America: The rise of the smart

Inspired by the report, Exceptionally Gifted Children:Long-Term Outcomes of Academic Acceleration and Nonacceleration, by Miraca U. M. Gross, which went viral recently.

Gross’ longitudinal study of ‘Exceptionally Gifted Children’ is old, having begun in the early ’80s and ending in the late ’90s, tracks children born in Austria with IQs above 160. If such a study was repeated today, the results would show that accelerated high IQ children would be even more successful as adults compared to the subjects of past studies such as Terman, Hollingworth, and Gross, because high-IQ people of today have many more opportunities for socioeconomic advancement and the attainment of social status, compared to high-IQ people of generations ago. [I will have more analysis about this study later.]

Generations ago, the opportunities for high IQ people to become highly successful financially and or socially, where limited. Some became writers, professors, economists, or policy makers working behind the scenes in rooms that persistently smelled of cigarette smoke. But there wasn’t much of an opportunity to distinguish oneself. Athletes and actors, generations ago, had considerable status, more so than even today, as nowadays entertainment has become much more fragmented and decentralized due to the the rise of the internet and the decline of mass media such as record labels.

But the information age, starting in in the early ’80s with personal computers, and then in the ’90s with the world wide web, and finally in the 2000s with apps and social networking, turned the tables in favor of the brainy, who found themselves with more wealth and social status than earlier generations could have imagined was possible. It’s not just about genius tech billionaires Mark Zuckerberg, Elon Musk, and Jeff Bezos, but also on a smaller scale, too, where this wealth and status disparity between the smart and average is obvious.

Due to the permanent ascendance of the information technology sector, but also a favorable economic backdrop of permanently low interest rates, low inflation, and cheap borrowing, as discussed in in my four-part 2019 series on wealth and IQ, high-IQ millennials and genz-z have more opportunities compared to earlier generations to attain wealth and status, and many have, whether through STEM, tech start-ups, consulting or NGOs, investing, social media, or some combination of those.

Taleb wrong about IQ and wealth & income
IQ & Wealth, Part 2
Nassim Taleb is Possibly Wrong about Wealth and IQ (probably the most important of the four)
IQ and wealth continued

IQ does not just predict career and educational attainment, but also rank-ordered success, which means success relative to one’s competitors and peers at various endeavors:

-success at trading (such as on /r/wallstreetbets). Smarter traders tend to have higher returns.

-social media followers (excluding athletes and celebrities, who have a major advantage in this regard owing to media coverage)

-attainment of ‘financial freedom’ at an early age (FIRE movement). People with higher IQs tend to retire sooner and or have more money for retirement than the less intelligent. Coders, doctors, and lawyers, and other high-IQ professionals tend to come out ahead, in spite of taking on more debt early in life to attain costly degrees, due to much larger wages later in life that offset the high initial costs. Although college tuition has increased substantially in recent decades, the wage premium for professionals has increased even more so. Doctors are making more money than ever.

-Amazon book sales. Among fiction writers, for example, smarter writers tend to have more sales. Any Weir, the best-selling author of The Martian, which he originally published on Amazon but was later picked up by a major publishing house and turned into a blockbuster starring Matt Damon, was a coding prodigy who began programming professionally as a teen at Sandia National Laboratories.

An example of high-IQ young person who, thanks to technology, has attained more wealth and status than would have been possible generations ago in a pre-computer era, is Martin Goldberg, a popular YouTube commentator who talks about issues pertaining to politics and masculinity, who is in his 20s and makes a good living in the tech industry and invests his money, but produces highly popular YouTube videos in his downtime that are watched by thousands of people, so he has both wealth and social status.

Another example is Mr. Money Mustache, a retired software engineer who makes a good living running a personal finance blog read by thousands of people everyday. Obviously, this is not on the level of A-list actors or the likes Jeff Bezos, but way more wealth and status than the typical ’90-100 IQ normie’ on Facebook who works at a job that has now been deemed ‘non-essential,’ lives paycheck to paycheck with little or nothing left over to invest, and no one outside of his family and close circle of friends knows or cares who he is.

Even as recently as two generations ago, being an engineer, a biologist, an economist, or a historian didn’t bestow much, if any, social status. The number of public intellectuals was limited to the likes of Carl Sagan, Issac Asimov, Milton Friedman, and a few others, but but the rise of the internet, and, especially since 2013 or so, the rise of STEM-culture and ‘smart’ sites such as as Reddit, has created hundreds, even thousands, of intellectuals who are highly influential online and in their communities. It may not be the same audience as having a PBS or CBS special, but it’s still considerably more people than a typical university. The Reddit subs r/askhistorians, r/science, r/philosophy and r/economics are hugely popular, read by thousand of people everyday, and discussions get hundreds of comments. AMAs by scientists and tech entrepreneurs such as Elon Musk, Richard Dawkins, and Bill Gates, get as many comments and up-votes as as AMAs by celebrities. The rise of the IDW is further evidence of both the huge demand online for intellectual discourse and how intellectuals are gaining status through social media and platforms such as Twitter and YouTube, where videos and podcasts by IDW-intellectuals Sam Harris and Eric Weinstein get millions of views and downloads.

In conclusion, with the exception of actors and athletes, who owe their success to rarefied physical talent or connections in the entertainment industry, one’s wealth and social status in modern society is heavily predicted by IQ, and this growing wealth and status disparity between the smart and everyone else, is magnified by recent trends in technology and economics as discussed above. Low inflation and low interest rates make it easier for high-earners in STEM to buy homes early in life and generate strong real returns in the stock market and real estate, as wealth grows due to compounding. 100 years ago, physical strength and the ability to work with one’s hands were valued skills, and although such jobs can still pay well today, does not compared to careers in coding or finance, in which young people plucked right out of college can instantly enter the upper-middle class.