A Market for Everyone

Form Moldbug’s Substack Circling” and nerd society

While there is much to say for educational tracking, the minute anyone is placed in a “gifted” class (curiously, I got the exact same IQ score as the Unabomber), their tribal loyalty is transferred to nerd world. I even went to nerd camp—the whole nine yards

That probably makes him even smarter given that old IQ tests are not as reliable on the high-end compared to newer tests. An IQ of 160+ in the 70s or earlier (e.g. Hollingworth, 1926) is almost always extrapolated from mental age and is not a truly one-in-million rarity IQ. Pretty impressive.

As discussed before, having a high IQ, in part, means you’re able to figure things out, arrive at conclusions that elude others and with minimal effort and time. Like regarding investing I was able to figure out the 3x tech etf strategy and pretty much with no effort on my part, and intuit a strategy that puts me in arguably in the 99.9% percentile of investing or higher. I dunno if this has more to do with IQ or domain-specific knowledge, but probably both. Terrance Tao’s success is probably mostly IQ and a certain percent domain-specific, although disentangling the two can be hard for activities that are not as highly g-loaded, such as chess (in which the correlation between IQ and success at chess is positive but still small).

But it does not necessarily mean coming up with a correct answer. It just means quickly making inferences to arrive at an answer, which preferably should be tested against data and revised accordingly. Thus it’s possible to believe total nonsense, too, which is also how it’s possible for smart people to believe things that are wrong or unsupported by evidence and cling to those beliefs…Q anon and stuff like that, which roped in a lot of smart people in 2019-2020. Or how ‘trusting the science’ became a substitute for critical thinking.

It’s also characterized by a high degree impracticality/novelty and gravitating to the esoteric. Political philosophy, art, and medieval poetry are impractical and novel, compared to, say, plumbing or construction. Coding is in the rarefied quadrant of being both practical and esoteric. Smart people who are more successful at life in quantifiable, material terms focus on the practical but hard, but as shown by the popularity of Moldbug’s Substack (and others), there is plenty of money and status to be had in the esoteric and impractical. Maybe not hedge fund or senior-Google-dev levels of money, but having hundreds or even thousands of paying subscribers reading your political philosophy is a nice gig.

That is way more money than salaried journalists, just running some numbers. For example, 1000 subs at $10 a month is a six-figure salary, plus any affiliate income (such as Amazon links), plus the value of the enterprise/platform/brand itself, which is some multiple of income. If well-known journalists from reputable organizations are quitting to write for Substack, the pay must be enticing.

Podcasts, online publishing creates opportunities for anyone who has skill, to bypass the gatekeepers of academia and the media and jump to the front of the line. Assuming there are half a billion people combined in developed countries who have disposable income and internet access, means that there is potentially a captive and paying audience for even for the most esoteric or niche of subjects. There is probably a Substack blog about how to write for Substack.

40 years ago political philology was relegated to academia, and even then it was not that popular. Same for economics: few people outside of academia or the media cared that much. By the late 2000s, with the financial crisis, suddenly millions of people developed an interest in economics, in large part out of necessity to understand why the world in front of their eyes seemingly collapsed overnight. Or in 2016 to understand how and why Trump won, which led to a huge, sudden interest in political philosophy, and blogs such as Slate Star Codex and Marginal Revolution, at the intersection of politics and culture, became major hits.

It’s sorta like the the recent nostalgic revival in collectibles and pop culture, as middle-aged people pay astronomical prices to relive their youth, whether it’s Pokemon cards, decades-old Nintendo cartridges, or obsolete computers. Things that were initially ignored are suddenly hip..the most obscure of bands and films from the 90s and earlier have full-blown IMDB and Wikipedia pages and Reddit communities devoted to them, just as interest in philosophy (or anything esoteric, from math, to string theory, to ‘deontological ethics’) has seen a major boom in the past decade. One on extreme there are shortages of even the essentials such as microchips, ketchup and even water, yet so much abundance of content and interest in the intangible.

2 comments

  1. Neoreactionaries are explicitly courting wealthy elites in the tech sector as the most receptive and influential audience the neoreactionaries do seem to be influencing the drift of Silicon Valley libertarianism, which is no small force today but while I m far from a libertarian, I m largely unconvinced by what reads like an attempt to lump in with the Dark Enlightenment everyone who suggests the status quo is pretty screwed up, maybe we should experiment with other sociopolitical systems you know, people like me. I m sure there are Valley figures who do sympathize; but I m also sure they re a distinct minority.

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