Daily Archives: July 7, 2015

What Does it Mean to be Smart?

geek 501

This is a topic that has been coming to mind for a while. There are a number of reasons, and it’s a post that could go really long. However, instead of exploring each alternative, I’ll just try to touch on them and let you weigh in.

It ties in with questions of Geek versus Nerd. Geeks are defined by their passions and engagement, while the only main difference I can see for the use of the term “Nerd” is there is some assumption then of being “smart.” It’s the nerds who get forced to do others’ homework in the media. Although again, I feel there’s a lot of overlap between these two groups and definitions thereof, if not total overlap.

However, I’ve also been thinking about this a lot with the Geek Baby. There’s so much talk of all these things you can and should do to help with a baby’s development, from breastfeeding to tummy time to reading and music. And so, preoccupied with doing these things, we’re preoccupied with wanting to make sure our baby is smart.

Still – what is smart? Intelligence, with the IQ test behind it and all, has a much more precise sort of meaning. Intelligence is about “getting” things. However, at points just about anyone can be smart. Often it just takes making a “right” decision or observation. And it can be really relative, depending on others and on the situation. And hindsight. So what is smart?

Being right seems like a good starting answer, but it also requires hindsight in general to judge. So generally, in decision-making moments, it’s an educated or intuitive guess being made, which time will show as good or bad. Is the person who is good at decision making the smart person?

Of course, educated guesses open up another possible definition. Knowing things. Being smart might be knowing things, maybe about a specific thing, maybe about everything. In this way, we can all be smart by specializing. By knowing about our specialties. And really, anyone can, with enough time and dedication, learn and know things. So are we smart after we do so?

Or are we smart by making the decision to study and learn in the first place?

Of course, with studying and learning comes remembering. With memory, with recall of the things we do know, we are being smart in the moment. We can sound smart by memorizing and remembering really sophisticated things. We can probably be smart by remembering really pertinent or important things. But memory is a fickle thing: does it really define being smart?

There are other alternatives as well, being intuitive, or being persuasive, or being good at things… Surely other definitions that you could supply. In fact, please do so in the comments below!