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Conversation with Olav Hoel Dørum on Norwegian Socio-Culture and Talent: Former Ombudsman, Mensa Norway (3)

2022-09-01

Publisher: In-Sight Publishing

Publisher Founding: September 1, 2014

Web Domain: http://www.in-sightpublishing.com 

Location: Fort Langley, Township of Langley, British Columbia, Canada

Journal: In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal

Journal Founding: August 2, 2012

Frequency: Three (3) Times Per Year

Review Status: Non-Peer-Reviewed

Access: Electronic/Digital & Open Access

Fees: None (Free)

Volume Numbering: 11

Issue Numbering: 1

Section: A

Theme Type: Idea

Theme Premise: “Outliers and Outsiders”

Theme Part: 26

Formal Sub-Theme: None

Individual Publication Date: September 1, 2022

Issue Publication Date: January 1, 2023

Author(s): Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Interviewer(s): Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Interviewee(s): Olav Hoel Dørum

Word Count: 4,109

Image Credit: None.

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN): 2369-6885

*Please see the footnotes, bibliography, and citations, after the interview.*

Abstract

Olav Hoel Dørum was the Ombudsman for Mensa Norway. He is a Member of Mensa International. He discusses: professional medicine; the warmth of a childhood; absurd jokes and eccentric stories; a lack of formal religion; misuse or positive social use; common misuses of intelligence tests; common positive uses of intelligence tests; too much value on the I.Q. score; medical screening process; the causal or correlation pathway; some high-I.Q. types; Nietzsche; Jung; archival work; the last year-and-a-half; the era of singular, solitary genius; Norway’s relative high comfort and SES; the social mobility in Norway; societies where capitalism is leaned on too much or socialism is leaned on too much; a “deeper meaning”; the Gapminder Foundation; other favourite maxims of Kant; idea of a rejection of no saturation points as a definite referent; the benefits of “work ethic, social conscience, structure and reaction to crisis” in East-Asian cultures; and a harmonious balanced viewpoint.

Keywords: Christians, Donquixote Doflamingo, East-Asian cultures, Gapminder Foundation, geniuses, I.Q. tests, Jordan Peterson, Jung, Kant, LGBTQ+, Nietzsche, non-religious, Norway, Olav Hoel Dørum, Russia, Ukraine, Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale, Western oriented cultures.

Conversation with Olav Hoel Dørum on Norwegian Socio-Culture and Talent: Former Ombudsman, Mensa Norway (3)

*High range testing (HRT) should be taken with honest skepticism grounded in the limited empirical development of the field at present, even in spite of honest and sincere efforts. If a higher general intelligence score, then the greater the variability in, and margin of error in, the general intelligence scores because of the greater rarity in the population.*

Scott Douglas Jacobsen: Did the history of professional medicine influence any of the professional decisions for you?

Olav Hoel Dørum: No. I did what I had a talent for and found enjoyable. My parents thought it was important I got educated but not in any particular direction.

Jacobsen: Were there any other influences than the warmth of a childhood family of encouragement and support?

Dørum: Not until I joined Mensa when I was 23. I met people who really inspired and motivated me, and I was given trust and responsibility. There were, and still are, many beautiful people with very different lives that each gave me something. An idea, a feeling, a perspective, a goal – something that gives you the little tickling gut feeling you would not want to be without.

Jacobsen: What are some of your more absurd jokes and eccentric stories?

Dørum: Our national gathering in 2019 had a flamingo and unicorn-theme. I bought a costume on eBay to wear during Saturday’s dinner. It was the pink feather coat to the character Donquixote Doflamingo from the manga One Piece. Look it up, it is quite the view. The ad said that some shedding may occur. The hotel staff can assure you that was an understatement. It was a trail of feathers from the elevator and to my room, in the nachspiel suit, in the bar and a significant amount in the banquet hall. Worth every cent and was one of the best banquets I have ever been to. The cleaning personnel certainly disagrees.

