Wednesday, April 24, 2019


In Taleb's discussion of IQ, and the continuing repeated discussions of intelligence and testing it over at Quora, there is a constant undercurrent of "But intelligent people are often jerks. And they don't get important things right. Possibly, in their arrogance, they get even more things wrong that the average person, and create more damage when they do."  That is very much so.  The assumptions that anyone starts from may be more important than their actual intelligence.  Thus, the many brilliant people in the CIA, NSA, military intelligence, and the State Department can get things very badly wrong, even if they are much smarter and more knowledgeable than you or I. Their track record is not good - yet they clearly wildly outpace us in knowledge of the abilities of Croatian hackers, or the power of unions in Germany versus France, or the history of communist movements in Indonesian since 1970. We could not stand five minutes against them in debate.  And yet they have proved indisputably wrong, repeatedly.  I think it is their assumptions.  If you think you are in Chicago and headed for Denver, but you really started from New aren't making it to Denver, no matter how well you have memorised the route.

I say this because Daniel Mallory Ortberg is simply brilliant when she, now he, starts from the right assumptions. His/her understanding of literature is excellent, and the treatment of it uproarious, as with this short essay on Keats. I am convinced. On other issues, where feelings triumph over facts, because they are like feelings, I am unconvinced.  Yet that is another story.


james said...

I like his take on the poem. I'd bet Keats did read Home--the fashions changed a bit between now and then.

No matter how smart you are, the world is more complicated than you can understand. You must simplify your model of the world. The experts have a more involved model than you or I, but if they picked the bits that aren't the important ones this time around, they lose. One occupational hazard in being an expert is that you have to handle a larger volume of minutia, and all the little moving bits can distract you from the bigger picture.

and the obligatory Chesterton:
"The human race, to which so many of my readers belong, has been playing at children’s games from the beginning, and will probably do it till the end, which is a nuisance for the few people who grow up. And one of the games to which it is most attached is called “Keep to-morrow dark,” and which is also named (by the rustics in Shropshire, I have no doubt) “Cheat the Prophet.” The players listen very carefully and respectfully to all that the clever men have to say about what is to happen in the next generation. The players then wait until all the clever men are dead, and bury them nicely. They then go and do something else. That is all. For a race of simple tastes, however, it is great fun."

Texan99 said...

Should we really blind ourselves to the measurable quality of high IQ because it's not the only quality a person has? In deciding whether Matisse was a good painter, do we need to know if he had perfect pitch? Is it important whether Shakespeare was tall or short?

David Foster said...

It is *possible*....just as a hypothesis...that very-high-IQ people are more prone to confirmation bias than are people a little lower on the scale.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

I think they more easily jump to conclusions, which would seem related.

Sam L. said...

It ain't for me.

Ken said...

"Their track record is not good"

This is false and a direct reflection of the typical confirmation bias. Many less intelligent people WANT to believe smart people "get even more things wrong that the average person", so ONLY remember the times smart people get things wrong. The smart people at the CIA, NSA, military intelligence, and the State Department get most things right, including the big things, but being mere people, sometimes get things wrong, including the big things.

In reality, the problems with these institutions are the LESS intelligent, who believe too much in the abilities and compitences of the smart people in these institutions, so actually vote to give these smart people unwarranted power. Unwarranted power bestowed by the less intelligent is the root of the problem. The belief stupid people have that smart people in government will solve all our problems is the root of the problem. Of course, there are corrupt smart people, like Hillary Clinton, who exploit stupid voters to give up their liberty and wealth, but that doesn't negate the real problem is stupid people's stupid confidence in smart people in government.

This post reminds me of the idiocy of P!nk's song "What about us?", where she actually says "I don't want control, I want to let go", yet the song's main thrust is the lament of the failure of those she wants to be in control. If you're stupid enough to vote away your liberty and wealth, hoping to be controlled by others for your own good, I'm not interested in you whining about how the ones you thought would control you for the better actually failed. Obviously, smart people are just people and are as limited as anyone else. If you're stupid enough to place god like confidence in them, I'm just going to laugh at you for being so stupid when you get mad they aren't gods.