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The stupidity of intelligence


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#1 PLEASUREMAN

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Posted 10 October 2009 - 12:16 PM

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.
http://medicalhypoth...ack-common.html

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.

#2 MAGA Man

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Posted 11 October 2009 - 11:16 AM

It's interesting to consider the distinct categories of folly that various types of elites fall into:

- D.C. politicians (when not self-consciously corrupt) seem to view themselves as philosopher-kings of infallible wisdom, dispatching every societal woe with a flick of the pen: health care is a bloated, irredeemable mess? REFORMED. Public education is wasteful and ineffective? REFORMED. Traditional marriage is a straitening vestige of patriarchal rule? REFORMED. No need to thank me, it's what I do.

- Wall Street bankers are notorious for their narcissism and neurotic competitiveness in all areas of their lives, thus the articles in the New York Times and elsewhere in the past year in which such people complain that their bonuses must not be capped, as it is impossible to live comfortably in Manhattan on less than $500,000/year ("what am I supposed to do, take the subway?"). Or, say, the phenomenon of jostling and scrapping to get one's child into the elitest possible preschool. Of course, only the most deluded imagine they are doing anyone but themselves any good by interposing a class of overcompensated parasites between the owners of capital and actual productive assets.

- Silicon Valley entrepreneurs seem marginally more tolerable, though they kowtow readily enough to the San Francisco Trinity of environmentalism, homosexuality, and political correctness. They also appear prone to Messiah complexes: "My new social networking/photo-sharing/search engine/blogging/wiki tool is going to Change the World! I'm like the Barack Cornball Obama of the internet!" They must also take the blame for making it socially permissible for fat, neck-bearded, pony-tailed nerds to wear socks-with-sandals and video game t-shirts to the office. And because their industry changes rapidly, they are also perhaps more prone to believing that everything in society must change rapidly, and that they are just the ones to make that happen.

- Hollywood is almost too psychotic to bear thinking about, but besides the popular entertainers who view themselves as living gods, producers and directors so out of touch with the average citizen as to view them as another species, and marrow-deep rot of stupidity, cynicism, and political correctness, they also have the special privilege of inculcating their wrongheaded and pernicious ideals throughout the rest of society, which they do with commendable gusto.

Other groups come to mind: academia, journalists, artists, etc, but the basic point is that there is a wide and colorful taxonomy of foolishness on display here.

#3 PLEASUREMAN

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Posted 11 October 2009 - 11:56 AM

And, as Charlton notes, these neophiliacs, sensing intuitively how fragile the mores they impose are against sturdy common sense, jack up their extreme hostility to other viewpoints the more successful they are at winning temporary victories.  So for example the movement for "gay marriage" is angrier and crazier now than ten years ago when the concept seemed implausible (and of course it is an elite-imposed phenomenon, showcasing the role that judges play in advancing the cognitive elite's causes when democracy fails them).

Is the rise of a cognitive elite inevitable in a late-stage culture such as the West?  Is there any hope, short of anti-intellectual populist movements, of curtailing its immense power?  Would even raw populism be preferable to the novelty-driven excesses of this elite?  In general I fear that populism is too easy to manipulate and tends toward its own excess, but the increasingly unstable gyrations of present society could lead to far worse.

I think the connection he makes between high IQ and "openness" or desire for novelty is the essay's key point.  This explains the relentless attack on tradition and traditionalist lifestyle, and the abandonment of relatively humble lives of churchgoing, family-forming, and the quietude of bourgeois existence. BORING!

#4 mladikov

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Posted 11 October 2009 - 10:38 PM

View PostPLEASUREMAN, on 11 October 2009 - 11:56 AM, said:


Is the rise of a cognitive elite inevitable in a late-stage culture such as the West?  Is there any hope, short of anti-intellectual populist movements, of curtailing its immense power?  Would even raw populism be preferable to the novelty-driven excesses of this elite?  In general I fear that populism is too easy to manipulate and tends toward its own excess, but the increasingly unstable gyrations of present society could lead to far worse.


Christopher Lasch has written a number of books from an intelligent populist perspective that deal with some of these questions, and avoids much of the paranoid hysteria that has infested much of the 'populist' movement in the United States. Try The True and Only Heaven, if you ever get the chance; I have a feeling you'll find much to agree with.