Jacobsen: Is Norwegian society marked by a lack of formal religion? I am aware of the huge humanist community there. They’ve had a great legacy contribution to the international secular humanist community.

Dørum: Religion does not play a noticeable role in either decision making or political views. Religion still has a unifying role in ceremonies such as weddings, funerals and public mourning after terror attacks but many religions are represented in these events – not just Christians. Very low percentage of people attend church regularly, roughly 12 percent attend mass once a month and roughly 50 percent are baptised. I would say that most if not all kinds of societal participation is non-religious. Some parts of the country are noticeably less tolerant when it comes to LGBTQ+ issues and those parts tend to be more religious in general, but I think it has more to do with conservative views and generally low level of tolerance and not something that is a manifestation of religion.

Jacobsen: For the most part, given the conventional view on intelligence tests, are they more prone to misuse or positive social use?

Dørum: Positive social use. Most societies do not practice systematic discrimination in such a way that intelligence tests would be a useful tool. It surely has been misused by having ambiguous items, instructions that are specifically worded so that they are difficult to interpret correctly or questions with references commonly unfamiliar to the working class. The problem is that using intelligence tests with the intent to discriminate is that it is a low precision weapon. If the group you want to discriminate against has low reading comprehension due to lack of schooling and you want to use that against them, it will also hurt people you do not want to discriminate against but who also have low reading comprehension. It only works if you indiscriminately discriminate and extremely few are willing to do just that. Many countries also do not have a tradition for testing so the opportunity never arose in the first place.

Jacobsen: What are common misuses of intelligence tests?

Dørum: I have not seen any common misuse of intelligence tests itself, but there is an abundance of tests that piggyback on the credibility of professional tests and the term I.Q. Most people know that what you find online should not be taken seriously, but there are too many not very well developed tests that are sold to companies with the purpose of team building or recruitment. The validation data is usually not publicly available, contrary to professional psychological tests, so we only have the companies’ words that they work. We also have salesmen who are selling adaptations of professional tests to companies. The tests itself might be very useful in the right context, which is rarely recruitment.

Jacobsen: What are common positive uses of intelligence tests?

Dørum: To locate various forms, and the severity, of head injuries, in neuropsychiatric diagnostics (ADHD, Autism etc) and to identify or rule out intellectual reasons for learning difficulties or failure to adjust. Typically something an average person would never experience. The army uses cognitive tests to screen out those who fall below one standard deviation and who is likely to succeed in various fields. Some companies use intelligence tests during recruitment if that is crucial for the job – pilots is one example, but it may vary from country to country. You hear “general ability test”, “logical reasoning”, “ability test” and so on. They all mean more or less the same thing, general intelligence. The reason it’s branded as something else than intelligence tests is that the academic requirements for calling a test an intelligence test is very costly and lengthy. It’s cheaper to call it a “general ability test”. It’s also less controversial.

Jacobsen: There is a tendency to place too much value on the I.Q. score, as in a formulation of part of an identity around it. Plenty of others have noted this. I take this area as another aspect of the research into the communities. What seems like the factual, state of the matter, reason for this pattern, particularly among men who get media attention with some exceptions?

Dørum: First a quick explanation why exact scores do not matter. Psychological tests place you in a landscape. Scores are meaningful when you ask more fundamental questions like if a person is at risk of falling behind at school, need help to get employment or if a person has above average capacity for learning and understanding complex material. It does not matter if you score 120 or 133 on an I.Q. test, you’re a smart guy. What matters is if you score 96 or 117. Most tests are not very accurate beyond two standard deviations from the mean. The number of people you need to perform statistical analysis to build a reliable test is usually much higher than what is available.

I do not necessarily think people who place much value in I.Q. scores are different from other people who are equally passionate about a niche, but since I.Q. is more controversial they come off as eccentric or boasting. Most people have something they are proud of, which is used as a springboard to confidence in other areas. It is a very human thing to do. Vanity is a very old thing.

Many of those interested in I.Q. has no interest in cognitive functions as a field of study so they don’t understand the premises of the tools. I.Q. tests reflect something essential about the person taking the test so I understand why some might get a bit too carried away with I.Q. scores.

