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An Interview with Monika Orski (Part Four)


Author(s): Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Publication (Outlet/Website): In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal

Publication Date (yyyy/mm/dd): 2018/09/15


Monika Orski is the Ordförande/Chairman, Mensa Sverige/Mensa Sweden. She discusses: wisest person ever met; smartest people ever met; asking fundamental questions about society; the advancement and empowerment of women; donation of time, skills, professional networks, and so on, to Mensa Sweden; more men joining Mensa compared to women; positives and negatives of perfectionism; the potential of gifted and talented; smartest person in history; women being held back; writing tally; downsides and upsides to the bureaucracy; boundaries and possibilities of national Mensa groups; Behavioural Economics and Nikola Tesla at EMAG; and alternative IQ tests.

Keywords: chairman, Mensa Sverige, Mensa Sweden, Monika Orski, Ordförande.

An Interview with Monika Orski: Ordförande/Chairman, Mensa Sverige/Mensa Sweden (Part Four)[1],[2]

*Please see the footnotes, bibliography, and citation style listing after the interview.*

1. Scott Douglas Jacobsen: If you reflect on personal interactions and literature read in life, who seems like the wisest person ever met by you?

Monika Orski: A thought-provoking question, but also a difficult and rather personal one.

There are friends I have learned many things from, and wise people I have met in different situations, and also books that have made me think – mostly reading the classics, ranging from Dostoevsky to Austen, from de la Fayette to Kafka, and from Cervantes to Woolf. But to name one wisest person seems an impossible task.

2. Jacobsen: Also, in terms of IQ, which is non-trivial as a life factor, who are the smartest people ever met by you?

Orski: Well, I am not in the habit of asking people about their IQ scores.

I have met many very smart people through Mensa, of course. I also have friends who have never taken an intelligence test, but who are clearly among the smartest people I ever met.

3. Jacobsen: Do these moves towards more streamlined and siloed educational systems inadvertently prevent the development of minds capable of asking fundamental questions about society, querying about the undergirding structures running the nation?

Orski: No, I wouldn’t say they prevent it. They do, however, make the development of minds more difficult, in the meaning that these systems obstruct the systematic, guided search for broad knowledge. Anyone can read a text book on a subject they are not yet familiar with, but a curriculum set by people already proficient in the area will give a starting point that is much better.

I return to the assertion that an educational system that allows for the development of the multi-curious while it still has clear paths for those in search of training for at specific profession, would be advantageous to all students, as well as to society. But it’s not an easy thing to implement. It would take partially new structures, and a different approach to university education.

4. Jacobsen: With the rise of women, in some limited domains, we see the counter to it. The rise in hyper-masculine, whether religious or non-religious manifestations, and even authoritarian groups in much of the West with the intent, in some of their efforts, to retract and regress the progress seen in women’s rights for the last few decades. Does this seem to be the case to you? If so, does this concern you? If it does concern you, what can effectively work to continue the advancement and empowerment of women?

Orski: I agree, and see this as a very palpable concern. I does concern me, and people close to me.

First thing, in my view, is to recognize that the authoritarian groups we are talking about try to reverse progress in several areas. They are racist, anti gay rights, against religious freedom – and also against the human rights of women. All those aspects should be viewed together, and fiercely opposed.

When we see these groups growing, it’s easy to be discouraged. I certainly am, sometimes. But all in all, most things still advance over time. The very strength of the backlash proves the power of progress. Of course, it also proves that progress has to be fought for, over and over again. This fight is done by a continuous assertion of basic democratic and human rights, for all.

But there are also everyday ways to continue the empowerment of women. We are all brought up to assess identical behavior slightly differently when done by a man then when done by a woman. We can all try to counteract this in our own reactions. Learn to use the same words when we describe the actions of a woman as we use when describing identical actions of a man, and for example not call her “aggressive” where he is “confident”.

Thus, let it be part of everyday life, but also a very important part of everyday politics.

5. Jacobsen: In terms of the pursuits of the multi-talented and multi-curious, I appreciate the work and effort for decades to help the gifted and talented young. It has been a significant concern for a long time for me. It warms my heart to see the work of the various national Mensa groups. Honestly, the population still seems underserved. Same with the older gifted and talented, who could be mentors and wise counsel for some of the gifted and talented young. It seems as if a waste of human capital and human flourishing to not invest in them more. How can people donate time, skills, professional networks, or join Mensa Sweden?

