27 July 2008

The Making of a Dying Caste

Inequality of innate ability is a fact of life. We see the inequality in athletics events such as the Olympics or the Tour de France. We also see the stratification in academic and professional achievement.
....our cognitive elites are increasingly inbred. Doctors used to marry nurses, professors used to marry their secretaries, business moguls used to marry starlets. Now doctors marry doctors, professors professors, moguls moguls, lawyers lawyers, etc. Those “modest origins” of our meritocratic elites are less modest by the year. We might be drifting towards a caste system, except that meritocracy requires some openness, some vacuuming-up of high-I.Q. outliers from the lower classes, some dumping of low-I.Q. duffers from the elites.

...The rich man is in his castle (actually, more likely, his gated community or doorman apartment complex) and the poor man is at his gate. They can’t really talk to each other because the poor man is almost certainly a couple of standard deviations below the rich man in I.Q. score. They don’t want to anyway, because they don’t much like each other....

I wish these … elites had a little more color and dash. I wish they were not so academic. I wish there were some sign of a Churchill among them, or a Roosevelt (Teddy for preference), or an Andy Jackson. I wish they had stronger opinions. I wish they showed more evidence of having courage. I wish, above all, that there were fewer of them. But do I have an alternative to meritocracy? Do I think these [elite college] kids are unspeakably awful, and will drag western civilization down to perdition? Would I prefer my own kids not have a shot at joining them, if they decide they want to? No, and no, and no.

Human society stumbles on forward, from imperfection to, one hopes, lesser imperfection. Our cognitive elites are not lovable. Every so often their arrogance and condescension will come breaking through the surface. It’s a pity there isn’t some way to forcibly mix them with their fellow citizens at some point in their cosseted young adulthood, so that they might at least have a shot at learning how to talk across the I.Q. gap; but in a free society, there is no way to do that. Absent that kind of social engineering, there is nothing for it but to lie back and let them rule us. They’ll probably make a pretty good job of it. They are, after all, the brightest and the best … however much we dislike them. _NR
IQ stratifies people in different occupations and professions. A caste comprising very high IQ individuals may be emerging. But as long as opportunity societies exist, high achieving and wealthy people will emerge frequently from the mid-level castes.

One of Derbyshire's glaring mistakes is in not analysing the birthrates of his new uber-elite. They are un-breeding themselves out of existence. Another mistake he makes is in neglecting the possiblity that genetic science will prove to be an "IQ equalizer", in the near future. At least in affluent countries. Sperm banks can certainly mix up the genetic combinations.

Derbyshire also neglects the phenomenon of psychological neoteny--the incompetence of a pampered adolescence that extends throughout a person's lifetime. An elite composed of neotenates is a particularly fragile elite. It cannot abide contradiction or challenge, and will not endure a close examination.


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Blogger kurt9 said...

Derbyshire also overemphasizes the gap between cognitive elites and blue collar people. I'm essentially a cognitive elite. Yet, I have no trouble conversing with blue collar people (the movers when I moved and the guy who fixed things in my house). Such blue collar people are smarter than people like Derbyshire's contact gives them credit for. They also have common sense that many "high IQ" people seem to lack.

One guy I talked to (who lays concrete foundations for a living) clearly understood the causes of the housing bubble and the unreported inflation that the FED has created during the past 12 years. He also understood that the economy will have to go through several years of "frugality" before many of the market distortions created by the past two bubbles go away.

I think my blue collar friend is a lot more clued in on reality than many of the high IQ "cognitive elite" pundits you read in the media. Also, high IQ people are susceptible to delusions like the whole liberal-left PC crapola currently infesting our public schools.

Sunday, 27 July, 2008  
Blogger al fin said...

Very good points, Kurt. It is possible for well-rounded persons of extremely high IQ to converse with just about anyone.

And as you say, many skilled craftsmen possess a finely tuned insight into market phenomena that many narrowly focused academics lack.

Too many academics, journalists, and other pundits seem to huddle together for safety in a type of "groupthink", which is largely divorced from the real world. They derive a false sense of security from a "consensus" which may be based on very little, and subject to easy demolition by real world events.

A better more rounded curriculum from an early age would introduce a good assortment of hands-on skills of increasing complexity to children. In addition, children should be given increasing levels of responsibility as they prove their competence. Children raised in this way will respect others with practical skills -- regardless of the IQ differences.

Sunday, 27 July, 2008  
Blogger SwampWoman said...

Y'all should be severely chastised for believing that all the people that perform blue-collar jobs are on the right side of the bell curve.

Some people just prefer to see concrete evidence (heh) of their labor.

Sunday, 27 July, 2008  
Blogger al fin said...

SW, in recent times past, an electrician, a tailor, or a mechanic might have been as intelligent or moreso than a physician or a professor. With the push to universal college education for everyone--even those not suited for it--that phenomenon is somewhat less common. Even so, it is not so hard to find very bright people in the trades, and very stupid people teaching college or arguing cases in court.

Sunday, 27 July, 2008  
Blogger kurt9 said...


I did not say that all blue collar people are on the right side of the bell curve. The ones I know and deal with are all over the scale. What I was really trying to say (both you and Al Fin seem to miss my point) is that I believe IQ is an overrated metric. The blue collar people I know are not intellectual at all. But they have a common sense enough to figure stuff out and know that people who are full of it are full of it.

I believe that IQ is an overrated metric, especially verbal IQ, which is the specific metric that the human biodiversity people seem to obsess on. Verbal IQ especially was devised by the educational system in order to select the kids that are the most entertaining and fun for the teachers to work with.

I think visual-spacial IQ may have correlation with general cognitive ability, but the verbal IQ does not in that verbal IQ is vocabulary specific.

Monday, 28 July, 2008  
Blogger al fin said...

In some cases IQ is an overrated metric. I suspect, however, that IQ is at the same time a vastly under-used metric due to the discomfort many influential people have with the rather obvious innate inequality of cognitive aptitude between individuals.

As noted many times on this blog, Executive Function (EF) is more predictive of a child's future success than IQ. EF is mainly a function of the prefrontal lobes, and is highly heritable, like IQ.

The blue collar worker with a highly refined sense of validity is less likely a proof of the irrelevance of IQ than an indication that in the totality of human life, psychometricians may not yet have succeeded in capturing all the relevant variables.

Monday, 28 July, 2008  
Blogger Bruce Hall said...

Perhaps some of the perceived IQ inbreeding is simply a manifestation of economic pressure. For example, doctors increasingly complain about lower real income [after taxes and especially after insurance premiums]. Doctors have an economic incentive to marry other professionals, plus there may be more attraction in pairing intellectually.

I suspect there is a separate IQ bell curve for the various economic segments... each having a distinctly different median, but not excluding the high end. What is troubling is that our educational system focuses only on the production of "professionals" as opposed to developing high performers based on a variety of potential employment paths. As a society, we then have a skewed view of what constitutes "success" and "intelligence."

Monday, 28 July, 2008  
Blogger SwampWoman said...

"Doctors used to marry nurses, professors used to marry their secretaries, business moguls used to marry starlets. Now doctors marry doctors, professors professors, moguls moguls, lawyers lawyers, etc."

Could be because not so long ago when sex roles were more stratified there was nobody (of the opposite sex) available in a person's chosen profession to marry.

Tuesday, 29 July, 2008  

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