Jacobsen: Was the medical screening process requiring a cognitive test art of the autism spectrum disorder finding? How do you see the world differently than others – to what extent in the spectrum, for example?

Dørum: Most neuropsychological assessments use cognitive tests which taps into different mental abilities. Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale was originally developed as a cognitive screening tool and has continued to be developed with this purpose in mind. They do not calculate an I.Q. score because it’s not relevant for the assessment, but rather looking at differences between scores and certain profiles. I am not limited by my conditions in any significant way, which is what is commonly referred to as “high functioning” although many don’t like that because it suggests function level can be represented on a two dimensional scale.

I do not conceptualize the same way and seem to be more aware of how my inner picture is built up. If you read a list of 20 words that all share a common theme to someone: “Snow, fireplace, santa, food, jolly, reindeer, gingerbread”, and then asked if a certain word was on the list, most people would say that the word “christmas” was on the list. It is much more common for non-autistic people to not differentiate between a conclusion or interpretation and individual impressions or facts. I know what I have seen or heard, but I do not confuse that with what people have told me or what I feel or assume. I have many opinions but I am rarely emotionally invested in them. I do not feel a clear group identity and I have no understanding of tribalism or destructive competition. It’s easier to see the many sides of events and situations if you don’t feel you have something to defend.

Jacobsen: What is the causal or correlation pathway? Is intelligence leading to social and economic success, or is it social and economic circumstances leading to intelligence ‘success’, some third variable, or some circularity of the first two, etc.?

Dørum: Intelligence can be predicted at a fairly early age and manifests itself through increased capacity for learning, making sense of complexity, figuring out what to do and other things related to thinking, so it is definitely a major genetic component. The environment can help you utilize your genetic potential but you cannot create something that was not there to begin with. Negative stress has a negative impact on decision making, so those who struggle financially or live in poverty have a disadvantage by not being able to plan and act as rationally as they otherwise would have done, but that is social circumstances and not the underlying general intelligence we measure on I.Q. tests.

Jacobsen: Do you think some high-I.Q. types try to up-play the ‘dysfunctional’ for some more media attention? Tabloid news must gobble it up.

Dørum: I think those who feel they have something to say are the ones likely to respond when the media is looking for someone to interview. The motivation for making the case has a lot to say too. When journalists wrote about Mensa Norway prior to 2010, their main focus was on eccentric and a bit different kinds of people that have come together and found a community. Overall, the article gave a positive image of Mensa and its members but the last ten years or so the focus has been that it is cool and fun to be a member. I think articles reflect a trend in society and not so much about the members themselves.

Jacobsen: What about Nietzsche stands out the most about comprehension of human nature?

Dørum: He is not afraid to embrace thoughts that most people find very uncomfortable or straight out frightening. He once wrote “The thought of suicide is a great consolation: by means of it one gets through many a dark night.” Suicide is an act that is universally condemned, and even considering committing suicide is seen as a sin or something many people reacts very strong to. It is perfectly understandable, as it has an unbelievably devastating effect on those you leave behind. Nietzsche understands that when you have found a way out, a solution to your suffering, even if the solution is terrible, you can endure if you know that you do not have to. There are suicide clinics in Europe that allows patients with uncurable diseases such as ALS (Amyotrofisk lateral sklerose) that significantly reduce quality of life while giving them a lot of pain, to die peacefully. Some research has shown that around 80 percent of those who get a “green light” from the clinic do not proceed to end their life. A way out gave them strength to continue. Nietzsche also said “He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how.” People should seek to find meaning wherever they find it, but at the same time know that it is you who decides what is worth fighting for and how much you can afford to give. I think some of the reason we have such a strong reaction to suicide is that your family depend on you, and that life in general was incredible harsh and ruthless. It was necessary for our survival to find a way to cope that did not involve dying.

Jacobsen: How has Jung been helpful in making summative statements on human nature?

