The Best of Integra, the Journal of Intertel
If you're so smart why aren't you rich?
I don't suppose many ILlans have ever heard this. But there are those who mistakenly think smart and rich go together. The fact is that there are a lot of good reasons why they don't. It's like water and oil.
The Human Engineering Laboratories have been measuring aptitudes for more than 50 years, and they have been able to clearly identify 19 aptitudes. Some people, they say, have a large dose of a few of them and not much of others. The "average" person will usually have two or three aptitudes considered to be above average or "strong." These are the areas that should enable the person to do well. For example, a person scoring high in graphoria (paper work) and in analytical reasoning is well suited for a career in accounting or bookkeeping.
Many of the highly intelligent people who have been tested by the Lab have proven to have a large number of these strong aptitudes. Some have ten or more considered "very strong." These people have a serious problem: Because they are multitalented, they have great difficulty concentrating on one or two things, such as making money or building a business.
People with a large number of strong aptitudes are easily bored and constantly get involved in a myriad of diverse activities. Pity these people with high aptitudes. They are a disadvantaged minority. They have a bunch of handicaps. The odds of these people amassing a large fortune are nil. Many of them are ILIans and other intelligent folk.
People with average intelligence and one or two strong aptitudes (and the two do tend to go together) are more likely to pile up the money. They can concentrate on a single project or activity with no problem. They can start a small business and fifty years later have a conglomerate. They are able to have a single interest - maybe simply to make money.
The researchers at the Lab say that unused aptitudes cause frustration and can even result in mental and physical problems. Those blessed (?) with many aptitudes should use them. It's hard to make a lot of money while indulging in writing, painting, research, inventing, problem-solving, reading, traveling, building, studying, and speaking to the issues of the day.
It seems high intelligence and multiple aptitudes go together. Maybe one feeds on the other. Using the aptitudes will increase knowledge, experience, and probably intelligence. High intelligence results in more interests and exploration. With this activity cycle going in high gear, who has time to make money? Because you are so smart, you aren't rich.
There are exceptions to all rules, including this smart/rich principle. Some ILIans were smart enough to have selected parents that are rich, and some married wealth. Maybe they have discovered a 20th aptitude!
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A millipede and centipede
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The road wound through green rolling hills under a cloud-dotted blue sky, and Dexter almost forgot his disappointment in the midst of such natural beauty. He hadn't really been expecting much--most of the rumors he followed led to unknown artists who were unknown for a reason. But every once in awhile he found a spark of unappreciated artistic genius, and that made all the disappointments worthwhile.
Dexter knew how rare and elusive true artistic genius can be. His fondest dream had always been to become an artist. He'd studied the techniques of the masters, and became quite proficient in mimicking their works. But mimicry isn't the same as creativity. He could copy what others had done before, but he lacked that certain indefinable essence that allows a true artist to create what has never existed before.
Lacking creativity himself, Dexter was obliged to satisfy his hunger by experiencing the artistic expressions of those who did possess this most envied ability. No amount of wealth would be sufficient to own all of the works he craved, and so the insufficiency of his anemic bank account was only a matter of degree. He became an art dealer largely so that he could use the combined wealth of his customers to bring into his world, for at least as long as it took to process the paper work, beauty and inspiration that would otherwise have been entirely outside of his reach.
A small sign hanging on the fence running alongside the road caught Dexter's eye. The sign announced that a flea market awaited the curious a few miles down a side road. The crudely lettered sign offered little encouragement that what he sought might be found among the rusty auto parts and well worn household goods he'd come to expect at flea markets. Still, he wasn't in a hurry to get home, and the warm comfort of the sunny day invited excuses to delay. On impulse he turned off the main road.
The outdoor flea market was much as Dexter expected until he got to the last row of offerings. As he worked his way up the row toward the rustically dressed man displaying his wares on the tailgate of a well used pickup truck, Dexter idly wondered whether the rustic man was selling vegetables or wild animal parts. Either seemed equally likely from a distance.
The modesty of his expectations made Dexter's surprise that much greater when he finally reached the rustic man. Arranged on the chipped and dented tailgate were several small but stunningly beautiful sculptures.
"Did you make these?"
"Selling 'em, ain't I?"
"I've never seen anything quite like these before. How do you make them?"
"Don't care to say how. If it pleases your eye, you buy it. If it don't, put it back. Shouldn't make no never-mind how I done made it. I don't charge much for 'em, and they's plenty sturdy."
"Do you have more?"
"Just these you see here 'fer now. Have some more to sell in a month if you don't like these."
