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The ThiNKiNG Man's Game: How Intelligence Works

On Determination, Information, Intelligence & Façade

/\ The following is part of my 'modus vivendi' series /\
For banks, their number one is protecting the impression of trust. If they lose that impression of trust, that bank goes out of business. It's that simple.

Watch: How To Fool A Baboon
(Long piece...I know. Sorry:-)

. . .



I am not sure why determination never gets due credit. The overarching power of determination in success and various winning strategies is almost always overlooked whenever we attempt to understand or define intelligence. Let me attempt various perspectives (from Business to Boxing Humanitarianism and Law, to Psychology, Security and Technology, etc.) that color my understanding. Just for fun.

I believe intelligence is the ability to solve problems, to reason, to make sensible inferences about the world and what little or whole information one is given or has amassed as they navigate life/experiences.

Intelligence is not about exhibitionism or what you say you know but what you're seen solving and achieving, and how that silences critics and haters alike while winning you like-minded lovers of practical, tangible intelligence. Invariably, it is also about being able to keep things and experiences in perspective while you learn, develop and mature. Jane Goodall was ridiculed by scientists and her findings were met with strong skepticism when she first began her work on Chimps because as they said: "She's not a scientist". And yet, her work turned the scientific community's understanding of humans and apes upside down.

Just because one (or others they hold in high esteem) have studied something, drawn persuasive conclusions, or just because you can see everything or something you happen to be looking at right now doesn't mean you fully understand it. Nor does it mean its logical credence has been verified. The same applies to reading, hearing, receiving perceived (common) knowledge such as cultural norms passed down to you as "wisdom", tradition or credo; even that oft abused word: "fact", hence the origin of most fallacies. Prime examples that come to mind include foot binding (纏足) in China, honor killings still practiced in Pakistan, Turkey and generally speaking, the Middle East, North Africa, Central Asia, and the Indian subcontinent; as well as the use of mass/gang rape as a weapon of war, or punishment in Sub-Saharan Africa. All this, intelligent people understand. And so they often proceed judiciously when dealing with information even as they are nimble enough to give decisiveness her due for as Carl Rogers said: "The only person who is educated is the one who has learned how to learn...and change". And it is through force of the latter aided by smart decisiveness of determined people (whatever the context) that positive change and solutions are often brought about.


Intelligence (both in professional and casual practice) is not a static state. As Sun Tzu (孫子) says in The Art of War, "The more you read and learn, the less your adversary will know". In other words, intelligence can't be faked because it involves homework. And whereas software needs regular or occasional updates (whether or not secure by design), stupidity on the other hand, can't be patched. And evidence of that is legion, like abuse of the "Reply"/"Reply To This" button on social networking sites, in perpetrators' desperate attempt to "prove something".

But coming back to determination, imagination, timing and seizing and multiplying opportunities as they surface, look around you. From Julian Paul Assange's WikiLeaks, to national security, espionage, trade secret theft to your own credit card number(s)—probably already sold in the underground by hackers to whom you merely represent an IP address (sorry)—your computer security fears or nightmares...What do you see around you?

That security appears broken, correct? Not because of intelligence but largely because of determined people, right?

Determined intelligent people do not rest on their laurels but continue to seek better ways of solving and/or anticipating problems...or even, making trouble themselves! However, the smart people I know and/or chose to look up to tend to be practical constructive problem-solvers with great foresight, and they run the gamut, from peasant to wealthy, highly educated to intellectually curious but destitute, willing, and able to stand up and be part of a solution. Sometimes even, reluctant "go-to" people who prefer to disappear from the limelight as soon as their responsible work is done. As Johann Wolfgang von Goethe says: "One can be instructed in society, one is inspired only in solitude."

You put them in any situation or under duress, and they can think their way out it with every combination of brainpower, dexterity, appreciation of the value

of time, acknowledgement of their own personal limitations and how to build bridges (with competing minds) to get things done. And the latter knowledge comes

from their understanding of the value of information as a commodity. Here, I will let one of my mentors (Bruce Schneier) speak:

"Security is, I think, something you're born with. I think it's a way of looking at the world. A way of looking at systems and seeing how they break. I think Security people, when they're go about their day and walking into stores seeing the cameras, they go to vote and they look at security, they walk through an airport...So I think it's a mentality of security that some people just have in the way they look at the world.

