"someone is only a genius if we say so."On the other hand, the author does not subscribe to the popular American individualism theory of genius that: they appear "ex nihilo" from nothing.
His thesis is that geniuses require a specific environment, thus explaining why certain times and places generated a surplus of them. Genius requires disorder, diversity, and discernment.
As he builds his case for the environmental requirements, he starts with anosognosia: a diagnosis where the subject suffers from a disability but is unaware. In the general population, most people consider their skills to be above average. Without feedback, everyone thinks they are above average, everyone has anosognosia. Genius can not develop without this critical feedback, discernment.
In the twentieth century, Lewis Termen, of IQ fame, suggested that genius had to do with IQ scores and education.
However, "Higher education does not correlated with the greater likelihood of genius."One reason for this seems to be that educated populations tend to be more homogeneous and less creative. Genius requires diversity.
14th century Europe experienced the Black Plague which, "devastating as it was, shook up the established order." This brought the Renaissance in the 15th century. Genius requires disorder.
This book is part review of the scientific literature, part history, and part travelogue spanning ancient Greece to Silicon Valley, with stops in China, Scotland, Italy, India, and Austria. An enjoyable intellectual voyage.