American IQs in 1900 Averaged 67 Points

Considering that people with IQs below 70 are today considered to be suffering from an "intellectual disability" that's a remarkable claim.* (Jargon watch: The intellectually disabled used to be called mentally retarded and before that they were called moronic.) So if these data are right, chances are that your great grandparents were morons. However, as New Zealand political scientist James Flynn points out in his new book, Are We Getting Smarter?: Rising IQ in the 21st Century, average IQs have been going up at the rate of about 3 points per decade over the past century. Flynn identified this ubiquitous trend (now named the Flynn Effect) back in the 1980s when he realized that the regular renorming of IQ tests suggested that an American with an average IQ of 100 today would score 115 on a 1950s IQ test. 

In today's New York Times, columnist Nicholas Kristof summarizes Flynn's findings this way:

The average American I.Q. has been rising steadily by 3 points a decade. Spaniards gained 19 points over 28 years, and the Dutch 20 points over 30 years. Kenyan children gained nearly 1 point a year.

Those figures come from a new book by Flynn from Cambridge University Press called “Are We Getting Smarter?” It’s an uplifting tale, a reminder that human capacity is on the upswing. The implication is that there are potential Einsteins now working as subsistence farmers in Congo or dropping out of high school in Mississippi who, with help, could become actual Einsteins.

The Flynn Effect should upend some of the smugness among those who have historically done well in global I.Q. standings. For example, while there is still a race gap, black Americans are catching up — and now do significantly better than white Americans of the “greatest generation” did in the 1940s...

Flynn argues that I.Q. is rising because in industrialized societies we give our brains a constant mental workout that builds up what we might call our brain sinews...

But Flynn argues that modern TV shows and other entertainment can be cognitively demanding, and video games like those of the Grand Theft Auto series probably require more thought than solitaire.

In my column, "Are Smart Countries Richer or Are Rich Countries Smarter?," I reported some of the findings of American Conservative publisher Ron Unz that explored how the Flynn Effect has long been boosting the intelligence of various immigrant groups so that many now score higher IQ averages than the IQ average of "old stock" Americans. Among other things, Unz attributes rising IQs to the salutary effects on intellectual development of increased urbanization.

In addition, a Wired article last year pointed out that the smartest are also getting smarter over time. Surely, if you're reading Reason, it would suggest that your IQ score is at least two deviations above the current median, right?

*Perhaps this explains why some segments of the population were so stupidly attracted to Communism and Nazism in the early 20th century.

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  • DJF||

    “””Temporarily unavailable - no date available””

    Obviously publishers are not getting smarter or they would have copies available for sale.

  • Ron Bailey||

    DJF: Indeed.

  • Bardas Phocas||

    I blame porn.

  • Caleb Turberville||

    Every so often, I actually read my biological science textbooks. I'm surprised by how often they tell me how something has only been known since the 1960s (especially molecular biology). If I went back as far as 1900, final exams would be a breeze.

  • Tulpa (LAOL-PA)||

    Linear algebra was considered graduate student material in the early 1900s. Linear algebra! Now it's one of the weed-out courses for engineering undergraduates we don't like.

  • Caleb Turberville||

    Things happened on a very slow time-scale back then, I guess. Remember, Newton had already solved calculus in the 17th century, but American graduate students were still being tested on linear algebra as late as the 20th century.

  • tarran||

    WTF!

    That is a fucking non-sequitur! I used linear algebra pretty frequently as a physics major alongside calculus (OK 99% of the time it was calc, 1% it was linear algebra), but that shit matters.

    Hell, IIRC the third problem on the Princeton Review's Physics GRE prep is a vicious coupled oscillator problem that can only be solved with linear algebra.

  • Caleb Turberville||

    Woah, woah,

    I take it from Tulpa that linear algebra is not a common graduate course anymore. (I actually wouldn't know.) I'm not knocking linear algebra; I'm just saying that there's obviously been a much quicker dissemination of knowledge in the 20th century than there was in the previous three centuries.

  • tarran||

    I'm just saying that there's obviously been a much quicker dissemination of knowledge in the 20th century than there was in the previous three centuries.

    No argument there.

    Linear Alebra's not some bit of obsolete knowledge like how to algebraically calculate a cube root though.

  • Spartacus||

    No, but it couldn't really take off until the advent of computers. Leontief's original economic model consisted of about 15 or 20 components if I remember right, and it was still considered a "big" problem to find the equilibrium of that system, even though the basic theory of markov chains was pretty well-known.

  • Tulpa (LAOL-PA)||

    What Spartacus said.

    That's the finite-dimensional reason, while quantum mechanics was the infinite-dimensional reason.

  • Tulpa (LAOL-PA)||

    You're not getting into a math graduate program (or in physics or engineering or a lot of other math-heavy fields) if you haven't passed linear algebra.

    I was floored a couple of years ago when I was teaching a basic sophomore level linear algebra course and saw a PhD student in biology on the roster...but apparently the biology people don't care about math, I guess.

  • WTF||

    Really? As a biological sciences undergrad, I was required to take 2 semesters of calculus.

  • Spartacus||

    Those days are mostly over, unless you are going into bioengineering or biotechnology. Your basic biology major takes one semester of calculus and one of stats in most places.

  • ||

    There are parts of biology where heavy math is not needed.

    If you're going into population genetics or biological engineering, you might need some math.

  • Tulpa (LAOL-PA)||

    I assume tarran is still filtering me so he may not have seen the context of your remark, Caleb.

  • A Mathematician||

    Lol this thread. Most colleges have a undergrad and a graduate version of linear algebra. Undergrads don't even cover basics like Jordan canonical form or SVD. Most of the fun stuff is taken care of in a good graduate level abstract algebra course anyways.

  • Tulpa (LAOL-PA)||

    Linear algebra became much more important in physics after the advent of quantum mechanics, and more important in other mathy fields after the invention of computers, which made solving large linear systems (or lots of small ones in succession) actually feasible.

  • A Mathematician||

    *cough *cough Tensors *cough Einstein Field Equations *cough

    Seriously though, linear algebra is retroactively important in all physics because of its applications in numerical methods.

  • A Mathematician||

    It's not like people stopped making progress in linear algebra, there are tons of topics covered at the graduate level, and a lot of current research being done.

  • Tulpa (LAOL-PA)||

    Well, one thing about video games is that they give you the chance to figure out a complex, potentially deadly strategic situation 100 times before you finally get it right. That didn't happen in the days of hunting elk or whatever... if you screwed up the first time there was no reset button.

    The same impetus led to war-inspired but non-deadly games like lacrosse, chess, and soccer, but of course they don't replicate the experience quite as well as GTA or COD do.

  • Tulpa (LAOL-PA)||

    The point being that the average 16 year old gamer probably has as much battle knowledge as Robert E. Lee had when he retired.

  • Caleb Turberville||

    Same thing with NFL quarterbacks. What Johnny Unitas knew about reading defenses is probably Volume I in the mind of Peyton Manning.

  • Tulpa (LAOL-PA)||

    He stood on the shoulders of Giants.

    The big question is, would Mark Sanchez still suck if we time-traveled him back to the 50s?

  • Caleb Turberville||

    Mark Sanchez was 0-3 against the Cardinals. Greg McElroy (the 7th round draft pick, and third-stringer) comes in and scores the game-winning (and ONLY!) touchdown for the Jets.

    The next week, rookie Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson leads his team to a 58-0 shutout of the Cardinals.

    Point being: Mark Sanchez sucks, and the Jets organization sucks harder for guaranteeing him through 2013.

