Tag: IQ

Flowers for Algernon, or How do Smart People Fit In?


Flowers for Algernon is a short story, further developed into a novel, that tackles the themes of isolation that high IQ people face. Charlie is on the lower side of the IQ distribution. After a lab mouse, Algernon, is successfully treated with an intelligence-increasing procedure, Charlie subjects himself to the same and his IQ triples. He finds that he can no longer relate to most people and falls into depression. His IQ then regresses as a result of a flaw that he discovers in the experiment. There’s a lot more to it, but that’s the gist. Ever see “The Simpsons” episode HOMR? Where Homer discovers that he’s an idiot because he has a crayon stuck in his brain? And removing it makes him extremely smart, only to discover that happiness doesn’t come with intelligence? Same general idea.

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I’ve performed an analysis of black-white IQ differences in the US, based on nationwide student testing data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP).  I was prompted to look into this issue further by a chapter in Wilfred Reilly’s fine book, Taboo: 10 Facts You Can’t Talk About. I found the book to be […]

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The Harris-Klein Debate and Benefit of the Doubt


Jacob Falkovich, of PutANumOnIt fame, published a post-mortem on the Harris-Klein debate over IQ and race in Quillette. Not just the Quillette article, but the blog post inspiring it, The Context is the Conflict, are both worth a read. As Falkovich sees it, the Harris-Klein debate was merely one example of conflicting forms of political reasoning, pitting those who see political opponents as mistaken against those who see political opposition as conflict, and also pitting cognitive decoupling against contextualizing. To summarize the story the way Falkovich sees it, Sam Harris tells Ezra Klein, “Ezra, it’s dishonest of you to be so concerned with the social implications of the data that you discount what the data has to say,” and Klein shoots right back, “Sam, it’s dishonest of you to be so concerned with what the data allegedly says that you discount its social implications,” that is, whose interest is served by treating the data in question as reputable, and whose interests are harmed.

Both Klein and Harris have a point. We on the right are fairly open in our mistrust of “scientism,” after all. We know that, no matter how much data might seem to speak for itself, the scientific validity of data can’t be entirely separated from the nonscientific interests of the ones gathering, analyzing, publishing, and popularizing the data. Who funded a study, we wonder? Would funding have biased it? Was one study widely reported on while studies contradicting it were not; reflecting media bias? We aren’t fools for asking these questions, merely fools if we take them to their paranoid extreme: at some point, data must matter, even though it’s collected and interpreted by biased humans. Nonetheless, we suspect, probably rightly, that even good science can’t be wholly divorced from its social implications once it’s fodder for political dispute.

Not Smart Enough to Raise Their Kids


The State of Oregon has taken two children away from their parents because the parents aren’t smart enough to take care of them. I’m not kidding.

While driving in the car, I heard this story on Glenn Beck a few days ago. Beck was going to interview a young woman who had given birth to two children; she had been tested to have an IQ of 72. I expected her to sound like someone who had trouble putting her words together; what I heard was a young, articulate woman who was desperately trying to recover her children. Of course, the story is not quite that simple, so I’ll give you more background.

Amy Fabbrini, 31 years old, gave birth to her child, Christopher, four years ago. The Department of Human Services removed Christopher from his parents’ custody shortly after he was born. Five months ago Ms. Fabbrini had a second child, Hunter, whom the State took directly from the hospital. The parents now live together and have supervised visits with their children. Fabbrini’s partner, Eric Ziegler, tested at a 66 IQ. (Average IQ is between 90 and 110.) They both have high school diplomas.

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I dunno if I buy it. The evidence behind the Flynn Effect is pretty compelling. Still, it’s worth further study: An extensive data analysis published in 2013 found just the opposite. Our ancestors in the Victorian era (1837-1901) were smarter than us. Much smarter. Here is an excerpt from the abstract: Preview Open

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Meritocracy and Its Discontents


shutterstock_228878062Toby Young — British education reformer, food critic, self-described “anarcho-cynicalist,” man-about-town, and frequent denizen of Radio Free Delingpole – has an interesting and timely article in the current issue of the Australian journal Quadrant, titled The Fall of the Meritocracy. The title is misleading: it would be more aptly titled “The Total and Complete Triumph of the Meritocracy.” Regardless, it is a worthwhile read.

The article makes plain that, far from being an unalloyed public good, meritocracy is seriously flawed as an organizing principle for society. Young’s basic argument is straightforward: because the traits associated with success are highly heritable, and because successful people increasingly marry and breed with each other, an efficiently meritocratic society like ours will have less and less social mobility and, over time, result in an entrenched class system far more rigid and permanent than anything that existed before the mid-20th century. This process is already well advanced in Britain and the United States. Not to worry though: Young has a highly original solution to this problem and ends on a somewhat upbeat note.

Tobes is certainly right about the trends. After WWII, Americans created a highly efficient engine for sorting people according to IQ and channeling them, by means of the university admission system, into different social strata. The civil rights revolution opened up this system to women and minorities. Seventy years later, the result is hyperactive social sorting by IQ, and the consequent emergence of a distinctive meritocratic elite, separated from the rest by ever-greater social, economic, and cultural distance.

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I wish the Republican party or conservative movement would lop off the whole IQ bit. Yes I mean the Charles Murray, John Derbyshire, Fred, Steve Sailer, Mencious Moldbug wing that promotes race and politics by IQ testing. Reading the IQ essays of the aforementioned makes me feel I’m back in the 19th century deducing personality traits or aptitude […]

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The Demand Side of the College Bubble: A Thought Experiment


shutterstock_117714808I’m thinking a lot about an idea I’ve had recently for a new business, based, in part, on Peter Thiel’s notion of awarding grants for those who drop out of college. Perhaps you can give me your thoughts? I’d like to figure out a way for the Thiel Fellowship to scale. While I’m sure it’s nice for the 20 kids who are selected for the $100,000 grant, it’s not exactly going to create the kind of technological innovations we need. So here’s my idea: 

What if high-achieving students started systematically getting admitted to top schools and the rejecting them? Such students could then use their admissions letters to signal to prospective employers that they that they have high IQs without having to contract the debt that increasingly accompanies a college education. The employers, in turn, could train these students to their own specifications — and cheaply.

I think you could actually turn this idea into a company and seriously affect the demand for top colleges. The supply side is already affected by Udacity and a few other resources for online learning, but the demand side will only be challenged when fewer and fewer high-IQ students opt against top name brand colleges.