Super Intelligence

    Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
    Three guesses what his power is. Hint: It's not photosynthesis.

    One of the more challenging Stock Super Powers to possess and write for, Super Intelligence is taking The Smart Guy and cranking them up to the Nth degree... in fact, they can probably acquire various doctorate degrees in the fifteen minutes, forty two seconds it takes a normal person to walk across the campus.

    Super Intelligence can be divided into roughly four big effects, which can be used individually or in combination:

    Thanks to Evolutionary Levels, the Superpower Lottery version of this trope gives the character Telepathy, Telekinesis, 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 Campbellian 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 are destructive. 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.

    Examples of Super Intelligence include:

    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.

    Comic Books

    • Pictured above, The Leader, enemy 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 WildC.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 form 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 power of more than one incarnation of Brainiac (some were just robots or people with psychic powers.) His descendent, Brainiac 5 of the Legion of Super-Heroes 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 super fast 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.
    • 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.
    • 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.

    Fan Works


    "So what do you think?" Jamie asked, hunkering down to slap a transporter tag on Dev-Na's back. "Kryptonian super-intelligence?"
    "Busted," Kari said without hesitation.
    "Absolutely busted," Bastila agreed.
    "I could've told you that," Adam said wryly.



    • 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.


    • Danny Saunders in The Chosen has eidetic memory. He can memorize enough of the Talmud each day to satisfy even his father that he is on his way to being a proper Rebbe. He spends the rest of his time looking for other stuff to read.
    • Frank Herbert's Dune:
    • Ted Chiang's novelette Understand is a rare example in which all aspects of superintelligence are explored. After taking an experimental drug, the protagonist can learn university courses worth of knowledge weekly, design Applied Phlebotinum in his head, execute plans like a pro control his bodily functions by sheer power of concentration and manipulate others with an ability that borders on Mind Control. The point the author intended to make is that superintelligence is a lot more complex than it's usually portrayed.
    • Victor Stott, protagonist of the 1911 novel The Hampdenshire Wonder, is a Child Prodigy gifted with the "super learning" type of Super Intelligence. Before his fifth birthday he reads the whole Encyclopedia Britannica and judges it elementary compared to his own reflections. Unfortunately for him, Intelligence Equals Isolation, as there's nobody in the world who could understand his thoughts.
    • Larry Niven's Protectors are phenomenally intelligent, and Protector-stage humans are possibly even smarter than Pak. Brennan, after transforming, is able to create a super-high-tech playground on a deserted iceball out beyond Pluto, not to mention cobbling together a number of phenomenal weapons during a later running fight with Pak Protectors, while Teela Brown deduces how Puppeteer stepping discs work, and how to tap into the system, based on no information except once having walked on one in the Fleet of Worlds.
      • Writing about Protector, Niven said that the simple trick to writing super-intelligent characters is that they take minutes (or seconds) to work out things that took their writer hours, days, maybe weeks - the reader only gets the finished article. You're screwed if your super-smart character has actually got it wrong, though.
      • But it is said of Niven's Outsiders that they have tech that humans can't even properly describe, let alone emulate, so Protector-stage humans may not be the smartest players in town.
    • Older Than Print: In Dante's Paradiso, blessed souls are infused with God's understanding. When Dante meets his great-grandfather in Canto XV, the ancestor gets so excited he forgets to talk down to human level and Dante doesn't understand a word he says.

    Then, pleasant to the hearing and the sight,
    The spirit joined to its beginning things
    I understood not, so profound it spake;


    Nor did it hide itself from me by choice,
    But by necessity; for its conception
    Above the mark of mortals set itself.

    • In Poul Anderson's Brainwave, Earth gets out of a Negative Space Wedgie that had been inhibiting intelligence for the last few million years. As a result, anything with a brain gets a boost - many animals get as smart as (pre-change) humans, formerly retarded men become geniuses, and normal people become superhumanly intelligent.
    • The Dûnyain of Second Apocalypse have been breeding super-intelligent unfettered Ubermensches for thousands of years, and it shows in Anasûrimbor Kellhus.
    • In Alan Glynn's The Dark Fields, Eddie, a copywriter for a small publishing house starts using an experimental drug which grants heightened intellectual, creative and learning powers, and enables its user to see meaningful patterns in large amounts of disparate information. On the downside, there's drug dependence and mental instability. Later, on the run from police and creditors, facing death due to withdrawal from an expensive drug he can no longer afford, his new career in high finance cut short by his increasingly erratic behavior, Eddie sees the President on television and recognizes the "alert, gorged expression in his eyes" of someone who's used the same drug.
    • Bean was a very minor character in the original Ender's Game novel. So much so that the one bit of Bean POV we get in that novel is retconned in the quasi-prequel, Ender's Shadow, which is about Bean and his past as a genetically engineered supergenius who survived the mean streets of Rotterdam from about six months old. He is ridiculously brilliant.
    • In Alan Dean Foster's Humanx Commonwealth series, protagonist Flinx stumbles upon a species of Innocent Aliens on the planet Ulru-Ujurr, who are Under Edict by the United Church for no immediately apparent reason. He discovers the reason when he manages to communicate with them telepathically and discovers that they are capable of exponential learning. The only thing they lack is motivation, something Flinx supplies by offering to teach them the "game of civilization" in exchange for sanctuary. When he meets them, they are hunter-gatherers. By the time he leaves, they are capable of building starships. Ten years later, they can tunnel through space-time. About the only thing saving the Commonwealth from annihilation at their hands is the aforementioned lack of ambition and that they apparently consider the whole thing a kind of game.
    • In Poul Anderson's short story Turning Point, astronauts discover the Jorillians, a race of hyperintelligent aliens who live as hunters-gatherers because they never happened to stumble upon the concept of science. But when they start pondering about Earth technology... Days after seeing a wheel they have reinvented by themselves ball bearings, carts and harnesses - the last ones having been invented by a five-year-old girl. The astronauts are geniunely concerned at the thought of Earth having to compete with space-faring Jorillians in a few generations.
    • The eponymous character in the Artemis Fowl series has the second and fourth attributes, and the highest tested IQ in Europe. Did I mention he's only 14?

    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, 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 with, 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!"
      • In The Deadly Assassin the Doctor was portrayed as more intelligent than other Time Lords, and when talking about a hacking incident, said the Master was one of the few people skilled enough at math to do this, being "almost as skilled as myself".
    • 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.

    Tabletop Games

    • 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.

    Web Original

    • 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.


    • 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.
    • Mind Mistress 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".

    Western Animation