I went to high school with the smartest (or 2nd smartest) man on earth

My old Boulder High School friend Rick Rosner is deeply weird and very funny. I also knew he was smart -- he liked to talk about quantum physics during lunch in the school cafeteria-- but I had no idea he was as smart as this. Here's Madeleine Scinto's profile of Rosner in The Daily.

If you believe his IQ scores, the smartest person in the world just might be a 51-year-old former male stripper from Southern California who writes jokes for a famous late-night TV host and speaks openly of his addiction to online porn.

Rick Rosner describes himself as a cognitive freak of nature and has a raft of astronomically high IQ test results to buttress his case, including certified results in the 190s — the rarified territory of historic geniuses like Isaac Newton and Leonardo da Vinci. The Giga Society, a club for the handful of individuals who have posted one-in-a-billion scores on IQ tests, counts him as a member.

“I’ve probably outscored anyone who’s ever taken these types of tests on at least 10 of them,” Rosner told The Daily. “And right now I have a score that places me in the one-out-of-2 billion people range.”

But sometimes being one in 2 billion isn’t quite special enough — especially for a guy who is prone to strange obsessions and who welcomes media attention. After stepping away from intelligence tests for more than a decade, Rosner has come back to them as part of a middle-aged mission to establish himself as cleverest of the clever.

“I’ll challenge anyone to a face-off,” said Rosner.
A Beautiful, Dirty Mind: World’s smartest man – almost – is a TV joke writer and admitted pornoholic


  1. Meh. All this says to me is that he’s the best in the world at taking IQ tests. Get back to me when he actually does something with all this supposed intelligence.

    1. “Hello, my name is Seyo and I comment on articles I haven’t read and videos I haven’t watched.”

      1. Hello, my name is Mark and I don’t seem to get what Seyo’s comment is about.

        Yes, I did read the article (didn’t bother with the video, I doubt I’m missing anything to invalidate my point) and it supports my comment exactly: this guy has devoted his life to taking IQ tests.

        So again, get back to me when he writes a scientific theory that changes the course of human society, or paints prolific amounts of artworks that after five hundred years remain among the most powerful ever created, invents things that have never been imagined before… And no, appearing as a penis on the Man Show or writing 60 jokes per day doesn’t count. Call him the world’s greatest underachiever, that’s more accurate.

          1. I disagree. The article rests on the premise that IQ tests are in and of themselves accurate measures of intelligence. What I’m saying is that IQ tests alone are bullshit.

          2. The article rests on the premise that IQ tests are in and of themselves accurate measures of intelligence. What I’m saying is that IQ tests alone are bullshit.

            If you had said it once, I wouldn’t have paid much attention, but after the third time, I’m starting to wonder just how low your score was.

          3.  @seyo:twitter  –  just how do you know better than someone else what they meant?

            You may be a mutant, and have that power. Who knows?

            I know that if I had that ability I wouldn’t use it to be a douche and stroke my own ego on someone elses dime. 

  2. I totally recognized him from being featured in an episode of Obsessed where he was shown compulsively working out dozens of times per week. Interestingly enough they failed to mention anything regarding his IQ, his porn fixation, his comedy writing or his long history of media appearances and work. 

  3. Stuck in the trap of gaming intelligence tests. It’s a shame, really – with all his smarts, he could be inventing a cure for intelligence test obsession.

  4. Rick used to let my friend (who was under 21) and I into The Broker when it had a dance floor back in the day in Boulder (the day being the 1990s).

    I think he showed us his self-inflicted chest scars once.

  5. I haven’t read the whole article, but I’m going to guess the smartest guy is the one who invented the time machine to go back and test Newton and Da Vinci.

    Am I right?

  6. A bit of a curiosity, really, not much more than that–mind, I don’t know him, so my opinion has more to do with what I observed in the video, and is not a comment on the guy as a person. I sense that Mark is being a little prickly about some of these comments because he has experienced the qualities that make Rosner a uniquely engaging human being. Most of us here don’t have that, so our impressions are limited to the video evidence, which, in my mind, reveal hardly anything except the curious fact that this particular person has had some remarkable success taking IQ tests. And working out. That said, I have a hard time coming up with any praise or support for Mark’s obvious enthusiasm at promoting his connection and shared past with Rosner. Which I find a little curious, that’s all.