Orski: To join Mensa Sweden, start by going to to find information about and register for an admittance test. Or, if you are not in Sweden, start at to find a link to the website of your national Mensa, and look for information there.

Other than that, there are several volunteer organizations, not directly related to Mensa, that help young people add more knowledge and skills – and more fun – to the things they learn in school. Look for them to volunteer time and skills, they always need it.

6. Jacobsen: Why do so many more men join Mensa compared to women? How does this phenomenon impact relationships, dating, marriage, and potential family life for the mensans?

Orski: I wish I knew why. The figures do differ for different national Mensas, but this fact only underscores that there seem to be cultural factors of different sorts. My guess would be that men, statistically, tend to think more of their own intelligence. There might also be a factor of risk aversion, that women are more inclined not to want to take a test unless they are sure to get a high score.

Another interesting fact is that while the membership of Mensa Sweden is only about 25% women, the group of volunteers is significantly closer to 50-50. Thus, it seems that women are less likely to want to join the society, but those who do seek membership are more likely to take active part once they have joined.

I don’t think the gender statistics within Mensa has any significant impact on the dating and family life of mensans in general. I know some couples who have met through Mensa, and others who joined together, but at the end of the day it’s simply another social context for people to meet a potential partner, fortunately not the only one.

7. Jacobsen: What are the positives and negatives of the “sometimes impossibly high standards” of the gifted and talented? 

Orski: Ambition is generally a good thing. So is the endeavour always to do a little better, get a little further. I also think that a will always to ask more of yourself than of anybody else, is a sign of being a sentient a sensible person.

There is a risk to it, too. The risk is that you try to overachieve in ways that push yourself beyond what is reasonable to expect of any human being with normal, human weaknesses. That is what I mean by the gifted sometimes having not only high standards for themselves, but impossibly high standards.

8. Jacobsen: How are the gifted and talented often left languishing or simply wasted as not only individuals with needs but also potential massive contributors to the flourishing of the nation?

Orski: I am still not convinced that they are. There are many ways to make a happy life for yourself and contribute to the society you are part of. While I am very much in favour of a schooling system that would recognize the needs of the gifted earlier, I would not say that the gifted and talented are often wasted. Which, of course, does not diminish the need to work to let more people explore their potential, and find paths to do so at earlier ages.

9. Jacobsen: Who seems like the smartest person in history to you, as a pervasively intelligent human being?

Orski: I could repeat the list of names from your question about geniuses in the history of Western Europe, and add some. Inventors like Cai Lun (if he did invent paper, as has been attributed to him), Leonardo da Vinci, Johannes Gutenberg. Writers like Sophocles, Murasaki Shikibu, Dostoevsky, Tolstoy. I could go on at length. But to put down only one name is an impossible task.

10. Jacobsen: Women remain more objectified than men. This ties into the evaluations of women not as complete persons with rights, responsibilities, wants, needs, and goals and dreams but as objects of beauty and admiration of physical characteristics. How does this cross-cultural phenomenon undermine women’s intellectual courage, capacity to pursue their dreams without undue and unfair criticism and setback not normally expected in – for example – the lives of most men, and lower their standards for themselves and, if heterosexual, the men in their lives too? Why would working on the reduction of this phenomena lead to more flourishing – eudaimonia – of women and a raising of standards for the men in their lives?

Orski: This is another aspect of being held back, in all sorts of ways. It is also among the things explored in the rich feminist literature, from “A Vindication of the Rights of Women” by Wollstonecraft, via “Le Deuxième Sexe” by de Beauvoir, and on to our days.

It is something that has to be worked at every day, in the everyday lives of all of us. As I already mentioned, we know that we assess identical behavior slightly differently depending on the gender of the person we interact with. I can get angry with myself when I notice that I expect a little more work, and a slightly higher quality of work, form women I work with than from a man in the same position. We all need to counteract this in ourselves.

Then, there are all the things that women are taught to take in stride, while no man is expected to accept them. The resent “me too” movement has made people more aware of this fact. I actually think that bringing up the everyday mostly-not-quite-harassment that basically every women is subject to at some point, has had even more of an impact than the loud and outrageous cases that, of course, should be handled by the judicial system.

