Here is a nearly perfect distillation of our current problem:
Bruce G Charlton:
General intelligence is not just a cognitive ability; it is also a cognitive disposition. So, the greater cognitive abilities of higher IQ tend also to be accompanied by a distinctive high IQ personality type including the trait of 'Openness to experience', 'enlightened' or progressive left-wing political values, and atheism. Drawing on the ideas of Kanazawa, my suggested explanation for this association between intelligence and personality is that an increasing relative level of IQ brings with it a tendency differentially to over-use general intelligence in problem-solving, and to over-ride those instinctive and spontaneous forms of evolved behaviour which could be termed common sense. Preferential use of abstract analysis is often useful when dealing with the many evolutionary novelties to be found in modernizing societies; but is not usually useful for dealing with social and psychological problems for which humans have evolved 'domain-specific' adaptive behaviours. And since evolved common sense usually produces the right answers in the social domain; this implies that, when it comes to solving social problems, the most intelligent people are more likely than those of average intelligence to have novel but silly ideas, and therefore to believe and behave maladaptively. I further suggest that this random silliness of the most intelligent people may be amplified to generate systematic wrongness when intellectuals are in addition 'advertising' their own high intelligence in the evolutionarily novel context of a modern IQ meritocracy. The cognitively-stratified context of communicating almost-exclusively with others of similar intelligence, generates opinions and behaviours among the highest IQ people which are not just lacking in common sense but perversely wrong. Hence the phenomenon of 'political correctness' (PC); whereby false and foolish ideas have come to dominate, and moralistically be enforced upon, the ruling elites of whole nations.
In short, a high IQ is very effective for solving novel problems (in engineering, math, language, and so on) and will therefore tend to be employed in other domains. However, a cognitive strategy that is useful for dealing with novelties in a narrow or closed system is an impediment when confronting longstanding social and psychological challenges that are too complex for this approach and for which mankind has evolved solutions over thousands of years of practice. The result is that a high IQ elite may not only err but err systematically, and by doing so bring about catastrophic social policy.
Bruce G Charlton:
As examples of how IQ may help with evolutionary novelties, it has been abundantly-demonstrated that increasing measures of IQ are strongly and positively correlated with a wide range of abilities which require abstract reasoning and rapid learning of new knowledge and skills; such as educational outcomes, and abilities at most complex modern jobs. Science and mathematics are classic examples of problem-solving activities that arose only recently in human evolutionary history and in which differential ability is very strongly predicted by relative general intelligence.
However, there are also many human tasks which our human ancestors did encounter repeatedly and over manifold generations, and natural selection has often produced 'instinctive', spontaneous ways of dealing with these. Since humans are social primates, one major such category is social problems, which have to do with understanding, predicting and manipulating the behaviours of other human beings. Being able to behave adaptively in dealing with these basic human situations is what I will term having 'common sense'.
Kanazawa's idea is that there is therefore a contrast between recurring, mainly social problems which affected fitness for our ancestors and for which all normal humans have evolved behavioural responses; and problems which are an evolutionary novelty but which have a major impact on individual functioning in the context of modern societies.
We tend to be guided by our successes. A bias toward novel approaches, as would be common when redressing an existing complaint, will tend to produce negative consequences when applied to an environment which has evolved into its current state over thousands of years and therefore may be the best and most stable resolution of the underlying concern (family integrity, peaceful communities, etc.). That is because if the status quo is near-optimal, a deviating approach will have a high likelihood of producing less optimal effects.
Bruce G Charlton:
The over-use of abstract reasoning may be most obvious in the social domain, where normal humans are richly equipped with evolved psychological mechanisms both for here-and-now interactions (e.g. rapidly reading emotions from facial expression, gesture and posture, and speech intonation) and for 'strategic' modelling of social interactions to understand predict and manipulate the behaviour of others. Social strategies deploy inferred knowledge about the dispositions, motivations and intentions of others. When the most intelligent people over-ride the social intelligence systems and apply generic, abstract and systematic reasoning of the kind which is enhanced among higher IQ people, they are ignoring an 'expert system' in favour of a non-expert system.
Here we find the hubris of the educated (in some cases over-educated) man: because his reasoning powers have gifted him with status and prestige, it is unthinkably humbling to suggest to him that his ideas in other spheres (notably politics) are inferior to those of the common individual far below him in status and measurable intelligence. How can a man who only follows his own dumb instincts, who can barely talk or write effectively, come up with a better conception of society than an academic or pundit who is respected by his equally intelligent peers! (In fact we find this hubristic force at work among elites who are far from demonstrating a particularly high cognitive ability, notably actors and musicians.)
Bruce G Charlton:
Indeed, I suggest that higher levels of the personality trait of Openness in higher IQ people may be the flip-side of this over-use of abstraction. I regard Openness as the result of deploying abstract analysis for social problems to yield unstable and unpredictable results, when innate social intelligence would tend to yield predictable and stable results. This might plausibly underlie the tendency of the most intelligent people in modernizing societies to hold 'left-wing' political views.