  • ||

    Yes. Put Timmy in, Jets.

  • John||

    I want them to do that so badly. Then sneak into the playoffs and let Timmy pull some miracle play out of his ass to beat lego neck and the Broncos in the playoffs. The tears of the ESPN talking heads would be so yummy.

  • ||

    Anything is better than Sanchez, and Timmy makes people crazy, which is always good. Plus he pulls off the occasional miracle.

  • robc||

    Then sneak into the playoffs and let Timmy pull some miracle play out of his ass to beat lego neck and the Broncos in the playoffs.

    Does BakedPenguin have to send me another 6 pack if that happens?

  • Cliché Bandit||

    The irrational hatred of OUr Lord and Savior Tebow is stupid...Denver sucked, put in Timeh and we got to second round FROM A LOSING POSITION. The jest should have put him in weeks ago.

  • ||

    Dude, I'm 100% with you. But expecting the Jets not to be stupid is a fool's errand.

  • Tulpa (LAOL-PA)||

    Denver sucked, put in Timeh and we got to second round FROM A LOSING POSITION.

    The only decent team he beat last year was the Steelers, and they played with no Ryan Clark and with an incredibly stupid game plan. I hope Mike Tomlin dragged Dick LeBeau into the parking lot afterward and kicked the shit out of him. Right there in Denver, not after the flight home, so he would struggle to breathe in the thin air.

  • Brandon||

    What irrational hatred?

  • Cliché Bandit||

    you don't live in Denver I see...THe lefties get all in a tizzy over his overt practice of religion and then make up stupid stats to discredit him but one thing doesn't lie in football...SCOREBOARD! Not saying he is the greatest or anything just that there was ZERO objective review of his capabilities while in Denver. He did way better than Elway did his first year in Denver.

  • Cliché Bandit||

    And the righties attributed his success to their god of course...regardless of religion.

  • Caleb Turberville||

    I'm not the biggest Tebow fan, but the Jets are ruining him back keeping him on the bench. I think he has the capability to improve as a passer, but he's no doubt rusty after about a year of inactivity.

    Jacksonville might want to take him, but I can't see too many teams who want to invest the time in training him like the Green Bay Packers did with Aaron Rodgers.

  • Caleb Turberville||

    *"by"

  • Tulpa (LAOL-PA)||

    If he would give up on being a QB, the Patriots would definitely find a use for him as the second coming of Danny Woodhead. But he probably wants to be a QB.

  • Cliché Bandit||

    I think that strongly depends on the game choice. (I can't believe I am going to get into this).

    For example, Warhammer is a strategically superior model for pre industrialized forces so R E Lee would have found great use in it but CoD or Metal Gear Solid or Halo lack the same strategic decision making requirements so are of less value to a Tsung Tsu field warrior. While many of the overarching concepts still hold (Supply chain, high ground, strength of forces) there is a large element to human war that is psychological, as in "weak when strong", overconfident in position, etc.

    Games are not a 1 to 1 correlation with viable strategy.

  • T||

    Theoretical vs. practical. I listen to the children natter about this sometimes, and it makes me laugh. Speaking as a guy with a combat patch and a purple heart, what they learn in video games will fucking kill them in the real world. I'm glad I don't have to contend with beating some of that crap out of their heads.

  • Cliché Bandit||

    Unless of course that kid is a drone pilot in which case you would not last longer than the length of time it takes to missile to hit.

  • Tulpa (LAOL-PA)||

    Robert E Lee would get killed in a modern war too.

  • robc||

    Robert E Lee would get killed in a modern war too.

    Yep, like Gettysburg.

    Of course, he stopped idiotic Napoleaonic charges after that.

    Longstreet was the forward thinker in the bunch. He wanted to dig WW1 style trenches across northern virginia and fight a war of attrition.

  • Cliché Bandit||

    A war of attrition with the North would be a very bad idea indeed. The South's ONLY hope was a quick decisive and brutal aswhoopin' of the north and they missed the mark.

  • robc||

    The issue was whether the North would have been willing to fight that kind of war.

    They had draft riots as it was.

  • Cliché Bandit||

    Valid point. But assuming political buy-in they would win such a war hands down (also barring french involvement).

  • tarran||

    One of the funnier stories my work-wife at a previous job told was about the time she and a couple of other guys in her old Army battalion had a reunion celebrating their anniversary from returning from Afghanistan and decided to enter some paintball competition.

    Apparently some of the 18 year olds in another team bitched loudly about having to fight "those old farts" and the vets got pissed off. Really pissed off.

    The vets decided to treat this like a real firefight and they chainsawed through all their opponents using the tactics they had learned in the Army. They took special care to really hurt the kids, then made sure to taunt them afterwards as they limped away. I was appalled; there is something not kosher about shooting people gratuitously in the crotch after you have made them into hors de combat

  • John||

    That is fucking awesome. Little bastards got what they deserved.

  • Cliché Bandit||

    Interesting, I have a similar story from when I was in college. We had a paintball team and were at Dragonmans (awesomest place EVAH) and a platoon came rolling in for some "team building" or what not, who knows (and yes they were inf). Anyway, they were pretty cocky and even suggested we not play them cause they would beat us down so badly.

    The best part for me was on our third CtF I came around an obstacle and there in front of me was a prone dude so I popped him in the back without a second thought and kept moving...hilarious.

    The tactics of war and paintball are not even close. I can dodge a paintball, hence you will never see me sting, kneeling, or prone for DAMN SURE! They left the field dejected, having hit only two of our guys in three whole games, and we went back to DU and got drunk.

  • PapayaSF||

    +1

  • ant1sthenes||

    I thought that was an episode of king of the hill.

  • Pro Libertate||

    I agree--more nonsense. Gaming is insanely simplified and doesn't address most of the complexity of real-world situations.

  • R C Dean||

    Let the record show that I agree with Rick on this one.

    Someone who has never been in an actual meatspace battle has approximately zero (0) "battle knowledge", no matter how many hours they spent playing video games.

    You might as well say someone who has played a lot of Madden football can play or coach in the NFL. Its laughable.

  • tarran||

    I do think, however, that video gaming can be a useful thing in laying the groundwork to knowing how to fight/play football/whatever.

    A soldier in the battle-field has to pay attention to quite a large number of variables at the same time. A complete novice will have a much lower capacity to track all those factors than somebody who has been playing a 'realistic' simulator - even if the reactions that work in the simulator are suicidal in real life.

    This is not unique to video games. My understanding is that in WW-II recruits who had experience as hunters were easier to train for infantry fighting, even though much of what works in hunting doesn't work in warfare.

    OF course, contrariwise, you the novice doesn't bring bad habits to the table. As a devoted player of Chuck Yeager's Air Combat Trainer, I win a lot of battles by keeping my altitude as high as possible and frequently am on the verge of stalling the aircraft. The computer opponents don't deal with that very well, so it's a great strategy (especially since there ARE NO RUDDER CONTROLS!!!! fume). If I did that in real life (and it's now a reflexive action) my body would probably be pulped by all the machine gun fire that would fly through my slow moving sitting duck of a craft.

  • John||

    What Rick said.

  • LTC(ret) John||

    Indeed - strangely enough, my combat experiences were decidedly unvideogamelike.

  • John||

    Mine too John. Amazing how the enemy never seems to pop up and show you where he is at and it is really fucking unclear a lot of times where fire is coming from. It is mostly just a confused mess of "what the fuck" rather than the nice organized game experience.

