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Conversation with Daniel Hilton on Family, Intelligence, Genius, and Philosophy: Member, Glia Society (1)


Author(s): Scott Douglas Jacobsen

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

Publication Date (yyyy/mm/dd): 2021/03/01


Daniel Hilton is a Member of the Glia Society. He discusses: growing up; a sense of an extended self; the family background; the experience with peers and schoolmates; some professional certifications; the purpose of intelligence tests; high intelligence discovered; the extreme reactions to and treatment of geniuses; the greatest geniuses in history; a genius from a profoundly intelligent person; profound intelligence necessary for genius; work experiences and jobs; particular job path; the gifted and geniuses; God; science; the tests taken and scores earned (with standard deviations); the range of the scores; ethical philosophy; social philosophy; economic philosophy; political philosophy; metaphysics; philosophical system; meaning in life; meaning externally derived, internally generated; an afterlife; the mystery and transience of life; and love.

Keywords: Daniel Hilton, family, Glia Society, intelligence, IQ, genius, Mensa International.

Conversation with Daniel Hilton on Family, Intelligence, Genius, and Philosophy: Member, Glia Society (1)

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

*Interview completed December 17, 2020.*

Scott Douglas Jacobsen: When you were growing up, what were some of the prominent family stories being told over time?

Daniel Hilton[1],[2]*: That is not really how our family worked, we had many good outings and holidays, but I feel we lived in the moment rather than spending time looking back.

Jacobsen: Have these stories helped provide a sense of an extended self or a sense of the family legacy?

Hilton: As above, we were more focused on the here and now.

Jacobsen: What was the family background, e.g., geography, culture, language, and religion or lack thereof?

Hilton: Unless I am mistaken, I am of Anglo-Irish heritage, I grew up mainly in the North of England and Yorkshire is home, we are an English-speaking household, I am British and for my part I am an atheist.

Jacobsen: How was the experience with peers and schoolmates as a child and an adolescent?

Hilton: I very much enjoyed school, though high school age comes with many trials for most, I was no different. I enjoyed learning the subjects I was naturally quite good at, Mathematics, Science, History and Geography for example. On reflection I was less committed in subjects that fell outside my sphere of interest, though I doubt I am alone in that. I certainly should have worked harder at school; I met some talented individuals who were blessed with intelligence and commitment. I remained in the same school throughout my Senior years, this brought a sense of familiarity and community, it was a large school, so there were always like-minded peers amongst the many students there. I was fortunate to have a group of friends outside school, mostly from other schools that was important to me during the latter part of my adolescence, these friends were the ones I really connected with as I lived close to them and we grew up together.

Jacobsen: What have been some professional certifications, qualifications, and trainings, earned by you?

Hilton: UK education, GCSEs and A Levels and a Mathematics Degree from Birmingham University, PGCE qualifications in Mathematics and Research in Education. I occasionally take courses with the Open University at Master’s level, but I have no real interest in completing a full Master’s degree as the bulk of the courses do not interest me. The things I want to know are readily available online and I can find clear explanations of what it is I wish to understand without expending the time, effort or money needed to secure official certification. Indeed, this for me demonstrates the key difference between intelligence and cleverness. If you take a textbook, someone clever who has studied it would be able to explain the material to you, whereas someone profoundly intelligent is quietly confident that if, and when, they read it, they will readily understand it.

Jacobsen: What is the purpose of intelligence tests to you?

Hilton: I enjoy the questions, when I have spare time I like to think about a puzzle, after mulling a problem over a deeper level of thinking emerges in my mind, and occasionally insight forms and a solution presents itself, other times there is no end product, but it is a depth of thinking and focus that rarely takes place in normal life and it has a deeply cathartic effect on my state of mind. Most high-range IQ tests are untimed so you can spend many hours thinking about a problem before having an insight, if that ever comes to pass.

Jacobsen: When was high intelligence discovered for you?

Hilton: I was 27 when I took the Mensa test, I had recently entered the teaching profession and was working at a Grammar school with many bright students and staff. I felt right at home in that environment. It was a gradual realisation that I was able to quickly understand anything that was presented to me without repetition, regardless of context or complexity. As a teacher you see, and of course guide, the learning process up close and the hard work the vast majority of students put in becomes evident. It dawned on me that I had needed to work as hard as those I was teaching and I began to wonder why? I have since developed a more focused attitude to learning and more importantly understanding.

