Monday, December 24, 2018

Is IQ Best at Measuring the Ability to Be a "Good Slave"?

By Robert Wenzel

In a series of tweets, Nassim Nicholas Taleb takes up the question of what IQ measures and what it means.

His discussion dovetails somewhat with my earlier post, High IQs and the Ability to Understand Reality, but it is far from totally in sync.

Here is his tweet series:
"IQ" measures an inferior form of intelligence, stripped of 2nd order effects, meant to select paper shufflers, obedient IYIs.
 1- When someone asks you a question in REAL LIFE, you focus first on "WHY is he asking me that?", which slows down. (Fat Tony vs Dr John)
2- It takes a certain type of person to waste intelligent concentration on classroom/academic problems. These are lifeless bureaucrats who can muster sterile motivation.
3- Look at the hordes with "high IQ" (from measurement) who are failures in real world rather than the ~50% correlation between IQ and success in 1) salaried employment, 2) jobs that select for edjukashion.
[4-]If many millionaires have IQs around100, & 58 y.o. back office clercs at Goldman Sachs or elsewhere an IQ of 155 (true example), clearly the measurement is less informative than claimed.
 5- If you renamed IQ , from "Intelligent Quotient" to FQ "Functionary Quotient" or SQ "Salaryperson Quotient", then some of the stuff will be true.
It measures best the ability to be a good slave.
6- If you take a Popperian-Hayekian view on intelligence, then you would realize that to measure it you would need to know the SKILLS needed in the ecology, which is again a fallacy of intellectual hubris.
7- Perhaps the worst problem with IQ is that it seem to selects for people who don't like to say "there is no answer, don't waste time, find something else".
8- IQ is an academic-contrived notion.
9- It is PRECISELY as a quant that I doubt "IQ".
10- #SkininTheGame shows that the only robust measure of "rationality" & "intelligence" is survival, avoidance of ruin/left tail/absorbing barrier, (ergodicity). Nothing that does not account for ability to survive counts as a measure of "intelligence"-- just philosophaster BS.
11- A robust use of "IQ" is for low scores for special needs pple. But then practically ANY measure would work to detect problem & improvement.
12- If someone came up w/a NUMERICAL "Well Being Quotient" WBQ or "Sleep Quotient", SQ, trying to mimic temperature or oth physical qty, you 'd find it absurd.
13- For a measure to be a measure it needs to be:
14- Any measure of "intelligence" w/o convexity is sterile.
15-" IQ" is most predictive of performance in military training, w/correlation~.5, (which is circular since hiring isn't random).

Nassim Nicholas TalebVerified account


My view of high IQ is slightly less negative than that of Taleb.

In my initial essay on the subject, I wrote:
 High IQ may be necessary to understand complex issues but it is certainly not sufficient. My suspicion is that high IQ people, like most others, have a wire crossed somewhere when it comes to accepting all of reality when it goes against the crowd or some preconceived notion.
In other words, there is more to the game of life than IQ. In some cases, it can be valuable but there are many other factors.

As for the idea that high IQ "measures best the ability to be a good slave," I would argue that IQ is a separate part of the brain that has little to do with being a slave. However, if a person must be part of the crowd and is easily intimidated by individuals or groups, and that person has a high IQ, then that person can be a "good slave," despite a high IQ. It has more to do with the former characteristics than the latter. It is just that high IQ people that are being intimidated by a crowd or an individual tend to really stand out.

But since I suspect the belly of the "must be part of the crowd and is easily intimidated by individuals or groups" center of the bell curve is very fat, most high IQ people will be a part of this belly.

High IQ people, will like most others, shut down their calculating and logical analysis parts of the brain if it goes against the crowd.

They can tell you what is the next shape coming up after they see three shapes in a row, when there is no crowd pressure, but it is an entirely different question when it comes to real world questions where the madness of crowds prevails. This is one of the reasons that can explain why otherwise bright people, in a calculating and reasoning sense, can go off on idiotic tangents such as Keynesianism, socialism or climate change. They are momentum Idiotae.

I also wouldn't label IQ as an inferior form of intelligence, but rather a powerful but limited form. In the same way that a desk calculator is very powerful and useful at, well, calculating numbers. But it is very limited. It will never forecast the full weather. Indeed, the personal calculator screen, limited to numbers, would never even be able to display a forecast (without setting up a new forecast code), never mind the inability to input the necessary weather data and calculate properly given its current algorithmic structure. Never mind tell you how to earn money.

Yet, a calculator would be very helpful in telling us how many minutes away a storm is, if we know we are five miles from a storm that is traveling at 7 miles per hour.

I believe Taleb has something in identifying advanced success in the real world when he mentions "yuuugely street smart." This is probably a very complex brain function that at present is very little understood. Yet, this is the element that is very important in helping you get what you want: the girls, the money, the advanced academic career, music, fame, tranquility whatever. There is more to life and the brain than "yuuugely street smart" but when they start handing out pills to make parts of your brain more powerful, grab all you can that will explode this part of your brain and you will probably figure out the rest and you will be able to hire the simply high IQ pill-pumped individuals and keep them around the office the way you keep a desktop calculator (or smartphone calculator) around now.

Robert Wenzel is Editor & Publisher of


  1. It's sort of like GDP. It might have some use, but there are more important things to look at.

  2. As a high I.Q. individual, I can say, at least, that I can spell "clerks".