Jordan Peterson Truth-bombs Everyone about IQ

Jordan Peterson is mostly right:

According to the video, the harsh reality is that 10% of the general population is not smart enough to contribute to the economy in any meaningful way. This is also congruent to the data that shows that 20% (corresponding to an IQ below 87) of the country has a negative effective tax rate, meaning that these people consume more in benefits than they pay in taxes. It would seem the minimum IQ required to be a contributing, productive member of society is 90, and 100-115 is the minimum required to enter the ‘middle class’.

And it’s illegal to induct anyone who has an IQ below 83 into the armed forces. Anyone with an IQ below this threshold becomes a liability.

Both mainstream-left and the mainstream-right are wrong about this issue, choosing to sidestep this reality by defaulting to the usual platitudes: “Lazy people need to work harder” and “Corporations should hire more; more money should be spent on training programs and education.” Both ignore the role of IQ, in that someone with an IQ below, say, 83, will find it very difficult to be self-sufficient, without government benefits. Similar to the military, such individuals are a liability because they learn too slowly to be of any use.

This comment stood out and demonstrates the possible contradiction towards the end of Peterson’s lecture:

10% of population has an IQ that makes them useless to society”
“We confuse IQ with value”
Which one is it? Make up your mind. Or are the 10% of the people who can’t be trained to do anything helpful somehow valuable?

So which one is it?

The answer is (and I think Dr. Peterson is wrong here) is that high-IQ people are more valuable to society than less intelligent people, and that those with IQs below a certain threshold (such as 83) are useless (in terms of being able to perform any economically productive work; they may be useful in ways that are not quantifiable in an economic sense). The correlation between economic value and IQ is positive. High-IQ people tend to make more money because they contribute, at an individual level, more to the economy. Their skills are specialized, and such specialization means they can command a higher wage because fewer people can attain such skills.

Here’s a real-world example: It is impossible to build a bridge without knowing how the stresses of the load will affect the beams. If there is too much weight, the beams will crack, compromising the structural integrity of the bridge. Determining this necessitates a sufficiently high IQ that maybe only 1-5% of the general population possesses, in order to understand the math required. Because such skills are difficult and rare, engineers can command a premium wage, versus, say, cleaning floors, which almost anyone with an IQ of at least the low 80′s can do. An engineer can clean floors as well as anyone else, but only a small fraction of the population can do what an engineer does. If engineers were paid only as well as floor cleaners, many engineers would choose, rationally speaking (assuming that engineers are rational economic agents), to clean floors instead, which is an easier job than engineering. So in order for cognitive capital to not go to waste, as an incentive, smart people need to be paid more to do jobs specialized for smart people.

Regarding IQ and value, Dr. Peterson says there is no correlation between IQ and ethics, and indeed a smart sociopath can be very dangerous to society. But when one adds all the positive contributions to society by high-IQ people and then subtracts the misdeeds, the end result is overwhelmingly positive. Communism is example of the latter. Marx probably had a really high IQ, as did many of his followers and the leaders who implemented his theories, but his ideology, ultimately, resulted in the deaths of 50 million people in the 20th century. But the invention of fertilizer, plumbing, and the discovery if blood types and germ theory saved billions of lives (indirectly). Nuclear weapons could also be an example of a negative contribution by high-IQ people, but one can make the argument that nuclear weapons are good for peace by acting as a determent, hence preventing wars that may cost thousands or millions of lives. The bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki claimed 50,000 lives, but may have indirectly saved a million lives by preventing a US land invasion of Japan (Operation Downfall) and immediately ending the war, as Germany had surrendered three months earlier.

The video is titled “The Dangerous I.Q. Debate,” but it shouldn’t have to be that way. People should be able to discuss IQ, and even race and gender as it pertains to IQ, freely and without fearing losing their jobs and reputations over this topic. It’s not controversial to say that Lebron James is a good basketball player because he is big and tall, so why should IQ, which is also a human characteristic, cause so much controversy. Just as some people are excel at sports because of certain physical characteristics, some excel at certain tasks/jobs because of certain cognitive characteristics, yet this is much more divisive. Telling a short person that he should not play basketball is not invidious, but telling someone with an IQ below 90 that they should not go to college or should consider a trade job, and suddenly it becomes discrimination and oppression. It’s not controversial that basketball and football are dominated by blacks, and people don’t attribute this to racism or sexism against whites, but the disproportionate number of men in the sciences must be attributable to some sort of systemic discrimination against women and non-Asian minorities. Individual lifetime achievement, educational attainment, and wealth inequality are in large part due to IQ. This calls into doubt beliefs many hold dear-for example-that the ‘American dream’ is attainable by anyone (IQ sure helps), or that more government spending can solve social problems, when IQ makes such programs useless or ineffective (you cannot teach someone with an IQ of 80-90 to function at a 100 level). Getting mad about IQ and shouting-down speakers such as Charles Murray, will not make the issue go away. We may as well learn to discuss it in a civil manner so we can best make the best of it.