Excellent post at the Slate Star Codex Reddit sub:
Since HBD, intelligence, and heritability are such hot issues these days, I think it is worth analyzing why people are so fixated on IQ and heritability. The reason is actually incredibly obvious so I’ll just go ahead and say it, because we live in a society where intelligence almost equals life worth. I do not like this and I don’t think anyone “likes” this, but it is basically a fact. Charles Murray goes out of his way to say that intelligence does not equal life worth, but economically, it is basically the case that intelligence equals life worth. If technological problems are getting harder and harder and only people with higher intelligence can solve them, and most other jobs can be outsourced to algorithms or robots, then it is natural that people starts worrying about heritability and intelligence. After all, their future depends on it. We can talk about if this is “morally correct” or whatever but that is pointless because morality is subservient to reality (I hate value talk just as much as Robin Hanson). So the issue regarding heritability and intelligence will be more hotly debated as time goes on because people’s survival will literally depend on it. Assuming there’s no group difference in average IQ or that “HBD” doesn’t exist at all, it still does not change the fact that IQ is a large part heritable and that future society will be stratified by intelligence. So people should be worried. I honestly hope there’s another way out of this problem but i honestly don’t see it, and if anyone can refute my argument logically I would gladly accept it.
IQ is a touchy subject, because that little number sure predicts an awful lot. A century ago, physical strength was more important, but the information age has made cleverness and information processing more important in term of individual socioeconomic success. That’s just the uncomfortable reality. We want to believe we have free will and ‘infinite potential’, as instilled by teachers, pop culture, clergy, and parents, but the most important test of all, life, shows otherwise.
Although ‘human worth’ is subjective, intelligent people produce technologies that advance civilization, as well as earn more money, which is the economy’s way of saying smart people are more valuable. This is because of comparative advantage and specialization: low-IQ jobs can be done by almost anyone, and the low pay reflects the abundance of available labor for those jobs, but high-IQ jobs pay more because far fewer people are qualified to do them. Coding C++ is harder (even for mart people) than, say, raking leaves, so if raking and coding pay the same, it would be rational for smart people to choose raking.
Telling the large swathes of the unemployed, who don’t have genius-level IQs and who lost their jobs to outsourcing or automation, to ‘learn how to code’ is like telling penguins to ‘flap harder’. Tens of thousands of years ago, height was useful for picking tall stuff off trees. Now brains are more important. Biological determinism is real in our competitive post-2008 economy. IQ is becoming a sorting mechanism for who succeeds or fails.
Is it fair? Maybe not, but it’s the system/reality that we have.
Related: Biology as a Sorting Mechanism