And here we go with IQ again, and how incredibly predictive it is for…. everything.
And here I go saying “Not that you can see it in reality. And anyway, who do you trust?”
Look, it’s not that you know you’re “smarter” than most people. If you’re a regular on this blog, this feeling has been with you forever. It’s more “what does ‘smarter’ mean?”
Most of us on this blog think faster, more accurately, or at least have more tendency to be correct in our analysis (not always. I giggled at the quote Mary put in about the thinking man and the feeling man. As though we’re only one of those. Humans are both, and there are thoughts we can’t think without disintegrating. Different for everyone, of course, but the most addled human is intellectually right sometimes, and the most thoughtful will be wrong. It’s what humans are, right?)
We’ve known — partly because of public schooling, which — btw — has introduced a bunch of distortions into human thinking and civilization some of which worry me greatly, because …. well, sometimes there isn’t a RIGHT answer; there is no way to do the “work right and succeed” in about 90% of life; and heck, no someone more educated and older than you doesn’t always have the “right” answer. I suspect that’s the origin of “trust person in charge” in our psyches. Or at least it has been reinforced. But that’s a whole post, and that’s not this post — anyway, we’ve known since we entered school that we were faster, more creative, more capable than our classmates. (As kids, this probably also had to do with our nervous system developing, not more rapidly but weirdly. So we had capabilities our classmates didn’t have.)
Some of us didn’t have to learn to study until some ridiculous level of education, like college. I did have to learn SOME study skills in 8th grade because they put me in something that was like a proto IB. I later on found out I had more than Freshman-in-college knowledge of math, physics, chemistry and … well, everything we studied which was a lot. This was inflected on two forms, not the entire class. But to stay afloat I had to learn to study. The amount of things they poured into our heads those 2 years saw me through the second year of college IN MY SPECIALTY. To this day I don’t know if the experiment was to see how much you could teach gifted kids, or an attempt to make troublemakers drop out. The one thing I’ll tell you is that my “form” (that’s how you study in Europe, 20 some, or in our case 32 people who go through every class together) and our rival form had all been the best students in their previous forms, forever. Oh, and also that we were all born trouble makers. How much trouble makers? Well…. We broke up sponsored demonstrations (in solidarity with communists in Africa. I wish I were joking.) And we once hacked the electrical system of the school. And other things. Most of them stupid and harmless.
But after that I didn’t really need to study till I hit post-grad levels.
And I don’t think I ever actually stressed at an intellectual task until I had to write a novel in two weeks. And then I realized it was easier — but that’s another story.
So, it’s normal of course for most of us to value IQ — a lot of us do really well at it, and we know we’re smart and capable, so of course we do — but it’s also important to realize how weirdly it fits into patterns of success and failure. And its limitations, as the limitations of EVERYTHING THAT MEASURES HUMANS.
(*A good place as any to say that “Man” above stands for “Human” but “Human” does not sound as good as “Man” and that by ancient and accepted linguistic tradition of our people (though not of all people’s there are languages in which the words used for humans are all sex-neutral. Humans are weird) “Man” stands for all humans. Don’t like it? Too bad, so sad. After bullshit like womyn and latinx and other linguistic abominations, I am done. Not an inch. You’re not going to achieve any kind of equality of women — and why would women want to be equal, anyway? And to whom? — by raping language. You’re just going to achieve a bastardization of concepts. Shut up. Adults are talking. They’re not at home to the tantrums of people who don’t understand symbolism and that symbols aren’t the thing.)
There is a joke — oh, heavens, I HOPE it’s a joke — in Portuguese that goes something like “Could you eat a whole cow?” to which the answer is “Only with a lot of bread to push it down.”
You know, I’m not sure it’s a joke. Like many cultures recently out of agrarian subsistence, Portuguese EAT. Older son says that oncologic patients who have trouble gaining/retaining weight on chemo should be sent on a gastronomic tour of Portugal. You gain weight. you can’t help it.
