The Intense and Utter Weirdness Of ‘High IQ Societies’

It’s a mix of the adorably mundane and the insufferably pretentious.”


I know a little more about this topic from personal experience. I was in Mensa, 999 and Epimetheus.

At least a half-dozen of these societies were founded by the same man, Ron Hoeflin. The testing procedures usually involve instruments created and normed by Hoeflin and Kevin Langdon in some way. These two names resonate through the high-IQ community.

The list of the societies founded by Hoeflin includes some duplication. I’m not sure of the details, but some kind of in-fighting in the 2000s must have caused him to create Epimetheus and Omega, two groups which seem redundant of the similarly named Prometheus and Mega, which he founded about a quarter of a century earlier. There must be a story there, but I neither know it nor care about it. I gather that a lot of internal warfare goes on in these groups.

The Cracked article is quite perspicacious in noting that these societies can’t seem to come up with a decent website. Their home pages are mostly text, and seem to have been created in 1995 (even in the societies created in 2006). They are seldom updated. In my observations of these societies, I found their websites to be reflective of their general disdain for the internet. There is a strong luddite strain among these brainiacs. You would think that societies dedicated to the accumulation and application of knowledge would completely embrace a technology that basically allows all of mankind’s knowledge to be shared and discussed, but I have never found that to be the case. The last time I looked in on VIDYA, the publication of the 999 Society, it was not available online, and the snail-mail version seemed to be created by a third grader using some freeware for desktop publishing.


Disclaimer: My knowledge is probably out of date. I abandoned these societies years ago, because they failed to provide the two things I was looking for:

1. Smart chicks. Except for MENSA, very few women belong.

2. Resources. Being kind of a geek myself, I thought that these societies and their mailing lists would provide a tremendous way to get a solid overview of any new topic of interest, plus perhaps a list of the ten best books on the subject. It’s always difficult to approach a new topic because you never know which books are truly accurate and well researched, so I always seem to waste time wading through the swamp of pseudo-experts before I find the people who really know what they are talking about. Take, for example, the Black Sox. There are exactly two guys in the world who know what they are talking about because they have been through all the books, all the newspaper articles, all the interviews and all the trial transcripts. They also have the brainpower to sort the wheat from the chaff. But, damn, it took me a year of research and the consumption of scads of superficial books and articles before I found those two guys.

Baseball is probably a poor example, but I figured that the high-IQ societies would be a great place to ask questions like “What are the best books on Russian cinema, what are ten movies I should start with, and what are the best resources to obtain those movies at the lowest possible cost?” I found the societies to be no help at all on this or any other subject that interested me. Either nobody shared my interests or they wouldn’t take the time to weigh in.

I suppose if I had asked them to name all of the wizards in Tolkien, detailing their powers and their back-stories, I would have been inundated with replies. Or maybe that’s just my stereotype of my fellow geeks. I do know that I was considered to have committed sacrilege when I said I read Lord of the Rings, enjoyed it, then moved on, but that was not nearly so bad as when I said that I would rather play beach volleyball than go to a museum on a warm, sunny day.

8 thoughts on “The Intense and Utter Weirdness Of ‘High IQ Societies’

  1. The brief experience I had with MENSA was that it was an utter waste of time.

    A population of savant idiots clever enough to pass a standardized test but too stupid to realize they’re broadcasting their own insecurity.

    1. It served a purpose for me. Unlike the really “elite” societies, MENSA has a pretty decent representation of females. I dated two women that I met through MENSA, and they were both nice. With one I had no connection at all, but the other one and I stayed in contact for many, many years. We never really made an erotic connection, but I really loved her company, and that’s really why I was in the group in the first place, so I guess I got my “money’s worth.”

      (I do agree with you in general. There are lots of members whose only subject of conversation seems to be the fact that they are members. Yawn)

  2. I don’t disagree either with you, Scoop, or Cracked. But I can add a perspective from a different angle. I don’t qualify for Mensa, the easiest to get into. Not quite. Not really. But there’s some latitude of metrics that’re considered fungible. So I could pass. Literally. On top of which there’s a vouched-for loophole. Many members know me & would vouch. When I get into any general convo with an intelligent stranger, they invariably develop an opinion in a few minutes that I’m smart. How smart varies. My SAT tilted to verbal, tho I’m a geek & was a math major. I have something like Asperger about the way I come across. My manner of speaking winds up being imbued with what I read. I’ve read a lot. I don’t do it on purpose. I suppose you’ve already got an impression of me that I’m pretentious. I try hard not to be. I know stuff. I have answers, in part due to curiosity, in part to be a resource. Mostly in my imagination, as there aren’t as many chances as you might think where people are prepared to listen to a nuanced take on a hard problem. There aren’t clean easy-peasy solutions with no ill side-effects (or just flipsides) to unsolved problems. Either they lose interest & walk away or I manage to catch on & stop myself.

    OK, so it turns out I’ve gone to a bunch of Mensa parties at WorldCons (the biggie of emphasis-on-actual-SciFi meetups). I crash. No one checks. I eavesdrop & join in if it interests. I’m cogent enough, no one’s ever challenged me. The interactions I’ve had in this way were creative & stimulating. We go back & forth for a good little while. They don’t get bored & walk away. Occasionally I fess up & they offer to grease my skids. Which is why I suppose it wouldn’t be too tough even if I didn’t manage it on my own, which I think I could. Either way, effort minimal. But I never acted, not even close. Yeah, I’m too lazy. Also, I’m with you & Cracked in putting more weight on results than on potential, as if a metric like IQ measured that. Now, party-goers at a con aren’t a representative sample of the group as a whole. Duh. But at least this tiny subpop isn’t so bad. Says me.

    1. I dated two Mensa women, and they were both nice. Mensa people seemed much more normal that the people in the more “elite” societies. (Also, there were actually some women in Mensa!)

  3. My SATS would have gotten me into MENSA (at the time I had no idea that could do it). But based on the one member I knew, a friend of mine but more than a little cracked – used to hold forth about Fred Hoyle and Mily Balakirev, and knowing that none of my school’s smart + pretty girls were in it. it just wasn’t that enticing.

  4. Some of your best work here Scoop. I was in a couple of those and couldn’t agree more. Starting with the women!!

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