I would argue that neophilia (or novelty-seeking) is a driving attribute of the personality trait of Openness; and a disposition common in adolescents and immature adults who display what I have termed 'psychological neoteny'.
In the past I have hypothesized that some of our problems are those of scale, and there is an indirect connection to that, for as society has scaled upward it has become more reliant on the technological and industrial efficiencies developed by its high IQ elite. Some of these efficiencies are not obviously problematic but appear so over time. However missing from this is recognition that it is the elevation of a cognitive elite which is itself a problem, not only because, as addressed in The Bell Curve
, it is dangerous in a democratic society to have a stratified elite wielding most of the power, but also because the elite itself is prone to make bad policy by virtue of a feedback loop of disastrously novel ideas.
Bruce G Charlton:
In such an evolutionarily-unprecedented, artificial 'hothouse' environment, it is plausible that any IQ-related behaviours are amplified: partly because there is little counter-pressure from the less intelligent people with less neophiliac personalities, and perhaps mainly because there is a great deal of IQ-advertisement. Indeed, it looks very much as if the elites of modern societies are characterized by considerable IQ-signalling. Sometimes this is direct advertisement (e.g. when boasting about intellectual attainments or attendance at highly-selective colleges) and more often the signalling is subtly-indirect when people display the attitudes, beliefs, fashions, manners and hobbies associated with high intelligence. This advertising is probably based on sexual selection, if IQ has been a measure of general fitness during human evolutionary history, and was associated with a wide range of adaptive traits.
Here the danger of a cognitive elite will be quite apparent. Living and working amongst their own kind, equipped with large egos given to them by a reward system of their fellow elites' design, dismissive of and largely cut off from non-elites, anyone with an appreciation for human failings will be prepared for the very worst from such a cohort--if not cognitive ability then a knowledge of human history will suffice.
Bruce G Charlton:
My hunch is that it is this kind of IQ-advertisement which has led to the most intelligent people in modern societies having ideas about social phenomena that are not just randomly incorrect (due to inappropriately misapplying abstract analysis) but are systematically wrong. I am talking of the phenomenon known as political correctness (PC) in which foolish and false ideas have become moralistically-enforced among the ruling intellectual elite. And these ideas have invaded academic, political and social discourse. Because while the stereotypical nutty professor in the hard sciences is a brilliant scientist but silly about everything else; the stereotypical nutty professor social scientist or humanities professor is not just silly about 'everything else', but also silly in their professional work.
Further, we can expect and in fact do find that such an elite eventually develops strong social pressures to accept its views and reject opposing views. All such ingroups do this, as a form of defense against hostile groups (in any form of government under the sun there are always hostile groups who wish for power), and the cognitive elite has all the more reason to do so as it is numerically outnumbered and thus must rely on manipulation and coercion in order to maintain its power. Moral systems, evolved painfully over centuries, are recreated based on a superficial and transient plan for the organization of society. And here we have the essence of political correctness and the reason for its stridency.
Bruce G Charlton:
I infer that the motivation behind the moralizing venom of political correctness is the fact that spontaneous human instincts are universal and more powerfully-felt than the absurd abstractions of PC; plus the fact that common sense is basically correct while PC is perversely wrong. Hence, at all costs a fair debate must be prevented if the PC consensus is to be protected. Common sense requires to be stigmatized in order that it is neutralized.
Finally, despite their enthusiasm for their power and influence, the cognitive elite seems to struggle with its own empty and sterile self-created ideology, its angry denunciations and over-compensating sense of moral purpose depriving it of real happiness:
Bruce G Charlton:
Yet, whatever else, to be a clever silly is a somewhat tragic state; because it entails being cognitively-trapped by compulsive abstraction; unable to engage directly and spontaneously with what most humans have traditionally regarded as psycho-social reality; disbarred from the common experience of humankind and instead cut-adrift on the surface of a glittering but shallow ocean of novelties: none of which can ever truly convince or satisfy. It is to be alienated from the world; and to find no stable meaning of life that is solidly underpinned by emotional conviction. Little wonder, perhaps, that clever sillies usually choose sub-replacement reproduction.
Little wonder at their entire array of emotional crutches, from art devoid of beauty (novelty must ultimately extinguish beauty) to personal lives devoid of humility or altruism (that is, the deliberate relinquishment of one's claims for the happiness of another--not the vanity of announcing one's virtue by means of contrived charities or causes).
This argument is, of course, an argument for traditionalism, for which there is currently no compelling voice in the political realm because the cognitive elite has stigmatized it--so effectively that even the putatively "conservative" parties have been shamed into dropping these questions. It is left to a fearsome mixture of populists and fringe personalities to even broach such topics as the unhealthy nature of homosexuality, the stupefyingly obvious differences between men and women which negate much of feminism, and the need for social and ethnic cohesion (which touches on so many policies). How to reduce the influence of the clever-silly cognitive elite and restore genuine conservatism is the
question of the age.