(Though I’m not sure about that, even. In fact, Portuguese eat on average ten times what we do, and don’t gain weight. No, there is no other way to explain it. These days most of them don’t walk/exercise more than we do. I have a theory. It’s a stupid theory, but it fits facts, like I gained 30lbs in my exchange student year, and couldn’t lose them till I went back to Portugal. I lose weight whenever I go there, even though all we do is sit around and feed our faces. BUT I don’t lose weight if we take the kids and I spend most time speaking English. My theory is that English speaking makes you gain weight. I told you it was stupid, but it fits the available facts.)
One of the tragic things of Portuguese feasts, mostly weddings, the time comes where even with only getting one bite per course, you stop being unable to eat anymore. At this point, people eat bread, to push it down. And then they eat more.
I’ve tried it, it works. Now, does it work because I grew up in the culture and expect it? I don’t know. Does it work because it’s a certain type/composition of bread? I don’t know. Does it work because there’s some magic to Portuguese bread? I don’t know.
Can a Portuguese eat a whole cow? I don’t know. Logically it’s impossible. There simply isn’t enough room. But eat a whole cow over how long a period, and how prepared? And what if he can?
Measuring humans is hard. Oh, you can probably get inches of height and girth right, maybe. And perhaps weight. Unless you’re dealing with young son who has the magical ability of hiding three inches, somehow, so his measurements diverge over 3 inches depending on the day. And as for weight, sure you can measure that. But try translating that to “prescription” and you go seriously arry. When I was young, and you could count every rib THROUGH MY CLOTHES, I weighed 129 lbs. I once dipped to 110 after pneumonia, and I looked ILL. All the charts at the time said my weight should be TOPS 107 lbs. And my classmates my height (not many) ranged between 90 and 107. It might help that dentists and anyone who has occasion to examine my bones for density say my bones are basically dense as granite, even now that I’m menopausal. (We get that from dad’s side. Mom was osteoporotic pre-menopause.)
And this is why the Feds have been wrong every time — assuming humans are widgets — they make prescriptions for what you can eat, how much you should weigh and what you should do about…. anything.
Because it’s hard to measure humans, and the more abstract the measurement, the harder it gets.
For instance, take the nonsense about eating a pound of meat a month, or whatever the heck the Junta has dreamed up.
It will work for some people. I know many, very skinny/healthy people who eat like humming birds: all sugar and carbs. For a lot of us it will be florid disaster and probably kill us.
Heck, I have to be extremely careful with fold meds and supplements. Remember when one of the doctors who comments here recommended ginger to tamp down my auto-immune. I remember because I came across the jar of ginger capsules the other day. I took it for a week and then had to go on prednisone for two weeks, before I died or something, because there was no part of my body with no eczema, I couldn’t breathe, and every joint felt like it was full of ground glass. Now, I eat (and love) Chinese food. But it was the quantity, I think.
Humans are not one-size fits all. We never were. We never will be.
This is mostly forgotten by those who think instructions from above is how everyone should live. Oh, yeah, and btw, I HAD a laugh when people gave me books like “raising the strong willed child” because none of their prescriptions worked on mine. And heck, what worked on older son would not work on younger. Also they weren’t strong willed. They were stubborn. And they reacted badly to attempted manipulation. (They were also fun, but that’s something else.)
The most abstract what you’re trying to measure is, the more you’ll have to fudge, and the less able you are to figure out exact measurements. Throw in things like despotic governments with a vested interest, or leftist governments also with a vested interest, and what you have is a dog’s breakfast of insanity that doesn’t reflect much of anything except the inside of some dreamer’s head.
Heck, we can’t tell what the worldwide population is, or how many widgets are made in x city. But you think we can trust how smart people are in this or that country? And that they’re smart by our definition of “smart”? Ah. Hey, do you happen to be interested in a bridge in Brooklyn? My cousin got it off a guy for a dollar and I’ll sell it to you, today only, for $1000. It’s a bargain, but I need the money to buy books.
So what am I saying? Don’t we have some idea of how smart people are?
Well, no. Worldwide we don’t. Individually and for those we interact with, we usually do.
I’ll confess when I was very young I thought that each human’s intelligence was infinite. That we could do anything, be anything, each of us a renaissance-man/woman.
