How smart are you?

Throughout our lives, we encounter a whole spectrum of "smart" people - from those annoyingly smart to ones who are barely interactive. Let us now take a few minutes to wonder what really constitutes those differences and how we can analyse them more precisely.

I think smartness can be compartmentalised into (at least) two different sections. It consists of the user and the operating system (OS). Together these sections form our smartness and can be thought of as a user with a computer. This computer can be used in a multitude of different ways. The OS has its own dexterity which mirrors the mental capacity that a person has. The difference between a sophisticated OS and a rudimentary OS is parallel to the difference between the abilities of a graphing calculator and a scientific calculator. The user employing the OS has their own consciousness and is more concerned with the pragmatic side of putting the OS into use.

Everyone has a mix of the OS and the user - some have more user dexterity, and some have more OS dexterity. These two systems work together to create your way of engaging with the world. If a person has more user dexterity, then they can harness all of their operating power. Subsequently, these people are usually more confident in their abilities. If, however, a person has more OS dexterity, they cannot completely master their potential, but they may be able to reach a higher grasp later in life. These people might lack confidence but will become more assertive as time progresses.

It is important to note that superiority in either of these two parts is not inherently more desirable. Some may think it is worse if your user part is relatively less competent. However, this is not the case. The journey to unlocking your full potential takes time and might subsequently be an advantage as the battle to gain user dexterity can increase your maturity.

Maybe we can go deeper using a different analogy. Picture your whole lifecycle as a blank book (John Locke). Every day you, metaphorically, write about your experiences and feelings (we can call this writing a script). All of these scripts form and solidify your identity. Now let us imagine how people react to certain situations. First, let us conceptualise OS dexterity as a pencil case. Every person has a particular set of writing equipment that determines how a person can react to situations. Let us say that you are someone who "writes" with a graphite pencil. Then it can be said that you are a person who doesn't like to stick to a particular thought or feeling because you can easily "erase" it.

Now it would be beneficial to conceptualise the user's dexterity. A person with good user dexterity can perfectly figure out how a writing instrument works. If you have more OS dexterity, you could see this as having more writing instruments. You have a highlighter, whiteout, and five colour pencils. At first, you are overwhelmed by the number of instruments to choose from, so it is very hard to choose the "right tool for the job". You are less comfortable with the ways of writing and therefore less confident. This can change throughout life, as you learn the ins and outs of all your writing equipment.

These two concepts, OS and user, have been portrayed as individualistic and distinct systems. This might well be the case in early childhood, but tends to change as we become adults. The two systems slowly intertwine like a knot. Take walking as an example. As a child, you constantly think about your legs having to move in unison - the user commands your leg work. As an adult, walking becomes automatic and you might even forget that you are walking - the systems have formed a knot. 

I think meditation is a technique that makes you more aware of these two systems and how they are entangled. The self-reflection of the practice makes you more mindful of your surroundings, but also of your automized movements - like walking. I also believe that meditation is not a technique to untangle this knot, but rather serves as a source of transparency that helps you realise the entanglement.

To conclude, I would define smartness as having two systems. On the one hand, you have the OS dexterity which are the tools that you have in your brain (pencils and pens). On the other hand, you have user dexterity which is closely related to pragmatism (knowing how and when to use these tools). Together, they allow us to process our senses and interact with the world. I also believe that meditation can help us become more aware of the two systems and how they work together. Ultimately, I hope this article shows how two "smart" people can be totally different.


About this article

Written by:
  • Simon Benhaiem
| Published on: Oct 19, 2022