Jacobsen: When you think of the ways in which the geniuses of the past have either been mocked, vilified, and condemned if not killed, or praised, flattered, platformed, and revered, what seems like the reason for the extreme reactions to and treatment of geniuses? Many alive today seem camera shy – many, not all.

Hilton: For me this is just statistics in action, in any field, group, skill, or whatever you choose to investigate, there will be those who perform to the upper end of the scale, let us assume we are using a normal curve and left to right is a trait becoming more positive. Human beings are fundamentally competitive, so those on the extreme left of the scale in any measure will be looked down up by the majority, pitied, vilified, criminalised (depending on the context). Conversely, those at the extreme right of the scale will be envied by the bulk of the population, this can manifest itself as respect, support, hatred, exclusion, the response really depends on how that individual/culture views that particular trait and how tolerant they are of it expressing itself differently and strongly.

We are each on a near infinite array of these normal distributions representing every attribute of human existence, for most traits we are in the central region and thus fit in relatively anonymously with the wider population. But for those traits where we are too far to the left or right of the distribution, those traits will likely shape our lives. For the most positive traits we have, if we follow the path of least resistance and remain grounded, they should help make our life comfortable and by extension the lives of those around us. In some instances, the reach of the sphere of influence of an individual is much larger than normal, few humans are equipped to deal with this and they risk imploding under the spotlight, some do carry it off, those with high levels of intelligence are no different in this regard. Most highly intelligent people, I would argue, retreat into self-imposed exile and comfortable obscurity.

Jacobsen: Who seem like the greatest geniuses in history to you?

Hilton: They will likely have had little input into history, but to their own folk and/or communities they will have helped herald in good times. Forced to choose a brilliant mind from the past I would have to say William James Sidis stands out for me, if even a small portion of what is written about him is true, then he would have been a fascinating person to meet.

Jacobsen: What differentiates a genius from a profoundly intelligent person?

Hilton: For me there is no difference, their impact upon mainstream consciousness seems to define how they are remembered, of course the majority of people in any field will be footnotes to history. Looking at IQ societies, you could make arguments that up to 1% of the population are geniuses, but that does not mean they are solely responsible for the betterment of humankind, nor that not being in the top 1% is a restriction to greatness. A combination of good levels of intelligence, a conducive environment and luck seem to be what is required to become a “genius”. In the end you could argue genius means whatever people want it to mean, it is used with a degree of elasticity that renders the word meaningless in most contexts.

Jacobsen: Is profound intelligence necessary for genius?

Hilton: They are two sides of the same coin when referring to genius level intelligence. It seems however the modern usage of the word is more flexible and is applied to anyone with any exceptionally developed skills. Take the great footballers, in that context it is not genius level IQ that is being commented on, though that is not to say they may not possess said high IQ, rather exceptional levels of skill are being acknowledged. Messi or Ronaldo offer a useful analogy to genius level thinking, they have the capacity to play at a level well beyond their peers, with the results easy to see, with genius level intelligence it is harder to see, but the same difference in capacity is there, though it is rarely met by the cheering of thousands of fans.

Jacobsen: What have been some work experiences and jobs held by you?

Hilton: I am a teacher and school leader and have been for some 20 years now, no other job, of the few I tried before teaching, brought a similar level of enjoyment or satisfaction. Teachers are exceptional human beings and provide the clearest evidence that not all superheroes wear capes.

Jacobsen: Why pursue this particular job path?

Hilton: The path of least resistance led me here, this path is not the lazy concept it sounds like from the outside, life steers you and guides you toward your talents, you must pay attention and follow the subtle advice the universe prompts you with.

Jacobsen: What are some of the more important aspects of the idea of the gifted and geniuses? Those myths that pervade the cultures of the world. What are those myths? What truths dispel them?

Hilton:  That a genius is some kind of celebrity and must make a huge difference to humanity. That gifted people will find school/life easy and always excel. That extremely high intelligence is desirable, when it in fact comes with many painful downsides, I would argue there is a sweet spot for intelligence where success in life, by most measures is assured, Doctors, Engineers and top professionals are often in this range, with IQs beyond that things become hit and miss, the ‘gifts’ may still lead to success, but there are lots of folk in that highest region who retreat into obscurity, take work well below their capacity, and have to deal with the side effects of understanding things easily.

