I read this interesting piece about a phenomenon I believe I've been gifted/cursed with: "Sentinel intelligence." Friends have been calling me "Nostradamus" as a running, often tired joke over the last three years because I predicted the pandemic was going to be HUGE, and because I (correctly) warned folks that not wearing masks in this or that situation would probably lead to infection. Today I learned that this phenomenon has a long history.
If you have sentinel intelligence, then your brain can aggregate and sift through extraordinary amounts of information in a very short period of time, especially when it comes to seeing latent or hidden dangers. You don't get stymied by what Clarke and Eddy call the "magnitude of overload."
In a lot of ways, it's a superpower.
Psychologists and neurologists already know that our unconscious minds can act like supercomputers. It knows things well ahead of our ability to process and communicate them. Someone with sentinel intelligence is well attuned to their unconscious mind. They're highly intuitive.
Unfortunately, it's also a curse.
It's not easy to convince someone to take a threat seriously when you're the only one who sees it. Your mind has pieced together hundreds or even thousands of different data points from research, but also from prior experience and observations. You'll have trouble unpacking all of that. Someone with sentinel intelligence "may at times appear obsessive and even socially abrasive."
One of the resources Jessica Wildfire draws upon is the book "Warnings: Finding Cassandras to Stop Catastrophes," written by Richard A. Clarke and R. P. Eddy. I found an informative hour-long talk by author R. P. Eddy on YouTube, posted by Talks at Google, which describes the content:
In Greek mythology Cassandra foresaw calamities, but was cursed by the gods to be ignored. Modern-day Cassandras clearly predicted the disasters of Katrina, Fukushima, the Great Recession, the rise of ISIS, and many more. Like the mythological Cassandra, they were ignored. There are others right now warning of impending disasters, but how do we know which warnings are likely to be right? Through riveting explorations in a variety of fields, the authors—both accomplished CEOs and White House National Security Council veterans—discover a method to separate the accurate Cassandras from the crazy doomsayers. They then investigate the experts who today are warning of future disasters: the threats from artificial intelligence, bio-hacking, mutating viruses, and more, and whose calls are not being heeded. Clarke and Eddy's penetrating insights are essential for any person, any business, or any government that doesn't want to be a blind victim of tomorrow's catastrophe.
Jessica Wildfire also provides an interesting discussion of the opposite phenomenon, 'reactance':
As it turns out, psychologists also have a name for this tendency to shrug off sentinels. It's called reactance. Paul Ratner talks about it in Big Think. As he writes, "not many are big fans of being told what to do." On the other hand, "persisting in your obstinance can feel pretty satisfying." Studies show how ignoring warnings can boost someone's self-esteem and sense of control.
If you have ever felt like you're screaming into the void, I recommend you go read Jessica Wildfire's Substack piece. And the next time someone calls me "Nostradamus," I'm going to insist that I'm actually a "Cassandra," thank you very much.