Mailvox: Taleb errs on IQ

JC has a Christmas request:

You mentioned Taleb is one of the few people that would make you question things you previously held. Taleb’s math is out of my league but it’s the same way I feel about your blog posts, i.e. they make me really think about my previously held beliefs. Could you maybe address his IQ thread in your blog or on the Darkstream one of these days?

Knowing my respect for the acumen of NN Taleb, a number of people have emailed me concerning his recent thread criticizing the idea of IQ and its utility in providing a reasonable proxy for comparing intelligence between individuals. I love Taleb’s books, I admire his pugnacious spirit, and I do not dismiss anything he says out of hand. However, no matter how much I respect anyone, I do not accept anyone as an authority who cannot be questioned. I have questioned and critiqued most of my intellectual heroes, from Umberto Eco to Thomas Aquinas and Marcus Aurelius, so I won’t hesitate to point out the various errors in fact and logic that Taleb makes in his “IQ” Thread.


“IQ” measures an inferior form of intelligence, stripped of 2nd order effects, meant to select paper shufflers, obedient IYIs.

1- When someone asks you a question in REAL LIFE, you focus first on “WHY is he asking me that?”, which slows down. (Fat Tony vs Dr John)

2- It takes a certain type of person to waste intelligent concentration on classroom/academic problems. These are lifeless bureaucrats who can muster sterile motivation.

Some people can only focus on problems that are REAL, not fictional textbook ones.

3- Look at the hordes with “high IQ” (from measurement) who are failures in real world rather than the ~50{d8b4b03f7cd10021bc48a627e8e1f7f3430c71153efff7ea4a5b1b0e3fb64988} correlation between IQ and success in 1) salaried employment, 2) jobs that select for edjukashion.

Yuuge survivorship bias.

37 out of 38 PhDs in finance blew up in 1998!

4- If many millionaires have IQs around100, & 58 y.o. back office clercs at Goldman Sachs or elsewhere an IQ of 155 (true example), clearly the measurement is less informative than claimed.

5- If you renamed IQ , from “Intelligent Quotient” to FQ “Functionary Quotient” or SQ “Salaryperson Quotient”, then some of the stuff will be true.

It measures best the ability to be a good slave.

IYIs want to build a top-down world where IYIs have the edge.

6- If you take a Popperian-Hayekian view on intelligence, then you would realize that to measure it you would need to know the SKILLS needed in the ecology, which is again a fallacy of intellectual hubris.

7- Perhaps the worst problem with IQ is that it seem to selects for people who don’t like to say “there is no answer, don’t waste time, find something else”.

Remember the 1998 blowups.

8- IQ is an academic-contrived notion.

And the problem is that in academia there is no difference between academia and the real world; in the real world there is.

Which explains why @primalpoly (while an honest resesrcher) can’t see where we are coming from.

9- It is PRECISELY as a quant that I doubt “IQ”.
I’ve spent 34 years working w/”High IQ” quants. I’ve rarely seen them survive, not blow up on tail events.

Those high IQ who have survived like @financequant /Renaissance happen to be yuuugely street smart

10- #SkininTheGame shows that the only robust measure of “rationality” & “intelligence” is survival, avoidance of ruin/left tail/absorbing barrier, (ergodicity). Nothing that does not account for ability to survive counts as a measure of “intelligence”– just philosophaster BS.

11- A robust use of “IQ” is for low scores for special needs pple. But then practically ANY measure would work to detect problem & improvement.

Or no measure: just a conversation #Lindy. But then psycholophasters are using it like cholesterol, transferring from tails to body.

12- If someone came up w/a NUMERICAL “Well Being Quotient” WBQ or “Sleep Quotient”, SQ, trying to mimic temperature or oth physical qty,  you ‘d find it absurd.
But put enough academics w/physics envy on it & it will become an official measure.

That’s what happened to “IQ”.

13- For a measure to be a measure it needs to be:

or, at least

Hence IQ is not a measure, but something for psycholophasters to BS about.

14- Any measure of “intelligence” w/o convexity is sterile. …

15-” IQ” is most predictive of performance in military training, w/correlation~.5, (which is circular since hiring isn’t random).

QUIZ: translate the correlation into percentage of the time IQ provides a correct answer there.

16- So Far: “IQ” isn’t a measure of “intelligence” but “unintelligence”; it loses its precision as you move away from 70 (left tail).