Dørum: He was one of the first to identify personality traits such as introversion and extraversion, which was very useful in an academic setting. I liked his relationship with spirituality. Religion is one example of systematic spirituality where you have a God and rules for how to live and some stories and tales to justify the rules. Jung focused more on the human need to have a meaning beyond materialistic needs. This was something he observed in his patients and it is reasonable to assume he was well educated in other cultures and religions as well. It resonates well with how humans see themselves in the cosmos. Even among those without religious identity there are very few that fully accept that life is entirely without meaning or that there is absolutely nothing immaterial that has some role to play in the development of the cosmos and those who experience it. There is no good way of telling if religion is a part of modern life because we once found it useful to develop something that brought order and meaning into a highly unpredictable and violent world, or if it represents an inborn need to have something bigger than humanity. Rituals seem to be important for mammals with a high level of intelligence, such as elephants, dolphins and apes. They are less sophisticated but we clearly see they react to death. Spirituality could be important for all intelligent life forms as they mark the beginning and end of life. With a tradition for art and music we can easily transform rituals into a form with religious associations.

Jacobsen: What kind of archival work in the past?

Dørum: Just ordinary archiving at public offices and organizations. Nothing special in particular. I really cannot make this interesting for the readers.

Jacobsen: Also, since I messed up with the interview on part 2, what has happened in the last year-and-a-half? (Sorry, by the way, for being dumb.)

Dørum: I have gotten a new job within IT and hosted an exchange student from Japan. It has without doubt been one of the best years in some time. I got to experience some aspects of having a family. From the very basics such as dinner planning and fun and interesting family activities on the weekend, to vacations and holidays. The experience is different from everyone as all have different motivation for bringing in an exchange student. The other host parents did it for excitement and curiosity, I did for sentimental reasons. Many thinkers, including Socrates, have said “know thy self”. I got to explore new feelings and new perspectives, and to know a different culture and your own culture a lot better.

Jacobsen: Is the era of singular, solitary genius gone? Marilyn vos Savant made a comment one time about ‘teamwork and dollars’ as the driver now.

Dørum: I think the era of singular and solitary geniuses was never there to begin with. As long as we have been able to communicate, both geniuses and scientists have exchanged knowledge and people have cooperated whenever practical. We see it today in various intellectual organizations and platforms on social media. Intelligence tends to seek intelligence. Any singular and solitary genius was more likely a product of lack of infrastructure and opportunity, not deliberate choice. 

Jacobsen: How does Norway’s relative high comfort and SES react in times of war threat, as in the case of Ukraine and Russia?

Dørum: Noticeable increase in cost of living, mainly food, fuel and electricity. I think it has been a shock for the Norwegian people that we are vulnerable in ways we cannot protect ourselves from. Trade assumes that someone wants to trade with you, which may very well not be the case if there is a shortage of food and energy. Ukraine and Russia produce about 10 and 17 percent of the world’s wheat, respectively, and Europe, especially Germany, are too dependent on Russian gas – mostly for heating. Norwegians are notoriously bad at securing their own finances and Norway is one of the European countries with most private debt. Debt is not bad if you invest it in property, but unsecured debt in forms of short loans make up a significant proportion of total debt. Some may be desperate or have reasonable cause, but I would be surprised if more than 10 percent use a spreadsheet to draft a budget. Life is good during continuity, but that is not what you should plan for. I follow the same rule for money as for riding a motorbike: “Dress for the slide, not for the ride”. 

Jacobsen: Has your family benefitted from the social mobility in Norway?

Dørum: Most have benefitted from social mobility in some way, but comparing generations is complicated since Norway experienced an overall increase in wealth post World War 2 like other industrial countries. You can easily stay within your class and experience a tremendous increase of wealth as the society gets richer and more advanced. The answer is “Yes, but I do not know by how much”.

Jacobsen: What happens to societies where capitalism is leaned on too much or socialism is leaned on too much?

