Is IQ ‘Intelligence?’

In standardized tests and on IQ tests we’re usually faced with problems that test our ability to quickly and accurately manipulate logic tokens, recognize patterns, and solve puzzles.

These tests are usually meant to be taken by “anyone.” In other words: nothing on the test can give the test-taker an advantage over any other.

Solution: Avoid problems with relevance to anything in the real world.

Perhaps this helps explain why “intelligent” in our society means an absentminded professor who can crunch equations with ease but is worthless at doing anything else.

Also, “anyone” means that the test can be administered to people who speak different languages or come from other cultures.

Solution: Use lots of spatial and visual oriented problems.

But what if you’re someone like me who forgets that the right hand of someone across from me is on my left?

The absentminded math professor types also tend to be good at the technical aspects of music. They seem to be strong in just this sort of spatial reasoning.

So is the test for “anyone” or is it just testing for people who fit the typical psychological profile of the people who made the test?

How well does recognizing patterns in shaded squares or deciphering gibberish languages translate into reasoning about less tangible things like concepts, ideas, and meanings?
Does testing for syntactic acrobatics predict aptitude in semantic understanding?

There is obviously some correlation between IQ and intelligence.
After all:
-Average IQ of different nations seems to correlate fairly well with the level of organization of those societies. (Abstract reasoning required for high levels of cooperation in a mass society?)
-High IQ groups such as Ashkenazi Jews, Parsees, or Brahmins highly overrepresented in science, art, music, politics, business and finance, theatre, literature, academia, prestigious professions such as medicine and law… Pretty much any activity that requires someone to think or be creative seems to have some correlation with IQ.

It would seem intelligent people are disproportionately represented amongst those with high IQ(probably why it is still used), but does high IQ actually indicate intelligence?

When I’ve heard people talk about meeting MENSA members or joining MENSA they’ve usually been unimpressed. I’ve heard tales of how the MENSA members were preoccupied with some number they had achieved but seemed to otherwise do very little to demonstrate any unusual ability to think or be creative.

Perhaps more telling is the story of the super elite high IQ associations. The members had achieved scores higher than those of the most famous scientists and they were in a position to associate more closely than most of those famous scientists ever could.

Unsurprisingly, these individuals set out some ambitious goals. Among which were:
-To challenge the power of a corrupt academia and eventually replace it.
-To attract the brightest people and develop their talents under the tutelage of their mental equals.
-To eventually have a world benevolently run by the brightest minds.

Not only did these groups fail in their objectives. Their unity devolved into the same sort of petty infighting one would expect from a group of average intelligence.
The group broke down. Some members left or were kicked out. Impotent splinter cells resulted. And as far as I know that’s pretty much how things have stayed.

So some of the highest IQ people in the world have succeeded in assembling yet the result was hardly a golden age.

Now it’s possible that IQ just indicates a certain potential. Thus maybe there’s a 1/500 chance of someone with 200 IQ of making a groundbreaking discovery.
While virtually zero chance of someone of average intelligence doing the same.
Likewise being an Ashkenazim doesn’t mean one must be accomplished in the creative or logical disciplines but it hugely increases the probability.

However, the story of High IQ clubs makes me think that IQ correlates somewhat with intelligence, but doesn’t come close to being an indicator of intelligence itself.
For instance:
The assumption that a high score on an IQ test would be enough of a commonality between the members to work together seamlessly on a project of world improvement.

Surely anyone truly intelligent would understand that humans are social animals that tend to associate based on visceral emotional responses to:
-race
-age
-gender
-economic class
-ugly or beautiful
-popularity
-commonality of experiences
-personal interests, hobbies
-nationality, culture of origin, language, dialect of language
-psychological profile
-hormonal profile
-clean or messy…

You get the idea.

The people who are better at IQ tests than anyone else were unable to reason through some very basic properties of human nature when trying to form a working organizational structure.

Such elementary shortcomings strongly suggest that IQ doesn’t mean what we think it means.
That at best it tests for ability to shuffle meaningless data around by rote.

And as it happens, most of the people who can think for themselves are better than average at shuffling around data. Because their process of reasoning inevitably involves working with data and drawing conclusions from it.

