The importance of IQ

From Vox Day, published in 2012 The importance of IQ:

For some reason, the discussion of IQ differences makes people uncomfortable; it doesn’t matter how obviously intelligent one is, people still find it offensive in a way that they never find a tall man being straightforward about his height is. This is strange, because one can’t do much more about one’s intelligence than one can about one’s height. One can, perhaps, attempt to make more efficient use of it, but then, a tall man can strive to avoid slouching as well. Is it because we value IQ more than height, is it because it seems a more intrinsic element of ourselves, or is it merely that height is more readily observed by the average individual?

A common argument is that IQ exonerates individuals from their failures because biology is to blame, not ‘poor work ethic’. The problem with this argument is, although IQ absolves some personal fault, it is still a personal trait that can be interpreted as a measure of one’s intrinsic worth.

What does one mean by ‘intrinsic worth’? How can such a thing be quantified. It’s the ability to create and produce stuff of exceptional, substantive economic, intellectual, and or aesthetic value. It’s the ability to advance the canon of human knowledge. If a proxy for individual economic value is personal net worth, is it a coincidence richest people in the world have IQs that are 2+ SD above average. The same for researchers in STEM fields, who also, by in large, have IQs 2+ SD above average.

IQ is a sorting mechanism for who succeeds or fails in America’s increasingly technological and competitive economy that rewards cleverness and mental agility more so than raw physical strength, whereas as recently as a hundred years ago, physical strength was more prized. Unless you’re among the handful of individuals that can hack it in Hollywood or have the genetic gifts to become a professional athlete–neither of which require a high IQ yet pay well and bestow a lot of status–your place in society is largely determined by IQ. And although some high-IQ people ‘burn out’ and fail to live to their ‘cognitive potential’, by in large, the smarter people tend to rise to the top, whether it’s in business, science, or even having a lot of followers online such as on YouTube and Twitter. [1] It’s understandable how having your life predetermined by a single number that is assigned at birth and is impervious to all efforts to boost it, makes people uncomfortable.

…IQ is a better predictor of successful job performance than openness, extraversion, agreeableness, confidence, or even conscientiousness.

IQ surpasses any single Big Five personality factor in the prediction of the two academic outcomes, college grades (r = .45) and years of education (r = .55). Big Five conscientiousness is by far the best personality predictor of grades (r = .22).…Conscientiousness predicts job performance (r = .13; corrected r = .22) better than does any other Big Five factor, but not as well as IQ does (r = .21; corrected r = .55). The importance of IQ increases with job complexity, defined as the information processing requirements of the job: cognitive skills are more important for professors, scientists, and senior managers than for semiskilled or unskilled laborers.…In contrast, the importance of conscientiousness does not vary much with job complexity….

Another problem with personality tests is that they are very easy to fake by choosing answers that correspond with the desired personalty trait one seeks to project, whereas IQ tests cannot be faked in this manner.

Why is the ’1000 hours rule’ so successful as meme despite being junk science? It’s not because people aspire to become top musicians and physicists, but because they want to believe that they have the potential to become those things. Hence, self-worth is not measured in terms of external manifestation, but rather in terms of internalized potential.

Additionally, the equally dubious concept of ‘streets smarts’ is a way for the less intelligent to reconcile their mediocrity, similar to the theory of ‘multiple intelligences’, in which by creating enough types of intelligence, everyone can be a genius at something. To quote Jordan Peterson, the word ‘intelligent’ loses its meaning if it can be applied to everyone. This is also similar to the recently debunked theory of ‘learning styles’.

[1] The last one is actually true…many people who are introverted and or ‘nerdy’ in real life are finding huge audiences online by being smart, some examples being Eliezer Yudkowsky, Scott Alexander, Nick Land, Tyler Cowen, Bryan Caplan, Scott Aaronson, Gregory Cochran, Steve Hsu, Scott Sumner, and many more. Nick Land’s Xenosystems blog, which is probably intellectually inaccessible to anyone without an IQ of at least 120, is hugely popular. Obviously, it’s not ESPN or TMZ level of popularity, but still pretty substantial, especially given the esoteric subject matter of his site. A recent article A QUICK-AND-DIRTY INTRODUCTION TO ACCELERATIONISM, that includes such everyday words as ‘deterritorialization’, was shared an astonishing 806 times on Facebook as of 5/31/2017, which is more shares than most articles on mainstream political websites.

That’s just more evidence that conventional notions of popularity have gone out the window in the post-2013 era: now it’s the esoteric that is popular. Other examples include the recent obsession with HP Lovecraft, the rise of rationalism, the STEM ‘boom’, the rise of long-form online journalism, and the massive traffic of sites such as Quora and Medium that cater to an intelligent readership.