Dørum: All European countries have their own variation of welfare capitalism. Inefficient bureaucracy and too many regulations consume resources that could have been spent elsewhere, or not collected. Since it often regulates private contracts and production – it can impede progression. On the other side: Too many financial obstacles and it makes it difficult for people to move upwards and lack of regulation is not a good thing either. But the biggest challenge is immaterial, it exists as political and philosophical reference points. When all you got is capitalism then everything becomes a market, when all you got is the state then everything becomes chaos that must be tamed by bureaucracy. Both systems will eventually lead to stagnation as the people continue to adapt the system to new situations, except in the way that matters. Economic systems define fairness and justice and sets a starting point for further progress, where any form of decline is seen as an unnatural setback rather than a natural change or a necessary alternative. We have a saying in Norway that “much wants more”. No one wants to settle for the reasonable.

Jacobsen: You mentioned a “deeper meaning” being found in the case of religious values and way of living, or political dogma as with political ideologies found in nationalism. Are these forms of escapism, in one sense, tied to a feeling of a “deeper meaning”? We see this in self-professed ignorant, somewhat discovery oriented, forms of biblical favouritism – via loose, improvisatory psychological textual analysis and stage performances – in Canadian society following a relative decline in religiosity compared to previous decades in the modest fame of Dr. Jordan Peterson.

Dørum: A part of that is probably escapism in the way that whatever you struggle with in your life can be seen as secondary to something bigger than yourself. Religion is more powerful than other isms, because it guarantees a personal reward instead of an unpaid sacrifice. Humans are territorial and collective in nature. Most people have a sense of belonging or identity which provides a robust foundation. We see how vulnerable rootless individuals become when they feel rootless, and that is why extremists and totalitarian regimes seek to eradicate traces of foreign cultures and the past. If people do not have cultural roots to attach themselves to, they will seek something else. Maybe all is just an extension of our need to be in a pack.

Jacobsen: What are some of your favourite, impactful statistics found through Hans Rosling’s research and the Gapminder Foundation?

Dørum: Level of education and child births. That people live longer make up a large part of population increase. We see that the fertility rate is dropping all over industrial countries, and when the level of education and wealth improves – their fertility rates drop too. It is the same as low average life expectancy in the past. If you lived to be 18 or 25 or something, you had a very good chance to live until the age of 60, 70 or 80. The child mortality was very high, so they had to get many children to ensure that some of them grew up.

Jacobsen: Any other favourite maxims of Kant?

Dørum: I like Kant’s approach to ethics. If an action is deemed right or wrong is determined by a set of rules instead of the consequences. I am not an absolutist, but I am a bit bothered that ethics and morality are too influenced by social concerns, political convenience or personal benefit. It brings in a form of relativism where we have very few intellectual defence against various forms of violence and destructive methods. Right and wrong should reflect something more than a simple majority’s rule. I have given it a lot of thought. It is not an easy balance, but I want to reserve moral exceptions for exceptional situations – not something that applies in everyday life. I value integrity and take ownership in my values. I should be careful to morally object to an action I accept to benefit from, or at least not pretend not to know what I am doing. You are not obligated to broadcast your views to everyone, but you should at least know what you stand for and how you will defend your interests and accept others to do the same.

Jacobsen: The idea of a rejection of no saturation points as a definite referent. This goes against most of the world’s ethical-philosophical systems. In that, these posit absolutes or a singular point for morality. Why is the reasoning reversed, as in absolutism in general, over the globe?

Dørum: I do not know if it is true that the premise for moral reasoning has changed. I see types of conflicts caused by a gradually more diverse society that were much less prominent a few generations ago. The world has always been affected by nations’ political, cultural and economic struggle for dominance. The methods today may be more peaceful in terms of human lives, but they are not more sympathetic in nature. People have never seemed to care too much with consistency. The outlines have become more vocal through the Internet that with great certainty tells right from wrong, but they have hardly changed. I have read various articles about modern morality and ethics. It is adapted to the 21’th century, but I do not see any fresh ideas.