  • Way Of The Crane||

    Amazing how the enemy never seems to pop up and show you where he is at and it is really fucking unclear a lot of times where fire is coming from. It is mostly just a confused mess of "what the fuck" rather than the nice organized game experience.

    You mean they don't have wide screen HD over there in Afghanistan yet? Do they at least ergonomic chairs to shoot from?

  • tarran||

    There's no floating triangle over their heads?!?

    Do these people not respect the Geneva Convention?

  • ||

    Bullshit. I bet your KDR in RL is like less than 1.

  • T||

    I've never played a videogame that hurt, that's for damn sure.

  • LTC(ret) John||

    Nor would I want to!

  • Zeb||

    Yeah, more accurate would be that the average 16 year old thinks he has battle knowledge and so would be totally fucked if he found himself in an actual battle type situation.

  • Bill Dalasio||

    Count me as agreeing with Rick Santorum on this one. The optimal strategy in a video game is shaped by the fact that it isn't reality. If you get killed, you lose the points you gained since your last save. In actual combat, you wind up either dead or crippled. That's going to shape both the player's optimal strategy and the behavior of others with whom they're interacting. Also, the video game allows - no, demands - an iterative learning process to each situation. You don't get do-overs in reality. Accordingly, a vastly more risk-averse strategy is going to make a lot more sense.

  • Torontonian||

    Combat video games are entertainment, and as such focus almost entirely on the shooting and blowing shit up parts, which represent much less than 1% of real-life military operations.

    They virtually ignore the mind-numbingly boring but absolutely critical things that represents 99%+ of what military units actually do. Mundane shit like supply logistics (food, fuel, ammo, gear, etc.), equipment maintenance, training, discipline, communications security, systems integration, intelligence gathering, etc... The stuff that not only wins battles, but better yet, prevents them from being fought in the first place.

  • LTC(ret) John||

    Right - would not be very entertaining to simulate having some asshole mortar you, and when you finally crawl out of your shelter you find that they have either run off or some helicopter zorched them. Whee.

  • LTC(ret) John||

    Back to PMCS'ing those MRAP's boys!

  • Pagan Priestess||

    Total agreement. I've been fighting Pennsic War for 16 years. Things videogamers never experience but are the difference between winning and losing: fucking gopher holes, heat prostration,dehydration,exhaustion, wind, rain, mud, how loud the commander is, the guy who knows the battle plan dying in the first engagement,food poisoning, and the dumbshit command staff running with the same tactics that failed every damn damn battle with, "This time it'll work!".

  • robc||

    There are 25 year old poke pros who have played more hands of poker in their life than Doyle Brunson.

    Playing 10 tables simultaneously does wonders for your experience.

  • robc||

    s/poke/poker/

  • Cliché Bandit||

    imperfect analogy. the ability of a simulation like online poker to replicate the real world scenarios is very high...not so in warfare...too many variables unaccounted for.

  • robc||

    I wasnt analogizing. I was just giving an example where modern technology has allowed huge advancements in the field for the modern generation.

  • Way Of The Crane||

    I doubt any 16 year old gamer truly understands how to properly motivate his troops risk their lives on a battlefield or how to inspire his men enough to sacrifice their lives for the greater good. I also seriously doubt that you know what the fuck you're talking about.

  • Tulpa (LAOL-PA)||

    I didn't really mean that, I was just trying to spice up the thread.

  • Way Of The Crane||

    By the looks of things, I think you succeeded.

  • Seamus||

    I believe that's the classic definition of "trolling."

  • ||

    The point being that the average 16 year old gamer probably has as much battle knowledge as Robert E. Lee had when he retired.

    Well, no, the average 16 year old gamer knows how to theoretically stupidly commit suicidal tactics until, after a lot of deaths, getting it right.

    Getting it right the first time while people are shooting at you with real ammo is a whole different skill set.

  • Cliché Bandit||

    I think IQ is such an unreliable and subjective testing method that more rigorous experiments are needed. Now, actual clinical tests involving the comparison of 1920s, 40s, 60s, 80s, IQ tests controlled for socio-economic differences and using a large sample may be of value.

    TL;DR = not sure from this article any of the methodology used in making these claims.

    (I don't agree or disagree but just like some other "sciences" I am biased and suspect of things dealing with human intelligence...we do not have a great grasp of it)

  • John||

    I agree. And there is more to life than IQ. What good is a high IQ if you believe foolish and stupid things?

  • $park¥||

    Noooooo, the irony, it burrrrrns.

  • John||

    Don't worry Sparky I wasn't talking about you. Your IQ prevents you from ever being in any danger of living that irony.

  • $park¥||

    Oh John, I understand that your low IQ is the reason you believe stupid things.

    And you're right, my IQ is high enough that I know better.

  • John||

    It is good your teachers told you that Sparky. Sometimes it is just better not to tell kids the truth.

  • $park¥||

    You know John, sometimes I feel bad for your ignorance. But only sometimes, and then just for a couple of seconds.

  • John||

    I never feel bad for you Sparky. You are the living embodiment of too dumb to know any better. In some ways you have better than the rest of us.

  • ||

    I find the musings of you foolish mortals humorous. Carry on!

  • SKR||

    3 points per decade eh? I guess I will be facepalming for the rest of my life.

  • R C Dean||

    This strikes me as inherently incredible. I just can't believe that the average IQ in 1900 (and, presumably, before then) was 67. The Renaissance, the Enlightenment, the Industrial Revolution, all occurred in societies populated by people much stupider than us? Yeah, I know, the intellectual elite drove those changes, but is it likely that populations that were much stupider than us could have produced an elite as smart as us? And aren't they saying even the geniuses are getting smarter?

    For that matter, how likely is it that genuinely stupid people could have survived (and thrived) in societies with a much smaller design margin than we enjoy today?

    I just don't buy it. Anybody who studies history cannot avoid the conclusion, IMO, that our ancestors were just as smart as us.

  • nicole||

    I don't know, shouldn't poorer nutrition alone have made the average person not-insignificantly less intelligent 100+ years ago? I would think so.

  • John||

    Sure it could have. But we are talking a drop of over 20 points here. That defies all other evidence. Five is significant. But 20?

  • Pro Libertate||

    I'm not sure nutrition was actually poorer, not in the sense that people were so malnourished as to substantially diminish their mental performance.

    Claims about that in regards to the Middle Ages, for instance, have been mostly debunked.

  • John||

    Those claims were always suspect when you thought about it. If man couldn't function at a high level without perfect nutrition, he would have never survived as a species much less build civilization.

  • Auric Demonocles||

    It does appear that nutrition has had a pretty strong effect on physical characteristics over the past century, but I'd guess there's a big difference between the nutrition required to get your brain running correctly and the nutrition required to make you 6'4".

  • John||

    Neither do I. In 1900, most people still lived on the farm. I am sorry, you can't run a farm with a 69 IQ. And the literacy rate back then was near 100%. If 67 was average, then at least half of the people were below that. How did all those people with 60 IQs become literate.

    I am with you RC. I call shenanigans on this.

  • Tulpa (LAOL-PA)||

    Well, you have to consider what IQ is designed to measure. It was originally supposed to be an indicator of how much children could benefit from schooling. Using it as a proxy for mental faculty is as ridiculous as using BMI for individual health evaluations (which we also do because it's easier to look a number up on a chart than to analyze the details of a person's health).

    A person can run a farm well, and be very sharp about the things that they do day after day after day to keep the farm going, but be fairly unintelligent in more general areas. Just like a person can have a genius IQ and be a complete fuck-up when they try to do anything practical.