And yes, I do agree that this will, step by step, lead to more flourishing of women and men alike.

11. Jacobsen: How many words do you write per day? How many days per week? When is there a break between writing?

Orski: Sometimes, when I sit down to write for an hour, the result is the draft of at short story of 5 pages. At other times, it’s a single paragraph. It all depends on the stage of that particular text. When I edit a longer text, as I do now with the upcoming book, I spend less time on new material. On the other hand, to go for a walk and than write a flash fiction short story can be a great way to free the brain of blockage when things do not come out right in the text I’m mainly working at.

As writing is not my primary work, it also depends on how much time and effort I need to spend on my consulting work, as well as the volunteer work I have taken on. But in general, if I do not write at all for a week or two, it is usually a sign that I have taken on to much to be able to relax, and I try to consider that a warning sign to be heeded.

12. Jacobsen: Are there bureaucratic downsides to a national and international Mensa leadership? What are the upsides, comparatively?

Orski: There are bureaucratic downsides to every organization. Not even Mensa has been able to come up with a complete remedy for this phenomenon.

From a national Mensa point of view, we have some rules set down by national and local traditions, and other by being part of an international organization. Mensa International business is always conducted in English, which adds a language barrier for all of us who are not in English-speaking countries. For example, we always have to keep an English translation of the bylaws of our national Mensa, and before the membership can vote on changing anything in the bylaws, the proposal has to be translated into English and reviewed at the international level.

But all in all, Mensa is not very bureaucratic, for being an international organization with around 150 000 members world wide. That is one of the upsides of an organization being run by members for members, with most of the work done by volunteers.

13. Jacobsen: What are boundaries and possibilities of national Mensa groups? What can and cannot be done? That is, what are the limits for the national groups or representative organizations?

Orski: In short, Mensa as an organization shall not express an opinion as being that of Mensa, take any political action, or have any ideological, philosophical, political or religious affiliation. Members can have all sorts of opinions and affiliations, of course, bur Mensa cannot.

As a national Mensa chapter, we keep to the purpose of Mensa:

“to identify and foster human intelligence for the benefit of humanity; to encourage research in the nature, characteristics, and uses of intelligence; and to provide a stimulating intellectual and social environment for members.”

14. Jacobsen: What was most fascinating about Behavioural Economics and Nikola Tesla?

Orski: Both of those EMAG lectures were well prepared and well performed. Also, I learned new things, which is always a pleasure.

Behavioural Economics, with its mixture of well-researched psychology into more classic economic theory, is a highly interesting area. We probably all know we are not always strictly rational, but here is a way to measure and explain it.

The lecture on Nicola Tesla focused on the inventor Tesla’s work on energy sources, where he was very early to see the need for new, renewable and alternative energy sources. An interesting and quite modern topic for someone active in the 1920s and 1930s.

15. Jacobsen: There are alternative IQ tests for societies with very high IQ cutoffs. Some developed by qualified psychometricians, or at least those with experimental psychology and statistics backgrounds. Others are from intelligent people without these formal qualifications. What is the general perspective of the high-IQ community of these tests? What is the range of quality of them? What is the average of the quality of them? Has Mensa ever accepted them for membership? Have they ever been considered for qualification of membership?

Orski: The qualification definition, being among the 2%, is the same for Mensa all over the world. The tests accepted as evidence, however, can differ between national Mensas. This is the reason I do not really know the answer to this. There might be some such “very high-IQ” test created by a qualified psychometrician and accepted as evidence somewhere, although I am not currently aware of any such instance.

Mostly, those tests remain in the realm of puzzles. Some people really like doing them, and the creators usually get a certain amount of good reputation for providing them. However, it’s very hard to measure intelligence at levels where the number of possible test subjects is scarce. Thus, most of these test will probably remain nice puzzles, rather than actual tests.


  1. Mensa International. (2018). Mensa Sweden. Retrieved from
  2. Mensa Sverige. (2018). Mensa Sverige. Retrieved from

Appendix I: Footnotes

[1] Ordförande/Chairman, Mensa Sverige/Mensa Sweden.

[2] Individual Publication Date: September 15, 2018:; Full Issue Publication Date: January 1, 2019:


In-Sight Publishing by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Based on a work at


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