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genius, and genetic screening


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(I wrote this mainly for my blog but I thought some people might like it here)

Check out these two articles together:

Let's not reject our geniuses: Genetic screening risks losing a future Dickens

Joyce's ADD and not talent made him a genius

The latter is a spoof, but it satirizes something common that shows up in the first article: We must retain mental disorders because society needs geniuses.

Most people with mental disorders, like most people without mental disorders, aren't geniuses (duh). Mental disorders impair the ability to function normally (for all people - that's why they're disorders), rather than providing talent (for most people). Most aren't even associated with genius and creativity. Bipolar disorder is, but I haven't found any plausible research for any other disorders (someone correct me if I'm wrong here).

Maybe at some point we will deliberately keep some mental disorders around because society values so strongly the minority of sufferers who have associated talent. Via genetic screening, or a decision not to fix things in children when we can, whatever. (I really hope we make this choice based on actual associations between a disorder and creativity.)

If so, society and its individual elements are going to owe a debt to all the people they're causing to suffer in obscurity, because they'll be sacrificing all those individual peoples' welfare to get a few people who get to be geniuses. And society better pony up compensatory resources.

People with mental disorders who are not geniuses are valuable to society in many other ways, and I'm not ignoring that. I'm just saying that if society makes a deliberate decision to keep mental disorders to get geniuses, it needs to take responsibility for the other effects of that decision, and to thoroughly recognize the value of the people it's compensating, above and beyond that of regular human beings with medical disorders (which it sucks at now), as people who contribute to genius.

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The article doesn't define what "geniuses" are, or what genius is. It is rare that a person gets a label of "genius". Usually it is associated with I.Q. or extraordinary mental ability in the field of math or science, or extreme artistic or musical skill as demonstrated from a very young age. Sometimes these people are also considered learning disabled, but in most cases, genius minds are not hampered by debilitating mental illness.

Mental illness interferes with functioning. People with extraordinary creative abilities who also have mental illness are in a sense handicapped when it comes to seeing their visions to fruition. In the case of Bipolar persons with above-average artistic and literary creativity, genius is more likely to be a quality of their creative work, as opposed to a label attached to the artist. Genius is something that can be present in a work of art or a particular insight, but for an artist suffering from frequent bouts of depression or delusional or self-destructive behavior, the label of genius is ill-fitting as compared to the true extraordinary genius minds not encumbered by mental illness.

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What I meant to say is, I'm ready to cash in on this debt that society owes me. Do you have their address?

And I also meant to say that genius is completely subjective in art. What society really values is how many units you can move.

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I'm getting a 500 error on the first link.

I'm pretty sure Joyce had syphilis, actually. Don't cure the clap!

What's your opinion on Jamision's touched by fire? There is also The Hypomanic Edge, which I think is in the crazystore.

I'm a big Danial Johnston fan, but that's not the kind of genius I'd wish on anyone.

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Once I find Society's address, we will *all* pay them a visit. And have a long talk.

I'm getting the first link ok. Try again?

I read Touched With Fire during the part of my life that I don't remember much from due to mental illness. But I think I remember it being pretty good. I haven't read The Hypomanic Edge, mostly because stuff like that just makes me pissed that my highs make me less able to perform and almost always less happy.

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