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What about this paper? It does suggest ever increasing returns to iq https://twitter.com/balajis/status/1659390782510604290?s=46&t=_UUM4ozB1KcaD5mygp8y5w

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Interesting! If I understand it right, the study was not about IQ as a whole (g), but about people with exceptional mathematical OR verbal abilities. The study says that those who were good at math at 13 mostly accomplished things in math-heavy sciences and those who scored high at language mostly accomplished things in the humanities. So far, I don't think the study contradicts my general assumption that the top performers in every sport tend to be spefically gifted in their own sport. Math wizards became good at math and related stuff, language wizards became good at language and related stuff. IQ test wizards become good at IQ tests and related stuff.

The question is what is related to IQ tests. I have modified my stance slightly since I wrote the article above. I now believe that general IQ is related to a person's ability to learn general stuff. I also think that is a weakness of the IQ measurement for searching for special abilities: General IQ is related to a person's ability to achieve general stuff. But polymaths went out of fashion already in the 18th century. What is needed now are special abilities that can achieve special things that haven't yet been achieved. I think general IQ is, and has always been, a blunt measure for that.

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A couple of your examples are dubious. Christopher Langan in particular seems like an outright fraud. You could have looked at larger sample sizes, e.g. the SMPY.

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Yes. As Apple Pie stated here below, an IQ in the 200-range is mathematically impossible, so in some sense all the people on my list are frauds or at least mismeasured. If Langan is more fraudulent that that, it would be interesting to know more about it. I only read some articles about him. My favorite example is still Rick Rosner. While Christopher Langan seems too crazy to understand, Rick Rosner gives a perfectly comprehensible half-crazy impression.

Larger samples are interesting, but in order to fully understand the meaning of IQ we also need individuals.

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A note on Langan: He was featured in Malcolm Gladwell's "Outliers: The story of success", where Gladwell wrote down a long list of unlucky events in Langan's life that supposedly prevented him from succeeding. I suspect they were mostly invented by Langan. One wonders how Langan would constantly fail in life despite his intelligence, but his Wikipedia biography provides a clue: His father was absent and his mother had multiple children from several men. My verdict is that Langan is of normal intelligence, perhaps a bit bookish, but also lacking in conscientiousness (he did not finish his college degree) and dishonest. What else would one expect with such parents? Certainly not a genius, given what we know about the heritability of mental traits.

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I wouldn't let him go that easily. If Christopher Langan really is high IQ, that is too interesting to be dismissed without solid proof.

And if he is a fraud, that would also make him both highly interesting and highly unusual. How could a man who couldn't pull himself through university and who couldn't get himself a good source of income deceive millions of people about his test-taking ability? That would clearly be worth a book of its own.

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OK Tove, you name a number of people here who "have" IQs of 190, 200, and higher. But I don't believe any of them actually have those IQ levels. To be technical, IQ is something one scores, rather than has, but assuming IQ is a trait that one can possess, I still don't believe most of these scores.

There's a rarity chart here that says how common such people should be at https://www.iqcomparisonsite.com/IQtable.aspx which says that IQ 200 is the upper 99,9999999987% of people - in other words, one out of over 76 billion people. You are reporting on the existence of more than one such person, but 76 billion is more than the number of people who have been alive since IQ testing began. The number of such people we would expect to have ever lived is zero.

I do believe that these people are widely reported as having ultra high IQs. And I'm willing to believe that at one point, according to some test, maybe some of them really did score that high, but even that is something I'm not sure of. What I don't believe is that most of them truly *have* an IQ this high.

How would one even design a test for people who are so rare? Wouldn't you need one of these special, one in 76 billion people to be able to design the questions? Most IQ tests have ceilings on them - upper bounds where no one can score above. A common ceiling is 160 IQ. But even approaching these ceilings, the score starts to be less meaningful, so (depending on the test) scores above 150 can be imprecise. https://www.verywellfamily.com/ceiling-effect-1449173

You point out many people with reported IQs of 190, 200, and above have few accomplishments, and argue that, therefore, IQ is more a measure of pattern recognition than thinking ability. But what would we conclude if, in fact, these claims about their IQ were just silly?