  • Pro Libertate||

    The objections to this study are more about what it implies than what it states (at least, from what I can tell without reading everything). IQ test scores may indeed be increasing, but that's not a sufficient metric for making conclusions about intelligence improving.

    One thing to recall, too, is that the outliers often had a popular audience capable of appreciating the intellectual achievements of that outlier. Like Mark Twain, for instance.

  • T||

    Just like a person can have a genius IQ and be a complete fuck-up when they try to do anything practical

    And you just described about 3/4 of the PhDs I ever met...

  • Adam330||

    Good point. Can people today with 67 IQs read? Can they do basic tasks? How dumb is a 67?

  • Lord Humungus||

    see Shreeeeek and ask him.

  • LTC(ret) John||

    Zing! One Golden Monocle awarded!

  • Tulpa (LAOL-PA)||

    If 67 was average, then at least half of the people were below that.

    He's talking about the mean, so technically there's no guarantee that half of them were below it (that would be the median). The mean annual income last year for forestry graduates from UNC in 1986 was in the millions of dollars. (one of them was Michael Jordan)

  • John||

    I know the difference between mean and median Tulpa. But unless you can show me everyone was clustered right around 67, there are going to be a lot of people who are below and perhaps significantly below 67 in order to get 67 as a mean.

  • Emmerson Biggins||

    A median is a kind of average.

  • Adam330||

    "If 67 was average, then at least half of the people were below that."

    I don't think that's necessarily true. It would be if 67 were the median.

  • R C Dean||

    If the distribution is anything like a bell curve (and I think it is), then there's little difference between the mean and the median.

  • BakedPenguin||

    Yeah, were talking about a population that's, well, the population.

  • Tulpa (LAOL-PA)||

    Actually, the IQ is normalized to the N(100,15) distribution, so this is correct.

  • Adam330||

    True, but I don't know that it's a bell curve distribution. In fact, one explanation here is that in past there were lots of people on the low end (poor, bad nutrition, little education, etc.) and only a few on the high end (wealthy, well educated, well-fed, etc.) so that the mean got pulled down. As the country has generally become better nourished, schooling has become widespread, etc., we no longer have that large group at the bottom pulling the mean down.

  • Sidd Finch||

    Genetically, IQ is assumed to have a normal distribution because it's believed to be determined by many genes of small effect, like height.

    But like the heights of Nork bureaucrats and peasants, unequal environments can change the distribution.

  • Tulpa (LAOL-PA)||

    The mapping of raw scores (number of right answers) from the test to IQ scores is carefully chosen so that the IQ scores will be N(100,15) random variables. A person who is scored as having a 110 IQ probably didn't get 10% more answers right than a person who scored a 100 IQ.

  • Sidd Finch||

    The mapping of raw scores (number of right answers) from the test to IQ scores is carefully chosen so that the IQ scores will be N(100,15) random variables.

    This is for whites. The actual distribution of IQ's in the US isn't a perfect bell curve.

  • Voros McCracken||

    I'm pretty sure it's bull as well.

    It's almost certainly based on education and knowledge levels, IE those things IQ proponents insist their tests don't measure.

  • Pro Libertate||

    It's complete and utter bullshit. There's no significant difference in our mental capacity between humans today and 10,000 years ago. And I'm being very generous.

  • ||

    But that's the rub. IQ isn't a reflection of mental capacity. It's a reflection of the environmental development of mental capacity.

    I don't agree with RC and John that this is BS. It's quite plausible that the average person simply wasn't in an environment that encouraged cognitive development.

    That does not mean that the "stupid" people of 100 years ago were inherently stupid.

  • Pro Libertate||

    I'm talking about the application of mental capacity. For instance, preliterate societies appear to have had individuals capable of memorizing stuff on levels quite beyond that of modern man on average.

  • Whiterun Guard||

    True, just as we can conceptualize numbers up to a million. Whereas 1,000 years ago, people could barely conceptualize 100.

    Although I don't know, I think we're still capable of memorizing stuff, we just don't do it since we don't need to. I mean the guy that memorized pi to like 10,000 decimal places or people that memorize the bible. We CAN do it, there's just a much much narrower segment of society that needs to do it.

  • R C Dean||

    Whereas 1,000 years ago, people could barely conceptualize 100.

    You must be kidding me. The people who built cathedrals (not to mention, a thousand before that, aqueducts) could barely conceptualize 100?

  • ||

    You must be kidding me. The people who built cathedrals (not to mention, a thousand before that, aqueducts) could barely conceptualize 100?

    It's about averages. There were plenty of brilliant minds, most likely a product of their environment, or their own drive, in which they were properly trained and exercised their mental capacity.

    Do you think your average Pict could have built a Cathedral? Sure...with the proper education...but in general, they couldn't wipe their ass with an IQ test. Because they didn't come from an environment that dealt with much more than basic survival.

  • Pro Libertate||

    Again, we're defining them down because they didn't know what we know. We're in radically different societies. Their brains were focused on different things, and they had to overcome problems that we don't even have to deal with. But human success came because of our brains--that's been true since we started using tools and probably long before that.

  • Tulpa (LAOL-PA)||

    Do we really conceptualize those numbers, or just feel more comfortable talking about them?

    For instance, can a 2012 person tell the difference between a crowd of a million people vs a crowd of 100,000? I don't think so.

  • Pro Libertate||

    Which just shifts how the extremely flexible and adaptable human mind is being used.

    We certainly have more access to knowledge in the past, but that's not the same thing.

    I also suspect that our reasoning capacity is, if anything, worse than it used to be.

  • Tulpa (LAOL-PA)||

    No one ever needed to memorize pi or the bible (which contradict each other), and today we have nice medicine for people who want to.

  • LTC(ret) John||

    "pi or the bible (which contradict each other)"

    OK, this seems to say something about someone's IQ alright.

  • Tulpa (LAOL-PA)||

    2 Kings mentions a circular pot with a circumference of 30 feet and a diameter of 10 feet, meaning pi = 3.

  • Tulpa (LAOL-PA)||

    Actually cubits, not feet, sorry.

  • T||

    Riiiiight. What's a cubit?

  • Pro Libertate||

    Three furlongs less than a parasang.

  • Cliché Bandit||

    BIll Cosby! I LOVE IT!

    Noah! *PING*
    I need you to build an Ark.

    Riiight.

  • Seamus||

    How long can you tread water?

  • Pagan Priestess||

    A cubit is the distance from your elbow to the tip of your fingers.

  • Pro Libertate||

    Also, what's being measured? If IQ is meant to be the ability to do certain things, what about what's being excluded?

    This is self-serving bullshit. People in modern-at-the-time eras usually think they're the pinnacle of existence. Interestingly, some of our greatest periods of breakthroughs have happened when that wasn't the case--for instance, classical Greece, the Renaissance, etc.

  • R C Dean||

    It's quite plausible that the average person simply wasn't in an environment that encouraged cognitive development.

    I don't find it plausible at all, unless you are defining cognitive development very, very narrowly so that it applies only to very specific skills and tasks in highly urbanized/industrialized societies.

  • Pro Libertate||

    I see no indication whatsoever that we're smarter than we were even 2,500 years ago. We have much greater access to knowledge and stand on the shoulders of scientific and technological progress, but that's not because we came up with everything out of whole cloth ten years ago.

  • $park¥||

    Who do you think would do better on a modern IQ test, Plato or Einstein?

  • Pro Libertate||

    Plato didn't speak English.

  • Zeb||

    "We have much greater access to knowledge and stand on the shoulders of scientific and technological progress"

    Maybe that's what being smarter is. Almost no one ever comes up with a truly original idea.