I think democracies tend to promote a 'cognitive elite', because of the importance of public opinion in shaping democratic political futures - public opinion tends to be very receptive towards statements made by individuas perceived to be intellectual authorities, especially if they are well-represented in the media. At the same time, however, the opinions of the 'cognitive elites' must be reworded or dumbed down in order to be apprehended by the uneducated layman, and so you have the curious phenomenon of a society dominated by intellectual elites, yet at the cultural level pervaded by a sense of base stupidity.

Edited by mlad, 11 October 2009 - 10:39 PM.


#5 Muswell Hillbilly

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Posted 12 October 2009 - 10:35 AM

View PostPLEASUREMAN, on 11 October 2009 - 11:56 AM, said:

I think the connection he makes between high IQ and "openness" or desire for novelty is the essay's key point.  This explains the relentless attack on tradition and traditionalist lifestyle, and the abandonment of relatively humble lives of churchgoing, family-forming, and the quietude of bourgeois existence. BORING!

It's not original to Charlton, but one can never repeat too many times the observation also that clever sillies have a predisposition towards a systematic, derived, abstract response to problems; something that requires the minimum of first principles and no reliance on recieved wisdom.

Jim Kalb, a self-identified "traditionalist," recently published a book on this, The Tyranny of Liberalism: Understanding and Overcoming Administered Freedom, Inquisitorial Tolerance, and Equality by Command.  Good stuff, but one could start with Oakeshott, or Burke, for that matter, and probably end up similarly.

#6 Probably Not Posting Here Anymore

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Posted 12 October 2009 - 11:09 AM

View PostMuswell Hillbilly, on 12 October 2009 - 10:35 AM, said:

View PostPLEASUREMAN, on 11 October 2009 - 11:56 AM, said:

I think the connection he makes between high IQ and "openness" or desire for novelty is the essay's key point.  This explains the relentless attack on tradition and traditionalist lifestyle, and the abandonment of relatively humble lives of churchgoing, family-forming, and the quietude of bourgeois existence. BORING!

It's not original to Charlton, but one can never repeat too many times the observation also that clever sillies have a predisposition towards a systematic, derived, abstract response to problems; something that requires the minimum of first principles and no reliance on recieved wisdom.

Jim Kalb, a self-identified "traditionalist," recently published a book on this, The Tyranny of Liberalism: Understanding and Overcoming Administered Freedom, Inquisitorial Tolerance, and Equality by Command.  Good stuff, but one could start with Oakeshott, or Burke, for that matter, and probably end up similarly.

Going even further back, you can find the same critique of clever sillies in Plato. In his analysis, the problem is that the intellectuals live so much in the mind that they tend to overestimate the power of the mind (ie reason, science) to solve all problems, and to underestimate the powerful influence of the body (ie the personal, the passions). As a general political rule, for example, men will always have clearer sight of their own interests than the common interest; their own passions and thoughts - much like the pleasure and pain of their own bodies - will always be more real to them than abstractions like "justice" or "the common good."

The tendency among intellectuals is always toward utopianism - building ideal cities in words, for example, which can most likely have no physical existence. It seems that the prudent counsel to avoid utopian dreamers in political affairs has become much less dominant in the era of modern science - which seems to permit man to triumph over the body, or the physical world. Utopian dreams - those of socialists or Liberals, for example - don't seem foolish if you have the technological means to, say, protect citizens from the economics of scarcity. Technology, it is felt, permits the triumph of the human mind over most or all physical limitations - if not now, then at some undefined point in the future (after, for example, a "singularity"). Thus, the mind is thought to be free to imagine whatever it will - hell, the imagining is probably necessary to bring it about, once we solve some nagging technical problems.

In the face of the various successes of science and technology it can be difficult to sustain the old argument that because the dreams of man are infinite but the physical world is finite we ought to accomodate our minds to the world (especially in politics) rather than the other way around.

Anyway, it seems to me that a wise return to a more traditional politics will have to come to terms with science and technology and their tendency to upset and overturn. And "coming to terms" can't mean, with whatever respect is due to old Ted Kaczynski, that we just do away with all of it.

#7 George Obsolete Peppard (GOP)

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Posted 12 October 2009 - 06:11 PM

View PostProbably Not, on 12 October 2009 - 11:09 AM, said:

The tendency among intellectuals is always toward utopianism - building ideal cities in words, for example, which can most likely have no physical existence. It seems that the prudent counsel to avoid utopian dreamers in political affairs has become much less dominant in the era of modern science - which seems to permit man to triumph over the body, or the physical world. Utopian dreams - those of socialists or Liberals, for example - don't seem foolish if you have the technological means to, say, protect citizens from the economics of scarcity. Technology, it is felt, permits the triumph of the human mind over most or all physical limitations - if not now, then at some undefined point in the future (after, for example, a "singularity"). Thus, the mind is thought to be free to imagine whatever it will - hell, the imagining is probably necessary to bring it about, once we solve some nagging technical problems.