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I do think these people's claim about their IQ is silly. Simply because I agree with you that there can't possibly be a suitable test for those outliers. You say 150 would be a suitable ceiling for IQ tests. I think the ceiling should be still lower, given the dwindling lack of correlation between IQ and real world achievement above 120-130 or so. The point of IQ tests should be their predictive power. Once they fail to predict real-world achievements, they should be considered useless.

Still, I think I can see a common denominator between three of the four remarkable men on my list: They were child prodigies and very fast and early learners, according to the available information. So I'm prone to believe that an extraordinary ability to see patterns correlates with something. That something just doesn't seem to be thinking ability.

I'm in no sense intending to discredit the IQ scale as such. I think it has great predictive power. I just think it should be left to do what it is good at: Predicting outcomes.

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Well, we don't exactly agree - I think that a *common* ceiling for intelligence tests is 160, and that on such tests scores around the 150-160 range *can* be inaccurate. They most definitely don't stop predicting real world achievement above 130 IQ. For example, look at the average IQs of Nobel Laureates:

https://www.quora.com/What-is-the-average-IQ-of-Nobel-Laureates?share=1

Note that the theoretical physicists scored 157, ten points higher than laureates in anthropology, and far higher than the 120-130 range you write about as a practical ceiling. This is useful, practical information of direct relevance to me personally - that's why I majored in physics, to find a smart young lady to be Mrs. Apple Pie.

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I think those Quora statistics support a ceiling of 130 rather well. At least four of the best scientists in 1952 had IQs below 135. One had as low as 122. A test that fail to catch people who actually achieve something outstanding is not a very good test. Lewis Terman tried to predict "genius", and missed two future Nobel Prize Laureates in physics https://russellwarne.com/2020/09/14/termans-non-geniuses-shockley-and-alvarez/ That says something about the limitations of IQ tests as predictors of special abilities.

I don't at all deny that there is a correlation between IQ and achievement above 130. I just think that by then it starts to get weak enough to discredit the IQ scale as such. There are obvious differences between people with IQs of 80, 100 and 120. There are no such obvious differences between people with IQs of 130 and 150. If you get biographical details of different people, you could probably tell who is an 80, a 100 and a 120. But I think it would be nigh on impossible to tell who is a 130 or 150 from biographical details (except, maybe, if one of the study subjects is a theoretical phycisist).

My first thought when you said you searched for an intelligent partner in physics, was that you once mentioned that Mrs Appel Pie doesn't write voluntarily. By this I don't mean to say she is not very intelligent - I suppose she is - but I still suspect that piece of information supports the general observation that abilities among top scorers diverge. People who are really bad at math tend to also be really bad at writing. People who are really good at math do not tend to be really good at writing in any corresponding way.

Eminent researchers in theoretical physics had higher IQ scores than the rest of the population of eminent researchers. Does that mean that eminent phycisists are more intelligent than eminent anthropologists and psychologists and biologists? Or does it just mean that IQ tests are better at predicting talent in theoretical physics than in other subjects? I would opt for the latter explanation.

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"- IQ tests are better at predicting talent in theoretical physics than in other subjects?" I agree with this as a possibility. I've also read about pranks the super smart physicist types would play on their merely very bright peers. Kinda made me feel bad for the victims.

I also love that you brought up Terman. His son Frederick was an institution at Stanford, considered one of the founders of Si Valley, and wrote what would become the standard handbook for radio electronics. The original is outdated now, but lots of the empirical data is useful decades later, and not widely available elsewhere.

Ironically, I don't know if Lewis Terman's own son actually met his metrics for the cadre he studied. The best I recall is that he didn't, yet he was a giant in early tech.

