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Have you guys seen Sherlock? It's a pretty fantastic show, and it brings up some very valid points, such as: Does extreme intelligence always equate to isolation? Are human beings really just a collection of transparent self-serving impulses? And when, exactly, are Sherlock and Watson going to bone already?


Just ... just touch him, Sherlock. You know you want to. You're so lonely, and he loves you. Just touch his mouth.

But perhaps the most important question that shows like Sherlock, House and Luther raise is this: What's the difference between being a troubled, misunderstood soul and just being an asshole? The obvious answer is "genius," but I'm kind of dumb and I would like to get away with being a jerk, so I don't want that to be true. Therefore I propose to isolate all of the many variables that distinguish the Troubled Savant from the Fucking Asshole, in order to lazily exploit them for my own ends. Because frankly, I'm sick to death of kicking open hospital doors to yell at the patients inside and finding not applause for my ballsy dedication, but angry family members and impending arrests.

5
Keen Observational Skills

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The most obvious difference between assholes like me and Troubled Savants like House is that the latter are constantly making observations, while I'm constantly making crude snare traps to set around my box of Work Wine. So if I ever want to start ensnaring the sweet pity-lovin' of the Troubled Savant, and not just the unsuspecting co-workers who unwisely approach the company fridge, I need to regear my efforts away from hunting my fellow man like small game and direct them toward deduction instead. After spending several minutes researching the different types of dirt, skin conditions and weather patterns in England -- which, according to Sherlock, are the only things I need to know to know everything about everybody -- I am ready to inflict my genius on my fellow man. Toward this end, I absconded to one of my many Normal Beard locations, the corner coffee shop, wherein I studied the barista with my cold, calculating new eyes:

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"I'll take a large Irish, with room for coffee," I said, just waiting to T-bone her with the garbage truck of deductive reasoning.

She started to reach for one of those Styrofoam Jameson containers they sell at the coffee shop, when I spotted my opening.

"Wait!" I screamed, "Don't touch that cup!"

"What?! Jesus, what is it?" she cried, leaping backward in surprise.

"Don't you dare touch my cup with those hands. I know where they've been," I said, baiting the metaphorical wine snare.

"Excuse me?"

"Your eyes. They're discolored. A pinkish hue. Now, you could just be tired from working double shifts to try and make the student loan payments on your useless yet astoundingly expensive liberal studies degree, but we both know that's not really the case, is it? No, this discoloration is due to none other than conjunctivitis, otherwise known as pinkeye. The most common cause of which is the improper washing of hands after using the restroom. That's right: You've got the poop-eyes, my dear. Of course, this comes as little surprise to either of us, seeing as your questionable ancestry and unlovable lips mean that you've no doubt grown up impoverished and starved for affection, and have therefore resorted to turning tricks on the side to supplement your meager service income. A fact which is only confirmed by the whore dirt that has accumulated beneath your fingernails."

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That's what that stuff is called. For real. Look it up. I'll wait.

"Th ... the what?"

"The whore dirt. Do at least try to keep up. Whore dirt is the soil that naturally accumulates on skanks, drawn in by their various perfumes, moisturizers, harlot oils and hussy unguents, and is most often found congealed into a fine sludge collected in the more difficult places to reach while washing up, of which you do little. In conclusion: I find you to be a desperate, filthy girl of loose morals and myriad diseases, which renders you unsuitable to touch a stripper pole, much less my coffee cup. I propose that we bone in the alleyway instead."

Amazingly, my display of troubled genius solicited a remarkably similar response to my normal, non-brilliant assholery. Namely, a swift and merciless beating by all within earshot. Clearly, uncanny observational skills alone are not enough to distinguish brilliance from belligerence.

4
Only Have One Friend

Sherlock, House, Luther -- what do they all have in common? They have only a single friend in the world in which to confide, an intellectually inferior man Friday who serves as a dumb, kindly foil to their cutting ingenuity. But this practice is obviously only applicable to the realm of fiction, because it's nearly impossible to pull off in real life. I mean, how does one acquire a whole friend? I have many half-friends, step-friends and friends twice removed, but no single solid friend-mass to call my own. Luckily, I had the perfect solution:

"Dan! My intellectual inferior! How's it g-"

"I don't want to be your friend," Dan replied instantly.

"How did you know what I was going to ask? Shit, are you savanting, too? I gotta warn you: Observation turns into racism and misogyny reeeeaaaally quickly."