  7. For someone who devotes that much time working out, you’d think he’d be in better shape.  Or at least use proper form when working out.

    And how creepy is it to have a 16 year old daughter, but proclaim all over the place about how addicted to porn you are? 

    This guy seems dysfunctional.  Maybe he’s a great test taker, but big deal.  He scares me.  Definitely obsessive personality, and very competitive.  But it manifests itself in a very strange, unfocused, manic way.  Why do I suspect this story will have a tragic ending?

  8. I have been in some of these high IQ societies (Triple Nine, Ultranet). They seem to often have problems with certain loud jerks chasing away those who have better things to do than squabble on mailing lists and forums. A cup of goodwill at the low end is worth a bushel of IQ points on the high end.

    Though I haven’t been active in these groups for a few years now, I do still find high-IQ people and testing fascinating.

    The problem with these high-IQ tests is that is virtually impossible to norm them. All the regular, validated tests have a hard ceiling of around 4 sigma (160-164 IQ), and a soft ceiling in the low 150s. The accuracy of the tests drops off dramatically above the mid-140s, at best.

    None of the major tests such as the Wechsler or the Stanford-Binet have scores that correlate with each other much above 0.7, so it is almost certain that someone who legitimately scores very high on one will score lower on another. Only those with true abilities above the hard ceiling will be likely to get scores in the 150s on multiple different tests.

    The amateur tests created by people in the high IQ societies can’t get enough people to take the test to properly judge how difficult the questions are. What people they do get in their norming pool seldom can give any statistical data on the harder questions – by definition these are supposed to be questions that hardly anyone can answer. It becomes not only hard to measure difficulty, but even to determine whether the question is valid – what unstated, possibly false assumptions does it hide? Is it self-contradictory or ambiguous? Is it hard only because the test-maker himself got it wrong? Even on the less difficult questions, it’s hard to judge the ability of the test-takers, since one needs their scores on other tests as a reference, and almost always one is relying on their self-reports of test scores, usually tests they took decades ago.

    The very scoring system of IQ tests in the higher ranges is invalid. It is not a measure of ability but of rarity – the score is a measure of how many standard deviations the test-taker is from the mean. It presupposes that intelligence has a normal distribution, but that is actually false. The actual distribution has a fat tail; there are more high-intelligence people than the normal curve predicts. This leads to the IQ scale not having equal intervals. A 5-point difference in the 150s is a much bigger difference in ability than a 5-point difference in the 110s, (yet at the same time the scores in the lower range are much more repeatable.)

    There are alternatives to conventional IQ scores which are not only on an equal-interval scale, but also on a ratio scale that allows valid statements such as: “person A is 10% smarter than person B.” These use Rasch methods, which derive from the idea that the likelihood of correctly answering a question depends on the product: (easiness of the question) times (the ability of the person trying to answer it). It turns out that both can be measured on the same scale, and that once a single point on that scale is assigned a value, everything else is fixed.

    The Stanford-Binet 5th revision (SB5) has such a scale as an alternative measure. The SB5 “Change- Sensitive Scale”, or CSS is chosen so that an average 10-year old would score 500. Equivalently, a question with a difficulty of 500 would have a 50-50 chance of being answered correctly by a test taker with an ability of 500.

    These scores reveal that human intelligence varies less than we thought. Here are the  average CSS scores for different ages: 2.25 years =435, 4 years = 460, 5 years = 470, 10 years = 500, 16 years and up = 510.
    The highest scorer in the several-thousand person norming group, (enriched in high ability test-takers) was 592. This would likely be someone scoring in the low 160s on a conventional scale.

    You could say the high scorer is only about 15%  smarter than the average person, but on the other hand, you could also say that the difference in scores  between the high scorer and the average person is greater than between the average person and a 2 year-old! ( This implies to me that we aren’t going to get human-level AI any time soon, but when we do, it will surpass us even more quickly than the transhumanists have predicted.)