I definitely support the "threshold" notion of intelligence. Above a certain point, say a bit over what we measure as 125-130 these days, it starts to matter less. It can even be a disadvantage to be super-duper bright - boredom can kill off achievement too. I recall an interview with a scientist who noted that not being too far above the 120's was helpful because people in that range would still spend time on the tedious stuff needed to actually find something out.

Another considerations is the difficulty of not having peers, or thinking one has no peers, admittedly separate things, but still issues. It makes me think that the vanishing population in the upper tail are lonely indeed. Who, in a population sense, even understands what it's like to be someone that good with stuff in Wechsler or Stanford - Binet type tests?

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Mar 26, 2023·edited Mar 26, 2023Author

Yes. I think that the correlation between IQ and what is commonly called intelligence wears off somewhere above 120-something. Still, I have noticed one thing since I wrote the post above: All my three present-day examples of very high IQ people seem to have been very precoscious and very good at learning in general. So I'm starting to suspect that IQ might actually correlate with something interesting also above that threshold. I think that something could be information processing ability. Rick Rosner, Christopher Langan and Michael Kearney all seem to be great at taking in and using information. They don't appear to be better thinkers than the rest of us, but I'm more and more thinking that they actually are better at absorbing human knowledge and symbols than the rest of us.

>It makes me think that the vanishing population in the upper tail are lonely indeed.

This makes me think of Rick Rosner. In some sense he definitely seems unusual, but not because he is deeper or thinks better than other people. For example, he is not above writing manuses for and participating in plebeian TV shows.

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Mar 26, 2023·edited Mar 27, 2023

"So I'm starting to suspect that IQ might actually correlate with something interesting also above that threshold." I definitely agree.

I know a several people in the (edit) 135+ range. They have an extra something. All of them are neuro-typical, and very very smart. I seek them out for thoughts on the world and the three I know best are good at sorting politics and social trends. Among other things, they are amazing at noting how people work out ways around laws or policy and ways things won't fly in the political realm.

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I need to ask two other questions, then:

1. Do you think that "ability to think," and "creative scientific ability" are the same thing?

2. Do you think that there is any way to test "extremely good ability to think?" Is there any test, or cluster of tests, out there?

I'm also curious about:

3. Do you think that "Intelligence," "smarts," or "brains" is a somewhat obvious trait that can be observed merely by talking to people? In other words, if we asked Hrothgar and Ragnhild about how smart various people were, would their guesses correlate at some trivial amount (r = .1) or rather well (r = .6)?

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1. Interesting question! I think "creative scientific ability" is a subcategory to the ability to think. The ability to make clever artistic allegories is another, different subcategory to the ability to think. The ability for philosophical reasoning is also a subcategory to the ability to think.

2. No, I think it has proven to be very difficult to develop such a test, and that is not very strange: Thinking is about finding out new lines of reasoning not thought about previously. I don't know what such a test, with right and wrong answers, could look like. I do think that only people with fairly high IQ levels can be extremely good thinkers. If nothing else, people who do not belong to those with, say, the ten percent or so highest IQ are in general unable to learn enough of existing human knowledge to use as a basis for their thinking.

3. As I wrote about elsewhere, I think people would assess "intelligence" in other people more or less as uniformly as they assess "beauty" in other people. That is, I think different people's assessments would be different, but not wildly different.

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OK, at #1 you describe different subcategories of thinking. It sounds like you believe that a person could easily be "rather good" at thinking, but merely "good" at philosophical reasoning, "average" at artistic allegories, and "superb" at scientific reasoning. Is this right, or, would such a person actually seem extremely strange or unlikely to you?

I understand what you mean at #2. And I'm avoiding using studies, but, how interesting or convincing do you find it when people speak from personal experience? Many people tend to ignore claims about what life is like, or how things feel to them, but in the past you've given the impression that you accept personal accounts without too much skepticism. Would you say this is accurate, or, would it be a waste of time to try to convince you of anything on the basis of people I've personally observed?

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