In the face of the various successes of science and technology it can be difficult to sustain the old argument that because the dreams of man are infinite but the physical world is finite we ought to accomodate our minds to the world (especially in politics) rather than the other way around.

Anyway, it seems to me that a wise return to a more traditional politics will have to come to terms with science and technology and their tendency to upset and overturn. And "coming to terms" can't mean, with whatever respect is due to old Ted Kaczynski, that we just do away with all of it.

Holy jumpin Jesus even the quote tags are wordy here.

Intellectuals dream of utopias for a couple of reasons.  First of all, "intellectuals" (not necessarily intelligent people), only ever hang out with other intellectuals because they have a very small, compatible, and tightly knit set of experiences that all originate from what they read out of books and what they have discussed with other intellectuals.  It tends to exist in theories, where all things are possible should a certain set of criteria be met, and very rarely does it account for a wide scale of opinions.  When you limit your horizons to what other people very much like you appreciate and think, it's very easy to theorize a "perfect world."  For instance, an intellectual type could never understand that someone might like to rob and steal, not because they're in need, but because they like either the power it brings them over others or the rush of adrenaline or even because they have a certain view of themselves and think that's the only way they can get ahead.  Second, "intellectuals" think that they are there to solve all of society's problems, but only in a very broad and undetailed way, because they have never or rarely had to deal with the nitty gritty details of what it takes to run a business, or how to negotiate, or any of the minutia that exist regularly in the business world.  Last, and you covered this but I wanted to give it a more vulgar take, intellectuals are rarely concerned with the brute and bodily details of how things operate.  They tend to see industry as a graph and a balance sheet as opposed to a set of processes by which this product, this energy input, and this set of machinery becomes a TV or a frozen chicken dinner and expels this set of byproducts.  They rarely appreciate that both human behavioral urges and waste products are a necessity to account for, making companies reduce waste or making it less likely for a guy to get laid by instituting a policy is going to destroy productivity.  Because something is superficially distasteful will make a huge difference on how the "enlightened and unbiased" intellectual is going to view it.

I don't understand why this guy talks like common sense and actual intelligence are even close to mutually exclusive.  Common sense is nothing more than a first hand exposure to a lot of different social groups and tasks that require different basic knowledge.  For instance, a salesman or lab scientist who lives in the city and has always worked 70 hour weeks isn't going to have a lot of common sense because the opportunities to do stuff like have a garden or rock climbing or hanging baseboard are not going to be very available, or at least he'll have to choose between them very judiciously.

#8 Chef Boyhowdy

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Posted 12 October 2009 - 07:08 PM

View PostGeorge Hannibal Peppard, on 12 October 2009 - 06:11 PM, said:

I don't understand why this guy talks like common sense and actual intelligence are even close to mutually exclusive.  Common sense is nothing more than a first hand exposure to a lot of different social groups and tasks that require different basic knowledge.  For instance, a salesman or lab scientist who lives in the city and has always worked 70 hour weeks isn't going to have a lot of common sense because the opportunities to do stuff like have a garden or rock climbing or hanging baseboard are not going to be very available, or at least he'll have to choose between them very judiciously.

This essay is certainly more useful in understanding group norms and behavior, and policy, than describing a personality type.  Individual examples of a true clever silly are hard to come up with, really.  It's as a shared intellectual blind spot, spread and darkened by status signaling, that the silly impulse is amplified into absurdities like political correctness.  I have no problem believing many progressives pay their phone bills on time or have good credit ratings, what strains credulity are university speech codes and the like that they conjure in groups.

Edited by Chef Boyhowdy, 12 October 2009 - 07:28 PM.


#9 PLEASUREMAN

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Posted 12 October 2009 - 08:20 PM

Here's an example:  the sort of person who comes to think that we should provide generous assistance to single mothers.  What a clever (and compassionate) idea, something the bourgeois always get upset over, too.  That's because the bourgeois know what the high IQ elite don't--that as good as it feels, it will create social problems far worse than a single mother because it will normalize and subsidize social disorder.  Instinct tells them so--they don't need to run years of social research studies to "confirm" that in fact all problems will be remedied by the stroke of the legislative pen and a corps of apathetic bureaucrats (...but you see we'll ensure they do their jobs correctly by tracking METRICS).