Yes, I was a lunatic and should have known better. I knew very well I had hard limitations. Like, despite the fact that rope-jumping or “the elastic game” (Where you jump, touching or not touching an elastic stretched between two people, and create increasingly elaborate jump-patterns) being essential to social standing growing up, I simply couldn’t do it. Stupid kids could. …. EVERYONE could. But me. It was a relief when I found that neither dad nor brother, nor dad’s mom could ever master even the simplest form of rope jumping or riding a bicycle. All of which, of course, argues for it being genetic. (I now know it runs with the lowest “hit” of autism, which is just sensory/spacial/movement issues.)
I also had trouble coloring within the lines, or doing any craft that required small-movement coordination till my late teens.
So I knew there were hard limits on what I could do, and no amount of trying or effort would fix it. But intellectual effort always paid off and you could learn and do and be anything.
Ah! Pull the other one. It plays jinglebells.
But the thing is I didn’t even realize my own limits until my thirties, and then it was often conditional. Like, I could only do so many things in the day while raising two kids and my husband working 15 to 16 hour days. Or I could only draw/write so well with no time to practice. After I hit my head and got severe concussion, I found limits to what I could remember. I often run into things I’ve forgotten which is amazing, because it never happened before.
Since indie came about, I’ve found I don’t THINK visually. The best way to drive me to incoherence is to make me deal with a MAC interface, which is designed for visual people. And dang it all, some of the self-publishing platforms require visual thinking, too. I usually wait for younger son to be free and make him do it.
BTW this means I can do things like draw or sculpt, but I have to do it/make the error/try again. Takes longer. Which is a problem when you’re busy.
Anyway, the point is, I know I have limits, some of them hard like “My mind just doesn’t “bend” that way.” Some of them “that would take so long I could never do it.” And some of them because there’s a flaw in the brain, which is why I am dyslexic and also transpose digits. Oh, and this thing people can do where they tell which direction they’re facing? Must be magic. Never even came near it.
And I know other people have limits. And that some aren’t the same as mine. This is the biggest issue, btw. Everyone assumes that what they do easily can be done easily. But we’re all very different. And educating kids is heck, btw, because you can’t always tell when they’re being lazy and when they “can’t.” Even your kids can be very different from you in what comes naturally.
I think the biggest strife in my marriage was realizing that. Heck, Dan didn’t realize I didn’t move dishes around the cupboards to mess with him, but because I genuinely didn’t remember where they went. Which brings up another thing: culture. Mom had magically moving dish cupboards. Not drastic, but cups could be in one of three places. So I never thought dishes had to be in ONE place. So–
I mean sure, okay, nowadays my dishes still move, but very slowly and usually the less used ones. Like the collander is in one of five places…..
Again that brings us to another thing when we try to measure people: what did they learn growing up?
Sure, Africa is mired in tribalism. But is that because they aren’t “smart” or is it because tribalism is stunningly successful for pre-industrial societies, and they haven’t been industrial that long (or most places at all?)
Historically, it is eschewing tribalism that is weird. And assuming it is an advantage might be …. premature. After all substituting tribe and tradition with government and state caused the long wars of the twentieth century. And might swallow civilization.
Sure, we are stunningly successful at feeding and making the world wealthy. Don’t misunderstand me, I’m a fan of western civilization and free trade.
But …. But that also means we’re very different from every other polity which makes evaluating them almost impossible. And as for evaluating individuals who are part of them? Forget about it.
Also when measuring Africa, kindly remember we’ve been screwing with them from when we landed, and that some of the worst ravages were done with good intentions, like submerging them in our cheap goods and food, which killed their local production, or taking their brightest young people into our universities, teaching them victimhood and socialism, and then sending them back home.
More germane is that — like people eating a whole cow — humans are stunningly adaptable, and it’s very hard to take acquired-habits and tell if they’re natural or not.
Sure, traits that correlate with IQ are genetic. We know that from animals, though it’s not allowed to be studied in humans. Traits like conscientiousness and application surely affect learning and therefore IQ.
But humans aren’t just brains floating in space.
