[ExI] The downsides of high IQ

Tara Maya tara at taramayastales.com
Wed Apr 15 13:58:26 UTC 2015

The other thing that it seems ought to be distinguished are those things that cause intelligent people trouble only because they are surrounded by stupid people, versus those problems that intelligence either makes worse or at least doesn’t improve. 

I compared the article about how Beauty also had its downsides, for instance. Beautiful people have some of the same advantages as smart people, but presumably for different reasons. For instance, both beautiful people and smart people are likely to make more money, but presumably for different reasons. Both beautiful and smart people are likely to suffer from the jealousy of less endowed rivals (for pretty people, more so if they are the same sex).

But there the symmetry ends. Because if you made job hiring/performance a double-blind test, where the employer and coworkers can’t see how beautiful a person is, the jealousy would disappear, but so would the “beauty advantage.” That’s because it exists ONLY in the perception of other others and ONLY in the comparison between individuals.

If you if you made job hiring/performance a double-blind test, where the employer and coworkers is not allowed to see a person’s IQ, the advantage of a high IQ would still exist. Indeed, it would be hard to hide, if it resulted in consistently better performance. Furthermore, without jealousy of the coworkers, the intelligent person could continue to work just fine, and probably better. In fact, if all their coworkers were also smart, they would do even better.

So for everyone in society to become more intelligent would be a net gain. Intelligence in many respects is its own reward and an overall more intelligent society would benefit everyone.

This is where the limits of intelligence versus “wisdom" become important. Because I do think the research about cognitive bias, etc., makes clear that even if everyone suddenly gained 20 IQ points across the bell curve, it wouldn’t necessarily prevent society as a whole from making some very stupid mistakes. Or to take a less extreme example, just because voters for one political party are generally smarter that the other (research on Democrats and Republicans seems to indicate this is so) shouldn’t make Democrats feel smugly that this means their policies are always better, since the shared cognitive biases and groupthink endemic to any party are still likely to outweigh the benefits of IQ.

Tara Maya
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> On Apr 15, 2015, at 1:38 AM, Anders Sandberg <anders at aleph.se> wrote:
> It is worth noting that some of the quoted results are a bit more problematic than they seem in the article. In particular the bankruptcy claim is based on a paper where the conclusion is actually *wrong*: http://www.aleph.se/andart/archives/2007/04/cubic_terms_make_smart_people_bankrupt.html
> But the core claim, intelligence is not enough to guarantee a good life, seems right. It does predict better health, longevity, education, salary, long-term orientation, cooperation and so on, and it does *protect* against accidents, being a homicide victim and unhappiness. But that is obviously not enough on its own: motivation and personality obviously has a huge impact. 
> Still, practical wisdom requires intelligence: if you cannot think well, your thinking will be an upper bound on your wisdom and forces you to remain wise about small, concrete things rather than big and important things. 
> Anders Sandberg, Future of Humanity Institute Philosophy Faculty of Oxford University
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