  • $park¥||

    Almost no one ever comes up with a truly original idea.

    I'm not buying it. I'm betting there are thousands of people who have original ideas every day, they just don't get as much play because they are an insignificant portion of the billions of people in the world.

  • Zeb||

    I think it is true. But I suppose we would need to agree on what exactly we mean by "original idea" to get anywhere in this debate.

  • Tulpa (LAOL-PA)||

    It's kind of a hard thing to verify. I have no doubt that people have ideas that are new to them, but it's hard to have a truly original idea when billions upon billions of people have preceeded you.

  • Pro Libertate||

    We have the capacity that we have. How we use it changes.

  • Cliché Bandit||

    This conversation is the equivalent to I Pencil for the brain.

  • Whiterun Guard||

    We're just more used to taking tests now.

  • Sidd Finch||

    There's no significant difference in our mental capacity between humans today and 10,000 years ago.

    Evolution, how the fuck does it work?

  • Pro Libertate||

    Much slower than that?

  • Sidd Finch||

    Negative. The last 10,000 years is the fastest 10,000 years of human evolution. Massively increased population and new environments will do that. Humans are much more gracile now than 10,000 years ago, for example. Smaller noggins also.

  • Pro Libertate||

    I doubt seriously that any fundamental change in human intelligence has occurred in that short time frame.

    That said, we have advanced tremendously due to cultural changes, like literacy, science, technology, superior organization and communications, economics, etc.

  • Sidd Finch||

    10,000 years is about 500 generations. Intelligence would have to have no effect on fitness for it not to have increased substantially over that long. But if it doesn't increase fitness, how did it evolve in the first place?

  • Tulpa (LAOL-PA)||

    People are much taller than they were even 300 years ago.

  • Sidd Finch||

    But with the same skeletal shape.

  • Mensan||

    And shorter than they were 13,000 years ago.

  • Sudden||

    Count me in the bullshit camp as well. I supposed part of the issue may be the methodology by which IQ is determined, but even then this whole proposition strikes me as absurd.

  • ||

    "The Renaissance, the Enlightenment, the Industrial Revolution, all occurred in societies populated by people much stupider than us?"

    Yes. Outside of a handful of prestigious Italian families in a couple city-states, you were still stuck in the streets drinking shit water and had little-to-no access to any education outside the church.

    Hell, even most of the great thinking done during the Renaissance was due to a recovery of old Roman texts reintroduced via the islamic world.

  • Adam330||

    Does any this factor in increased exposure to/experience on standardized tests? Increasing IQs could just be an illusion created by the IQ test itself.

  • BakedPenguin||

    In addition, I suspect IQ (or whatever better measure of intelligence you'd like to use) is not static in the same person over their lifespan, and can also be affected by environmental variables.

  • Sidd Finch||

    IQ is stable after adolescence.

  • Cliché Bandit||

    This is inaccurate...I am a lot dumber now than when I was 16.

  • Tulpa (LAOL-PA)||

    I think he was neglecting the effects of interstate commerce abuse.

  • Cliché Bandit||

    LOL

    I was going for the teen know-it-all thing but weed is good too.

  • Mensan||

    I don't know about that. I had my IQ tested three times over a 12-year period as part of a research study. The first time, at 13-years old, it was measured at 140-150. At 18-years old it was measured at 160+. And at 25-years old it was 150-160. That doesn't seem very stable to me.

  • Tulpa (LAOL-PA)||

    Your boasting seems stable.

  • Mensan||

    I thought my screen name already had that covered.

  • Mensan||

    I could also counterbalance it by pointing out that I am a socially inept Aspie.

  • Cliché Bandit||

    Self awareness is the first step.

  • Sidd Finch||

    "after adolescence"

  • Mensan||

    It decreased after adolescence.

  • Sidd Finch||

  • iggy||

    Wow, someone who named himself 'Mensan' bragging about his IQ? This is shocking.

  • Sidd Finch||

    I could understanding being in a smartass club in Topeka circa 1900 but now, what's the point?

  • Brandybuck||

    I scored 186 when I was a kid. I've avoided getting tested as an adult, because it's obviously a bullshit number. Me, 186? Hah! All through school I was treated as if I were so much smarter than everyone else, when I clearly was not. I was good at solving some kinds of problems, but dismal at others. Then I met some Mensa guys who were utter asocial assholes and I wanted nothing to do with them.

  • Pagan Priestess||

    I scored very high as a child as well, but I didn't think it meant I was that more intelligent than my peers, even though the teachers insisted on treating me as though that were true. I put it down to the fact that due to my parents and moving continuously--they were worried I might fall behind and accidentally shot me way ahead (yay!)--, I could read, write, and do arithmetic before I entered kindergarten. I also have a special affinity for spotting patterns. Basically, I was naturally set up to do well on an IQ test as a child, but that says nothing about my innate intelligence.

  • Cliché Bandit||

    Agreed, see my note above.

    Also, I don't need to know how many rods are in a furlong. Our increase in technology and greater specialization means far more in-depth knowledge rather than each kid learning some of everything and the ability to "look it up".

    I would also point out that this specialization could be detrimental in a catastrophic scenario...kill off all the nuclear physicists, of which there are not many, and we are back to 1945 in that field and trying to learn from records as opposed to experienced individuals.

  • Voros McCracken||

    Well of course it is, and also exposure to the sorts of problem solving exercises and mental puzzles would have a huge effect.

    You simply cannot measure what they want to measure with an IQ test.

  • Sidd Finch||

    You simply cannot measure what they want to measure with an IQ test.

    Then why does IQ have so much predictive power? It sure seems like it's measuring something meaningful.

  • Bill Dalasio||

    This is what occurs to me. If tests are getting dumber, we would see the same renormalization effect that we would see if people were getting smarter. That is to say, it's just as possible that the person today would have scored the same 100 in the 1950s before renormalization.

  • mustard||

    Abortion probably helped raise our IQs a lot. It would go up even more if right-wingers had abortions more often.

  • Certified Public Asskicker||

    I look forward to your research on the IQs of dead fetuses.

  • wareagle||

    and thanks for demonstrating that the intelligence level of the typical lefty is not far removed from moron status.

  • Zeb||

    Minus the snark, it is not obvious that what mustard says is untrue.

  • ||

    Snark is what passes for intelligence amoung liberals.

  • Sidd Finch||

    Breeding patterns in the first world have been dysgenic for about a century. At most, abortions very slightly slow the rate of genotypic IQ decline.

  • Mensan||

    Maybe. According to Steven Levitt it reduces crime, and, with the exception of serial killers, criminals tend to have below average IQs.

  • Sidd Finch||

    There were all kinds of problems with his data and analysis. Last I saw, he recanted most of those claims. Also, serial killers (in the legal sense) are mostly dumb. The smart ones like the Unabomber are just really noticeable.

  • Certified Public Asskicker||

    Maybe. According to Steven Levitt it reduces crime

    Yes, making something that is illegal, legal, would in fact, reduce crime.

  • LTC(ret) John||

    Three generations of mustards is enough.

  • Sidd Finch||

    Flynn on the Flynn Effect.

