How Can I Identify The Smartest Person In The Room?

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How can I identify the smartest person in the room?

This question originally appeared on Quora, the knowledge sharing network where compelling questions are answered by people with unique insights. Some questions on Quora stimulate responses and discussions that continue for years.

Judging from the answers below, the appearance of smartness doesn’t have much to do with intelligence. It seems to have more to do with who’s asking the questions.

Answers by William Beteet, Niklas Göke, Eric Kelly, Aman Khanna, Ed Caruthers, Aleksandr Mazo, Gerald Weinberg, Ankit Jain, Abdullah Shiryar.

William Beteet, worked at Stand-Up Comedians

Universal intelligence doesn’t exist. Sure there are people who have higher IQs than others, but there is no person who has an expertise in everything.

So rather than looking for someone who has the highest IQ, who might be able to help you with quantum mechanics but would be horrible at telling you what to do with a faulty transmission, look for the person who is smartest in the domain you are most interested in at the time.

For example, I am deeply interested in the relationship between AI and Communism. So at a dinner party I will walk around and lead conversations around those two themes. Many people will give back vague or cliche answers, but eventually I’ll stumble upon someone who will say something like

“Well once humanity reaches the technological singularity, it’s very likely we will shift towards post-scarcity economic infrastructures”

Found him! That guy/girl will likely be the smartest person in the room about the subject that I want to talk about.

A lot of people will say things like “Look for the person observing and asking questions,” but I’ve been in enough social situations to see that there are people who are introverts and unintelligent, and people who ask a lot of question who don’t actually know anything.

The quickest way is to engage and disengage in rapid succession about subjects and topics that interest you.

Because once again, it doesn’t matter if they have an IQ of 250, if they are interested in subject matter that is not closely related your interest/expertise, the conversation/connection will likely be wasted, as you won’t be able to learn beyond the basics from them, and they will be incredibly bored talking to a neophyte like you.

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