Jacobsen: Is there a manner in which to take the benefits of “work ethic, social conscience, structure and reaction to crisis” in East-Asian cultures and the change towards LGBTI-rights, and the like, of more Western oriented cultures?

Dørum: East-Asian cultures are generally more conservative than western countries. A high context culture (cooperation, group-oriented and public image) impedes social progress since each family member represents the family. It is more difficult to break out and live your life as you should live it, if it negatively impacts your family’s reputation and receives negative attention. More people have to normalize LGBTQ and advocate LGBTQ-rights, but it is difficult without a minimum of open tolerance. The best way to change public opinions is through the exposure of different thoughts and ideas.

Jacobsen: How is humanism a harmonious balanced viewpoint for you?

Dørum: I care about what kind of people a thought system, being philosophical, political or religious, produces. You have evil and goodness amongst all kinds, but humanism has yet to produce the systematic oppression caused by religion and other ideologies. Humanism is not atheism – which is a lack of faith, but revolves around the idea that humans have an inviolable right to live in freedom and to seek knowledge through science. It is difficult to oppress without infringing on people’s right to freedom. Humanism is not anchored in a set of rules or perspectives on life, so it remains flexible, there is only an essence. I think that is useful as society continues to change more rapidly than previous points in history.

Bibliography

None

Footnotes

None

Citations

American Medical Association (AMA 11th Edition): Jacobsen S. Conversation with Olav Hoel Dørum on Norwegian Socio-Culture and Talent: Former Ombudsman, Mensa Norway (3)[Online]. September 2022; 11(1). http://www.in-sightpublishing.com/dorum-3

American Psychological Association (APA 7th Edition): Jacobsen, S. (2022, September 1). Conversation with Olav Hoel Dørum on Norwegian Socio-Culture and Talent: Former Ombudsman, Mensa Norway (3). In-Sight Publishing. 11(1). http://www.in-sightpublishing.com/dorum-3.

Brazilian National Standards (ABNT): JACOBSEN, S. D. Conversation with Olav Hoel Dørum on Norwegian Socio-Culture and Talent: Former Ombudsman, Mensa Norway (3). In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal, Fort Langley, v. 11, n. 1, 2022.

Chicago/Turabian, Author-Date (17th Edition): Jacobsen, Scott. 2022. “Conversation with Olav Hoel Dørum on Norwegian Socio-Culture and Talent: Former Ombudsman, Mensa Norway (3).” In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal 11, no. 1 (Winter). http://www.in-sightpublishing.com/dorum-3.

Chicago/Turabian, Notes & Bibliography (17th Edition): Jacobsen, Scott Conversation with Olav Hoel Dørum on Norwegian Socio-Culture and Talent: Former Ombudsman, Mensa Norway (3).” In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal 11, no. 1 (September 2022). http://www.in-sightpublishing.com/dorum-3.

Harvard: Jacobsen, S. (2022) ‘Conversation with Olav Hoel Dørum on Norwegian Socio-Culture and Talent: Former Ombudsman, Mensa Norway (3)In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal, 11(1). <http://www.in-sightpublishing.com/dorum-3>.

Harvard (Australian): Jacobsen, S 2022, ‘Conversation with Olav Hoel Dørum on Norwegian Socio-Culture and Talent: Former Ombudsman, Mensa Norway (3)In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal, vol. 11, no. 1, <http://www.in-sightpublishing.com/dorum-3>.

Modern Language Association (MLA, 9th Edition): Jacobsen, Scott. “Conversation with Olav Hoel Dørum on Norwegian Socio-Culture and Talent: Former Ombudsman, Mensa Norway (3).” In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal, vo. 11, no. 1, 2022, http://www.in-sightpublishing.com/dorum-3.

Vancouver/ICMJE: Jacobsen S. Conversation with Olav Hoel Dørum on Norwegian Socio-Culture and Talent: Former Ombudsman, Mensa Norway (3) [Internet]. 2022 Sep; 11(1). Available from: http://www.in-sightpublishing.com/dorum-3

License

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Based on work at www.in-sightpublishing.com.

Copyright

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