One of the more challenging Stock Super Powers
to possess and write for, Super Intelligence describes a Smart Guy
so mentally gifted or super-powered they can complete a dozen doctorate degrees
in the fifteen minutes, forty two seconds
it takes them to walk across a university campus.
Super Intelligence can be divided into roughly four big effects, which can be used individually or in combination:
- Super learning and eidetic memory: The character can learn things very quickly and rarely forgets anything, sometimes to the point of Awesomeness by Analysis. May include Photographic Memory or Super Speed Reading.
- Advanced reasoning: The character's brain works faster, with less distractions and greater focus. At low levels they can take known facts and reach a conclusion very quickly, even crunching incredibly hard math without pen and paper. They may even be capable of a Bat Deduction, using few and "unrelated" facts to reach a correct conclusion. At high levels they can create new scientific theories and design a machine in moments where it would take a normal detective, scientist or engineer weeks or years. At its apex, this character will live in a Eureka Moment of revelations, and be capable of Improbable Aiming Skills and launching Pinball Projectiles.
- Exceptional Perception: They'll seem to have Super Senses by how well they can process sensory information, sometimes to the point of stopping time, reaching Hyper Awareness and using an in built Sherlock Scan. This usually allows those who aren't clutzy to dodge bullets as if they weren't there.
- Manipulator Extraordinaire: Least often, this is included. Commonly an application of advanced reasoning and perception, but usually developed with actual psychological learning. The Character can predict the actions of others, notice their tics and buttons, and manipulate them to create plans of amazing complexity.
Thanks to Evolutionary Levels
, the Super Power Lottery
version of this trope gives the character Telepathy
, and/or other Psychic Powers
Super Intelligence is a difficult power to possess, not only because Intelligence Equals Isolation
, but because it can create a pessimistic worldview
. Since most super smart characters are already elbow deep in Phlebotinum
, the tranistion to Mad Scientist
isn't a big one. All together, the fall
into a Science-Related Memetic Disorder
in the pursuit of science
makes a lot of Super Intelligent characters become Villains
. It's no picnic for Science Heroes
either, they can fall victim to the anti-intellectualism of those they want to help. Also
, their brains tend to go watermelon sized
That said, a super smart character has the potential to radically alter a setting and even create Singularity
level tech. These changes can be positive or negative depending not just on their morality, but on how the setting treats science. If the Status Quo Is God
, then Reed Richards Is Useless
, there are No Plans, No Prototype, No Backup
, and all the Potential Applications
If it's not? Well, then expect to see wonders.
On the writers front, suffice it to say it's hard to write someone who is smarter than yourself by virtue of not knowing how to properly motivate, characterize, or empathize with them. Most writers get around this by treating the Super Intelligence as being only science related, and having no effect whatsoever on their interpersonal skills. Another potential hurdle writers cross is that, as an internal power, Super Intelligence
has to be demonstrated verbally
, usually through Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness
or a Mouthful of Pi
. Though a few plain spoken Super Intelligent characters might instead tinker with electronics
or engage in sporadic Nerd Gasms
Superintelligent characters sometimes overlap with The Sleepless
or The Insomniac
(type D), maybe because their mind is too active to ever be put to rest, or because they regard sleep as a waste of time
. Inversions of this are found rarely if ever, though it could be argued that a mind that works more would also need more sleep —- as a matter of fact, sleep is known to aid creativity
, memory formation
and possibly learning
in general. On the other hand, gifted children are known to need less sleep
even as infants, and exceptionally high-achievers (high IQ or otherwise) are known to sleep much less
Potentially the biggest "risks" of writing a character with Super Intelligence is that they become a Deus Est Machina
, capable of solving every problem with no trouble
open/close all folders
Anime and Manga
- This is one of the traits exhibited by the Pillar Men from JoJo's Bizarre Adventure. They can learn languages just by hearing them for a few seconds and take apart guns despite having never having seen them before, since guns didn't exist in their time.