That's several clever-silly examples in one.  But perhaps this sounds more like compassionate-heartless than clever-silly.  How about this--we hire some really good (i.e. infamous) architects to design a massive public housing project.  (It's size fits with our glorious conception of a hustling and bustling megalopolis.)  It will have all the latest conveniences, planned public spaces for residents (just like a neighborhood!), it will be near major public transportation, and best of all, the people who live there won't have to pay a mortgage, so it can accomodate the most disadvantaged citizens!  Oh, I get excited just thinking about it!

That is what I think of when I think of a clever-silly person.

#10 George Obsolete Peppard (GOP)

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Posted 15 October 2009 - 09:42 AM

View PostChef Boyhowdy, on 12 October 2009 - 07:08 PM, said:

View PostGeorge Hannibal Peppard, on 12 October 2009 - 06:11 PM, said:

I don't understand why this guy talks like common sense and actual intelligence are even close to mutually exclusive.  Common sense is nothing more than a first hand exposure to a lot of different social groups and tasks that require different basic knowledge.  For instance, a salesman or lab scientist who lives in the city and has always worked 70 hour weeks isn't going to have a lot of common sense because the opportunities to do stuff like have a garden or rock climbing or hanging baseboard are not going to be very available, or at least he'll have to choose between them very judiciously.

This essay is certainly more useful in understanding group norms and behavior, and policy, than describing a personality type.  Individual examples of a true clever silly are hard to come up with, really.  It's as a shared intellectual blind spot, spread and darkened by status signaling, that the silly impulse is amplified into absurdities like political correctness.  I have no problem believing many progressives pay their phone bills on time or have good credit ratings, what strains credulity are university speech codes and the like that they conjure in groups.

Eh, that would tend to hint to the idea that these intellectual types actually do have a kernel of wisdom about what the real problems are and how to fix them, they just suppress them for social shame and ostracism from the group, which I don't think is usually the case.  Intellectuals are so long winded and repetitious with their viewpoints that it would be nearly impossible to tolerate them in political discussion for long periods of time unless you were able to agree with them the vast majority of the time.  Most tightly knit groups tolerate, if with a little good humored derogatory ribbing, a pretty decent amount of dissent that at worst is taken as eccentricity and usually just ignored altogether.  With intellectuals, especially the liberal type, they have an honest to God problem with people who don't share something pretty carbon copy of their exact understanding of social issues.  If you were to call someone who went to a protest rally a "tree hugging f****t", even in jest as their best buddy, it would be like you slapped them directly in the face and it would be taken as a fairly personal offense.  Whereas, say, if you joked with your redneck buddy and asked him if he got his "fix of cousin lovin'" going to a NASCAR race, it would be mostly laughed off if you knew him well enough.  I think groups of intellectuals are definitely a unique animal in that they have a very difficult time separating theory from reality and personal affectation from outright attack.

#11 PLEASUREMAN

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Posted 15 October 2009 - 08:08 PM

They are very insecure and this could stem from a number of things...they are notorious betas, they experience more personal life failures due to their overuse of abstract thinking, their intellectual vanity reacts harshly to disagreement...their insecurity makes collectivist social behavior more attractive, allowing their views to become enshrined as Truth, deviation from which suggests unfitness for membership in the collective.  Just my initial thoughts about why they are the way they are...

#12 George Obsolete Peppard (GOP)

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Posted 19 October 2009 - 08:57 AM

View PostPLEASUREMAN, on 15 October 2009 - 08:08 PM, said:

They are very insecure and this could stem from a number of things...they are notorious betas, they experience more personal life failures due to their overuse of abstract thinking, their intellectual vanity reacts harshly to disagreement...their insecurity makes collectivist social behavior more attractive, allowing their views to become enshrined as Truth, deviation from which suggests unfitness for membership in the collective.  Just my initial thoughts about why they are the way they are...

So in other words what sets them apart from the norm is not necessarily intelligence but oversensitivity toward a particularly developed set of ideas.  I could be oversensitive towards a piece of s**t broken down '76 Vega and know everything about that sort of vehicle and respond harshly when it is criticized but it doesn't make me a car guru, it just makes me a freak.