Where it’s most hyped (*some* jobs) it predicts ~15- 63{d8b4b03f7cd10021bc48a627e8e1f7f3430c71153efff7ea4a5b1b0e3fb64988} of the time, ~10{d8b4b03f7cd10021bc48a627e8e1f7f3430c71153efff7ea4a5b1b0e3fb64988} if you demassage data.

It it were a physical test, wd be rejected.

17- A graph that shows the synthesis of my opinion on IQ and the “reseasrch” results about it.

18- (continuing graph). So far none of the IQ-psycholophasters seem to grasp that local correlation is never correlation is the commonly understood sense. So when they say  “IQ works well between 70 and 130” it means: “IQ works well between 0 and ~85, maybe”.

19- A general problem w/social “scientists” & IQ idiots: they can intuit the very terms they are using.
Verbalism; they have a skin-deep statistical education & can’t translate something as trivial as “correlation” or “explained variance” into meaning, esp. under nonlinearities.

20- This Tweet storm has NO psychological references: simply, the field is bust. So far ~ 50{d8b4b03f7cd10021bc48a627e8e1f7f3430c71153efff7ea4a5b1b0e3fb64988} of the research DOES NOT replicate, & papers that do have weaker effect. Not counting poor transfer to reality.

How P values often fraudulent: …
Same for g factor

21-If you look at my p-haking above all the numbers by the fellow are upper bound -add category selection & the story is grim. Discount the story by >½.

“If IQ isn’t a valid concept, no concept in psychology is valid.” Sorry but psychology is largely bust.

22- This tweet storm irritated many:

1) Charlatans with something to sell: without IQ & other *testing* psychologists have little to sell society; there is a vested interest in hacking/massaging the stats & defending the products.

2) Pple who want some races to be inferior.

23- Note 1: Why is Intelligence = (long term) survival? Because convexity, missed by IQ tests. You want to make those mistakes with small consequences  NOT those with large ones. Academics ~ always focus on frequency of error not magnitude. Too Gaussianized. See #antifragile

First, while IQ may measure an inferior form of intelligence, Taleb’s apparent unfamiliarity with the statistically observed exclusion of the high-IQ cognitive elite means that he finds himself in error from the very start. Whether it was designed to do so or not, IQ observably does not select for “paper shufflers, obedient IYIs” as those who can best be described in that manner tend to be in 1SD to 2SD range. In fact, those in the 150+ range are 97 percent EXCLUDED from the elite professions, including academia, often due to their inveterate intellectual disobedience.

One study even found that the highest IQ among the academics measured at an elite English university was only 139! The fact that IQ proxy tests have not been utilized in the US college admissions process for nearly 30 years now only further obscures the severing of the link between academia and high intelligence.

Second, while it does take “a certain type of person to waste intelligent concentration on classroom/academic problems” those don’t tend to be the 3SD+ set. They tend to focus on ABSTRACT problems, because they are the only people capable of, and interested in, doing so. It is the midwits from the 105 to 115 level who prefer spitting out correct answers to questions already answered.

Third, Taleb fails to understand the reason for the correlation between high IQ and failure in the real world, which stems from the communications gap. The correlation between IQ and academic success is only 50 percent for IQs below 140; the rate of real world success for 150+ IQs is higher in the real world than in the academic world. Taleb is looking at too broad a range of “high IQ” rather than at a reasonable gradient of high IQ ranges.

Fourth, Taleb conflates intelligence with survival. But this is just flat-out wrong. Intelligence is simply a measure of intellectual ability, just as size, strength, and speed are measures of physical ability. And while intellectual ability is not necessarily as easily quantified, and while IQ is assuredly not a perfect measure, it is no more correct to redefine it simply because some people with lower IQs have higher incomes than other people with higher IQs than it would be correct to redefine size because some short people have higher incomes than taller people.

The fact that a track sprinter’s speed does not always translate to success on the football field, where speed is at a premium, does not mean that the sprinter is not fast. It merely means that there are other, more important factors involved that are less immediately apparent to the casual observer. And given the way in which the most intelligent women are disinclined to reproduce, it should be obvious that intelligence is no more intrinsically advantageous to survival than size.

In this failed critique of IQ, Taleb demonstrates the limitations of the technical mind, which I suspect in this case stems from Taleb’s understandable irritation with the shortcomings of the quantifiers used to determine IQ. A better measure would take into account more objectively quantifiable measures such the as speed of accurate reading, and place more importance on the ability to correctly perform logical and mathematical tasks quickly. But Taleb’s critique primarily fails due to his false assumptions concerning the correlation of academic success with IQ, which is surprising considering that Taleb probably knows more 1SD to 3SD academics than anyone reading this.