- The Laughing Man in Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex is highly intelligent but generally not particularly exceptional in that regard. However his ability to hack into all kinds of computers is far outside of what even most experts would consider possible. He can hack into virtually everything through a wireless connection and even edit himself out of the perception of all people with neural implants (which is almost everyone) and covering his face with a silly smiley logo on all camera feeds nearby in real time! And he does that by just using his brain and neural implants (and probably hijacking poorly protected computers in his vicinity for additional computing power). However he's not really good with people and when his first attempt use his abilities to uncover corruption and crime failed spectacularly, he gave up on trying to help the people and retreated into hiding.
- Jail Scaglietti of Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha StrikerS, who's revealed to be an Artificial Human created by the TSAB high council and imbued with the intelligence and unquenchable thirst for knowledge of the Precursors from Al-Hazard. Naturally, he's the reason why several technologies in the setting exist, such as Artificial Mages, Combat Cyborgs, and Project F.
- Pictured above, The Leader, enemy (and in pretty much every way except color the exact opposite) of The Hulk.
- Lois Lane and Jimmy Olsen got this power on separate occasions. In both, it resulted in watermelon sized heads.
- TAO, aka Tactically Augmented Organism from Wild C.A.T.S., is an unusually multifaceted version. While he's a Gadgeteer Genius and a master tactician, his most fearsome ability is manipulation of others, to Brown Note levels. Allow him to speak to you and you're headed for Mind Rape.
- Major Bummer played with this: Lou Martin, thanks to Imported Alien Phlebotinum, receives several superpowers, among which a massively augmented intelligence that would enable him to build rocket engines from garbage, comprehend languages he never heard before and see inhabitants of the astral plane... If he gave a damn. True to his identity as a slacker, Lou never bothers to concentrate enough to tap his mental powers, unless his life depends on it (which actually happens more often than not).
- The various Brainiacs have all possessed "twelfth level intellects" making them smarter than almost anyone else in the DC Universe. The original Brainiac has boosted this ability through various artificial means, including the absorption of entire planets' worth of data. His descendent Brainiac 5 has this as his only power.
- Superman has had versions of this at different times. He has super fast thought processes and perfect memory meaning, among other things, that he can speak most languages. Recently he's been shown having a combination of super spatial reasoning and superfast calculative processes that allowed him to knock around villains in a precisely calculated way. In All-Star Superman the overexposure to sunlight that was killing him also tripled his powers including his intelligence. Other aspects of his intelligence (comprehension, creativity, etc.) are explicitly not superhuman.
- Fantastic Four
- Reed Richards is usually held up as the standard of human Super Intelligence in comicdom. He's made breakthroughs in virtually every area of human knowledge as well as inventing a few. He is useless.
- Doctor Doom is almost as brilliant as Richards and is also a powerful sorcerer (Reed's sole blind spot is magic). One of the reasons Doom hates Reed so much is because he can't accept Reed being smarter than him.
- Reed's daughter Valeria might be even smarter than her father or Doom, and she's still a child.
- Rising Stars has Matthew Brody. Notable for being smart enough to keep it secret and letting out just enough to make the money he need to fund his development. Once he's done... Well, he is not useless.
- In All Fall Down, both IQ and IQ Squared were world-class inventors in their prime.
- In Irredeemable, the superhero Qubit and the supervillain Modeus are the two smartest people in the world (possibly in the universe too). Though Qubit ultimately proves to be just a little bit smarter.
- Lex Luthor is usually referred to as a Badass Normal, but as the smartest man in the world (possessing, according to Brainiac, a "tenth level intellect") he pushes into this trope. It's worth noting that if we believe Brainiac, Luthor is smarter than most Coluans, a species famed for their computer minds.
- Amadeus Cho, sidekick to the Hulk and Hercules, has this ability, which is attributed to his "hypermind." He is repeatedly established as being the seventh most intelligent person in the world.
- Phenomenon had the title character become super smart.
- In Forbidden Planet, a Krell artifact has the side effect of increasing the user's intelligence, though at great risk for Puny Earthlings. It's only thanks to the contraption that Morbius is able to begin to understand Krell science and the doctor realizes where the Id monsters come from. Even enhanced humans, however, are said to be morons compared to the disappeared Krell.