#13 PLEASUREMAN

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Posted 19 October 2009 - 06:14 PM

View PostGeorge Hannibal Peppard, on 19 October 2009 - 08:57 AM, said:

View PostPLEASUREMAN, on 15 October 2009 - 08:08 PM, said:

They are very insecure and this could stem from a number of things...they are notorious betas, they experience more personal life failures due to their overuse of abstract thinking, their intellectual vanity reacts harshly to disagreement...their insecurity makes collectivist social behavior more attractive, allowing their views to become enshrined as Truth, deviation from which suggests unfitness for membership in the collective.  Just my initial thoughts about why they are the way they are...

So in other words what sets them apart from the norm is not necessarily intelligence but oversensitivity toward a particularly developed set of ideas.  I could be oversensitive towards a piece of s**t broken down '76 Vega and know everything about that sort of vehicle and respond harshly when it is criticized but it doesn't make me a car guru, it just makes me a freak.
I think it is a byproduct of having higher intelligence in a society organized around a cognitive elite.  I think it is a good example of the counterintuitive idea that higher intelligence can lead to maladaptive behavior.  Keep in mind it is difficult to rate intelligence very accurately off the cuff...people have argued that Barack Cornball Obama is anywhere from very smart to average intelligence, but no one really knows until he releases academic records (which will never happen).  That's why we have IQ tests.

Also it seems at the margins of the cognitive elite you get people who have made it in mostly by signalling (i.e. they don't really have the goods)...they aren't that smart but they recognize the value of signalling openness, so they haplessly follow trends and promote themselves that way.  In fact a lot of intelligence signalling doesn't seem to have much to do with intelligence but with openness...you expect the close-minded Archie Bunker type to be pretty thick, and the argumentative Meathead type to be well above average, which may be why when it comes to elected officials we instinctively distrust candidates who are a little too smart.  It's also why the guy who "wins" a debate isn't necessarily the guy who came across as smarter and better "informed" (where informed means being able to glibly recite clever-silly arguments and catchphrases).  That's why everyone liked Reagan better than Mondale in the 1984 debates.

In The Black Swan there is an example where a question is posed, if you flip a coin 100 times and it comes up heads each time, what is the likelihood of it coming up heads on the next flip?  The high IQ guy says 50% because the coin has no memory, but the con artist says 100% because a coin that has been flipped 100 times and come up heads each time is probably a trick coin.  I think this is a perfect illustration of how misapplication of abstract thinking causes us to exercise poor judgement.  The con artist isn't smarter, he's just less inclined to think in theoretical or abstract terms, so he makes the more likely assessment.

#14 George Obsolete Peppard (GOP)

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Posted 20 October 2009 - 11:58 AM

View PostPLEASUREMAN, on 19 October 2009 - 06:14 PM, said:

View PostGeorge Hannibal Peppard, on 19 October 2009 - 08:57 AM, said:

View PostPLEASUREMAN, on 15 October 2009 - 08:08 PM, said:

They are very insecure and this could stem from a number of things...they are notorious betas, they experience more personal life failures due to their overuse of abstract thinking, their intellectual vanity reacts harshly to disagreement...their insecurity makes collectivist social behavior more attractive, allowing their views to become enshrined as Truth, deviation from which suggests unfitness for membership in the collective.  Just my initial thoughts about why they are the way they are...

So in other words what sets them apart from the norm is not necessarily intelligence but oversensitivity toward a particularly developed set of ideas.  I could be oversensitive towards a piece of s**t broken down '76 Vega and know everything about that sort of vehicle and respond harshly when it is criticized but it doesn't make me a car guru, it just makes me a freak.
I think it is a byproduct of having higher intelligence in a society organized around a cognitive elite.  I think it is a good example of the counterintuitive idea that higher intelligence can lead to maladaptive behavior.  Keep in mind it is difficult to rate intelligence very accurately off the cuff...people have argued that Barack Cornball Obama is anywhere from very smart to average intelligence, but no one really knows until he releases academic records (which will never happen).  That's why we have IQ tests.

Also it seems at the margins of the cognitive elite you get people who have made it in mostly by signalling (i.e. they don't really have the goods)...they aren't that smart but they recognize the value of signalling openness, so they haplessly follow trends and promote themselves that way.  In fact a lot of intelligence signalling doesn't seem to have much to do with intelligence but with openness...you expect the close-minded Archie Bunker type to be pretty thick, and the argumentative Meathead type to be well above average, which may be why when it comes to elected officials we instinctively distrust candidates who are a little too smart.  It's also why the guy who "wins" a debate isn't necessarily the guy who came across as smarter and better "informed" (where informed means being able to glibly recite clever-silly arguments and catchphrases).  That's why everyone liked Reagan better than Mondale in the 1984 debates.