    Similarly, some people are more gifted at words than at numbers, or vice versa, and therefore, factor analysis yields secondary factors such as a verbal factor, a quantitative factor, a spatial reasoning factor, a speed of information processing factor, and so forth. These factors are often called 'latent traits' and defined as the core things IQ tests measure. When you analyze IQ gains over time, you often find that they do not constitute enhancement of these latent traits -- they go not seem to be general intelligence gains, or quantitative factor gains, or verbal factor gains (Wicherts et al, in press). In the language of factor analysis, this means that IQ gains over time tend to display 'measurement artifacts or cultural bias'. For a second time, we are driven to the conclusion that massive IQ gains are not intelligence gains or, indeed, any kind of significant cognitive gains.
  • John||

    So Flynn admits that all his work means is that we are better at taking IQ tests today.

  • Pro Libertate||

    It's not like the tests administered today are the same, either.

  • Sidd Finch||

    Flynn wasn't actually the first to notice the Flynn Effect. He's just the guy that did the legwork of comparing answer rates for similar questions.

  • SIV||

    Today's IQ tests are like the metric speedometers of the future in The Marching Morons

  • Sidd Finch||

    It's common knowledge (outside of the press) that most of the IQ gains aren't g factor gains.

  • Whiterun Guard||

    Jargon watch: The intellectually disabied used to be called mentally retarded and before that they were called moronic.

    Fix your typo you moronic retard!

  • Ron Bailey||

    WG: Fixed. Thanks for pointing it out.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    I DON'T UNDERSTAND A WORD OF THIS ARTICLE.

  • ||

    That's because your IQ is 67.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    That's passing.

  • BarryD||

    Whatever their IQs, there are still suckers born every minute in America.

  • ||

    Among other things, Unz attributes rising IQs to the salutary effects on intellectual development of increased urbanization.

    I think better childhood nutrition is probably a more likely explanation.

  • John||

    See pro above. You don't need good nutrition to have a fully developed brain.

  • Tulpa (LAOL-PA)||

    That's what she said.

  • John||

    No. She said the opposite.

  • Tulpa (LAOL-PA)||

    WTF? The one time I make a "she said" joke it actually is a she. The world is conspiring against me again.

  • Rasilio||

    No but it helps.

    Especially important is having access to sufficient protein and fats during your first 5 years.

    IIRC there is a direct correlation to the protein, iodine, and iron content of a childs diet and their IQ as an adult.

    This does not mean you need perfect nutrition for a fully developed brain but if you are living on the edge of starvation as a small child you will not likely reach your full potential.

  • BarryD||

    It means you are more likely to be a dumbass if your parents are vegans, though.

  • Sidd Finch||

    Iodized salt helped a lot.

  • Zeb||

    Not having lead in everything probably helped a bit too.

  • LTC(ret) John||

    A lot, actually.

  • ||

    This is an absolute load. To believe this, you'd have to believe that a majority of the population was essentially retarded back then. I know that we like to insult the general public for being stupid, and TEAM members as well, but the fact is that there's no way our intelligence is that rapidly changing. Were the Romans super-retarded? I mean, what the fuck? Has he graphed this out? This sounds, once again, like a study that reflects the biases of its creator. WHAT A FUCKING SURPRISE.

  • Tulpa (LAOL-PA)||

    Were the Romans super-retarded?

    Are you kidding? They killed God and set price controls. It's a wonder they ever made it out of Italy.

  • ||

    They ate off lead plates yet still built the Colosseum. They were fucking geniuses! Also, Cicero!

  • Pro Libertate||

    The intelligence it took to build things using geometry, manual labor, and not much else is pretty staggering. The precision of the stones used in the Parthenon or even the Great Pyramid is staggering.

  • Pro Libertate||

    And look at philosophy, which arguably hasn't changed that much from a relatively brief period a little over 2,000 years ago.

  • $park¥||

    You're thinking of popular philosophy though. There are plenty of philosophers who have gone so far afield from the old thinkers, they just aren't as popular.

  • Pro Libertate||

    Yes, but we're still really operating in the bounds of the classic period. Nietzsche, for instance, went back to the pre-Socratics.

    Whitehead, of course, called philosophy a footnote to Plato, which is obviously hyperbole, but it's got a grain of truth to it.

    To be sure, a significant part of classic philosophy is "natural science", where we've insanely surpassed the ancients in any measure you want to apply.

  • Tulpa (LAOL-PA)||

    That speaks more to the limited nature of philosophy than any lack of progress in the modern era. When you're talking about yourself, there's only so much you can say before you run out of things to talk about. While nature is always going to throw curves at you if you're actually looking.

  • Whiterun Guard||

    Reg: But apart from the sanitation, the medicine, education, viniculture, public order, irrigation, roads, the fresh-water system, and public health, what have the Romans ever done for us?
    PFJ Member: Brought peace?
    Reg: Oh, peace? SHUT UP!

  • Pro Libertate||

    Anyone ever read Sprague de Camp's The Ancient Engineers? Those retards did some amazing things with very little.

    And the dismissals of their achievements by some here as the work of a very few--well, that's true of modern achievements as well.

  • John||

    They built all of that stuff without mortar. Basically those huge aqueducts that are still standing were built by just piling stones up in just the right way. Amazing.

  • $park¥||

    Basically those huge aqueducts that are still standing were built by just piling stones up in just the right way.

    Do you think they got it right on the first try? A two year old can build a relatively stable stack of 3" blocks without any help.

  • John||

    Do you think they got it right on the first try? A two year old can build a relatively stable stack of 3" blocks without any help.

    That is the dumbest thing you have ever written on here.

  • $park¥||

    That is the dumbest thing you have ever written on here.

    I understand that the point was beyond your idiot-level comprehension, you don't have to prove it to everyone.

  • Pro Libertate||

    To be sure, there was more to it than fitting blocks together. The blocks had to be carved such that they fit together very precisely.

    Not to mention the sophistication in perspective, etc. For instance, the Parthenon was deliberately built with curves and few right angles to overcome certain issues with how humans perceive converging lines. That indicates a level of intelligence equal to that exhibited today. Remember, they did this without advanced technology or math and without the historical knowledge that we have the benefit of.

  • $park¥||

    Remember, they did this without advanced technology or math and without the historical knowledge that we have the benefit of.

    People are able to accomplish amazing physical feats without having to understand the underlying mathematics.

  • $park¥||

    To be sure, there was more to it than fitting blocks together. The blocks had to be carved such that they fit together very precisely.

    Sure, which is why a two year old couldn't do it. I'm not saying that they didn't have to understand physics at some level, I'm saying that humans have an innate understanding of physics without knowing how to express that.

    If a two year old can pile up some blocks in an hour, 1,000 men can pile up some rocks over 100 years. That being said, the detail of the artwork would take someone with a more advanced ability.

  • Pro Libertate||

    It's a lot more complicated than that. You should do some reading about ancient engineering. It's staggeringly impressive and was anything but "brute force."

  • $park¥||

    It's staggeringly impressive and was anything but "brute force."

    I'm not taking away from their accomplishments, but everything that was done then could be done faster and by a crew that you wouldn't call above the ordinary today. You pretty much said so yourself below. The point is, back then it took the brilliant minds of the age to do what just about any work crew could do today.

  • John||

    I'm not taking away from their accomplishments,

    then what are you doing besides wasting everyone's time trolling?

  • $park¥||

    then what are you doing besides wasting everyone's time trolling?

    It's getting close to the end of the year, are you trying to catch up to T o n y before we need to start a new score sheet? Comment after comment that you've made has made it clear that you can't grasp what I'm trying to say. I see no reason to give you one more try because I don't think I could dumb it down enough for you.

  • Pro Libertate||

    All that means is that we have access to tools and information that they didn't have access to. Not that we're individually more intelligent.

  • $park¥||

    All that means is that we have access to tools and information that they didn't have access to. Not that we're individually more intelligent.