"I'll buy all you have."
Having found these wonders, Dexter's first impulse was to gather them into his world, to take them where they couldn't slip from his grasp. As he carefully placed his treasures in the trunk of his car, he was torn between a desire to get them locked safely away, and a nearly equally strong desire to taste as fully of the new experiences his new treasures offered as the moment allowed. He almost missed seeing the now empty pickup rattle across the rough parking lot and out the exit. Now that the opportunity was driving away, he realized how much more he wanted to know about the artist.
Dexter spent the month becoming ever more fascinated by his new treasures. In the back of his mind, Dexter recognized his obsession as the same infatuation he felt every time he encountered a new work of art that touched him, transporting him to a new place, and showing him a new and exciting dimension he hadn't suspected his mind could experience.
The passion of the moment held Dexter in such a powerful grip that it seemed it must transcend his physical being, becoming a timeless thing that would persist forever. But the distant awareness in the back of his mind knew that this was the nature of infatuation. For as long as it lasted, his mind would be awash in the ebb and flow of a riotous mix of emotions pumped up to maximum intensity, the nearly unbearable passions flooding into every aspect of his being, overwhelming his rational mind with their irresistible power.
The sheer intensity of the onset gave each infatuation an illusion of permanence, but nothing so all-consuming could last forever without also consuming the vessel that contained it. His past infatuations had all faded over time, sometimes settling into a warm comfortable affection that would last a lifetime, sometimes so completely consuming his passion that nothing was left but lifeless ashes. Only time would tell whether this infatuation would ripen into a profound and enduring love, or whether the heat of its passion would burn so completely that it left only a vague disinterest in its fading shadow. Either way, the ride was almost always worth the price of admission.
Dexter's anticipation increased over the month of anxious waiting before the mysterious artist's next expected appearance. The comfortable familiarity he'd developed with the few pieces he possessed had done nothing to diminish his fascination with the artist's work. He'd even dared to share his new treasures with a few discerning friends, and found their reactions a pleasingly endorsement of his own. He could have sold all of the pieces he had, but found himself unwilling to part with even one until he was sure he could get another to replace it.
The appointed day started before the sun rose over the horizon. The thought that someone might slip away with the objects of his desire eliminated any possibility of sleep hours before Dexter's alarm clock went off. He'd already spent several hours of fruitless vigilance in the empty parking lot by the time the flea market operators appeared to open the gate. Shortly afterward the vendors started appearing, first as a trickle, swelling to a steady stream as the officially opening time approached. Spotting the artist's pickup in the crowd brought both relief and anticipation.
Once again the sculptures were every bit as fascinating as Dexter had dared hope, and he bought all the artist had to sell. Once again he was unable to pry any information out of the taciturn artist.
Driven by curiosity, Dexter hurried to his car. He resisted the temptation to admire his new treasures, but instead hastily packed them away in the trunk, and got in behind the wheel. The engine was just coming to life when he spotted the artist's battered pickup heading for the exit. He followed a discreet distance behind, amazed at what he was doing yet unable to change his course.
The pickup eventually turned onto a long winding driveway leading to a ramshackle cluster of small buildings. Dexter watched the artist park the pickup and enter the closest building. He couldn't see any other signs of activity around the compound, or any dogs that might betray his presence. Feeling a pang of disappointment at failing to find an excuse to give up and go home, he parked out of sight at the end of the drive and crept up on the compound.
The first couple of windows into which Dexter peered revealed only the sort of rough cluttered living quarters he expected from the artist's style of dress. Then he found the artist at work in his studio.
The large room was filled with blinking lights and moving machinery. After a few moments his initial impression of chaos gave way to a complex pattern of orderly movement. After further observation he became aware that part of the activity seemed to be separate from the rest - an independent machine moving among the more stationary and interconnected machines. What he didn't see was the man he'd followed from the flea market.
"Hands up! I got ya' covered!"
Dexter complied in a mixture of shocked surprise and embarrassment that he'd been discovered peeking through windows. Turning toward the source of the command, Dexter found himself facing the rustically-dressed man holding a double-barreled shotgun of obviously advanced age. Dexter was relieved when the man relaxed his guard and lowered the cavernous barrels of his ancient weapon.
"Oh, it's you. Kinda' thought you was gonna' be a problem when you came back an' bought all I got the second time. Wouldn't take no, would ya?"
"I... I didn't mean any harm... I just had to know how... Ah... Just what's going on here? Is that where you make the sculptures? With those machines? Where did you get all the equipment - build it yourself?"
