Coded gray.

Monday 26 March 2001

Girl with cake

Pic of the day: Some simply get a bigger piece of the cake. (No, this is not the suspected super-niece, but this one is cool too.)

Standard, plus or super

I mentioned yesterday how one of my nieces may be a supergirl. I guess it is good and proper that I define the way I talk about people, and supers in particular.

I consider basically all humans to be human. I shall admit that a few of them don't really act like it, but I will not draw any conclusions from that; it seems right now too big a task for me. And so far there is a pretty wide gap between humans and other species; this may change, perhaps, but right now I'll cheerfully ignore any possibility of semi-humans. I'd like to see the most basic of human rights (such as the right to life) extended to dolphins, at least until we know for sure that they are not sentient. Several species have a brain that is as large and convoluted as ours, relative to their body size. But again, this is outside the scope of this entry.

Now I hope you understand that I can consider some humans more gifted than others, without feeling the urge to herd the minus variants into big gray camps and exterminate them. And furthermore, all statements here refer to individuals unless otherwise noted; not to ethnic groups or even families. With all these reservations, I definitely don't think all humans are created equal. Equally human, yes, but that's pretty much it.


Life is not fair. It may be that death is fair, but I am in no hurry to find out. As for life, some come into it with only the barest of potential, while others are born to an embarassment of riches for body and soul. It is not so, that the highly intelligent are always weak and clumsy of body. For those of near average abilities, there is a trade-off: Every hour spent reading means one hour less for playing basketball. For the very gifted, there is often time for both. As I said, life is not always fair.

As for my humble self, I am weak largely from a chronic illness in my childhood. Not only did it hold back my muscle development by keeping me from normal play, but it also taught me a pattern of avoiding physical activity. My brothers, who are as intelligent as I (or more), are also fairly strong and agile for their age.

These people are what I may call "plus variant" humans. They have all that the average person has, plus some more. I guess I fall somewhere in that group myself ... I may be weaker and a little clumsier than your average man, but the higher intelligence more than makes up for it, at least in our age where there are so many ways to use the brains and so few to use the body.

However, intelligence is not nearly as important as you might believe when it comes to standard of living, at least here in Norway. Education is largely a question of investment and ambition. Sure, it is easier when you can learn faster; but you can usually get through it by going with the program. Show up at the auditorium and at least read through the books, and you're likely to graduate. Having rich parents to pay your way through university is at least as important, since you don't need to work every other year or evenings and weekends. Furthermore, the Norwegian tax system punishes education. The shorter part of your life you have to earn your money, the higher the tax. So a long education followed by fairly high salaries means you earn more money for the State, not for yourself.

No, the real benefit of intelligence is on your free time. It opens up for a lot of interesting hobbies. You can learn a new language (like English for me) and gain access to a lifetime's worth of reading. You can quickly learn new games, either social or solitary. And you can build a reasonably coherent worldview, without having to pick out large bits of reality that don't fit in. This saves a lot of frustration.


Intelligence is certainly not the only great gift a human can be born to. While strength and agility may have more restricted uses these days, they can still be fun. A good health is priceless. And an often overlooked gift is that of good looks.

You may say that good looks is in the eye of the beholder; that someone is pretty to one and ugly to another. If you say that, you're probably not much of a looker yourself. Good looks is largely cross-cultural, except for some unusual traits that are favored by some tribes. A Norwegian can easily guess which Japanese is looking good and which is not, and the other way around. Furthermore, good looks means more money. Even if you don't work as a model or some such, you are more likely to get the job you want if you look good. And once there, you are more likely to get a raise, particularly in the private economy. (The state is less flexible that way.) It also helps to be tall, at least if you are male. Up to a certain height it also helps for women.

I find it slightly amusing that good looks are so strongly linked to income. Despite our advanced civilization, mankind is still rather primitive, don't you think?


I am not going to dwell on the many problems of the minus variant humans, those born weak and dumb and ugly. Even those words are not politically correct anymore, but the sad fact remains that you will still be treated that way even if no one is allowed to say it. You still get the cold shoulder and the blank stares and the polite refusal. But since nobody is likely to even find this site without above average intelligence, I'm just leaving this area to imagination (and social realism literature) and move on to the supers.

The supers are those people who seem to defy the laws of nature. Not that they actually do, of course. But they are to plus humans what plus humans are to the average. These are the people who, if used in a novel, would shatter the illusion of reality and make the reader throw the book away as too far-fetched. I am not a super, not nearly. I am unusual, but I have a reasonable set of drawbacks to compensate for my gifts. While I have little reason to envy normals or even most pluses, they don't envy me either.

Supers are people like my best friend, who suddenly go to study in a country where she can just barely order her own beer in the local tongue. And who not just does well enough at the uni, but also becomes a natural center of the social life there and still has time for her favorite sports, not to mention keep me briefed on the new music and movies. I've still not found a way to describe her that doesn't make people think I'm madly in love with her. Thank the Light she's female at least.

I suspect Bill Gates may be a super, or perhaps he's just really concentrated his energy on the area of his talent. Same goes for Alan Greenspan, Elton John and some other well known people. They do things that the rest of us simply could not have done if we tried over and over again. And they do it with a seeming ease. If they bend their will to it, they leave footprints in history. No wonder I'm intrigued by supers and excited at the possibility that maybe, just maybe, I've found another one.

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