...I think a lot of the things we see about security that make no sense are because they come from people who aren't thinking systemically and aren't looking at the big picture...When you look at the field of Economic Security, there are (sort of) two basic types of papers we see. One is a paper that tries to explain the real world. Here's what we're seeing out there. Here's why I think it happens, which involves producing some kind of economic model that would mirror the real world. And the other one is I think more empirical: to run tests and experiments, and then try to infer a model from those.


There are definitely fundamental social and economic issues. There are ways of looking at the world that let you see the picture, see how attacks work, how defenses work, what sorts of countermeasures there are. But once you get past that broad picture and the broad analysis, it's all about technology. And whether you're looking at home security or computer security or airport security, you're looking at technology and how technologies work, how technologies fail—the details of technologies are vital. So while you need the big picture non-technological perspective, you need to apply that into the technologies because everything now is technological."

Intelligence is having and cultivating a visionary mind that is innovative and is often found concerned with big picture, big issues. Intelligent people are rarely concerned with trivial things like bickering, personal egos and the like, unless of course their business model involves precisely that, in which case their business is arguably legitimate and their vision, intelligent.

Smart people tend to specialize in, and are able to capitalize on (or best, monetize) their own and others' weaknesses, stupidity, intelligence, mistakes, misplaced emotions which rob you of logic and hence productivity, or even laziness or slowness. All this they can manage to pull off often in a perfectly legal, shrewdly deceptive, or intriguingly acceptable way using a combination of great instincts they are constantly honing, and a brilliant imaginative mind—often for the sole purpose of surviving, winning, getting ahead and/or staying ahead.

Smartness (intelligence in display) is an art which I'm not sure can be taught nor is there anything particularly elitist about it because we all possess varying dimensions of smartness. So we speak sometimes of the civility and mysterious gravitas of elephants and dolphins.

Smartness is a thinking man (or woman's) game. But never confuse smart operators with fake ones. Fake people dig themselves into holes (you name a category) and stubbornly and desperately keep digging hoping for a success here and there until their art self-destructs or evanesces, even if for a while they manage to fool a few well-intentioned masses.

Smart operators (business entities and individuals alike) on the other hand, begin with an end and a couple of contingencies in mind, and they're good at raising their game to mitigate difficulties as the landscape or competition adversely alters.

The story of Apple's two Steves (Wozniak and Jobs) is a great story of how intelligent people understand their limits, optimize their boundaries, and iterate to survive in a tough real world by practicing synergy, if they must. As far as people relations, they understand and therefore often exemplify the Mark Twain truism: "Really great people make you feel that you, too, can become great".

The story of how nations (strong and weak) conduct proxy wars is another worth studying if you really want to get to the bottom of what being intelligent, smart, using intelligence and a combination of style, art, and elegance to discombobulate your opponents and haters is all about. The history of the IBM/Microsoft wars is another. And the story of how Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone/telecommunications as we know it, Bell Labs and AT&T (my former employer) and related controversies is another. Tim Berners-Lee, who did not invent the Internet (America's DARPA or Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, did) but solved a frustrating problem of dispersed information on various networks with his formulation of the world wide web, is another. Just for fun, the role of Henry Ford (who did not invent the automobile as we know it but like Berners-Lee, solved the problem of "easy access" to personal transportation; Germans Gottlieb Daimler and Carl Benz did) offer another window into the role of determination and smart-thinking brains at work to solve problems. Not merely sitting atop a vision or behind a desk daily pontificating about what they know. Even the relegation of original social network gem (Friendster) to a weak gaming portal for Malaysia by Facebook, or China search giant Baidu, with its Silicon Valley/Wall Street beginnings, is a relevant example. Most relevantly, watch all the obscure and previously suffering media outlets out there and how they are opportunistically using WikiLeaks' emergence in our headlines to rebrand, resuscitate, and even capitalize in an attempt to "solve" their own business problems, which is fair and shrewd.

My personal favorite vector, is Boxing. Technical Boxing, to be precise.

In Boxing knockout punches wow crowds. But true boxing fans maintain a Zen-like patience as they observe, witness, understand and assimilate elegant execution (knockout or not) that leads to a win, which is the ultimat goal. Intelligence on display, if you like. Read this (in its entirety) and understand why Boxing's most feared hitter (ever) Ernie Shavers views Muhammad Ali the way he does; and why great boxing minds, legends (like George Foreman and Britain's Barry Mcguigan), trainers (such as Hall of Famer Emanuel Steward) and knowledgeable analysts have said what they do about Floyd Mayweather Jnr.'s genius (flaws aside).