"Me? Naw, he done it all. Pretty amazin' what he's done in there - he didn't have none of that stuff with him when he first come here. I just sell the things he makes and pick up his supplies for him - just helping him out a little. He can't hardly go out in public looking like he does, now can he?"
"He? In there?"
"Yeah, him. Don't seem to have a name - least ways not the sort of name me an' you got. Showed me where he come from too, but might as well be any of them stars up there for all I can tell. Did seem like where he come from was powerful far away."
Dexter turned back to the window. His head was swimming with unthinkable thoughts - the artist came from the stars, couldn't go out in public because of the way he looked, and he was in the room somewhere. But all he could see was machinery. Dexter didn't want to allow the thought into his mind that the 'he' being discussing was a machine - an intelligent machine. Smart machines in the movies were one thing, but Dexter wasn't sure he was ready to actually meet one face to face.
"Why... Umm... What is he doing here? What does he want?"
"Don't seem to want much at all - probably why we get along. Best I can tell, where he comes from they's too straight an' narrow for his liking. Only got machines there - don't seem to be no more people left. His kind's been carryin' on - only bein' machines, they only do what's got a purpose - all cut and dried business like. Don't do nothing just for fun - wouldn't let him do his little art things there. Came here so's he can be an artist. Gotta' admit I kinda' like them things he makes too. Keep 'em around my house where I can look at 'em 'till it's time to sell 'em.
"Don't bother me none what he wants to do. He pays me a little on the side for rent, and don't cause me no problems. He can be good company at times, in his own way, an' he's a downright wizard at fixing my old truck. Stay here long as he likes, far as I'm concerned. You ain't gonna' make trouble for him, are you? I wouldn't take it kindly if you were..."
"Me? Umm... no, I don't think I'll be any trouble at all..."
The sun had long since set as Dexter wound his way down the mountain road toward home. When he agreed to be the artist's exclusive representative, Dexter knew part of the job would be to jealously protect the source of the sculptures. A story about an eccentric recluse was already forming in the back of his mind, a story that would satisfy the expectations of the curious, and deflect unwanted attentions long before they got close enough to endanger the artist.
Dexter tried not to remember considering the millions that an intelligent machine would be worth to the right company or government. He told himself that he'd rejected his first impulse because it would be wrong. But that wasn't the real reason for taking the honorable path. The unwanted thought remained that millions could buy a lot of forgetfulness about doing something wrong. There was the possibility that his scheme might go wrong and the artist would get away - or worse. But the possibility of quick millions could make taking some pretty major chances seem worth the gamble - that is if there weren't greater treasures at stake.
The slow process of learning to think beyond tomorrow had been one of Dexter's most expensive and valuable lessons in life. He'd paid his tuition through an embarrassingly long chain of opportunities he'd abandoned too quickly, or missed altogether because he hadn't been looking past the current moment. But there was little doubt in his mind that the tuition he'd paid for his continuing education was insignificant when compared to the value he might have thrown away today if he hadn't learned from his past mistakes.
Betraying the artist would have caused the flow of sculptures to stop, and it was in that flow that Dexter recognized his shared interests with the artist. He was confident that, with his his knowledge of the art market, he would be able to add a lot of value to the pieces. Over time even the most conservative commission percentage would provide handsome returns. While following the ethical path would take longer than the immediate payoff of betrayal, there was a good chance that over the long term it would pay off as well or better.
But the superficial greed that had motivated Dexter's childhood years had evolved in a profound way. He could now see that life offered a lot more, and he was profoundly greedy enough to want to at least taste of as much of what life had to offer as he possibly could. Most importantly, he'd learned that the rewards for recognizing his own enlightened self-interest weren't limited to just the crass financial gains that might motivate a simply greedy person to consider the quick payoff of betrayal.
In his profound greed, Dexter was determined to both have his cake and eat it too. He wanted the financial rewards he could gain by assisting in marketing the artist's works, as well as the aesthetic rewards he could gain through experiencing the artist's works as he passed them along to the outside world. The momentary windfall that betrayal might provide paled to insignificance compared to the pleasures he could look forward to enjoying over the coming years simply by choosing to deal fairly with his new partners.
With the sculptures in the trunk to take their place, Dexter could now let the pieces he'd had for a time slip out of his grasp and bring joy to his appreciative customers. He was already looking forward to a month from now when the next batch of sculptures would be ready to transfer from the cabin in the woods to his gallery in the city, and it would be his turn to "look at 'em 'till it's time to sell 'em".
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