Nerd Narcissism

Noah Smith displays typical nerd narcissism with this: "Movies like Revenge of the Nerds depicted nerds - people who liked to use their brains..."

As if carpenters, basketball players, and shopkeepers succeed with their brains turned off!

I dare say that to succeed as a player in an NBA basketball game requires far more "brainpower" than does, say, writing decent computer code, or modeling financial flows. The latter activities tap a *very* specialized sort of brain function: manipulating formal, symbolic expressions. The former involves processing, in real time, a myriad of physical and interpersonal interactions. Think about this: which is it easier to program a computer to do, simplify an algebraic equation or lead a 3-on-2 fast break against two NBA defenders and choose the right pass or shot in tenths of a second?

LeBron James "uses his brain" far more than the average academic.

5 comments:

  1. I think "use your brain" really means "use your higher brain function". Playing basketball might require a lot of lower-order brain function, like sensory processing, instincts, etc., but surely you'd agree that it doesn't require deep intellectual activity.

    I think in principle you could get a chimpanzee to become a championship NBA player. But I can't imagine a chimpanzee ever understanding Anselm's ontological argument, or the parallel postulate, or how to win a chess game.

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    1. "I think in principle you could get a chimpanzee to become a championship NBA player."
      An excellent demonstration of the bias nerds like us have for our own preferred way of thinking! And how blind it can make us: of course one could not do this.
      And do you think people have an "instinct" to hit the right player on a fast break?!
      The intellectual engagement required to play a sport at a very high level is a much more complete engagement of the intellect than is getting the parallel postulate.

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    2. I was actually of the view that so called 'nerd thinking' was pretty horrendous. An unbiased look at the stupidity in modern academic philosophy is enough to give even the biggest 'nerd' supporter pause.

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  2. The brain controls digestion and heartbeat too, but we don't consider people who can respire to be "thinking" on that basis.

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    1. Well, N. Smith didn't mention thinking! But more to the point: playing a sport well, or, say, hunting, are not at all like digestion: they are constant exercises in judgment, i.e., in thinking.

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