- In Limitless (based on the novel The Dark Fields), an unemployed writer gets hold of an experimental drug that gives him increased focus, confidence, and memory. With these abilities, he becomes a financial whiz.
Live Action TV
- The episode Flowers For Hobbes from the 2000 series The Invisible Man has Hobbes infected with an intelligence-boosting virus. He doesn't seem to mind that all those who are infected ultimately become catatonic or suicidal, as long as he's able to contemplate ideas too complex to explain to non-enhanced people (ideas that, coherently enough, we never get to hear). The title of the episode should give you a hint as to how it ends.
- That's the main plot point of Wicked Science: two teenagers are zapped by a mysterious magnetic pulse that turns them into Gadgeteer Geniuses. Since they have very different ideas about what to do with this gift - one Just Wants To Be Normal, the other edges on Evil Genius - they often clash with spectacular results, i.e. cloned T-Rexes and flying lawnmowers running amok in the school.
- In the episode "The Nth Degree" from Star Trek: The Next Generation, an alien Upgrade Artifact zaps Reginald Barclay, increasing his IQ in the four figures. Having become The Ace, Barclay overcomes his usual insecurity, but everything is normal again by the end of the episode.
- The Doctor but his intelligence is average by Time Lord standards.
- Though compared to the humans he hangs around, he's a genius, which seems to have gone to his head a bit in the new series, as evidenced by his frequent reminders to everyone around him that he's "very, very clever!"
- He is also smarter comparatively to some aliens, as in "Daleks in Manhattan", the Daleks(who are smart enough to have time-travel capabilities that rival the Time Lords) said that the Doctor's knowledge and understanding of genetics is greater than theirs.
- In The Deadly Assassin the Doctor was portrayed as more intelligent than other Time Lords, and when talking about a hacking incident(Hacking into the most powerful computer on Gallifrey), said the Master was one of the few people skilled enough at math to do this, being "almost as skilled as myself".
- Actually the reason he is considered "average" by Time Lord standards is because he got a 51% which is a barely passing grade by time lord standards, though giving how this is the Doctor he probably didn't care about it at all.
- This is JJ's power in No Ordinary Family. So far he's used it to excel at the school subjects he used to flunk, learn Hebrew in a day and join the school's football team thanks to Awesome by Analysis. The graphic representation of his power resembles John Nash's in A Beautiful Mind.
- On CSI: New York, the autopsy of a brilliant physicist revealed a sewing needle embedded deep in his brain, that'd been there since an unnoticed accident in his early infancy. It's speculated that its presence caused his neural wiring to develop differently from most people's, which may have made his groundbreaking insights possible.
- Brainiac on Smallville is a living computer disguised as a Professor of World History. Able to process information at an ungodly rapid rate, multitask like you would not believe, and manipulate people with ease, he's one of the most dangerous villains on the show.
- Charlie from Heroes is the super memory variety.
Mythology and Religion
- Norse mythology has the Mead of Poetry, which grants great wisdom to the drinker. It was made from the blood of Kvasir, a highly intelligent man formed from the saliva of the gods.
- Space 1889: there is an intelligence amplifier in Moon of Madness from Challenge 67.
- In Dungeons & Dragons, a base Intelligence score of 10 is considered baseline average, equivalent to an IQ of 100. A 1st level Player Character can have a maximum Intelligence score of 18, and later augment this with items that increase it further. Then you have the enemy monsters- such as elder dragons- with Intelligence scores in the high 20s or 30s, a score that can only be accurately portrayed if a Game Master outright cheats.
- Aberrant, in keeping with its comic book roots, has Mega-Attributes, which represent capacities above and beyond the human norm. With Mega-Intelligence, in addition to the standard bonus, a character can pick up "Knacks" that allow them tactical genius, eidetic memory, an instant aptitude for languages, and other benefits.
- Scion does the same thing with Epic Intelligence and the corresponding Knacks.
- A lot of elder Exalted and raksha have superhuman intelligence (defined as 6+). Yozi function as Intelligence 10...within their themes. Outside their themes, however, they are dumber than a sack full of hammers.
