Nassim Taleb sticks his foot in his mouth again about IQ research

Nassim Taleb sticks his foot in his mouth again about IQ research.

Speaking of longitudinal studies, Taleb also ignores twin IQ studies. And, as discussed here, the difference between Terman subjects and controls was not “slightly better” but significantly so. Terman subjects earned substantially more money and had higher rates of educational attainment. Similarly, 13-year-olds who take the SAT and score in the top 1% are much more successful as adults than controls as measured by attainment of advanced degrees and creative output, and when stratified by top .25%, the effect is amplified even more so. Unlike the Terman study, there is no interference, which is a criticism of the Terman study.

From the post The cards fall: The Truth About the SAT and ACT:

…highest of scorers on the SAT have considerably higher rates of creative achievement as measured by literary output or publishing original research in a journal. Contrary to the popular but erroneous belief that standardized tests (along with IQ tests, which are related) only measure how well one does on the test, such scores are predictive of lifetime achievement, particularly for scientific and creative fields, but are also correlated with income and educational attainment, which is not surprising because people who are more educated tend to earn more money.

Furthermore, Taleb is conflating with so-called replication crisis with IQ research. However, IQ research has proven to be robust and reproducible.

Stuart Ritchie, author of Intelligence: All that Matters, is right that Taleb has no idea what he is talking about:

Taleb calls him a ‘marshmallow brain’. Well I’m convinced now. That settles it.

And yet is Taleb any more qualified to criticize IQ research? By his own logic, he is not. Also, criticizing researchers for using outside/state funding does not address the actual intellectual worthiness of said research, but an attempt at misdirection by Taleb. It is the literal definition of an ad hominem argument.

The way Taleb ‘wins’ his debates is by blocking and insulting his opponents and through attrition, so they give up.

More anti-IQ tweets by Taleb:

Educational attainment positively correlates with income and life success. IQ is positively correlated with life expectancy and quality of life and negativity correlated with mental illness. If you look at the Forbes 400 list, of self-made billionaires the most successful entrepreneurs are also the smartest. They have high SAT scores and graduated from or attended top universities. Given that entrepreneurship, in general, is harder than a regular job, why would someone who is not smart enough to do anything but simple labor, succeed at something that is many magnitudes more complex? Success at entrepreneurship requires understanding accounting, payrolls, how to set up a business, tax structure, etc. To take Taleb up on his claim, I’m sure Charles Murray has a higher IQ than him.

More nonsense:

And what would that superior form of intelligence be? And what are these second order effects? IQ, again, positively correlates with quantitative real-world success. Although some high-IQ people are not that successful, by in large, the vast majority of people who contribute in terms of innovation and expanding the canon of human knowledge are high-IQ, whether it’s physics, mathematics, biology, psychology, history, etc. But also in terms of creative output, too, such as musical compositions, screenplays, art, and literature. The greatest mathematical geniuses in history, who have high IQs, can hardly be considered ‘obedient paper shufflers’. Taleb, for years, probably dude to his own insecurity about having only a slightly above average IQ, has been spreading misinformation and characterizations of IQ high people as being unimaginative losers.

Again, and this point is lost on Taleb, a high IQ is a necessary but possibly insufficient condition for success and creativity. Very few high IQ people are as successful or innovative as Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, or Einstein, but zero average-IQ people are. For someone who talks about tails and extremes so much, this should be obvious to Taleb.

Ah yes, Taleb is perpetuating the age-old the ‘blue collar millionaire’ myth purveyed by snake oil salesmen such as Robert Kiyosaki and others. If you look at the data, low and average-IQ people in low-paying jobs tend to stay poor, because all their money goes to rent and other expenses which exceed inflation instead of being able to invest and accumulate home equality. From my own research on Reddit subs such as /r/personalfinance and /r/financialindependence, I was unable to find any millionaires with low and average-paying jobs; they are mostly all in tech, legal, finance, or medical, or they inherited money. No stories of anyone working as a janitor or as fast-food clerk or at Walmart for 3 decades and becoming a millionaire. Most low and average-IQ people don’t work in ‘trades’ jobs (which have a lot of nepotism and regulation) such as plumbing or manufacturing, but rather service sector work, which pays poorly.

And here is Taleb name-dropping trying to sound smart:

Hayek is an economist; Popper is an overrated philosopher. Perhaps Taleb could defer to people who have actually studied IQ, as that is the topic at hand?

By 1998, he is referring to the over-hyped Long Term Capital Management failure, which he obsessively references in his writings as an example of ‘genius failing’. Taleb, of course, ignores the immense successes of Renaissance Technologies, Quantum, and other funds that employ an algorithmic approach yet have not blown up. Many former Renaissance employees are millionaires and billionaires.

Again, Taleb makes more generalizations. Physicists, who have high IQs, readily admit that their understanding of the universe is lacking; for example, what dark matter is or why galaxy rotation does not comply with Einstein’s equations.

And here is Taleb again agreeing with David Graeber, who is a leftist, on ‘race science’:

One can argue that what Taleb means is that IQ is not everything, but that’s not what he’s saying. Few people would argue that IQ Is everything. Rather he’s making baldfaced lies about high IQ being hindrance or not being of predictive value for life success, instead perpetuating this “IQ is just a number” myth. Another bad argument you sometimes see is when someone equates the declaration “IQ is of zero predictive value” as being just as stupid/naive as saying “it predicts everything” as if these statements are equidistantly wrong from the truth. The second statement, although not entirely true, is closer to the truth than the first.

Taleb, to his credit, does not advocate banning IQ research, but his views are much more aligned with the left than the right. That’s why it’s funny when people position Taleb ideologically further to right than Jordan Peterson, when, as I discuss here, it’s the opposite. I have written and read extensively about politics and ideology (over 1,000 articles in the blog archive), and I can say without equivocation Taleb is further to the left than Jordan Peterson and even Steven Pinker. Because Pinker is center-left, that puts Taleb solidly on the left. Some may disagree, arguing that Taleb opposes political correctness, but so does Slavoj Zizek, who is a Marxist.