"Ask? I didn't know you were going to ask anything. I just don't want to be your friend. Ever. In general. It's literally all I have to say to you."

So, long story short, I built a robot:

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3
Have a Nemesis

So now I have a friend programmed to love and understand me unconditionally (and also to exterminate all Dans), but something is still missing. Sherlock, House and Luther all have one friend, true, but that's not the only person in their lives. They also all have one nemesis: Sherlock has his Moriarty, House has his Cuddy and Luther has his Alice Morgan. But which direction do I go?

Do I want a compelling and effective pure villain, like Moriarty? I suppose Soren Bowie fits that description, but we were having lunch one time and I think he said something about Plato. That makes him waaay smarter than me. I mean, it could've been "burrito," and we were eating burritos, but I'm not a gambling man. So do I go the House route and make my nemesis also my chief love interest? Dan's already said he won't be my friend, but I guess he didn't say anything about fuck-enemies. Still, just looking at his stupid face right now, I can tell he's itching to hit the HR buzzer at the slightest provocation (he had a custom button installed that auto-files complaints; I protested at first, but actually it's way easier for all of us this way). No, I think I have to take my cue from Luther, and make my nemesis also ... my only friend.

So I gave my robot an eye patch. Now he looks totally nemesissy. Nemesisish. Neme ... he looks badass.

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That's a relative term, of course.

2
Be Addicted/Obsessed

Another aspect of the rare Troubled Savant that separates him from the Common Asshole is his affliction with a crippling addiction. This weakness serves to highlight his frailty, thus implying that his brusque demeanor is caused by some tragic psychological damage, rather than by your being fat and in his way.

Well hell, at least there's one step I can get right! I am, if nothing else, a collection of interesting addictions bundled together in man shape.

But wait, if my addiction has to define me, that means I have to narrow it down to just one. I have to choose between painkillers, alcohol, hallucinogens, opioids and public train frottage? That's goddamn unreasonable, is what that is. What am I, fucking Ian MacKaye over here?

Fine. No, that's fine. One addiction. I can do that. But it has to be something fresh, unique and exotic. Junkies and workaholics have been done to death already. So what does that leave me with? Pretty much just the crippling sexual perversions.

That's good, though. I can work with that: I haven't seen any shows about Troubled Savant Exhibitionist Frots, have you? But man, I think it needs even more of a hook than that; it needs an M. Knightian twist to really trick audiences into mistakenly believing I'm doing something clever.

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"You should fuck the robot." -- A real thing that M. Knight Shyamalan actually said. Look it up. I'll wait.

Oh God, of course. It was right there all along.

It's robopornography. It's hip, it's modern, it's not safe for work or the propagation of the species. It's perfect.

Listen: I know I'm going back to the robot well a lot, but hey, you ask a plumber to fix a car, he's going to start by looking for leaks. You ask a RoboCop-obsessed Internet comedian to settle on just one defining fetish, he's going to start with teledildonics.

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1
Solve Mysteries

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Finally, the most important difference between the rare blossom of a Troubled Savant and your Garden-Variety Asshole: mystery.

It makes sense, doesn't it? The Troubled Savant's only contribution to society has to be solving mysteries; it can be nothing else. The very fact that they are spurned by humanity at large means that they are forced to view it from the outside. You chase a suspect into a crowd and you lose him; you watch that same crowd from atop a nearby building, and you can see his every move. The natural byproducts of being an asshole are isolation and separation, which, as any scientist will tell you, are both absolutely necessary to properly study any phenomenon. The only difference between a Troubled Savant and an Asshole is context. They both deal with the same issue -- it's just that a troubled genius answers the question, while an asshole inspires the question.

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For example: "What's that guy's fucking problem?"

In other words, a dickhead might get drunk on Work Wine and piss on Dan's keyboard for spurning all of his friendly, adversarial and sexual advances; a troubled genius would solve the mystery of why nobody's been pissing on Dan's keyboard.

So, long story short: I peed on your keyboard, Dan. This column is the only way I know to apologize for that.

Friends?

Frienemesexual partners?

You can buy Robert's other book, Everything Is Going to Kill Everybody: The Terrifyingly Real Ways the World Wants You Dead, or follow him on Twitter and Facebook.

For more from Brockway, check out Science is a Dick: The 5 Most Evil Robots Ever Invented and 6 Insanely Awesome Things The 1900s Thought We'd Have by Now.

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