For instance, and for a strange example: Portugal is a stunningly ADD country. One of the kids said that on a visit, and suddenly I saw it. Fads sweep through it faster and more crazily than through Hollywood, and are then forgotten never to return. It’s considered normal to be obsessive about “new thing” (which can be a book, a song, or a project) and then move on, never having finished and forget all about it. It’s considered impossible to remember to put in PUNCTUATION with any regularity when writing a book (one of the funniest things was my family’s shock that I don’t “have someone” whose job is to punctuate my writing.) Things like building or writing or making something the same way twice are considered beyond the ken of man.
I’ll mention that even for Portugal I was considered too absent minded for words. And both the kids and I are ADD and at times ADD AF. But is it culture or genetics?
I don’t know. I suspect in our case it’s a bunch of genetics, but my having been raised in the culture can’t have helped. And frankly the culture was probably shaped by the genetics. So, there you go.
We know that it’s possible to change someone’s culture (with extreme difficulty, granted) and that people who come from dysfunctional cultures can have highly functional kids in the west. But we can’t tell where it all links up.
Humans are very difficult to measure.
Sure, we all have limits, but our limits might not be immediately obvious. As Bob pointed out — and most people who study the brain agree — there are impairments that come the higher you go in IQ. And some of them are neurological (the sensory thing seems to be one of them, btw. At least it seems to be); and some of them are because our society reveres intelligence and therefore, when you know you are smart you think you can do anything and it takes years to find out you can’t do some things; and some of them are because you don’t exactly understand other people, and they don’t precisely understand you.
So, very, very smart people aren’t stunningly successful because they often socially miscue. The world was built for people who are just slightly smarter than normal. Slightly enough that normal people instinctively think “very smart” instead of “he’s crazy, get the torches and pitchforks” which is what they tend to think of someone very far off-normal.
Of course, some very smart people learn to imitate normal humans to a high degree of perfection. (I used to be able to do it, I did. Then my giveadamn broke.)
And in the end the truly exceptional rarely have much to do with the development of the future. Because, well– It’s not our future. We’re not normal humans. The world wasn’t designed by or for us.
And Foxfier notwithstanding, (Well done, that Fox. We have great hopes for the kits.) we usually make less of a genetic contribution to the future, too. If at all. Don’t believe me? Look up the exceptional people of the past. Not the warriors, but the intellectual ancestors of the west. If Shakespeare left any descendants who are still around with us, they’re illegitimate and never recorded. DaVinci? Well, ditto, if he felt experimental once in a while. Though probably not, he’d have recorded it, somehow.
So does IQ measure something? Sure. It measures a tightly focused grouping of abilities and tendencies which correlate well to academic success….. uh, unless it’s too high, because teachers are human and humans are social apes.
But you really can’t trust it if it’s measured by people with vested interests. And almost everyone has vested interests.
And even if you are an ATH reader, which seems to be a free-form method of IQ measuring, well…. you know better than anyone that it doesn’t correlate with material success. Some of us do okay. Better than we deserve given how scattered we are. But you know…. it’s not exceptional success.
Now would we trade who we are?
Well, given the amount of fun I can have with an internet search or a bunch of very old books, no. But then again I value that kind of fun, I value what I can find in that, because I’m me.
BTW the easiest way to punish me is to force me to be very bored. My parents never discovered time-out (thank heavens. It would have broken me) which is why mom says I’m so stubborn I’d rather break than bend, and that no one yet found a way to make obey.
I like — perhaps need — to verify, learn, do, learn new ways of doing things, discover new things to do. It’s part of who I am. Is it better or worse than the conscientious craftsman who can do the same thing time after time with a great degree of perfection? Depends on the thing, right?
Which is why IQ in the end isn’t highly relevant for humanity. It is highly relevant for an individual human — supposing you know that IQ was well-tested — in terms of figuring out his or her inclinations, interests, blind spots, and the way in which they’ll succeed or not. (Also the way to punish him/her.)
But that’s it.
Because you can’t measure humans. And the persist insanity of believing you can and that you can then force them into the pattern you want, has caused more mass graves than anything else in history. If nothing else, because it’s a major component of the statist philosophies of the 20th century, both of which measured humans and then decreed their death, in batch lots, by the numbers.
True liberty, true civilization begins when you accept humans aren’t widgets. And letting each human find that they can do and be the most productive they can at it.
This is best for families, for couples and for society in general.
Now stop staring at me, and go do your stuff.