    In my opinion, that's exactly what it means. Every time something new is built, it isn't long before someone comes along and says "I can do it better." It's a buildup of learning to be sure. The second guy couldn't do, may not even have thought of doing, what he's doing without the first guy having done it. But the fact that designs are continuously being improved means people are learning.

  • Scarcity||

    What a bunch of morons! Why didn't they just use mortar?

  • Almanian.||

    The aqueducts ALONE are cause for high praise. But there was so much more, and from so many societies - amazing stuff.

    Could we build the pyramids today? Could we? ESPECIALLY with union labor...:)

  • Cliché Bandit||

    Having seen first hand those accomplishments, the Forum, Machu Pichu, Westminster, The Duomo, The Pantheon (my favorite building in the whole world)...I am awe inspired as to their abilities. However, scope and perspective are required to get a full understanding. It took over 180 years to build Notre Dame. The ancients had several things in large supply, time and labor.

  • Scarcity||

    Hearty agreement on the Pantheon. Wandering around the ancient, winding, narrow streets of Rome, turning a corner and seeing the Pantheon for the first time will always be one of my travel highlights. I have a picture I took of rain falling through the hole in the top blown up to poster-size on canvas in my house.

  • BarryD||

    The Egyptians DID force the builders to join the Pharaoh's union.

  • Tulpa (LAOL-PA)||

    It's a shame too, because the Hittites were right-to-work.

  • tarran||

    Actually there was a documentary considering that question. they hired some European constuction company to prepare an estimate.

    IIRC, it was $4 billion with modern technology to build the Great Pyramid, $168 billion with ancient technology(!)

  • Rasilio||

    4 Billion for the Great Pyramid?

    No fucking way it costs even a quarter of that using modern techniques.

    The Burj Khalifa only cost $1.5 billion and is larger and far more technically demanding to construct

  • tarran||

    Hey, you need to quarry that shit. You need to transport the rocks, and you need lots of heavy equipment to move it into position. Modern buildings are designed to be much easier to build.

  • Tulpa (LAOL-PA)||

    Could we build the pyramids today?

    We could if we wanted to... and the fact that we don't waste our time with useless piles of rocks in the desert counts in our favor, not against.

    I'll put the Hoover Dam up against any aqueduct or any so-called wonder of the world any day. USA! USA!

  • Scarcity||

    Um, I get your point about the pyramids and the Hoover Dam is great, but if you put the aqueducts in the same category of "impressive vanity project" as the pyramids then you're not grasping the function and critical importance of the aqueducts.

  • tarran||

    Dude,

    Just as fresh running water makes cities possible, corpse disposal also cuts down on the spread of disease. True, building a pyramid for each corpse isn't efficient... :)

  • Cliché Bandit||

    I think Hoover Dam(n) is a poor example, a better one for your argument is the Panama canal...Same scope as Pyramid, done in a hostile environment, and with steam shovels.

    A fish bumps into a wall and turns to his friend and says "Damn"

  • Pro Libertate||

    There are some things we may not be able to easily do in the exact same way as previous cultures, but there's probably very little engineering we can't do better, faster, cheaper.

  • Sidd Finch||

    The academic work is fine. The innumerate press is the problem.

  • Whiterun Guard||

    Hi, I'm Rick, I don't know what the article is talking about, so I'll just jump to my own conclusions!

  • Bee Tagger||

    I guess in the future we all make a pact to not only not kill Hitler but to also not take IQ tests when we travel to the past.

  • ||

    Ok, the bullshit camp has convinced me.

    Maybe it's the fact that (part of) IQ doesn't actually measure your intelligence, but rather your memory of inane historical facts, names, and words. Some of the questions can be culturally biased, such as matching synonyms that involve Shakespeare characters. You don't have to be super smart to have a large recollection of a large number of Jeopardy or Trivial Pursuit questions, which people have a lot more exposure to with more media available ot them.

    So I'd blame it on the uquitious growth of communication media enabling all sorts of people to pick up obscure cultural knowledge that was only available to elites in 1900.

  • Adam330||

    I don't think IQ tests are trivia tests. The ones I've seen are more like logic tests. They can still have cultural biases, but they don't ask who won the battle of Waterloo.

  • Tulpa (LAOL-PA)||

    You know who else didn't ask who won the battle of Waterloo...

  • ||

    True, but if you get a word analogy question like Hamlet is to Polonius as crazy is to (blank), then you aren't going to be able to answer the question unless you know who Hamlet and Polonius are.

    All of the word-analogy type questions are potentially biased in that way. You're only going to know what the word 'limn' means if you read certain specialized sites. Not because your stupid.

    Anything that depends on size-of-vocabulary measures, is going ot be affects by peoples exposure to more information.

  • Sidd Finch||

    This is why there's nonverbal tests (e.g.). Turns out people who do good/bad on full-scale tests tend to do good/bad on those also.

  • Sidd Finch||

    IQ tests attempt to measure the g factor.

  • sarcasmic||

    Does that have anything to do with the g spot?

  • Sidd Finch||

    That's a myth, like the female orgasm.

  • sarcasmic||

    You have my pity.

  • Sidd Finch||

    Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back wasn't that bad.

  • Dr. Frankenstein||

    Slandering people anonymously is what the internet is for.

  • sarcasmic||

    IQ tests are supposed to measure problem solving skills.

  • Almanian.||

    I'd blame it on the uquitious growth of communication media

    I blame Bush, Hazel.

  • Ken Shultz||

    The interesting thing is people who seem normal otherwise, but don't improve when provided with intellectual stimulation.

    Tony has been reading this site and all our comments for at least a couple of years, now, and he'd dumber today than he was when he first started!

  • sarcasmic||

    I think of IQ as a capacity to learn. Not to be confused with the ability to be taught.

    Tony can allow himself to be taught, if he respects the teacher. Can he learn? I don't think so.

  • Ken Shultz||

    Yeah, I think that speaks to character.

    You need to have some kernel of intellectual honesty.

    Lacking that isn't really about intelligence; it's about character or morality. Something like that.

  • sarcasmic||

    This is just a bunch of self serving liberal tripe by people who think that human nature can be cured through social engineering.

    Fact is we're just three steps out of the cave with a lot of shiny toys.
    Without the accumulated knowledge in books and such, we'd be back to the stone age, Yangs and Coms style.

  • Pro Libertate||

    It's also a way of trying to explain the success of the Industrial Revolution without accounting for the liberalization of the West.

  • John||

    Yup. And if you don't believe that, look how helpless people are in disaster areas.

  • sarcasmic||

    Division of labor is a double-edged sword.

  • Almanian.||

    ^^this

    Yeah - we're so fucking much smarter now that New Yawkers can't go a couple days without electricity, most people in the US couldn't feed themselves absent a supermarket, the US gummint GENIUSES! have us a couple trillion (give or take) in debt, and....Kim Kardashian.

    On the other hand - DRONES and "South Park", so - tough call.

  • Zeb||

    I tend to agree that a lot of people would be pretty helpless, but I think that if the assumption that someone is going to come rescue them was removed, most people would be able to figure something out.

  • Almanian.||

    I believe the opposite. Who knows?

    Maybe we'll find out Dec 21!

  • Cliché Bandit||

    I am more optimistic...We survived thousands of years without many of the conveniences we have today, through war, pestilence, famine, etc. We will make it through most anything. Also, I choose to believe in western society when the prospect of daddy gubmit is removed people do make it work on their own without shootouts in the street (barring the police of course, they just like shooting people in the streets a la Katrina).