Determination, intelligence and being smart is (I wouldn't say "are") ultimately either or both about solving problems and challenges. And the most meaningful of victories in that endeavor often involve the outthinking, outsmarting, out-shellacking, or outperforming and outlasting of foes while exceeding or meeting expectations, because such people have a mission, a focus, a strategy.

As for recognizing intelligence in people: everything sounds "great" or "smart" or "gibberish" depending on how well-informed, ignorant, arrogant, or close-minded one is, or chooses to be—in any given situation. And that is homework (and discipline) no one can do for you. Intelligence begins with being relentlessly committed (i.e., DETERMINED) about how to optimize information, which to date, is the single most important commodity I personally know. And how you synergize that with healthy work ethic, meticulous fact checking (instead of drawing hasty conclusions based on any large or miniscule amount of information, itself a skill) excellent human relations skills, and importantly, intellectual humility, makes all the difference in the real world of results. And those possessing commensurate communication and persuasion skills (required and in fact, a corollary of determination, but often overlooked) in obtaining buy-in for intelligent ideas, are, I think, geniuses.

I am not a psychologist, haven't formally studied NLP (or neurolinguistic programming) yet nor do I claim to fully apprehend the branch of psychology relating to what makes people grossly naive, have a trigger which phishing/spammers play on in getting us to succumb to malicious junkmail or fraudulence baiting that in turn open some up to manipulation and other social engineering attacks. But what is clear to most reasonable lay people, I'd argue, is that some people demonstrate stupidity because they lack an imaginative, vivid mind capable of comfortably assimilating information, and then proceeding to draw accurate, well thought out logical inferences in real time, about what they just heard, saw, or read.

Some anecdotes. During the run-up to Operation Iraqi Freedom for instance, I was on my way past my ex's parent's living room eating breakfast and CNN was on. This was in Eastern Europe. Bush had just said "Freedom is God's gift to us [all]". Immediately, she erupted in anger as she swore to me that in fact Bush had just said: "America is God's gift to every country". Subsequently, there was a rerun and she realized she was wrong but drama queen or not, multiply such incidents the world over where English is not only spoken as a foreign language but where active listening skills, meticulousness (where you not only read the boldprint but annoying as it may be, you know the fineprint could come back and bite later), where thinking out of the box, thinking critically, etc. aren't internalized in social discourse and intercourse, and you can begin to understand why anti-Americanism will never be defeated. Because some people will cling on to X, even when you tell them Y. Why? Because they have a trigger (something that gets their attention, excites them positively or negatively). All of us do. People carry a certain amount of "baggage". Whether mental, emotional, psychological, psycho-social due to miseducation, under-education (and mind you, over-education can be bad too), narcissism, deeply held or hidden insecurities, beliefs, or a preponderance of bad life experiences. These are all triggers. And they can easily cloud or prevent good judgment, where open-mindedness is deficient.

Ever told a Chinese Mainlander where you're from and they (never having even set foot even in Hong Kong, or Beijing) told you everything about your country—getting 99% wrong? My favorite: the girl on the bus whose best (enthusiastic) response to "I am American" was: "Oh! Michael Jackson also come from Africa and Ameh-li-ka". Now, try telling George Bush where he's from. Want to test a simple theory/experiment I actually often use? Tell a naive YCG aggressively chasing you that you were married before and they'll likely be turned off and quickly disappear (because the motives were never pure to begin with). And you can have your peace back since her assumptions about "love" and relationships were superficial, calculated, idealistic and unintelligent (even if they can feebly argue Chinese pragmatism) in the first place. If she's empathetic and shows great consideration and understanding, then good for you, because that's valuable information (and mature information assimilation genius) you're witnessing.

I have published things that were actually written over a decade ago; carried over emblems, names (like my current moniker given to me nearly 15years ago) and ideas and ideals that have been in circulation for as long as the internet has been in the mainstream. And yet, you will meet people who want to wrongly interpret them, make them personal, and "assume" you are trying to somehow project an air of superiority that inconveniences their "show". The appropriate American response to such prejudice is simple: "It ain't all about you. Get a grip". That is what selfish people don't understand. That everything is not all about them. And to the person under attack by such people, the best advice I try to practice myself is: "It's not about's their problem". Especially since you can't fix stupid, and even sometimes: corrosive self-centeredness. And really good lay people who are intelligent, observant, and thoughtful, not just Security Experts, Social Engineers, Lawyers and Law Enforcement professionals

and psychologists just to name a few, understand this "trigger".