If you picture life like an unseen road ahead, a person like a car, the mind like an engine, having a profoundly high IQ is like introducing high-octane fuel, when things run well life is good and progress easy, but the higher speeds attainable can make the car harder to control when you hit unexpected bumps in the road, crashes are more likely to be serious and the engine can be blown by the high-octane fuel at any moment. High intelligence without emotional stability and a supportive environment, preferably with some like-minded peers, for many would be a living curse.

Jacobsen: Any thoughts on the God concept or gods idea and philosophy, theology, and religion?

Hilton: No, these offer me no interest whatsoever.

Jacobsen: How much does science play into the worldview for you?

Hilton: Science is the route to understanding, but we have discovered things place restrictions on what we can know, when I first learned of Gödel’s Incompleteness Theorem, it shook the foundations of Mathematics for me, that I could spend my life trying to prove something that is in fact true a Mathematical fact, but one that is impossible to prove to be true within the Mathematics we use, this heavy blow was quickly followed by the crunching uppercut of Tarski’s undefinability problem, in particular where applied to semantics, there are other examples such as that of Church’s demonstration that Hilbert’s Entscheidungsproblem cannot be solved, or Turing’s demonstration that there is no algorithm that can solve the halting problem. These bolts across what was a fervent belief in Science in my youth have made me conclude that not all answers can be extracted by Science and some must be divined by human thought.

Science sees ever deeper and I am a great believer in this, yet I do not believe it is the ultimate answer to everything, that said most things will eventually fall to Science’s blade. I see little progress in it explaining me to me, that is a task left for me to decipher, in this case I mean my individual human consciousness, in the end Science may help us understand everything except our individual self, and by extension the individual self of others, though we may believe we know how all others (as a group) will behave on the average from our studies of Psychology, but that is converting raw data into grouped data, thus the individual is lost. I see progress toward medicines tailored to individual DNA, and the use of big data to garner meta-level insights, if humanity is waking up to the idea of understanding the individual and by extension all individuals in their own right, then perhaps a new golden age of Science is just around the corner, that would be a first step toward helping the individuals understand themselves, thus lessening the need to take anything on faith, which to me is always folly.

Jacobsen: What have been some of the tests taken and scores earned (with standard deviations) for you?

Hilton: In the last few years, the following 3 stand out.

Spectra IQ 174 sd 15

MultDiv IQ 172 sd 15

Narcissus’ Last Stand IQ 171 sd 15

These were the scores awarded at the time of marking, these can be adjusted up or down over time if the test has not yet had a final norming.

However, my natural inclination to share highest scores perhaps demonstrates the unreliability of testing at the high range, my most common score is 164 (though interestingly my average varies by test setter to some degree).

Jacobsen: What is the range of the scores for you? The scores earned on alternative intelligence tests tend to produce a wide smattering of data points rather than clusters, typically?

Hilton: I have taken many tests over the last 20 years. Thinking in terms of sd 15, these have been between 155 and 175, the most common score is 164 on tests that go to that level and beyond to levels I am unable to access. My favourite test was Paul Cooijman’s Narcissus’ Last Stand for which my score of 40 is currently the highest. I have enjoyed many of the tests by James Dorsey, my favourite test of his was the Spectra test, which returned an IQ 174 at the time, and is to date the only perfect score I have ever achieved, it is unlikely to happen again, this score completed my full set of Opals at the Opal Quest Group. I took the test for Mensa UK in 2002 and joined Mensa International once I moved overseas. Unsurprisingly I most enjoyed the tests I scored highly on, but that was true before I knew the results, as I made a connection with these tests, luck must have played a part as they played to my own personal strengths in IQ testing. This is why it is useful to take many tests, to learn where your strengths and weaknesses lie, you are more likely to get a true general intelligence score if you view your average across a variety of tests, with varying question styles and different authors.

Jacobsen: What ethical philosophy makes some sense, even the most workable sense to you?