    The Rasch method also gives an alternate possibility for a way to make more accurate and well-normed high-intelligence measurements: if we can’t validate hard enough test questions, maybe we can reduce the abilities of the test-takers in a measurable way? One way of doing this would be to use moderate doses of inert anesthetic gases such as nitrous oxide or xenon, not enough to cause loss of consciousness, but enough to bring the test-taker down into the intelligence range where the test is well-validated.  It appears that the obvious problems with this approach are more apparent than real; the errors won’t be zero, but they’ll likely be less than current high-intelligence tests.

  9. Really interesting guy!

    But I’m not really startled by the fact that a man can be considered extremely smart while in a job that is not stunningly ambitious and a pornoholic.

    When we start having stories about incredibly smart women who are also pornoholics, and in non-stunningly ambitious jobs, then I’ll know we’ve gotten somewhere.

    1. “Our struggle today is not to have a female Einstein get appointed as an assistant professor. It is for a woman schlemiel to get as quickly promoted as a male schlemiel”

    2. My observation is that money-making ability and obvious usefulness increase as one’s IQ increases until you get to about 145, and then it starts to go back down.

  10. Rick Rosner totally is the smartest man on earth! 
    In a carnie sort of way. 

    Do y’all hate on the world’s strongest man and the sideshow freaks also?

  11. Am I missing something? In the article it says that he sometimes stays up 20 hours a day to complete an IQ test, which means that he is doing this at home, with no time limit and access to reference materials. Isn’t it reasonable to suggest that many people could do the same thing if they wanted to waste their time in that way? Rosner says himself that it’s more about persistence than anything else. I’m sure he’s a terrific guy, please don’t jump all over me…

  12. I like that this guy “isn’t doing anything to change the course of humanity”.  Smart, underachieving goof-offs are Bob’s most beloved and deserving of His Slack.

  13. Is it just me or does this guy look like a young James Coburn? I find that more impressive than his supposed high I. Q.

  14. Wow, you found the humor eliminating filter, Mark. IQ tests, some people will not see the humor no matter how funny the dude.

  15. Stripper? Him? Also, I was under the impression that IQ tests were something you were supposed to come to cold, and then never do one again, to give a “true” and “natural” evaluation of intelligence (although the definition of intelligence they test for with such tests is a very narrow and not necessarily an accurate measure of smarts or skills). Isn’t practice, or even taking multiple tests to try to get a better score or confirm the first score, cheating?

    1. I agree, but I don’t think Rosner is claiming to have taken the same test more than once; he’s reporting his first-effort results on many different types of IQ test.

      The question of whether it’s cheating to practice *IQ tests in general* is an interesting one.

  16. The Giga Society sounds like the 21st century Mensa?

    Quote paraphrase Mordecai Richler: “Mensa is offended by your implication that our organization exists in order to foster delusions of grandeur among Milkmen…” (Historical note: in the mid-20th century, fresh milk was delivered to doorways by a trades-person.)

    If I was as smart as Isaac Newton, then I could actually create something interesting, if I wanted to. I’d be working on a new theory of gravity or something… (if I wasn’t wasting my time messing around with pointless alchemical experiments and dense theological tracts…) 

  17.  I liked porn before I had a daughter. Now I have a daughter. I still like porn. I don’t really see the connection or creepiness. Different people have different levels of comfort with being honest about who they are.

    1. If men who didn’t like porn didn’t breed, I’m pretty sure that we’d be extinct.

  18. Rosner sounds a lot like me, I’m always chatting away at lunch and nobody understands what I’m saying. I’m always trying to learn more everyday. I want to know everything. I know it sounds impossible, but damn it I’ll try.

  19. Did no one honestly stop to think that perhaps, one day in the future, that Rihanna and Chris Brown may end up having kids? No, they didn’t stop to think that it was improbable, but not impossible. These so-called morals that only mean to hide double standards, behind children no less, are kind of baseless and a little… rude.

    Remember, the legal system and the Internet are both forever, and there are indeed dipshits who love to go around poking into peoples’ private lives for fun. Hell, you don’t even need a journalism degree to be a tabloid hack these days. I’m sure that Vic would most likely agree. On that note, anyone seriously thinking of blaming me for opening Pandora’s box is just downright insane.

    In any case, that guy in the video seems pretty awesome. I wish him luck in finding a capable debate opponent.

  20. I’m intrigued about the game show idea, I have a feeling it might turn out like this though:

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