Why a High IQ Isn't That Impressive

Over the last year I've been a member of a few high IQ organizations. I joined them after working to recover from brain damage, to prove to myself that I could do it. I've found something odd about this group of people.

Having a high IQ doesn't seem that special when you have a high IQ because you've always had it. You don't know what it's like to not have a high IQ. That's why I never even thought about joining a high IQ society.

Then, in December of 2015 I went on a misadventure to Africa that changed everything. I was told I was going to die, but I made it out, barely. I did multiple antibiotic treatments over several months. Things still weren't right. Then I found out I had multiple spinal deformities and there was a complication with at least one in my neck. A bone was pressing on my brainstem and causing damage. Over this time everything in my body had malfunctioned: I had a resting heart rate of over 100, even laying down, for about 2 years, I experience short and long term memory loss, and a bunch of other stuff.

The experience of losing your ability to think, your ability to remember, your ability to walk, all of that is a depressing experience, but I'm not going to dive into how all of that feels. Slowly, by trial and error experiments that I conducted, I was able to start recovering. As I was recovering my IQ started to increase again. Because I was losing my memory, which is freaky, I started to do some memory tests to understand how fast my memory was declining.

It was quite bad at some points. For instance, a good working memory test is to be shown a series of numbers one at a time. Then, you repeat those numbers back. There are many tests like this online. The average is about 7 or 8. Before Africa mine was usually 9. At one point after Africa it got down to about 3 or 4.

I lost hope of recovery a few times, but I pressed on. It took a couple of years. I noticed that my reading comprehension levels seemed to be coming back somewhat. After I noticed cognitive increases in a few areas I decided to see if my working memory and IQ levels had returned. After a couple of years of work on my health I had a working memory of 8 digits and my IQ tests came back at between 132 and 134. The average IQ is 100. 50 percent of the population is below 100 and 50 percent is above. A significantly higher percentage of the population believes they are above average than actually are, but that's a different subject.

My IQ has probably increased a little since that test. I took the MAT (Miller Analogies Test), which is a graduate school entrance test, and scored a 444. You have to take a proctored exam of some sort to apply for Mensa, which is the largest high IQ society. They let in the top 2 percent. Currently, Mensa has 134,000 members. I also joined a few other high IQ societies. My IQ isn't super high, so I can't join the really exclusive clubs.

This experience of having a high IQ, losing your high IQ, and then having a high IQ again is very unusual. I don't know anyone else that has done it. What's normal is to have a high IQ, or average, and then slowly lose it over your life. IQ peaks early, around 20. I was 29 when I took the MAT. The complexity of your brain and thoughts can increase into your 70s or 80s though, which brings us to what IQ really is.

IQ, or the intelligence quotient, is a measurement of the rate at which you can recognize patterns. That's why there are IQ tests that show you a series of shapes and then ask you what shape goes in the last place. This pure measurement of pattern recognition is fluid IQ.

Over your life you accumulate different types of knowledge, for instance knowledge of language symbols and what those symbols refer to. This is called concrete intelligence. Usually, fluid and concrete intelligence track closely with each other. In rare circumstances there can be a difference. Basically, there is nothing you can do to increase your fluid intelligence, although there are many ways you can decrease it. Breastfeeding for the first two years of life may increase IQ by up to 3 points per year though.

Even with a declining IQ you can have a more complex brain and thoughts because complexity is how much something is both differentiated and how well it's able to work together. Essentially, over a lifetime you can learn more things and learn how to organize this information together forming more complex thought patterns, even as your IQ is decreasing.

Normally, when we call someone smart or intelligent we aren't directly talking about their pattern recognition abilities, usually we are talking about what they know. There are a couple of important things to point out here.

A lot of what we call smart has to do with how well a person can articulate their thoughts. If they are smart and can't say smart things, then we don't think they are smart. Also, external coherence is important. If someone says the earth is flat, then you will probably question at least their intelligence, because that doesn't cohere with external reality. Internal coherence is important too, because if someone is saying a bunch of things that contradict each other then they just seem confused. Lastly, results are huge. There's a saying, "If you're so smart why aren't you rich?" It's a darn good question. If you can't get what you want then your intelligence doesn't seem to be working that well in creating favorable consequences.

There have been many research papers done on why people with high IQs seem to underachieve so often. People with high IQs have higher income on average, but it's minimal. And, since the people that are on the extreme high end of income are usually high IQ that means a lot of people have to underachieve to bring those numbers back down.

I think it might be useful to look at it like this. In a technical sense intelligence is this ability to recognize patterns. An increased ability to recognize patterns allows for the possibility of greater knowledge and understanding. A greater knowledge base and understanding allows for the possibility of utilizing more sound judgments and actions, or wisdom.

