Most people think intelligence is about knowing and saying fancy words (jargon). They accumulate abstractions and discuss them, thinking it's smart.

Intelligence is mostly the opposite; it's a factor of your ability to construct and deconstruct abstractions.

Acquisition speed is definitely a factor in intelligence, but more important is your ability to break down an abstraction (any fancy word/jargon/formula) to examine the underlying concept.

E.g., gravity is a word that represents a concept. It's easy to discuss gravity (abstraction) without understanding the composite concepts (physics).

But if you go down from the abstract layer to the concept layer, you can recompose your own abstraction - understand something differently or ask interesting questions.

This isn't just a shape-rotator vs wordcel thing. On some level, math is also an abstraction. It's easy to get familiar with a formula and know what it does, without fully understanding how/why it works.

The key is realising abstractions are stackable and you can go up and down levels of abstraction to understand something better, or communicate it more clearly.

This is also the difference between many academics and good teachers. A good teacher / professor should be equally competent at alchemy and reverse alchemy.

Alchemy = converting complex thoughts to simple words.

Reverse alchemy = converting simple words to complex thoughts.

Abstractions are the result of alchemy - you take a complex concept and condense it into a digestible and communicable idea. 'The brain' / 'Space' / 'Pi' / 'AI'.

Like lead turned to gold, these digestible ideas seem valuable. You see thoughtbois use them all the time, regurgitating mental models and arcane concepts. "Oh, that's X razor/fallacy," they say.

The problem is most thoughtbois are actually poor thinkers because very few can perform reverse alchemy—converting the simple word into a complex thought. And that's because they only live at the abstraction level and not the concept level. They prioritise 'what' above 'how/why'

Some of this may sound complicated, but it's really not.

The Point = the fastest way to become intelligent / a strong thinker, writer or speaker, is not to accumulate ideas and jargon. Instead, try to break down every idea you come across into its underlying concepts, and start trying to pattern-match the building blocks.

Intelligent people do this well naturally, but it's also a skill you can build. That way, you can move very quickly between abstractions and concepts and not get lost in conversations / get stuck at the limit of your understanding.

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