Boy Genius.
February 26, 2001 4:44 PM   Subscribe

Boy Genius. I'm incredibly impressed by Aaron. I sat behind him today at a meeting about RDF technology and I was floored with his level of understanding. Far beyond what I was grasping. The catch? He's a 9th grader at the North Shore Country Day School. jesus.
posted by bkdelong (41 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
I can feel myself becoming more obsolete by the second...
posted by Hackworth at 5:41 PM on February 26, 2001

I still hope to be a 9th-grader genius someday.

Aaron Swartz was profiled in the Chicago Tribune last year (pay archives now, eh). He runs his own company. He has a self-organizing information community. He was an ArsDigita Prize 2000 Finalist. He has his own personal publishing system site, blogspace. He owns more domain names than I do.
posted by dhartung at 6:16 PM on February 26, 2001

Frack: that's supposed to be, not Sorry.
posted by dhartung at 6:17 PM on February 26, 2001

That boy needs to be smoking behind his parents' backs, drinking his Dad's warm Schlitz and learning how to masturbate whilst thinking of hot girls in his class (and NOT XML).

This brainiac shit doesn't change the fact that he'll never socially develop if he keeps this up...
posted by Capn_Stuby at 6:47 PM on February 26, 2001

And Professional Wrestling! How could I forget????

Genius kids aren't happy, I was one and I was fucking miserable until I socialized normally and got stupid. It's the Lisa/Bart Syndrome. One is ignant, but happy, and the other is so smart that she can see how miserable and lonely she is.
posted by Capn_Stuby at 6:50 PM on February 26, 2001

Wow. How many weeks of allowance does it take to buy 5+ domain names? Or, is his company actually profitable?
posted by Neb at 7:01 PM on February 26, 2001

Stuby, how do you this specific kid isn't happy? He could be having a grand time without smoking behind his parents' backs, getting plastered, and masterbating?
posted by hobbes at 7:05 PM on February 26, 2001

Well, he could certainly have a great time without the alchohol and especially the smoking but lets not write off masurbating too quickly, eh?
posted by davidgentle at 7:23 PM on February 26, 2001

He could be having fun, but he also could be having fun smoking weed or drinking in his friends basement. But then again who says he doesn't? Maybe he can just better afford it!
posted by bytecode at 7:26 PM on February 26, 2001

haha, yeah.

Now if you'll excuse me...
posted by hobbes at 7:26 PM on February 26, 2001

Though he may be intelligent, his mind has obviously been polluted by a certain someone . . .
posted by aladfar at 7:34 PM on February 26, 2001

>pedantic<Not only could he be having a great time, he can probably actually spell masturbating correctly!>/pedantic<
posted by Dreama at 7:37 PM on February 26, 2001

Oy, when HTML goes stupid and a touchpad tap counts, film at 11.
posted by Dreama at 7:38 PM on February 26, 2001

posted by hobbes at 7:48 PM on February 26, 2001

You can read the chicago tribune article here.
posted by asamee at 8:43 PM on February 26, 2001

You love me! You really really love me!
posted by aaron at 9:14 PM on February 26, 2001 [1 favorite]

If certain posters on this thread are exemplars of proper social development, I hope the kid sticks to his XML.
posted by harmful at 9:14 PM on February 26, 2001 [1 favorite]

Dreama: you missed the fact that I didn't put a comma in "let's" (as in "let us"). Also, you didn't point out that hobbes misspelled masturbation as well.
posted by davidgentle at 9:58 PM on February 26, 2001

Assuming that he is doing what he loves and is doing it for himself, I'd say that the kid is happy.
posted by Firda at 10:18 PM on February 26, 2001

I'm not saying that the kid's not happy now, but he'll miss not being able to be a kid when he gets older. Kids are not structured and academic animals. Kids are messy, destructive, snotty, candy-snarfin', soda-swillin' leisure monsters. Playing in the yard and hanging out with peers are ways that one becomes socially, PSYCHOLOGICALLY, and physically developed. Don't tell me that a group of 25 year old XML monkeys or a group of 14 year old supergeniuses is a good representative model of society that will give the child a sense of how to act in the world.

Smart kids aren't used to disappointment, they always think they can solve problems and they can't deal with it when the World says, "I don't give a flying fuck at a rolling doughnut HOW smart you are. YOU LOSE. GO HOME!" Take the election in Florida for instance....heh heh.