- Naturally, superhero RPGs in general tend to at least try to have this. Depending on the system, a fair few actual superpowers may be necessary in addition to a high intelligence stat to get the full effect — for example, all that superhumanly high INT really does by itself in Champions is provide high default scores for those intelligence-based skills the character's player actually bothered to give them, plus a similar base perception roll. Anything else costs extra.
- Orion's Arm includes at least six grades of superintelligence, each differing by the lower ones not only by greater thinking power but also by different cognitive paradigms (that's what's called a "toposophic barrier"). Trying to enhance your brainpower without modifying said paradigms is usually a bad idea.
- There's a host of characters like this in the Whateley Universe. Consider Jobe Wilkins, the crown prince of Karedonia. He is now fourteen. He already has more bio-patents than entire research divisions of the United Nations. He has an understanding of the human genome that lets him do utterly hideous things. He regards every person he knows as an idiot. He invented a cure for dysentery that is expected to save thousands and thousands of lives every year. He is looking into developing a quantum computer using prions. He may be the most dangerous person on earth. And most of this isn't even using his mutant power - this is with his own natural intelligence. And his dad still resents him for not being a fellow Gadgeteer Genius.
- Lovelace One Two is about a high-school student who spontaneously develops this power one morning.
- Thinker abilities in Worm are often some variation on this, though they include things like precognition as well. Of the ones that do fall into this category, we've seen improved planning skills, Photographic Memory, exceptional mathematical talent, superhuman multitasking, and making accurate guesses from small amounts of data.
- Being a Spark in Girl Genius means essentially being gifted with the "advanced reasoning" version of this (but also being prone to Science-Related Memetic Disorder), allowing one to build Schizo Tech.
- Mindmistress is centered upon this trope. The mentally challenged Lorelei Lyons can use an Upgrade Artifact to increase her intelligence to superhuman levels and fight crime (yup!) as a Gadgeteer Genius.
- When this artifact is used on a severely autistic, non-verbal person, he goes from building models to designing nine-dimensional mazes but doesn't start talking.
- Molly and Galatea (and now possibly their little "sister" Jolly) from The Inexplicable Adventures of Bob! are both superintelligent, but less than one year old (although, given their fast metabolism, they look much older). Because of this they're extremely inexperienced and naive despite being Gadgeteer Geniuses and Omnidisciplinary Scientists - in fact, Molly's character sheet states she's supposed to be the opposite of Bob's "wisdom without intellect".
- Richie got this power in Static Shock, manifesting as Gadgeteer Genius.
- Greymatter from Ben 10 and Brainstorm from Ben 10: Alien Force are both hyperintelligent, though unluckily both are portrayed as a TV Genius.
- We find out that both of their entire races have this going for them, and we get some bantering about which is smarter. And Azmuth, creator of the Omnitrix (and a member of Grey Matter's race, the Galvans) is as far above all of them as they are above humans. Problem is, he's very much aware of it.
- Moose develops into one for an episode of Archie's Weird Mysteries via one of Dilton's inventions. He mostly gets the speed reading and retention aspects, as well as the obligatory enlarging brain once he begins abusing it. However, all he really does is absorb and regurgitate facts without knowing what they mean or how to apply them, not taking the time to practice using it. When status quo is inevitably restored, it convinces him to take studying more seriously.
- There are a lot of intellectually gifted people in the world - for instance statistically 1 in 50 people qualify for Mensa. However, it is difficult to define where "true genius" begins, as many more cynical people will note - there are people in Mensa who are idiots, and they are smarter than 98% of humanity. Notably, all IQs above 160 or so are effectively meaningless, because IQ is a statistical measure - at that point, you would need to test tens of thousands of geniuses (who themselves make up only a tiny fraction of the population) to build an accurate measure of their intelligence, so the difference between someone with an IQ of 160 and 180 is very likely not the same as the difference between 140 and 160.
- Also, there are different types of intelligence. Howard Gardner's Multiple Intelligences Theory is a good place to start.