In The Black Swan there is an example where a question is posed, if you flip a coin 100 times and it comes up heads each time, what is the likelihood of it coming up heads on the next flip?  The high IQ guy says 50% because the coin has no memory, but the con artist says 100% because a coin that has been flipped 100 times and come up heads each time is probably a trick coin.  I think this is a perfect illustration of how misapplication of abstract thinking causes us to exercise poor judgement.  The con artist isn't smarter, he's just less inclined to think in theoretical or abstract terms, so he makes the more likely assessment.

First I think the coin comparison is sort of gay because that's really a misapplied argument, the focus is on thinking and not blatant miscommunication.  All you have to do is add "perfectly ordinary" to "coin" and the entire debate becomes meaningless, that seems like a cheap way of arguing.  If you wanted to apply it to something like predictions of what individuals would do in a change of circumstance, it would be more applicable.  But then the con artist always wins because he's a grifter by nature and understands people better.

I think you're right about the cognitive elite thing and being open to those ideas, but I think it's for a different reasoning than what you described.  Let's actually go back to the coin thing.  Is someone actually smart because they know that a coin that has landed 100 times on heads has a 50% chance of landing on heads the next time?  Any dumbass (most dumbasses anyway) can hear the coin trick once and memorize through pure rote knowledge that "a coin has no memory of what it was previously flipped to", it's basically not much different than a bar trick.  But to an individual who both hasn't heard the trick and is also unable to come up with the reasoning on his own, it seems like the person who knows it is smarter, even when that is probably not the case.  I think a lot of intellectuals are like that, since all they talk about is thousands of coin trick type things (and you can substitute anything, political theories, sociological terms, hell an intricate knowledge of a particular hard science), they are able to appear smarter than they really are when they were never really able to figure out the coin trick in the first place.  So while yes the facts in their head are correct, they still have really no idea how to make good decisions because it's all rote memorization of what other people have said, there's no real depth of reasoning behind it.  I think that is the reason for all the college socialists and latte liberals who are all going to fix the world and end up breaking it much more when they get in charge.  They're idiots who talk with other idiots and agree that because they all know the coin tricks that they're smart.  And the worst part is because they've been "smart" all their lives they have a terrible judgment of intelligence and a pigheadedness to being corrected by someone with actual reason.

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Posted 20 October 2009 - 01:30 PM

I think you make a very good point.  One of the ways people like to signal IQ is by reciting factoids they've read but don't fully understand.  But I think the coin example is okay (maybe not a perfect example) because it is the type of problem that makes high IQ people flip into abstract thinking mode in an almost Pavlovian way.  It isn't intuitive that if something happens 100 times in a row the next time it will not happen.  It isn't intuitive in the Monty Hall problem that you should switch doors to increase your chances of winning.  These are solutions that most people only come to after being educated about how to think about probability.

You may say that people would answer this differently if given the context of the coin flips (say a pool hall vs. a laboratory).  But what high IQ people do all the time with problems is remove them from practical context, where they sense that the "noise" of everyday life clouds the picture, and put them in pure theoretical environments.  Any significant change risks throwing a stable system out of whack, but you might not see it that way if you habitually abstract problems from the everyday realm--if you talk about divorce rates without talking about the type of people who get divorced (as if, like the coin, everyone has a theoretically equal probability of getting divorced).

Among the low to average IQ, the pull of the intuitive is very strong.  If you sit down at a blackjack table you will always see players who know basic strategy at least on a rote learning level, but who can't resist playing hunches.  Even if you tell people that the coin has a 50% chance of landing heads up after any number of flips, they'll always have a dumb skeptical side that tells them not to trust this type of reasoning.  When it comes to social policy, they're often right.

#16 George Obsolete Peppard (GOP)

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Posted 20 October 2009 - 04:40 PM

View PostPLEASUREMAN, on 20 October 2009 - 01:30 PM, said:

I think you make a very good point.  One of the ways people like to signal IQ is by reciting factoids they've read but don't fully understand.  But I think the coin example is okay (maybe not a perfect example) because it is the type of problem that makes high IQ people flip into abstract thinking mode in an almost Pavlovian way.  It isn't intuitive that if something happens 100 times in a row the next time it will not happen.  It isn't intuitive in the Monty Hall problem that you should switch doors to increase your chances of winning.  These are solutions that most people only come to after being educated about how to think about probability.