I went to a high falutin' private school for a bit, where the intelligentsia sent their offspring. All of them were Mensa meterial and super smart, but sociopaths to the 19! degree. I stayed there for a bit and swore I wouldn't turn out like them, even if I had to lose my aura of intellectual invulnerability. I'm happier now because of it.
posted by Capn_Stuby at 10:24 PM on February 26, 2001

And for the ladies, substitute the "rolling doughnut" with "unwrapped candy bar."

I'm all about equality, yo.
posted by Capn_Stuby at 10:27 PM on February 26, 2001

Kids are messy, destructive, snotty, candy-snarfin', soda-swillin' leisure monsters.

Well, perhaps by nature. But the whole point of growing up is to learn to be better than your nature -- not to indulge it as much as possible until you are declared an adult. Childhood should be spent learning to be civilized, not being permitted to constantly act like an animal.

Don't tell me that a group of 25 year old XML monkeys or a group of 14 year old supergeniuses is a good representative model of society...

Well, maybe in an ideal world, but you're right, not in this one.
posted by kindall at 10:31 PM on February 26, 2001

just because kids are smart doesn't mean they don't have fun. i was one of those damned child geniuses (though obviously not to this kid's degree) and i managed to graduate high up in my high school class (though i realize that's not such an indicator of intelligence!) even though i was drinking and smoking and partying behind my parents' back while avoiding doing any homework. one (being smart) doesn't automatically preclude the other (fucking around).

sorry, just a pet peeve of mine.
posted by sugarfish at 10:59 PM on February 26, 2001

Doogie Howser + XML = tuesday evening hit? Let's start production, people. Episode treatments due on Friday.

posted by gluechunk at 11:02 PM on February 26, 2001

you missed the fact that I didn't put a comma in "let's" (as in "let us").
It's an apostrophe, not a comma. :P
posted by crushed at 11:06 PM on February 26, 2001

This kid is obviously doing something which he loves, and he looks to be doing it well. Isn't that what happiness is all about in the first place? Doing something which pleases you and interests you?

So kudos to Aaron. I just wish more people would do as him and focus on their own damn interests, instead of picking on everybody else, dictating what they "ought" to be interesting in. I know I have had some of the best times of my life developing projects and ideas -- and I'm sure many of you will agree(no matter how boring and geeky you personally believe XML to be). Thinking and exploring is underrated.

And hey, if he by any means ends up as a miserable failure, he'll be able to pick up those madd smoking-and-drinking skillzz then. Talk about having a cake and eating it too.
posted by frednorman at 2:21 AM on February 27, 2001

This brainiac shit doesn't change the fact that he'll never socially develop if he keeps this up...

Actually the kid's very socially adjusted. I had to leave early before the slated "demos" and I'm hoping his got pushed to today instead of me missing it yesterday. He's a bit quiet from what little I have interacted with him but then again so are some of the 40+ yr old techies talking in the halls. He's eloquent, polite and if you check out his Web site pretty socially tuned. I think his blog entry about "breaking school rules" is quite telling as are a lot of his other entries.

I agree with everyone else. He seems extremely happy with what he's doing. Let him be. He's so savvy that if he wanted to hook up with kids his own age I'm sure he could find an online place to start out. For all we know he could be an EQ addict in his (ha ha) spare time.

Of course one of these days he's going to read this and bitch at me for calling him a kid. ;)
posted by bkdelong at 4:49 AM on February 27, 2001

Can someone tell me how old a '9th grader' is? Doesn't mean anything to me.
posted by prolific at 5:42 AM on February 27, 2001

In the USA, children usually enter 1st grade at the age of six, so (assuming he hasn't skipped grades – which might be more socially disruptive than anything he's doing on his own) he should be about fourteen now. I just checked, and that seems to jibe with the Tribune piece (13 last June).
posted by harmful at 6:12 AM on February 27, 2001

the fact that any adult would, with a straight face, suggest that an adolescent somehow suppress his own special talents and gifts so that he can be more like other adolescents is the most depressing thing I've read all day.

of course, it's still early, and George Bush is still President.
posted by Sapphireblue at 7:17 AM on February 27, 2001 [1 favorite]

I'm not saying that the kid's not happy now, but he'll miss not being able to be a kid when he gets older.

That's utter fooey. You can't determine what the kid will miss, and the kid's got plenty of time to explore what makes him happy. Ultimately, being happy is what the kid deserves.

When I was in grade 9, I spent most of my spare time playing role playing games, programming bad QBasic programs and calling out to BBSes because I didn't give a rat's ass about "social behaviour" which was far more trouble than it was ever worth.