Someone (I still have to love as a human being because he/she wants love but is lost) recently sent me a vitriolic e-mail after my humanitarianism posts talking about: "You think we're all also said for 10years now, women have wasted your time...well, I consider myself one of them". The logical response: First of all, do you even have any clue how horrible and flawed I know I am? How I try daily to improve? And about the 10years comment, I was referring to specific traumatic experiences that were detailed one after the other with extreme care. Experiences that a reasonable teenager listening carefully would probably not so dangerously misinterpret or personalize, but rather perhaps, sympathize with. And yet from a gratitude standpoint, you wonder: I spent all these hours, days, energy, time (which I couldn't actually afford at the time) and effort communicating, listening patiently and talking with parched mouth for all that to come to such gross and dangerous misapprehension(s)? How can you have a partner if you don't understand that others have done it and continue to do it right by starting with proven consideration (not empty words) for others' plight too? That it's not just about what you want and aggressively want now. It's always intriguing to watch the silence (when someone is angrily arguing trying to "prove something"). And then I give a phone number or two to them, and say: "Call this person that knows me...Meet them. Listen to them, and let them show you what they witnessed with their own eyes...what they themselves did that you are offering excuses about doing". Because test is all. Information is about proof. And proof is what intelligence is about.

One of the most common e-mails I receive (sometimes after 10years of parting ways with people who mistakenly identified me as "the enemy" because of NLP and other insecurities), often read and I paraphrase: "I understand were right. I had to deal with my own insecurity issues first before I could love or understand other human beings properly". The last such missive came via SMS, right here in China. It began with the words, "I am not happy..." What's the problem with that? One still senses the self-centered/ME ME ME lurking.

Without a vivid frame of reference, worldview, cool, calm and casual scientific/empirical/logical approach to information; even sometimes, moral compass

combined with an open patient mind, the illusion of intelligence will thrive only within clan and clique. As the saying goes, it takes one to know one.

What we most need desperately, is useful, practical intelligence and perception that transcends communication barriers, prejudice, ignorance, narcissism, nationalism, and other corrosive and dangerous isms, and solves problems while promoting harmony. And like success and genius, determination (conscious incremental commitment) is the key driver in propelling people toward, and transcending mere understanding of things, to useful, logical approach to that commodity we call "information".

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Comment by David - 戴維在中國 on December 6, 2010 at 3:58pm
Now there is a blast from the past TT had an Uncle that would always call me 'young master David'

Have yourself an excellent day also young master ; )
Comment by THiNKTaNK on December 6, 2010 at 2:14pm
Ah...That little engine that could!
And thinks I CAN!

Brilliant, man.
Thank you. Turns out I was actually cleaning up this sucker while you were posting your two comments. Have a great day, Master David! :-) My Dad used to affix "Master" to my name when I was a kid...Somehow I lost that charm...Hmm. I gotta ask him why he stopped...

Additional feedback is always appreciated. I'm a little curious which OS version(s), Browser(s), etc. you use but that can be interpreted as "private" information so no need to respond. Personally, I have a 3 color max rule I used to stick with in creative work but I keep violating it these days for lack of discipline. So...hope that changes I just made work for your eyes going forward. Will attempt to blog in plain text once in a while:-) C-ya!

Comment by David - 戴維在中國 on December 6, 2010 at 1:40pm
Ability is only limited to imagination. But you must believe you can I always say. But more worthy men than I have some thoughts too.

"The longer I live, the more I am certain that the great difference between the great and the insignificant, is energy - invincible determination--a purpose once fixed, and then death or victory." Sir Thomas Bowell Buxton

"I never could have done what I have done without the habits of punctuality, order, and diligence, without the determination to concentrate myself on one subject at a time..." Charles Dickens

"Now he has departed from this strange world a little ahead of me. That means nothing. People like us, who believe in physics, know that the distinction between past, present, and future is only a stubbornly persistent illusion." Albert Einstein

But my favourite comes from a child.

Determination: The little engine that could.....
Comment by THiNKTaNK on December 6, 2010 at 2:22am

I hear ya, man.
On the one hand, we're all growing older and older LOL...Actually saw one of my blogs on somebody's Win98 months ago and I couldn't stop laughing:-) Give me a few hours...Gotta do some stuff on my end and I'll return online and rework this sucker some, OK? Forgive me, please.

Comment by Gareth on December 6, 2010 at 12:49am
The colours hurt my eyes.


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