I don't know, intuition is a weird process that's mostly based off a person's experiences.  I don't know that people can "share" intuitions when some people "intuitively" know God exists and others "intuitively" know that the crystals around their neck are healing their aura.  I understand what you're saying about the Pavlovian thinking mode and as near as I can tell intellectuals (typically) go straight into knee jerking because they a) don't want to look undecided or God forbid uninformed (which they would if actual thought was taking place) and b) assume they've already figured their stance is as informed and good as it's going to get so why reinvent the wheel.

I agree that yes, you need a background in mathematics and a little push on statistical concepts to figure out how to calculate probabilities, but there is a huge difference between memorizing models on how to figure out the chances of getting this poker hand versus a complete knowledge of the subject.  The problem is the so called intellectuals are more interested in getting a strict and rigid guideline that they can use as a guide than a general knowledge.  You'll notice for instance a lot of them detest sports, not because of any really good reason but because it takes focus away from their "mental" pursuits.  They define themselves in that regard and so logically they're not a "jock" and are not interested.  This despite the fact that not only do some sports games teach strategies that can lend them insight into human behavior and ways around problems in general, but regular exercise actually makes the brain work better.

It's funny you should mention blackjack because I love playing it at casinos and sometimes when I know it's not skewing my odds terribly (like 1% or something) I will go with a hunch over the "optimal move" even though it's technically a slight money loser in the long run.  It's fun and to be quite honest since blackjack does have a house edge you're already being illogical just for playing it.

Quote

You may say that people would answer this differently if given the context of the coin flips (say a pool hall vs. a laboratory). But what high IQ people do all the time with problems is remove them from practical context, where they sense that the "noise" of everyday life clouds the picture, and put them in pure theoretical environments. Any significant change risks throwing a stable system out of whack, but you might not see it that way if you habitually abstract problems from the everyday realm--if you talk about divorce rates without talking about the type of people who get divorced (as if, like the coin, everyone has a theoretically equal probability of getting divorced).

Well, see, the laboratory is good for one thing and one thing only and that's studying observable effects very closely while changing only one or two variables.  IQ sort of goes out the window when you're talking about mucking around with social changes because there is no way to conceivably account for all the variables that will be affected, and then the variables that will in turn be affected by those variables.  You'd have to be smarter than all the world's computers put together to piece together an exact effect.  The best you can do is have a lot of expertise with those people who will be most affected by the change and theorize an effect, or consult a bunch of people with that expertise who are unbiased and have nothing to gain by giving you a particular answer.  Like I think you're trying to say, though, since intellectuals don't value common sense and probably look down on those with actual expertise as "uneducated", and certainly won't listen to any one who tells them they're full of s**t, it won't stop them from reducing a very complex and unscientific problem into a theoretical equation and blowing it out their ass in the process.

#17 Bud

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Posted 24 October 2010 - 08:25 AM

View PostPLEASUREMAN, on 10 October 2009 - 12:16 PM, said:

Here is a nearly perfect distillation of our current problem:
[...]

I've been lurking here for a while. Finally compelled to register because of this post. This post relates to several phenomena I've been trying to make sense of: Why do societies collapse soon after they reach peak?; Why do highly intelligent people come to embrace such obviously foolish ideas?, and; Why do people who profess to be 'open-minded' and 'free-thinking' react almost violently when their thinking is questioned?

It is interesting. Complex civilizations need highly intelligent people to run them -- the people who populate the professions, academia, etc. Highly intelligent people tend to work and socialize with 'like-minded' folk, thus reinforcing each others' thinking. Because highly intelligent people tend to think in abstract terms, the group-think of highly intelligent people tends to be progressively less and less realistic. Over time, civilizations fail because ruling cognitive elites eventually become so detached from common-sense reality that things cannot go on.

Charlton provides the mechanism that explains what Spengler foresaw a century ago.

Edited by Bud, 24 October 2010 - 08:26 AM.


#18 PLEASUREMAN

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Posted 24 October 2010 - 09:38 AM

View PostBud, on 24 October 2010 - 08:25 AM, said:

View PostPLEASUREMAN, on 10 October 2009 - 12:16 PM, said:

Here is a nearly perfect distillation of our current problem:
[...]

I've been lurking here for a while. Finally compelled to register because of this post. This post relates to several phenomena I've been trying to make sense of: Why do societies collapse soon after they reach peak?; Why do highly intelligent people come to embrace such obviously foolish ideas?, and; Why do people who profess to be 'open-minded' and 'free-thinking' react almost violently when their thinking is questioned?