Forced social behaviour - forced by my parents, my teachers, and other people who were concerned I would end up "missing my childhood" - drove me deeper and deeper into my shell, because I didn't know how to respond to people. It didn't help me learn, it just made me want to avoid people more.

When I was in grade 11 or so, I started figuring out what social behaviour was about, due in a large part to my geeky interactions. Talking with 25 year-old techies on local BBSes, and learning for myself that there was more to life than just computers.

Experiencing social interaction with people who thought like I did is what was important to my social growth, not going out and drinking beers and smoking pot.

That aspect of my social interaction came later in life. It's an important aspect to life. Not necessarily getting intoxicated, but hanging out with people and having fun on different levels.

This kid's going out and taking part in seminars and interacting with people, it's not like he's locked up in a basement hacking away at his keyboard all day. Why stifle his intellectual growth and interaction with what he's interested in by forcing him to be unhappy at a school dance?
posted by cCranium at 7:18 AM on February 27, 2001

Captain Stuby, you're my hero!
posted by susanlucci at 8:01 AM on February 27, 2001

Everyone accepts that genius in music, mathematics and sport demands youthful dedication and sacrifice of a "normal" life to some extent -- so why not in computing? After all, it has significant elements of mathematics and some analogies both to music and sport (a combination of intuitive / inborn affinity and skill, a need for relentless practice and experimentation, and a community in which their is constant competition and opportunities to rise to the next level)
posted by MattD at 8:38 AM on February 27, 2001

Interesting how some people define "fun" and "socialization," isn't it? Frightening that they want to impose their disturbing definition upon the rest of us.

To me, this kid appears, at first glance, to be considerably more developed emotionally and philosophically than someone who epitomizes drinking, smoking and wanton destructiveness above reason and constructive behavior.
posted by rushmc at 10:09 AM on February 27, 2001

I love to shake the jar and watch the flies buzz around.

I was just offering my opinion. Only Aaron knows if he's truly happy or not, but I think it's just wrong if he's pretending to be happy because being smart is the way he gets the love he craves.

If he receives unconditional love and affection from friends and family, and he is really happy, then I'm happy for him! Not that it even matters, 'cause it's not my life anyways.

I just know how good it feels to get unconditional love from your parents and that no matter how dumb you think you are, you know you've got Mom and Dad in your corner. Genius kids need even more attention than normal kids because of their gift, and this kid has a got a big one.

And soon he'll want to get laid and hang out with chicks (or guys, depending on his preference). That's a powerful thing....
posted by Capn_Stuby at 10:53 AM on February 27, 2001

Hey, I resemble that remark rushmc! Who says you can't be both?
posted by tj at 10:57 AM on February 27, 2001

Capn_Stuby, he's 14. He's already thinking about the sex. I'll bet he's got the best possible education that can provide.
posted by cCranium at 11:30 AM on February 27, 2001

Who says you can't be both?

Ahh, but I'm not speaking of the ones who are both, but of those who value the one OVER the other. ::grin::
posted by rushmc at 5:24 AM on February 28, 2001

While I'm a bit nervous about jumping into this thread myself, I think I'll go ahead and do it anyway. To those who say that you can only be happy by being "normal", I'd like to suggest that I am evidence to the contrary.

I was never encouraged to do anything like this by my parents, although they certainly did support me.

You don't have to be stupid to have a good time. Doing something that challenges and develops your brain, while still having a supporting social group in place, has not seemed to impair my development in the least -- in fact, I seem to be having a better time than some of the depressed, struggling, "normal" teenagers I know. At least in my opinion -- I may not be too fit to judge!

So, say what you want, but I've got a family who loves me quite a lot, enough interesting projects to keep me busy, and tons of support from friends and acquaintances.

Imagine what a wonderful world we could have if everyone grew up like that... ;-) ;-)
posted by aaronsw at 11:51 AM on February 28, 2001 [38 favorites]

Bravo! What he said.
posted by rushmc at 12:02 PM on February 28, 2001

Another school shooting.


Very sad. Very very sad... I must say that some of what JFuller is saying rings true -- or at least his tone does. There have been a lot of very bright people who have tried to address the gross shortcomings of our school system... and I'd encourage everyone here to read what Neil Postman, Wendell Berry, and Aaron Swartz have to say about schooling. The last recommendation comes after I found a link to Aaron's site in a MetaFilter thread.
posted by silusGROK at 3:34 PM on March 22, 2001

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