So that’s not my view, and it’s not how I’ve been writing these characters. But there is definitely differences between them. I’m writing this post about how that works.
In my view, hypergenius is entirely dependent on the mundane human qualities of the person in question.
In the real world, there’s always a stumbling effort toward an end goal. When a reporter asked, “How did it feel to fail 1,000 times?” Edison replied, “I didn’t fail 1,000 times. The light bulb was an invention with 1,000 steps.” In this universe, hypergenius is the ability to jump to that thousanth step. It will certainly take attempts and learning experiences along the way, but if you can do a thing, you will do it faster and better than anyone else in your field. It prunes unproductive failures from the branching tree of possibilities.
That success unlocks other doors, of course. Once you have a lightbulb, and understand how it works, what do you do with that? You follow that path and you eventually get to CRT monitors, light-emitting diodes, etc. But you can get there in months, not decades.
There’s some cutscenes back in the original game, here and here that talk about the mechanics behind it. What they amount to is: whatever delivers a pleasurable or positive impulse to the brain, whatever signifies success and satisfaction, is what the effect will select for. But that’s totally unique! If Sidorov likes magnets, he’s going to be really good with magnetic tech aaaaand that’s it. Alycia isn’t out there building things but she’s really into stealth and infiltration and intelligence analysis and martial arts, so she’s nearly flawless at all those things. And someone like Dr. Chin, whose mind won’t settle for less than world domination, is good at… everything you’d need to dominate the world. Which is everything.
Marvel 1602 had a great bit where the Reed Richards of that time was sitting there thinking “what if light had a speed”. Individual geniuses can get a lot done, even just by inference (Stephen Baxter’s “Manifold: Time” gives a good explanation of how a genius kid figured out relativity by looking at gold, and you can infer things about the history of the universe just by looking at the night sky and asking the right questions). But you’re still limited by what you know to get things done (Leo can build amazing robots, but he just can’t do nanotech yet because he doesn’t know the science, for example). Alycia still needed training to do what she does, and even with her patches, Nono can’t pick up that kind of super-spyness in one day just by watching that. She has the drive, but not the mundane expertise.
There’s definite synergies between mundane genius (here defined as the ability to form mental connections efficiently) and hypergenius (the ability to shortcut through the bullshit of an iterative process). And even if not, there’s both biological and psychological reasons why a power like this is unstable. Too much of it, and you’d become consumed by the need to indulge in it. Inventing stuff becomes a Skinner Box where you’re just fiddling with stuff to get that hit of success, because your brain works in such a way that you can get it much faster. And the mutation can jump to new interests, as Rossum noted with Leo - math to fighting, because Leo as a nerdy weirdo had to defend himself a lot. But that could become cancerous, or otherwise detrimental, as one part of the brain starts taking over other parts.
So the world definitely has its share of lab explosions and tragic failures and the like, but the reasons why there aren’t more world-dominating big brains extend far past that, and I’m happy with that because it gives me a lot of room to tell a lot of stories.