It is interesting. Complex civilizations need highly intelligent people to run them -- the people who populate the professions, academia, etc. Highly intelligent people tend to work and socialize with 'like-minded' folk, thus reinforcing each others' thinking. Because highly intelligent people tend to think in abstract terms, the group-think of highly intelligent people tends to be progressively less and less realistic. Over time, civilizations fail because ruling cognitive elites eventually become so detached from common-sense reality that things cannot go on.

Charlton provides the mechanism that explains what Spengler foresaw a century ago.
Joseph Tainter has a book out that explores a similar idea (I haven't read it yet), "The Collapse of Complex Societies".  His thesis, as I understand it, is that societies are driven to become more complex in order to solve challenges to their existence (resource shortages, rival societies), and that they inevitably reach a point of over-complexity and collapse.  This does I think provide the missing piece to Spengler, who saw a "lifespan" for societies but did not articulate a mechanism other than a vague cultural spirit that once fully expressed left its people without purpose.  Here we have a more convincing mechanism, that complexity eventually exceeds the capacity of a people to manage it (see also John B. Calhoun--complexity probably also inevitably results in overpopulation because the resource problems that kept population in check have been "solved").

But Charlton adds something, which struck me as a lightning bolt--the idea that high IQ can in and of itself result in dysfunctional behavior.  Here is the idea that, above a certain level, IQ creates an imbalance, which is greatly magnified in a complex society where a cognitive elite is needed to perform managerial duties.  In fact the rise of a managerial state seems to be the harbinger of collapse--can any society survive centralized control by a cognitive elite?  (By this point we may as well discard the conceit of a functioning democracy.)

There is something of Taleb's insights as well in that complexity produces greater fragility because it is obsessed with maximization of resources (in order to support an outsized population).  The idea that we are over-maximized--obsessed with efficiency to a deleterious degree--is the symptom one first catches a glimpse of in daily life, where increasing indignities are forced on us in the name of efficiency.

All of this renders nonsensical most contemporary political debate--you see that liberals mostly argue for more management of complexity, therefore producing more complex systems, while conservatives (or pseudo-conservatives as I think of them) mostly argue for less regulation of complexity, therefore producing more chaotic side-effects that increase unhappiness.  In fact the only solution is reduction in scale, increase in inefficiency, and decentralization--not merely decentralization of government but of business as well, with an end to multinationals and a reduction even in the larger regional organizations.  And of course the reversal of ethnic and cultural "diversification".

Seems obvious, no?

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Posted 24 October 2010 - 11:38 AM

The intelligent possess character flaws that the simple do not: they are more prone to be misanthropic, arrogant, and lacking in empathy.  As Jewish blank-slaters have demonstrated also, the intelligent are also prone to giving themselves credit for the things bestowed on them by Providence.  

Going back to your original post, PMAN, I think our current military-industrial complex (!) is an example of what Carlton is talking about.  We've been in Afghanistan for 10 years and what is the result?  The political class, the officers, and the defense industry together think that "winning hearts and minds" is a worthy strategy as is bringing democracy to the territory.  Thus ever more complicated counter-IED devices, surveillance equipment, and bomb-proof vehicles are invented to keep peace in an area that resembles the moon and is populated with goat-herding savages.  When the less intelligent enlisted men give their opinion of things there, their opinions are the equivalent of pointing out a naked emperor.

#20 Bud

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Posted 24 October 2010 - 01:45 PM

View PostPLEASUREMAN, on 24 October 2010 - 09:38 AM, said:

[...]
All of this renders nonsensical most contemporary political debate--you see that liberals mostly argue for more management of complexity, therefore producing more complex systems, while conservatives (or pseudo-conservatives as I think of them) mostly argue for less regulation of complexity, therefore producing more chaotic side-effects that increase unhappiness.  In fact the only solution is reduction in scale, increase in inefficiency, and decentralization--not merely decentralization of government but of business as well, with an end to multinationals and a reduction even in the larger regional organizations.  And of course the reversal of ethnic and cultural "diversification".

Seems obvious, no?

Seems obvious, yes. Seems inevitable, too. Unfortunately such downscaling will not be gentle. And it will be resisted.

Something else Charlton points out that I found interesting is that progressives and libertarians are similar personality types: Generally high IQ utopian dreamers. Tell a progressive that socialism's been tried, and failed specatularly, and he'll respond with something like "Stalin wasn't a real socialist," or "The Russians, Chinese, Cambodians, etc. weren't ready for socialism." Tell a libertarian that a voluntarist society would be murderous mayhem and he'd respond with "How do you know? It hasn't been tried."



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