Fountain Theory May 2023

Over time, I’ve developed the fountain analogy to explain some of the social difficulties and loneliness of high IQ people. It can be visualized the way water behaves when leaving a fountain pointed up in the air. Near the source, the drops of water are closer to each other and to the source. This represents the creative potential and allowable types of thinking of lower IQ people, that they think similarly to each other and to the median.

As you move away from the source of the water in the upwards direction, each drop is further apart from other drops at the level and further apart from drops not at that level, they spread outwards and upward. The effect this has is that for the highest IQ people, represented by water at its peak height, think differently both from intellectual peers and from those who are not.

This has effects on how socializing and loneliness work. It means that all highly intelligent people end having more difficulty socializing because of how different they are. And it means that you feel like you’re on an intellectual island all the time, because you are compelled to drive your thinking in unique directions compared to the people around you. It has both positive and negative effects, positive in the creative sphere and negative in terms of interpersonal closeness.

An extreme example of this effect might be people like Elon Musk or Kanye West. Both are highly intelligent, and highly unique. Both have a track record for exceptional creative achievements, but also talk about crushing loneliness and difficulty relating with other people. I’d argue they occupy the top of the fountain where they’re able to access creativity faculties that can’t be understood by others. It is both a blessing to their creative output and a curse to their ability to have basic human relationships.

Being able to connect with people, to feel understood and to understand them, is something that requires a combination of inherent talent and cultivated abilities. The highest IQ people often learn the basics of emotional intelligence easily, in theory it is easy to exercise empathy. But because the way those powerful minds work is so different from the way everyday people think, they end up lonely and with difficulty maintaining interpersonal relationships despite their talent for learning those things quickly.

Fountain theory is one way I’ve helped myself and friends understand this and what might be leading to feelings of loneliness or a difficulty relating to others despite a level of care and empathy that is high. Hopefully it’s useful to you in navigating how you might approach feeling connected to humanity.