Behold the feats of 27-year old Frenchman Alexis Lemaire, who just accurately calculated the 13th root of a random 200 -digit number. I was alerted to this achievement by my Uncle Stan, who feels that it must be proof of a genetic gift since this ability could not be learned or taught.
My (admittedly incomplete) reply to Stan:
First, you need to back away from your argument about genetics, because genes don't work that way. It's entirely understandable that you think they do. I did too. For a century, we've all been taught that genes contain information and programming for how our minds and bodies are supposed to develop. This is wrong. Genes don't contain such intricate plans. I know this sounds preposterous, but it's true, and I will demonstrate it to you in the opening chapters of my book. I'm as shocked by this stuff as everyone else will be, and it does require a very strange reorientation of some rock-solid beliefs.
Second, you are illustrating a false choice: either this man's problem-solving ability is innate (genetic) or it is learned/taught. The missing option there is that it is *developed* -- developed from the first moment of conception to the very moment of his latest calculation; developed from an incalculable number of dynamic interactions between genes, hormones, nutrients, thoughts, emotions, actions, movements, curiosities, and so on. Putting all of this into a development paradigm fits two important truths:
A. Genes are not directors. They are actors, along with other equally important actors. It is an ensemble, and the product created is only possible as a result of that ensemble. A trumpet player does not make jazz on his own. He needs to interact with the other players. Human development is a jazz improvisation. It follows certain rules, but the outcome develops from the interaction.
B. "Development" does not imply that everything is under our control, or ever will be. If we say that anything can be taught/learned, we imply that we have near-100% control over the process. We don't. We don't control which gene actors are inside each developing fetus, nor do we control how many trees are growing in the front yard. Nor do we control the content of the water that the mother is drinking. Nor do we control all the cultural messages the baby comes into contact with. What we can do, though, is learn more about all these variables, and perhaps gain a little bit more control over some of them. It's not a guaranteed recipe to create exactly the individual capabilities we desire, but it is a plan to nudge all of humanity in the right direction.