Re: the ways of child prodigies

From: Olie Lamb (
Date: Tue Nov 08 2005 - 17:47:23 MST

Michael Vassar wrote:

> That said, has anyone from SIAI tried outreach to prodigies and/or
> ex-prodigies? Has the strategy been considered?

Why would you /want/ to invest in this strategy?

As mentioned by others, prodigies are more likely to be outstanding
adults in various fields. However, the best indicator for the expertise
of an adult is not their expertise as a child, but their expertise as an

(For the rest of this post, I'm going to assume that child prodigies are
talented kids with quantitively more talent, not something qualitatively
different. I don't really know, I've never met (to my knowledge) a
prodigy {not counting Eliezer, whom I've never met in the flesh}, but I
went through an accelarated learning programme at high school, so I know
a bit about how talented kids develop and end up)

Gifted children often have talent areas.

Tangent: As a rule, math/science talents tend to make academic
performance and mathsy accelaration easier - when you chuck an
artistically talented kid into the senior years of high school early,
they struggle more with the maths than mathsy kids with no artistic bent
struggle with their relative inability to draw. Anywhoodle...

SIAI needs persons with expertise in computers and cognitive studies
(roughly). Persons with expertise in pure maths or physics could be
useful, but not particularly.

Child prodigies with a talent in Maths/sci will generally have the
capability to learn computer stuff, but if they don't learn it as they
develop, they're going to have a relatively hard time learning it as an
adult. Theres a good chance that as they grow older, children with
Potential (Aargh! the dreaded P-word!) to be Seed AI programmers will
decide that learning physics so that they can prove Einstein wrong is
more fun than learning assembly, and so they won't pursue that avenue.


Another thing: sometimes it looks as though children with talent will be
outstanding in one particular area. I tought myself Latin grammar in a
year, and some people at the time thought I had a language talent.
However, because my brain is unwilling to remember any word that's not
English, I can't learn complete languages to save myself.
Interestingly, trying to learn foreign vocabularies demonstrated that I
have less ability than the average person to learn stuff by rote. When
I try to reach for a word in Latin, I often end up remembering a word in
Chinese. Useful.

The point of this last tangent is that even though a kid with talents in
logic, maths, and understanding machine code might seem like an ideal
programmer or computer whiz, they might have anti-talent in a surprising
area that means that they do not have significant potential in the areas
that surrounding adults might think they do.

-- Olie

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