I’ve said on more than one occasion that intelligence is overrated. All the arguments about race and IQ seem to miss the point: from an empirical standpoint, those ethnicities with genes favoring high IQ are losing out in the Darwinian struggle. Low-IQ groups are winning.
It’s not just white Europeans. The Japanese, who have an even higher average IQ than we do, are also non-breeding themselves into oblivion.
And Ashkenazi Jews — the smartest people on the planet — are leading the March of the Western Lemmings over the cliff of history.
Stupid is as stupid does. Remember the definition of stupid — repeating the same action over and over again, expecting a different result — and consider this recent news story (“social exclusion” means “immigrants”):
New millions to troubled Swedish suburbs
The government has decided to award to 200 million kronor ($30 million) in performance based subsidies to boost fifteen of Sweden’s suburbs grappling with social exclusion.
And what about all those bailouts and stimulus packages? Trillions of trillions of dollars and euros pumped into a losing game, over and over again, as if the end result could ever be avoided!
I have no doubt that most of the bankers and economists and politicians who make these decisions are intelligent fellows. I’ll bet they scored really well on their IQ tests in grade school. They probably graduated near the top of their class at Princeton or Dartmouth.
So how can someone that smart be so stupid?
It’s a real puzzler, all right.
A regular reader and commenter who goes by “wildiris” sent us an email yesterday that shed some light on this topic.
He says the important distinction to make is between individual and group intelligence. The whole is greater than the some of the parts, and people in the aggregate can act more intelligently than any one person in the group.
Here’s what wildiris had to say:
Recently I’ve been working through a very interesting book, in which the author brings up a number of points that I find fascinating and very apropos to the discussions at Gates of Vienna: Computational Collective Intelligence, by T. M. Szuba. I think you’ll find some of these new results, coming out of the field of artificial intelligence (AI), just as intriguing and useful as I have.
Because of its applications to swarm robotics, research into the area of collective or distributed intelligence is a major field of interest these days. Here are just two of the many examples of swarm robotics to be found on the web.
1. Nano-quadrotor swarm flying in formation:
2. Swarm-bots pulling a child
How to measure intelligence:
The classic example of a system with collective intelligence is the ant colony. But you can’t sit an ant colony down in a chair and give it an IQ test. So some other way must be found to measure this thing we call intelligence.
What the AI community is doing is what in lay terms one might call the Forrest Gump test for intelligence; that is, “intelligence is as intelligence does”. You start by defining what you mean by intelligent behavior, then rank a system’s intelligence based on the degree to which its behavior patterns match up against that which is defined as intelligent.
This is actually a rather straightforward task mathematically. First start with a set of tasks or problems. Define a “complexity” metric on them that will give you a quantitative measure of the complexity of their solutions. Next you set your system running and measure, in a probabilistic or statistical manner, the average time in steps or iterations that it takes that system to finish a given task or answer a given problem.
There is no reason that this approach to measuring the collective intelligence of a distributed system couldn’t and shouldn’t also be applied to individuals as well.
This Forrest Gump method of measuring intelligence brings up two points that I think you’ll appreciate.
First is the observation that when intelligence is measured this way, while it will certainly be true that a high IQ will correlate in a positive way with intelligent behavior, it will also be true that high individual IQ is neither a necessary or sufficient condition for an individual, when part of a larger system, to behave in an intelligent manner.
I’ve noted often your frustration with commenters when the discussion of IQ comes up, as you rightly point out that high IQ and acting stupidly often go hand in hand. But I find this first observation above addresses this concern.
The second observation to note is that this way of measuring intelligence differs fundamentally from that which is used exclusively today in the psychological, social and political science disciplines. That is, what is done today is first define an intelligent person based on their IQ score, then, second, define intelligent behavior as that which is what an “intelligent” person does.
Contrast this with the Forrest Gump test, which starts first by defining intelligent behavior, and then — only secondly — ranks individual intelligence based on that standard.
What is the basis for intelligence?
The nature versus nurture debate over the source of intelligence raged for generations, only to settle down to what common sense suggested right from the start, that it is both heredity plus environment; gene plus gene expression. But research in the AI community is now showing that there is a third heretofore unrecognized component to this thing we call intelligence, and that is the collective or distributed intelligence of the community within which an individual operates.
One of the long-time valid criticisms of the Turing Test for Intelligence was that it was culturally biased. However, this is turning out not to be a bug of the Turing Test, but rather it appears that it is going to be a feature of any valid measure of intelligence.
Rather than distributed or collective, the robotics community is using the term ambient intelligence. Imagine sometime in the near future, you’ll get up in the morning and tell your personal assistant robot to make you Eggs Benedict for breakfast. Now your PA robot might not know how to make Eggs Benedict, but it does have a wireless Internet connection. So it goes on the web, finds a recipe for your breakfast, looks to see if you have the proper utensils and ingredients in house, then either makes breakfast for you or lets you know that it can’t find the things it needs to finish the task.
We humans work the same way. The ambient intelligence of a farming community in Nebraska will contain knowledge about things like growing corn or how to start an engine in cold weather. On the other hand, the ambient intelligence of a community in New York City probably won’t have any knowledge about growing corn but may contain knowledge about the best Greek restaurants in town. Often when we use the expression “using one’s common sense” what we are referring to is that a person is accessing the collective intelligence/knowledge/wisdom of the community or culture around him.
Now return to the PA robot example above. Imagine the mischief someone could accomplish by going onto the web, hacking into someone’s favorite cookie recipe and changing sugar to salt in the list of ingredients. A PA robot would have no way of knowing the difference and would go ahead and make the cookies anyway. Or worse yet, imagine someone hacked the ingredient list to include rat poison.
