In this chapter of the book, Gladwell describes the life of Chris Langan. He grew up very poor, his father was an alcoholic, albeit, he was an extremely bright student, and he eventually obtained a full scholarship to Reed University. His mother, unfortunately, forgot to fill out a financial aid form correctly and on time and due to this, he lost his scholarship and had to drop out of the university and his future career due to not obtaining a degree.
Compare this situation to Robert Oppenheimer, who has the same IQ as Chris Langan, was an accredited physicist who helped lead America to develop a nuclear bomb in WWII. He went to Harvard, then Cambridge to get his doctorate in Physics, albeit he tried to poison his tutor in Cambridge and was put on probation and later assumed as a communist, he was still hired to lead the WWI effort with atomic bombs. This situation perfectly illustrates that “IQ is a measure, to some degree, of innate ability. But social savvy is knowledge” (Gladwell 102).
I completely agree with Gladwell’s assertion because in this instance, Oppenheimer knew how to get what he wanted and he had garnered better social skills compared to Langan, who lacked the “social savviness” (and his family background and history) which would have made him successful. To reiterate this point, as explained by Gladwell, “…, general intelligence and practical intelligence are “orthogonal:..” (Gladwell 101). It is obvious that Langan lacked this practical intelligence and didn’t correctly or quite well learn this in his lifetime. This skills of general intelligence can’t be burned as it is predetermined through genetics, but practical intelligence has to come somewhere else other than the individual.
In order to obtain knowledge, you need to be fed with information, which was something that Langan lacked and Oppenheimer had an excess of. Langan did not have the experiences Oppenheimer had because he grew up in an environment where his parents were absent and too busy and he could not practice these fundamental skills in life while Oppenheimer could due to his successful parents who cared about his education and his trust with them. It was destined from Langan’s childhood that he would not be able to succeed in life because even though he had the analytical ability, he could not have done anything without amplitude knowledge.