“There is usually only a limited amount of damage that can be done by dull or stupid people. For creating a truly monumental disaster, you need people with high IQs.” – Thomas Sowell
This phenomena is one I call the “smartest person in the room” paradox. Really smart people so generally out-think and out-perform those around them (especially in fields requiring intellectual activity) that over time they begin to fall into the trap of believing themselves omniscient. Given a complete set of facts they generally come up with the best solution.
There are two problems. The first is that in the real world the facts they are given are rarely complete. The second is the “facts” are often flawed, created by others with agendas other than getting everything right. (Given a choice between telling the boss what the boss wants to hear to keep their job or telling the boss something contradicting the boss’s beliefs and risk getting fired, guess what some people are going to tell the boss? This explains the current state of climate science. Your grants do not get renewed if you don’t give the paymaster the results desired.)
Working with a set of facts that are incomplete and flawed a brilliant person comes up with a solution — that if everything goes as predicted — yields marvelous results. However, if things begin deviating, even a little, disaster follows. But the brilliant person, knowing they are the smartest person in the room, ignores the warnings because they have been so often right in the past. Even if things go wrong, their adamantine arrogance rarely gets punctured because they know their failure was due to sabotage of others: wreckers, kulaks, revisionists, reactionaries, and the like. Often they double-down on the flawed solution multiplying the damage until monumental disaster follows.Published in