Ponderings: Intelligence as a bonus stat & talents as base stats.

Sooo, there's an awfully interesting post, 'The Parable of the Talents' by Scott Alexander over at Slate Star Codex. It's about the relationship between intelligence and talent, as well as hard work.

He comes to a reasonable conclusion I agree with, that is:

The Jews also talk about how God judges you for your gifts. Rabbi Zusya once said that when he died, he wasn’t worried that God would ask him “Why weren’t you Moses?” or “Why weren’t you Solomon?” But he did worry that God might ask “Why weren’t you Rabbi Zusya?”

And this is part of why it’s important for me to believe in innate ability, and especially differences in innate ability. If everything comes down to hard work and positive attitude, then God has every right to ask me “Why weren’t you Srinivasa Ramanujan?” or “Why weren’t you Elon Musk?”

If everyone is legitimately a different person with a different brain and different talents and abilities, then all God gets to ask me is whether or not I was Scott Alexander.

This seems like a gratifyingly low bar.

However, what he doesn't seem to address is a viewpoint he puts forward at the start:
I’m sorry to leave self a self absorbed comment, but reading this really upset me and I just need to get this off my chest…How is a person supposed to stay sane in a culture that prizes intelligence above everything else – especially if, as Scott suggests, Human Intelligence Really Is the Key to the Future – when they themselves are not particularly intelligent and, apparently, have no potential to ever become intelligent? Right now I basically feel like pond scum.

I hear these kinds of responses every so often, so I should probably learn to expect them. I never do. They seem to me precisely backwards.

It seems to a nugget that in modern, industrialised societies, we tend to view intelligence as the base stat, and talent as the bonus.

This, in turn, directly leads to The Sads in the quoted viewpoint, because then - logically - what you're capable of is defined first by intelligence, THEN by talent. Which, of course, means that if you are 'not particularly intelligent', it's DOOM... 'I'll NEVER be anything much. I'm pond scum!' :(

But the more a nugget thinks about this (and a nugget thunk a lot about it while swimming today...), the more convinced a nugget is that it's a flip.

(For any non-gamers who read this and find it incomprehensible, I'm sorry! I tend to think in game design terms...)

Talent is the base stat. Intelligence is the bonus.

Talent: Base Stat
There's no cap on how many talents you can take. You can roll on as many talents as you like... but the roll you get is the roll you're stuck with. Meaning if you chose to roll on a talent, and you got a negative roll for that talent, then you're stuck with it. If you didn't choose, then you get a nice base of 0. You might also get a really high roll though, if you're lucky!

There is, of course, no guarantee that the talent you're rolling on is in the current build of the game. It's therefore entirely - if tragically - possible that your character is talented at stuff that hasn't been invented yet. (Talented pilot, planes not invented yet... alas!)

Equally tragically, your character might be very talented at stuff that's become obsolete. :( Sadly, it seems we don't know much / anything about the game we're about to play when we're at the Character Creation stage...

Intelligence: Bonus Stat
You get just one roll for this, and again, the roll can be negative or positive. How good you are at something initially, and how fast you get better at it are modified by intelligence.

Hard Work & Practice: Buffs with Diminishing Returns
If you're starting with a negative roll for Talent, and a positive or high roll for Int, then the hole you're trying to dig yourself out of is moderated by high Int. You still gotta apply a lot more of the Hard Work & Practice buff though, and you'll hit diminishing returns sooner than someone who isn't starting in a hole in the first place! And all other non-Talent factors are equal, you'll still never be as good as someone who started with a positive or high Talent roll.

Environmental Factors: Buffs and Debuffs
An environment that provides opportunities to improve and practice a Talent is a buff. An environment that is low on, or actively removes such opportunities is a debuff.


The character creation process now accounts for both the Cleopatra VIIs, and the idiot savants!

And also, it means you aren't doomed just because you have a low bonus roll. (>'-')> <('-'<)

Similar to what Scott Alexander posted... but different. ^_^