Hilton: What are ethics but the observations of what is right by the majority? They are not absolute truths; you only have to look to History for evidence. In a developed culture ethics seem to be viewed as the truth, the right and true opinion of the majority, with extremes of behaviour diverging from these viewed as unethical. Ethics therefore are an inevitable consequence of society, though societies develop and as such so do ethics. For me a philosophy where the boundaries of ethics are tested with reasoned debate would seem the ideal, where skilled speakers advocate for pushing the boundaries of ethics, others supporting the norm. We are a long way from this as views outside the norm are vilified immediately, for me this is actually a sign western culture is in decline, where intelligent debate is replaced with cancel culture. This does not justify the breaking of ethical norms, only allows platform for debate. After all, have all shifts in ethical belief lead to negative outcomes for humans? I doubt it, yet challenging ethical beliefs comes with huge risks, why must this be so?

Jacobsen: What social philosophy makes some sense, even the most workable sense to you?

Hilton: Again, what is society, is it the same the world over? Surely no, so this again has no answer and leads differing groups into conflict. If everyone worked for the betterment of their sphere of influence, whilst taking reasonable steps to avoid disadvantaging those beyond, instead of offering a set of values as a social philosophy, this eventually, would allow individuals to take different value positions within different groups. This is of course is a lofty goal, but the idea of degrees of separation means that your sphere of influence is much smaller than your meta-sphere of influence. It could be argued that the greatest advantages humans have are intelligence and competitiveness, it could conversely be argued these traits are the most likely to lead to our ultimate downfall. If humans can set aside the need to compete, I suspect our long-term chances would increase dramatically.

Jacobsen: What economic philosophy makes some sense, even the most workable sense to you?

Hilton: I would give a similar response as the above, a philosophy that maximises inclusion.

Jacobsen: What political philosophy makes some sense, even the most workable sense to you?

Hilton: I would give a similar response as the above, a philosophy that maximises inclusion.

Jacobsen: What worldvew-encompassing philosophical system makes some sense, even the most workable sense to you?

Hilton: My own, though it is not so grand as to be a worldview-encompassing philosophical system. What I believe is likely covered by other philosophies, but is assimilated from life experience, indeed I have not read much philosophy, I find I am unable to draw satisfactory conclusions to non-empirical matters by following the thinking of others, so I have to think about it myself. That is not to say I am not taken with ideas when I hear them, I was drawn to stoicism when I first read about it, but while it felt homely for a while, it did not capture me, it was a comfortable cloak at that time in my life. I feel the same about much philosophy, if one is a devout and permanent adherent to one way of thinking, I fear one may be missing the point of life, to grow, develop, change, morph, all philosophies I have heard seem like clay to me, they can be made to fit with my worldview, but they are no longer the same shape, no-one has ever written anything philosophical that I can fully agree with, I hope that is true for everyone, as that would imply philosophy and metaphysics are absolute truths which they are not, for if they were they would be Science, they are evolutions of the views and opinions of either a majority, or more commonly, a significant, in some way, minority.

Jacobsen: What provides meaning in life for you?

Hilton: Looking to the future, my 5 sons and more children if we are blessed, their journey through time and that of those who will follow provides deep meaning for me. To the present my wife, I owe her more than she will ever appreciate and together we have made a good life. Looking to the past, all of those friends, family and loved ones who enriched my life and tolerated my eccentricates with good grace, one in particular who was taken from us much too early through ill-health, much to the detriment of us all. Life has meaning for me because these people will exist, currently exist, or existed in the past.

Jacobsen: To set the stage for the further conversation, what comprises intelligence in the abstract?

Hilton: I think this is literally the human capacity to create ideas, ponder questions and improve systems. As a species we seem to excel at this kind of thinking and our capacity to make connections, see patterns and associate things have led us on an incredible journey.

Jacobsen: What are the mainstream and fringe theories of human intelligence on offer over time?

Hilton: Human intelligence is not evolving quickly enough for us to adapt to the technological world we are creating. We need to look at psychometric, cognitive, cognitive-contextual, and biological theories to better understand intelligence in terms of the species and more interestingly from my perspective the individual, big data should be looking to this, rather than recommending I buy a particular brand of trainers as I happen to be near a store that sells them, having predicted I may like them from my previous purchasing history.

Appendix I: Footnotes

[1] Member, Glia Society.

[2] Individual Publication Date: March 1, 2021:; Full Issue Publication Date: May 1, 2021:

*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.


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