Midwit Syndrome

Without obvious signifiers of very-high IQ, it’s hard to differentiate between, say, an IQ of 130 or 160 when it comes to object-level issues. For example, what is the ‘high-IQ position’ on Ukraine vs. Russia? Or Ai risk? Or the Israeli–Palestinian conflict? It does not exist. There are high-IQ people on either extremes of these issues, and in the middle. Eliezer Yudkowsky is regarded as high IQ, but his arguments about Ai risk are either unfalsifiable or soundly refuted as being physically impossible.

But midwit syndrome is real. It’s not so much to do with wrong or bad positions on object-level issues, but more like pedanticism or obtuseness. As Vox Day, who originated the term, notes, the midwit is under the misapprehension he’s being clever or is right, but in disagreeing is either unwittingly affirming the author’s point or misses the point completely (so-called ‘whoosh’).

I can understand why some people on Twitter aggressively block midwits on sight: conversing with them is pointless or tedious, as they are determined to not get the point or just plain annoying. As Vox was fond of saying as parting words to midwit commenters when his blog had comments enabled, “You are not intellectually tall enough for this ride.”

Here is a contrived example, among others:

Person 1. “Blood pressure is not that useful for assessing overall health. Steve Jobs had low blood pressure and still died prematurely.”

Person 2. “Yeah, but he had cancer and avoided medical treatment until too late.”

Which of course is the point and is specifically why Steve Jobs is used as an example. The second person in attempting to find a reason to disagree only affirms the original point. Classic midwit behavior. Very common.

It has gotten way worse over the past few years. Was there a new Eternal September that I am not aware of. It cannot be explained by people suddenly becoming dumber (IQ scores tend to be stable over time), but something to do with a worsening state of discourse over the past few years for reasons that are not well understood. It’s not going to get better.