Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Pitbull Smarts

Regarding Condi Rice, one thing people need to know is that “PhD” does not necessarily mean intelligent.  It means that someone has a certain knack for academic work, but more importantly, it means they have a certain level of tenacity.  The ability to stick things through for a long-term goal.  And while that’s certainly admirable, it would be a big mistake to assume that this is the equivalent of intelligence.  Because it’s not.

The same goes for a traditional Bachelor’s Degree, something I possess.  The courseload for an Associate’s Degree in Accounting is the same as a Bachelor’s Degree, at least in terms of the business classes one needs.  But the reason why a Bachelor’s Degree is worth so much more is because of the extra work one needed to do to earn it, in all the crappy-ass classes that I couldn’t stand taking.  Like Fine Arts and Science.  And if undergrad work is like Army training, then a PhD is like becoming a Green Beret.

But it’s not about intelligence.  Sure, you have to have some.  But too much can actually hurt you.  And a better prerequisite is the ability to suck-up and to tell your superiors what they want to hear.  And that means regurgitating what your professors say in a non-obvious fashion.  And most definitely, the ability to memorize and regurgitate is much more handy than actual intelligence.

And that’s what we see with Condi, particularly with her multi-lingual, concert pianist stuff.  Sure, maybe she’s a genius.  But more likely, she’s just good at memorizing things and repeating them, and has a pitbull mentality when it comes to achieving things.  And from what we’ve seen so far, that’s more likely the case.  Because what makes a genius a genius is the ability to leapfrog over what they’ve been told to come up with something new.  And we haven’t seen that at all from Ms. Rice.  And while there are many good positions for such a person, Secretary of State isn’t one of them.  History sure looks familiar, but it never does repeat itself.  And we don’t need a world leader who does, either.

For the record, I graduated Summa cum Laude, and for you non-Latin speakers, that’s the foreigner equivalent of “Best of the Fucking Best, Mofo”, or something like that.  What can I say.  I got A’s in the crappy-ass Fine Arts and Science classes too.  And I’ve got a lousy memory, which means I did it the hard way: I learned stuff.


Anonymous said...

Eh. Agreed. I've got a BA in English from UT and I'm not certain that it's worth the paper it's printed on. But I've done some job interviews in my day and there's something to be said for having that degree -- it means you can sit and perform an essentially mundane task for years on end with no concrete goal in sight, especially if it's in Liberal Arts. Often a good trait to have in an employee, sadly. Not as desirable in a Secretary of State, perhaps. However, while a degree doesn't make you smart, it often means that you're not outright dumb (well, a UT English degree might be an exception) -- it's hard to fake it that far, unless maybe you're a legacy student at Yale whose family's involved in politics.

Duane Gran said...

You can criticize Secretary Rice for many things, but lack of intelligence is not one of them. I've had the opportunity to meet her and, while the discussion was brief, I was left with a profound respect for her grasp of issues and policy. My only complaint is that her cold war training colors her view of what is decidedly a post cold war environment. Additionally, I think she is overly loyal to the President's agenda, but given the trouble faced by former Secretary of State Powell I can't entirely blame her for towing the line.

I'm curious to know what specifically signals a lack of intelligence about her. Nearly all her harshest critics concede that she is an intelligent person.

Doctor Biobrain said...

Duane - I don't have time to go into this much right now, but just the fact that she's still stuck in a Cold War frame of mind fifteen years after it ended is some evidence that she's merely a memorizer repeating what she's been told, and unable to branch outside of her training.

I should stress that memorizers often appear very intelligent. In fact, they're usually the people who appear smarter, because they have a better vocabulary and have their facts and opinions more readily accessible than people who actually have to think about what they're saying. But their brains are not much different from a computer's: Garbage In, Garbage Out. They categorize information into separate blocks and wait for keywords to be said before they release the information in those blocks. But those blocks are so solid that they're unable to analyze the information themselves or to erase the irrelevant parts. Their steel-trap minds are a blessing as well as a curse.

I'm not even going to suggest that such people are unwanted, because they're not. We need all kinds of people. Just not in this kind of role. Were her mind not filled with out-dated and wrong information, she'd make a fine under-secretary. But the top spot should have been off-limits. She's not dumb, but she lacks the proper analytical skills to make important decisions. As I said in the post, history never repeats itself and we can't use someone who keeps expecting it to.

Anonymous said...

It occurs to me that something which would add a lot to this post would be a discussion of how PhDs do tend to overemphasize their pet theories and to look first to their own areas of expertise.

In the case of Condi Rice, who was a well-known expert on
Russia, the implications for our foreign policy are certainly interesting. We talk a lot about neocons viewing things through the lens of the Cold War...