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People who use click-bait headlines are more intelligent than those who don't.

I'm not kidding.

Intelligence isn't "brainpower". Brainpower can help amplify your intelligence but it's merely one factor of thousands. None of the other factors - including the ones you're thinking of - are intelligence either.

Viewing the phenomena of intelligence in terms of brainpower makes defining it very difficult. This extremely egotistical and human-centric way of looking at intelligence gets us bogged down, stuck in the weeds, debating the details. The details - the underlying reasons - don't matter. Results matter. Effectiveness matters.

We've all heard of the brainiac who breezed through school, won all sorts of awards, and then shat the bed when it came to producing results in the real world. Maybe they were undisciplined, socially inept, depressed, lacked "grit", got cancer, or were serially unlucky. The reasons are irrelevant: that person is simply not very intelligent. Accolades, IQ, and grades be damned. That's not to say they are forever doomed to the level they are at, but simply that's where they are.

You've also heard of the seemingly-unqualified person who was propelled into a position of power, wealth, and fame, yet unable to string five words together. Maybe that person was extremely lucky, or depended entirely on a team of professionals, or had wealthy and powerful parents, or had a royal birthright. There are thousands of possible reasons, none of which must be brainpower, and all are irrelevant. That person is vastly more intelligent than you. Again, they are not guaranteed to remain at that level, but it's where they are.

When effectiveness is all that matters, the measure of your intelligence is the measure of your effect. While you might be feeling a little defensive, this view of intelligence is much more fluid than the usual brainpower fare. If you manage to become more effective - whether by any means at your disposal or with any help you can get or by sheer dumb luck - the measure of your intelligence will increase. Nothing is set in stone.

So what is effect and how do we measure it?

Imagine two people standing on opposite street corners, each tasked with attracting customers into their store. On one corner, Angela is looking at her feet, next to a lamp post, mumbling quietly. She isn't driving any business at all. Bob, on the other corner, is standing in the sidewalk, looking people in the eye, and speaking clearly. Right now, Bob is more effective. His success is allowing him to fund his next year at college.

Amy, on the verge of being fired, sees Bob's success and decides she has to do better. So she experiments for a time, coming up with an especially witty and clever phrase. Then she combines it with a striking visual image and prints it on a large, colorful sign where many people can see it. She has invented the billboard. People are so persuaded by the phrase and imagery that they think well of the business and stream in, happily paying higher prices.

Since the billboard is now doing her work, Amy is free to make more billboards for other businesses. She becomes so busy that she has to hire a dozen people to help. Her business quickly expands to surrounding neighborhoods and soon enough to nearby cities. Now she can fund scholarships, buy politicians, and be seen at the opera. But Bob hasn't given up. He manages to get into a great college, uses his work ethic and interpersonal skills to get the top graduate adviser, and soon invents the integrated circuit.

So in different ways, both Amy and Bob become internationally renowned. One in business and communication, and the other in applied science. As more and more people around the world are affected by their inventions, the more their effect grows and the measure of their intelligence increases. While their hard work, inventiveness, and sufficient (but not rarefied) brainpower were helpful in achieve what they did, those factors are far from the only ingredients to effectiveness. Any number of other people could have done the same, and perhaps came close, but either didn't make the right connections or were derailed along the way. The biggest factor by far is happenstance, which is the normal operating principle of the universe, but our egos love to make it all about our special selves.

Did Amy and Bob sit down with pen to paper and painstakingly figure it all out? Maybe, but probably not. It's more likely that they undertook a series of trial and error experiments, observing the effectiveness of the results and allowing themselves to be propelled by what worked. Or maybe they were struck by a deep insight into the nature of the universe due to an LSD trip. It makes no difference to the universe. Only the effect matters.

We know effect matters because we are rewarded for amplifying it and punished for diminishing it. Play professional hockey and score 50 goals a season? You'll be making the big bucks, no matter how many goals came through accidental deflections or bowling over the goaltender. Get drunk, curse out your coach, and wobble around the ice poking people with your stick? You're finished in the league. That's why you were warned against it.

Regardless of Albert Einstein's brainpower, if he couldn't figure out how to make his theories credible to the physicists of his day, he would be a complete nobody. It wouldn't matter at all whether or not he was right if he couldn't manage to be effective. Someone else would have carried his water and received the credit. And if his theories were so abstract that they had no significant effect on the future of human civilization? He would at best be a historical footnote like so many of his peers, none of whom had a brainpower shortage. Effect is everything.

Thomas Edison understood the nature of effectiveness overshadowing brainpower. His social status allowed him to hire dozens of scientists and engineers, putting them to work in vast experiments of trial and error. His staff was leverage, a way to amplify his own effect. This, combined with a knack for public relations and emotional spectacles, put him at the forefront of the public's mind and thus raised his level of importance.

Nikola Tesla, Edison's top competitor, became tremendously effective almost despite his unparalleled brainpower. Tesla was notoriously secretive and difficult to work with, singularly focused on the details of his inventions. Thankfully he was capable of putting his vision into practical machines or else his work would be lost to history. After all, it is Tesla's AC-power and various electrical gizmos that enabled our early-20th century electric grid, complemented of course by Edison's DC-power approach.

Anyway, my overall point is not only that is effect proportional to intelligence, but also we can measure this effect at any point in time. Which means we can measure intelligence in an objective way and compare it to others. It will be an estimate, but we can get into the right neighborhood. Viewing intelligence as effectiveness rather than brainpower makes a lot more sense in the real world.

How effective is Taylor Swift compared to Jim the physicist at UCLA? Well, it's clear that Taylor Swift is vastly more effective. Count all the instances of a human brain affected by Jim, integrated over time, and compare that number to Swift's. Jim is a heavyweight in his own right and has no shortage of brainpower. He's presented at conferences, written many papers, and done significant research, but not once has he been on the cover of Women's Health. So he is space dust compared to the gas giant that is Taylor Swift and her five billion YouTube views. This particular musical artist is perhaps a million times more intelligent than Jim the physicist and ten-million times more intelligent than you.

I wonder how Jim feels about that. I wonder how you feel about that.

What's coming next will shock you. You may have already figured it out. This means that Donald Trump is roughly a billion times more intelligent than you. That's got to sting!

Oh, and if you're sick of click-bait headlines, it's up to you to figure out something better. You'll be an international hero if you do.