). I also lost my extra pair of pants, which were mistakenly taken by another contestant.

I studied for almost as long to get on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? For my $16,000 question, host Regis ­Philbin asked me, “What capital city is located at the highest altitude above sea level?” I answered, ­“Kathmandu.” ­Millionaire claimed the correct ­answer was Quito. However, the world’s highest national capital is generally considered to be La Paz, ­Bolivia, which wasn’t included among the possible answers. I sued the show, backing up my claim that the question was flawed with thousands of hours of research, comparing my question with more than 100,000 other Millionaire questions. I eventually learned that judges don’t have much patience for quiz show lawsuits. I lost in court, appealed the judgment, and lost again. The legal proceedings cost me tens of thousands of dollars, making me the biggest loser in the history of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?

Not everything has backfired because of my genius. I’ve had a 25-year career as a TV comedy writer. When pumping out thousands of jokes, it helps to be obsessive and have a skewed point of view. I have a lovely wife and daughter, who rein in my most unreasonable schemes. Having earned 12 years of university credits in less than a year and graduating with five majors, I’m ­always able to help with homework. I’ve even used my research ability to concoct a mixture of 20 medicines and supplements that helped our dog survive for 117.5 dog years.

In 20 years, my mental power will be commonplace. Thanks to our increasingly brilliant devices, we’ll all be potential geniuses with access to all the information and wisdom in the world. And just like me, you’ll use your vast computational resources to do mostly dumb stuff.

See you at the 2036 Four-Dimensional Candy Crush Championship, everybody!

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