So here is the money quote: One of the major repositories of a society’s collective intelligence is its culture. And, like any system of collective intelligence, its intelligence can be measured and ranked against the collective intelligence of other cultures. This is why the psychological, social and political science disciplines will never ever let go of the individual IQ test as the only acceptable measure of intelligence, because as soon as they tried to adopt the Forrest Gump test, they would have to confront the fact that cultures could then be ranked by intelligence just as individuals can. At which point the whole edifice of politically correct Multiculturalism comes crashing down
Intelligence and the individual
As the author of the book points out, an IQ test is a one-time test, given in isolation, that only measures an individual’s ability to complete an artificial problem set. At best an IQ test measures the base intelligence an individual is given by birth and by life. I suspect that what IQ scores are an indication of is the density of neural connections that are present in an individual’s brain. But, can’t be emphasized enough, an IQ test does not and cannot measure an individual’s ability to complete real-world tasks and solve real-world problems.
If the fuel pump in your car needs changing, it doesn’t matter if the mechanic is smart enough to figure out how to do it without any instructions, or if he already knows how to do it from past experience, or if he looks up the instructions in a repair manual. When the Forrest Gump method of measuring intelligence is used, it doesn’t matter how the mechanic got the job done, only that he got it done correctly and in a timely fashion.
The higher a person’s base intelligence is, the more he can get away with ignoring the ambient intelligence of the world around him, while still being able to complete the tasks before him in an intelligent fashion. But if someone is not smart enough to figure out something for himself, he can always ask a friend for advice, find a book at the library that explains things, or go on the web and find an answer.
The point is that the further back on the Bell Curve an individual’s base intelligence is, the more he will need to access the ambient intelligence of the world around him in order to perform in a similarly intelligent fashion. But most critically for these individuals is that the instructions on how to access the ambient intelligence around them are contained in their community’s culture.
Corrupt the collective intelligence of a community’s culture and/or corrupt a community’s ambient intelligence, and those individuals who depend on it the most will start acting in faulty, counterproductive, and self-destructive ways.
If one grants for the sake of argument a society’s culture is one of the repositories of its collective intelligence, then corrupting it by planting false memes is the societal equivalent to the hacker and the PA robot example from above.
What wildiris had to say was grist for my mill, and I sent him back the following thoughts:
As I have often said, IQ is overrated. By any empirical measurement, the much-vaunted high intelligence of white people is a failure. If you judge by results — the successful replication of their genome — the Arabs or the Bangladeshis are the most intelligent people on the planet.
We are busily making ourselves extinct — how smart is that?
As if the West’s behavior weren’t evidence of massive collective stupidity on the part of white Europeans, and massive collective brilliance on the part of those alien cultures who exploit us so shrewdly!
He added some further thoughts:
As a side note, you can’t really appreciate how destructive the forces of political correctness are on discussions such as this until you visit a forum like the LinkedIn group, “Artificial Intelligence Researchers, Faculty + Professionals”. I stop by there daily, and it’s amazing the wide-ranging and in-depth debates that go on there regarding the definition of intelligence, the concept of self, and the nature of human consciousness.
If I had any input to the “Race and IQ” debate, I would try and get participants to “grok” the facts that when dealing with groups, communities and societies, the whole will always be greater than the sum of the parts; that a collection of individuals can and will display behaviors that no single individual by himself ever would or could; and that individual behavior and group behavior are separate and distinct things and need to be analyzed as such.
The observations above are probably as old as humanity. But what is different now is that the field of AI has finally put them on a solid quantitative and mathematical foundation. And as a result, the concept of a society’s collective intelligence should no longer be neglected as a factor when questions of individual IQ and society come up for discussion.
I would grant the “race realists” the fact that the maximum complexity that a society’s culture can attain will be dependent on the average intelligence of its members. So it’s not unexpected that there will be a correlation found between the average IQ of a society’s members and its accomplishments on the world stage. But if I may quote my own email, “it will also be true that high individual IQ is neither a necessary nor sufficient condition for an individual, when part of a larger system, to behave in an intelligent manner.”
So here is my money quote for this letter: from a societal perspective, the “secret sauce” that connects individual behaviors with corresponding group behaviors is the culture.
Two examples of how culture trumps IQ…
A society comprised of people with an average distribution of intelligence, but bound together by a culture that honors virtues such as honesty, integrity, hard work, perseverance, self-reliance, the sanctity of human life and a respect for private property, is a society that will prosper, last for generations and will certainly leave its mark on the history of mankind (think frontier America).
But a society comprised of above-average IQ college-educated individuals, bound together by a culture that holds the virtues listed above in contempt, is a society destined for a bad end (think contemporary Norway).
And my final observations:
It’s obvious that a high IQ population, with a relatively high incidence of genius outliers — e.g. Norway — was necessary to invent the components and build modern technological civilization. But here’s the rub: high IQ people are not well-adapted to maintain and live in the complex automated system they have created.
A lower grade of intelligence, coupled with a limited amount of initiative and individualism, is what makes the system function best, once it has been fully established. That’s why we whites are being wiped out, and the low-IQ mixed-genome people are replacing us — they’re better adapted to be either drones, or ruthless predators who exploit the drones.
The paradigm of the perfectly adapted modern man is the one described in that old commercial for “The Future” by the Firesign Theatre: “We’re looking for people who like to live in tubes and push buttons!”
The only problem is that a certain number of intelligent people are needed to maintain, trouble-shoot, and adapt the system to changing circumstances. How low can our numbers go before the machine malfunctions and breaks down through lack of maintenance?
It may take a couple of generations, but we will eventually learn the answer to that question. If there are any of us left who are still capable of cognizing such complex concepts, that is.