    Look at 9/11, Andrew, the tsunami. All have examples of humans working together to solve the problem peacefully. I think the show Revolution is a bit alarmist (not to mention, if you inhibit electrical flow then all living creatures would die...not just computers /end rant).

  • sarcasmic||

    With division of labor and specialization we are surrounded by objects that no one person could possibly make themselves.

    This is because people learn to do only a small aspect of some good or service, as opposed to just a couple hundred years ago where most of what you owned was built with your own hands.

    This allows for complexity on a scale that the world has never seen. On the flip side many people are helpless outside their tiny little specialty in the complex economy.

  • Rasilio||

    I think a correct formulation is that given time most people would figure something out.

    Problem is that in a situation where no one was going to come "rescue" them means a situation where "figuring something" out largely means killing other people and stealing their food until you have time to figure it out and the majority of people wouldn't survive the first 6 weeks in that environment.

  • sarcasmic||

    It also depends on where the disaster occurs, or rather who is affected.

    I hate to sound racist here, but when tornadoes rip through white (working) neighborhoods, people manage to pull through.

    Contrast that with the black (welfare) neighborhoods destroyed by these last two storms.

  • Cliché Bandit||

    See, I disagree. First things first, decentralize. People will move to the countryside, walking if need be. There the raw resources are more abundant. Rural folk are nice as can be usually, and more labor on the farm means more food. PLUS, everyone in the US is armed...I don't think total societal breakdown results in armed riots (largely, surely small pockets and incidents)...see the conversation above about decisions in war with real consequences.

  • Cliché Bandit||

    HELL, even when there aren't a lot of guns there is relatively little violence. Look at refugees of war zones. A strain on the neighbors they flee to but not wholesale anarchy (In the bad sense not philosophical sense).

  • Rasilio||

    How many days worth of food do you have in your house? How much of that is not quickly perishable, and how much of that can you carry with you?

    Just how far are the 8 million people in NYC going to have to spread out to find enough arible land to feed them all with no more food shipments coming in from Kansas, Texas, Florida, and California?

    Now remember that 20 miles a day by foot carrying gear is a difficult standard for trained soldiers to maintain for more than a few days at a time.

    In a "Revolution" type scenario 3/4ths of New Yorkers would starve to death or be killed fighting over food in under 6 weeks, over half the remainder would not make it through the next winter, after that however things would settle down to a relatively stable level.

  • Zeb||

    Well, maybe those people with urban chickens and rooftop gardens are onto something.

  • Russell||

    If fin de cycle IQ 's averaged 67 , no wonder the idiots of the ancien regime lost their pinheads in the 1790's, while the single digit savants of the Restoration prevailed over the IQ zero Roundheads.

  • Russell||

    As can be seen above, the zero IQ era lives on in spellcheck

  • RPR2||

    I'm not buying. The writing from over one hundred years ago seems more intelligent than today and the writing from over 200 years ago even more so. We have also made steady progress in keeping the stupid alive and breeding.

  • Ken Shultz||

    I suspect the writing from back then was written for an elite audience. They were targeting their writing for the people at the top of the pyramid.

    The reason television isn't like Shakespeare isn't becasue people are dumber today; it's becasue television is written for the dumbest viewer out there. Shakespeare wrote to appeal to the groundlings, too, but I don't think they were the primary audience he was writing for.

    On Star Trek they always had to explain everything they were doing as they were doing it--they were shooting for the dumber people in the audience to goose their ratings.

    It's that way with, say, Baroque music, too. That music was written for an elite audience.

    I wouldn't write the same way for a dissertation committee that I would for you riff raff here in the comment section of Hit & Run. But how I would write for a dissertation committee doesn't suggest that the commentariat here at Hit & Run isn't getting any smarter.

  • ||

    Are you reading the writings of chimney sweepers or someone like Charles Dickens?

  • Zeb||

    It seems plausible that people are better at the things that IQ tests measure now than they used to be. But I don't think that that means that people are now more intelligent in any absolute sense. But perhaps problem solving and logic skills are a lot more learned and cultural than we like to think they are. The type of abstract reasoning we are used to probably doesn't make sense in a more primitive setting. But given a practical problem that matters to someone's life, I'm sure people have been pretty clever in all times and places.

  • $park¥||

    If you're in to splitting knowledge into tacit and explicit, you might say that explicit knowledge is expanding while tacit knowledge is staying pretty level. People today know many more facts than people used to, but that doesn't necessarily make them better at accomplishing things.

  • sarcasmic||

    Regurgitating information without understanding it does not make someone smart. It makes them Tony.

  • Sidd Finch||

  • ||

    Just like a person can have a genius IQ and be a complete fuck-up when they try to do anything practical.

    I suspect Krugman tests as a genius on IQ tests, yet writes column after column of easily refuted retarded musings disconnected from reality.

  • Ken Shultz||

    He wanted to be wealthy and famous more than he wanted to be an academic, so he sold out.

    Punk rawk bands do it.

    I disagree with Krugman on a whole slew of issues, but selling out isn't exactly stupid. I don't think he f'd up.

    I've worked with a bunch of civil engineers who were nowhere near smart enough to run a deal on their own. They were geniuses in their own way, but their kind of genius wasn't the kind that makes investors back their deals; make construction workers do what needs to get done; make sure brokers market a project correctly; negotiate leases and sales with clients; etc.

  • ||

    Krugman makes me sad, precisely because he should know better.

  • ant1sthenes||

    Makes sense to me, modern technology means we can treat strength, dexterity, and constitution as dump stats. Too bad about wisdom, though.

  • $park¥||

    Well everybody knows if you're not playing a full caster, you're not playing right anyway. What use are a bunch of strong guys who just swing sharp sticks at each other?

  • DK||

    *Perhaps this explains why some segments of the population were so stupidly attracted to Communism and Nazism in the early 20th century.

    What's the explanation, now?

  • The Last American Hero||

    Good against remotes is one thing. Against the living? That's something else.

  • American||

    More cosmatarian crap. For one, the IQ tests given back in the 1900 were very different from our current IQ tests. Second, although scores have increased, the difference between the IQ scores of white, blacks, and Jews, have always averaged 1 standard deviation apart. Blacks in Africa average about 70 on IQ tests. Blacks in America average 85. Jews average 115. None of this is mentioned in the article.
    "The implication is that there are potential Einsteins now working as subsistence farmers in Congo or dropping out of high school in Mississippi who, with help, could become actual Einsteins."
    The implication here being that if we welcome more Congan subsistence farmers into our country(fun fact, about 2 million Congans have been slaughtered in that country's genocide. You haven't heard about it because, in contrast to Rwanda, because it is still going on. Diversity is great, ain't it?) and give them our wealth, they'll become theoretical physicists. Of course, we already have a large Congan population in our country, whose IQ, as said above, averages 85. But don't you just love discussing things you read about in the New York Times? It gives a warm feeling inside to all cosmatarians, that hey, we aren't all bad.

  • M.H.||

    "...the Flynn Effect has long been boosting the intelligence of various immigrant groups so that many now score higher IQ averages than the IQ average of "old stock" Americans."

    As expected, no one here knows that Flynn Effect is not measurement invariant.
    http://wicherts.socsci.uva.nl/wicherts2004.pdf

  • Sidd Finch||

  • slocklin||

    The Flynn effect is obvious statistical bullshit. I can't explain to you why it is bullshit, as I haven't looked at the data, but it is, none the less, bullshit. All one need do is look at a 1950s or 1900s high school syllabus, and compare to the modern "gifted program" HS syllabus.

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