Now why would so many people with high IQs lack the ability to apply their logic skills to more than a few specific applications?

I will hearken back to a previous post; Human Husbandry.

Since the dawn of agriculture, kings, dictators, power elites have only ever shared their grain with people who are useful to them.
These power wielders have always wanted inventive people who can come up with shiny new weapons or methods of production to give them an edge over competing landlords.

Kings are comfortable with a harmless geek squad that takes orders and mindlessly delivers the goods, whether it be a catapult, a steam engine, or an i-phone. Paradoxically, the same people who can assemble such miraculous contraptions are blithely oblivious of the human suffering or social strife that might result from their creations.
Consider the shock and disbelief of some of the scientists who worked on the Manhattan project when their handiwork was unleashed on the world. Just what did they think they were doing? Did they think it was all just a game?

Meanwhile, there is the person who can apply to social structures and orthodox beliefs the same principles required to build a siege engine or electronic gadget. This person is no asset to the king but a threat to the state itself.

So is it any surprise that after generations of pyramidal civilization that the archetypal whiz kid almost seems to have certain neural pathways soldered shut? To be bright and capable but to mysteriously lack the complete and highest intelligence?

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6 responses to “Is IQ ‘Intelligence?’

  1. The whole idea of MENSA is distasteful, but so are all clubs (to me). The members I’ve met are kind of boring and seem completely imperceptive to what’s going on around them (but I’ve only met a few). Puzzle-solving doesn’t mean much in the real world, unless you have a job puzzle solving. To be aware of your surroundings in order to keep yourself safe, to me, is also part of intelligence and something I see little of. So if IQ tests are not sensitive enough, or are not asking the right questions, then are the tests flawed or is it the whole concept of what intelligence is? How could the tests be altered, if at all? Maybe the tests are not a representation of intelligence but simply a way to gauge how a person thinks. And maybe self-preservation instincts are not considered part of “intelligence,” but they should be.

    • I’ve convinced myself at times that I’m going to join a club but never quite do it.

      You see, I like books, but book clubs for example seem like they’re oriented around everyone reading the same thing or same type of things. In fact, that’s how a lot of books hit the best-seller list. All the book clubs start reading them.
      It’s the emphasis on the collective, I think, that makes clubs less than attractive even though I wouldn’t mind meeting some more people.
      But what’s the point if they’re not people I’m likely to be compatible and if I’m expected to just be a follower?

      Maybe that’s the trouble with some of the IQ clubs: tendency to attract followers who happen to be able to solve puzzles?

      I wrote this article because I’m baffled at how someone who is gifted at solving recreational logic puzzles or writing computer programs doesn’t extend that exact some type of thinking to organizing a society, an economy, or understanding patterns in human history, understanding how our world works in general.

      It occurs to me that this might be because of the contrived divide between “sciences” and “liberal arts” in orthodox thought.
      However, no orthodoxy is going to stop a truly capable thinker from making connections and coming up with new ideas.

      It also occurs to me to think of disciplines such as economics, sociology, or political science. They certainly do attempt to explain how the world around us works with mathematical models and graphs.
      Yet at the present time, these are largely failed disciplines.
      Largely, I think, because of inherent flaws in the enlightenment world view that caused pure logic disciplines and all others to be split in the first place.
      I think the writer, Nassim Taleb does a pretty good job of criticizing some of these shortcomings.

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  3. The kinds of groups that don’t attract people who are purely followers looking to jockey for status don’t last very long. Think in terms of a team of entrepreneurs or a tactical SWAT team. They are chosen from capabilities (in practical terms, IQ is more of a pedigree than a skillset or talent that is applied), they are given roles, they take action and then disband when they are no longer needed. Each individual must be capable of leadership while working in harmony with a larger goal. They are perfect for taking immediate action but tend to burn out if you don’t keep them working on important concrete tasks. Bonding is achieved from action, not from tests or “shared interests” or rituals.

    MENSA is more of a committee than a tactical strike team. All a committee does is give people a way to vent their frustrations while pretending to represent others. It is not action oriented. If you want incremental progress over years, use a committee. Though no single group is purely one way or the other, there is an obvious difference.

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