Notice that intelligence can lead to knowledge, but it doesn't have to. Knowledge can lead to wisdom, but not necessarily. This means that intelligence is necessary for knowledge and wisdom, but it is not in itself sufficient. This is called necessary versus sufficient causation in philosophy. To have a lot of knowledge you have to have a high IQ, but having a high IQ doesn't mean you have a lot of knowledge. It's a one-way street.

When I first joined the high IQ societies I thought that all of the conversations would be intelligent. That was a dumb assumption. The conversations are not more intelligent at all in the Mensa Facebook groups. I'll give just one example, and this type of thing happens often. I'm not even going to point out how I had to leave one of the Mensa Facebook groups because several people were doxxing everyone that disagreed with them, which means that they were looking up personal information about them and posting it in the groups, and taking information they said in these private groups and sending it to their friends and family and such. I'm also not going to point out that most of the conversations are ad hominem attacks and name-calling. IQ, maturity, and civility are all completely different things.

Notice that IQ doesn't correlate with being happy, it doesn't correlate with being moral, and it doesn't correlate with having a meaningful life. Some studies show that there might even be somewhat of a reverse correlation there. Anyway, there was a post about a month ago in a Mensa group that was talking about how you can make more money by having a skill rather than a college degree. Here's how a guy named Paul responded.

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it's a world of 7.5 billion people. soon there'll be 14-20 billion. there have never- EVER been 7.5 billion jobs, let alone 14. "skilled labor shortages" are always temporary, and usually mythological. Unless there's hurdles in place simply to keep out the unwashed masses. like, as shown, "a 5 year internship" (which you can't get unless your father works here, or which doesn't pay, so you have to be rich already to work here eventually.) or outrageous education fees, or the delicious catch 22 of "you have to have experience or you cannot work in this field to get experience" etc. let's not confuse shitty gatekeeping practices with actual shortages. the fact is- capitalism isn't working, and with our current and future population levels, it'll never work again.

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Now, if I had encountered this comment in any other group I would have assumed that this person had a low IQ, but he doesn't, this is a person with an IQ in the top 2 percent. It would be difficult to fake your way into Mensa, so we can assume that he really does have a high IQ. (It is common for people in these groups to question if the other person really does have a high IQ, but that's just because they are hostile and can't have a civil discourse. And, I get that, because you come to a high IQ group thinking that you won't encounter any Pauls. Many of the discussions are often petty too. For instance, I'm guessing this post might result in "important" discussions about whether you should use an or a in front of high. If you pronounce the h as you should then it's a, by the way.)

There is so much wrong with this that I'm just going to point out a few things. He must be looking into a crystal ball to be able to predict those population numbers. Crystal balls aren't accurate Paul. His statement about there not being that many jobs before is just stupid. If you had a tribe of 20 people and five women were pregnant Paul would be freaking out because there have never been 25 jobs in the tribe before. How do you even respond to such idiotic things? I usually just don't respond to these types of people. The quoted five-year internship was actually a five-year apprenticeship, the guy can't even read. Plus, I think it was for an electrician, so it pays. And, gatekeeping has nothing to do with capitalism. Gatekeeping is done in every society in all of human history.

Basically, Paul is a complete moron. Paul also has a high IQ. It seems to be a contradiction, but obviously it's not. Paul hasn't been able to use his pattern recognition abilities to learn any useful patterns, at least not about any of this. He has no knowledge in any of these areas, and certainly no wisdom. He can't articulate himself well, his information doesn't correlate with the external world, his information has internal inconsistencies, and I'm guessing that his results in life are pretty bad which is why he seems so resentful.

It seems that people with high IQs often end up resentful, which is extremely dangerous. The story of Cain killing Able is all about the dangers of resentment. Aesop's story about the fox and the grapes is about how resentment works. School shooters and murderers often say that they are killing people because they are resentful. It's not a good thing. And, since people with high IQs often fail to live up to what they think is their potential, and they often think that other people are less than themselves, they tend to have some resentment if they aren't successful.

Just for fun, let's compare Paul's response to Dima Vorobiev's response to a question about Communism. I don't know Dima's IQ, but it isn't low, or average. He's a former Soviet propagandist. Here's his response to "What's it like to be a real Communist?"

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If you want to feel like a real communist, you must do all the right things, in the right order:

Read the classics and be able to answer the question: “What are the three sources and the three integral parts of Marxism?”
Join a local Communist cell, or form your own and establish a contact with other local cells, in order to organize yourselves and propagate the ideas and practices of the Communist transformation of your society
Take side with the subjugated working people in your neighborhood and at your working place, use every opportunity to explain to them how their lives will turn to the better once the political power is taken by you.
You must organize strikes, demonstrations, sit-ins and other forms of civil action that disturb the bourgeois political life and reveal to the working classes the deceptive nature of so-called freedom of speech, freedom of association and other myths of bourgeois ideology.
Never flinch from use of violence, including use of weapon, in fighting the oppressing classes. Their past history of subjugation and exploitation, as well as their future crimes, vindicate civil wars, mass shootings, taking of hostages and concentration camps. Never yield to the myths of bourgeois justice or morality, they exist solely for perpetuation of class exploitation. Once you triumph, you’ll introduce a new, better proletarian justice and proletarian morality.
Once the oppressing classes lose their political power, you must immediately nationalize most, or all of the means of production. Anything larger than the ethnic grocery shop at the corner, anyway. You shall not forget the shop for long, though, because the small-bourgeois instincts of its dark-skinned owners in the long run inevitably produce the most reactionary forms of large-bourgeois ideology.
Political rights of the oppressing classes must be revoked. No voting rights, no right to establish political parties etc. All bourgeois media must be confiscated, any attempts to spread bourgeois propaganda punished. Introduce a strict censorship.
Keep a strict party discipline. Some of your comrades will inevitably get wrong ideas about confiscating bourgeois homes, shooting saboteurs, torturing organizers of subversive actions, and other necessary measures of class struggle. These comrades must be censured or purged from the party. If they persist in their erroneous small-bourgeois ways, they must be treated in line with the worst of class enemies.
Revolution must be able to defend itself. Establish a large, well-armed defense force and an omnipresent, highly efficient secret police. Once the oppressing classes in the entire world are eradicated, you may consider to abolish your Communist state. But until then, these will be inviolable guarantors of your victorious proletarian state.
From here, using your well-deserved power of the armed proletariat, you use your own discretion for further advancement of the Communist cause.

This is well-tested many places and worked perfectly in Russia, China, Cuba and many other places. Don’t listen to what the detractors say about so-called crimes and demise of Communism. The Korean communists have been holding their ground for 70 years. Maybe, one day you can be the one who finds a way to beat that record.

This is what it’s like to be a true Communist!

UPD: This is what a hard-working, self-sacrificing Communist was supposed to look like (screenshot of a Soviet movie classic “Communist” from 1957):

These are true, real-life Communists:

You may well argue if they were real Communists. But these guys had power to decide who were true Communists and who were just pretending, which we have not.

So you must trust they were.

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Dima has used his ability to recognize patterns to acquire knowledge that has led to wisdom. He can articulate his thoughts, in multiple languages. His information correlates with the external world. His information is coherent and doesn't contradict itself. And, his results in life are pretty good, from what I can glean.

I've pointed out for most of my life when people would comment on my intelligence that intelligence is highly contextual. Just because you know about one thing doesn't mean that transfers over to other things. (In a technical sense I was talking about knowledge, but we muddle these words often. In a technical sense "muddle" is equivocation in logic. So, we must struggle with understanding what people mean when they use these terms.)

This makes me wonder, could Paul have been Dima if he just had different information fed into his brain? Or, is there so much more to knowledge and wisdom that Paul never really had a chance even though he had a high IQ?

The Dunning-Kruger effect is often pointed out in these discussions. Dunning-Kruger states that people that aren't intelligent aren't intelligent enough to realize that they aren't intelligent. You can replace intelligent with knowledgeable or wise as well. This is normally stated in a slightly different way, but this way is easier to understand. This is often posited as the reason that people that are so obviously wrong believe so strongly that they are right.

Some of this is due to the person's upbringing, I'm sure. For instance, my father always thought that you didn't really understand an idea until you could argue both sides of the debate well. I spent a lot of time when I was young arguing both sides of a bunch of topics with him. This helped to make me highly skeptical, doubting, and questioning of any position. This works as a self-corrective mechanism, but some people had the opposite training.

I think a lot of this has to do with other parts of personality too. For instance, success in life is more highly associated with conscientiousness scores than IQ. Conscientiousness is your natural tendency to be active and engaged and to organize. My conscientiousness scores are in the 0th percent, you can't go lower. My openness scores are very high. This combination means that I don't mind, and even seek out, new information that could radically change my views. It's a self-correcting system, but some people have the opposite personality traits.

Self-deception is being studied more and maybe Paul is just a lot more self-deceived than Dima. That would be my guess.

This leads to interesting questions about who we should believe about what. I'm not going to go into it much here. Ray Dalio is a self-made billionaire and has an interesting system in his company where all of the people rate each other on their believability on different subjects. The opinion of those people that are rated as more believable on a subject are then given more authority about decisions concerning those subjects. This seems to have worked well for him. It's using social verification to create a shared reality where there is a hierarchy of competence on these various subjects.

To sum up, having a high IQ is good and can help to lead to more knowledge and wisdom, but that doesn't mean that it will. A high IQ certainly doesn't lead to happiness, or morality, or meaning in life. A high IQ doesn't even correlate very well with success, although it does a little. You basically can't do anything to increase your IQ, but it doesn't matter that much because there are other things of importance that are even more valuable.


You can find more of what I'm doing at http://www.JeffreyAlexanderMartin.com


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