Clusters of Brilliance

3. I am struck by the way genius seems to come in small clusters. Read Eric Kandel about Vienna or George Dyson about the Institute for Advanced Study in the 1930s and 1940s. In the latter case, it seems as though much of the genius originally was concentrated in a part of the Jewish community in Budapest. So, my hypothesis is that having one high school with 5 really bright students produces more geniuses than five high schools with one bright student each. Together, the bright students are more competitive and also learn from one another. The same would be true for tennis players or artists–people with talent will be pushed to higher levels by being around other people with talent. According to this hypothesis, the decline of Jewish genius might come from the dispersion of the population of bright Jewish students, instead of a high concentration at particular high schools in Vienna, Budapest, or New York.

That’s Arnold Kling.

Want to be a genius? Find the smartest people around and try to beat them.

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