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IQ 3

These are replies to Ed Powell discussing IQ. This follows up on my previous posts: IQ and IQ 2.

Thanks for writing a reasonable reply to someone you disagree with. My most important comments are at the bottom and concern a methodology that could be used to make progress in the discussion.

I think we both have the right idea of "heritable." Lots of things are strongly heritable without being genetic.

OK, cool. Is there a single written work – which agrees “heritable” doesn’t imply genetic – which you think adequately expresses the argument today for genetic degrees of intelligence? It’d be fine if it’s a broad piece discussing lots of arguments with research citations that it’s willing to bet its claims on, or if it focuses on one single unanswerable point.

I think you take my analogy of a brain with a computer too far.

It's not an analogy, brains are literally computers. A computer is basically something that performs arbitrary computations, like 2+3 or reversing the letters in a word. That’s not nearly enough for intelligence, but it’s a building block intelligence requires. Computation and information flow are a big part of physics now, and if you try to avoid them you're stuck with alternatives like souls and magic.

I don't pretend to understand your argument above, and so I won't spend time debating it, but you surely realize that human intelligence evolved gradually over the last 5 or so million years (since our progenitors split from the branch that became chimps), and that this evolution did not consist of a mutant ADD Gate gene and another mutant NOT Gate gene.

There are lots of different ways to build computers. I don't think brains are made out of a big pile of NAND gates. But computers with totally different designs can all be universal – able to compute all the same things.

Indeed, if intelligence is properly defined as "the ability to learn", then plenty of animals have some level of intelligence. Certain my cats are pretty smart, and one can, among the thousands of cute cat videos on the internet, find examples of cats reasoning through options to open doors or get from one place to another. Dogs are even more intelligent. Even Peikoff changed his mind on Rand's pronouncement that animals and man are in different distinct classes of beings (animals obey instinct, man has no instinct and thinks) when he got a dog. Who knew that first hand experience with something might illuminate a philosophical issue?

I agree with Rand and I can also reach the same conclusion with independent, Popperian reasons.

I've actually had several dogs and cats. So I'm not disagreeing from lack of first hand experience.

What I would ask if I lacked that experience – and this is relevant anyway – is if you could point out one thing I'm missing (due to lack of experience, or for any other reason). What fact was learned from experience with animals that I don't know, and which contradicts my view?

I think you're not being precise enough about learning, and that with your approach you'd have to conclude that some video game characters also learn and are pretty smart. Whatever examples you provide about animal behaviors, I’ll be happy to provide parallel software examples – which I absolutely don’t think constitute human-like intelligence (maybe you do?).

Rand's belief in the distinct separation between man and animals when it comes to intellect is pretty contrary to the idea that man evolved gradually,

The jump to universality argument provides a way that gradual evolution could create something so distinct.

in the next few years the genetic basis of intelligence will in fact be found and we will no longer have anything to argue about. I don't think there's any real point arguing over this idea.

Rather than argue, would you prefer to bet on whether the genetic basis higher intelligence will be found within the next 5 years? I'd love to bet $10,000 on that issue.

In any case, even if there was such a finding, there’d still be plenty to argue about. It wouldn’t automatically and straightforwardly settle the issues regarding the right epistemology, theory of computation, way to understand universality, etc.

We all know a bunch of really smart people who are in some ways either socially inept or completely nuts.

Yes, but there are cultural explanations for why that would be, and I don't think genes can control social skill (what exactly could the entire mechanism be, in hypothetical-but-rigorous detail?).

I know a number of people smarter than myself who have developed some form of mental illness, and it's fairly clear that these things are not unrelated.

Tangent: I consider the idea of "mental illness" a means of excusing and legitimizing the initiation of force. It's used to subvert the rule of law – both by imprisoning persons without trial and by keeping some criminals out of jail.

Link: Thomas Szasz Manifesto.

The point of IQ tests is to determine (on average) whether an individual will do well in school or work, and the correspondence between test results and success in school and work is too close to dismiss the tests as invalid, even if you don't believe in g or don't believe in intelligence at all.

Sure. As I said, I think IQ tests should be used more.

The tests are excellent predictors, especially in the +/- 3 SD area

Yes. I agree the tests do worse with outliers, but working well for over 99% of people is still useful!

The government has banned IQ tests from being used as discriminators for job fitness;

That's an awful attack on freedom and reason!

Take four or five internet IQ tests. I guarantee you the answers will be in a small range (+/- 5ish), even though they are all different. Clearly they measure something! And that something is correlated with success in school and work (for large enough groups).

I agree.

My one experience with Deutsch was his two interviews on Sam Harris's podcast

For Popper and Deutsch, I'd advise against starting with anything other than Deutsch's two books.

FYI Deutsch is a fan of Ayn Rand, an opponent of global warming, strongly in favor of capitalism, a huge supporter of Israel, and totally opposed to cultural and moral relativism (thinks Western culture is objectively and morally better, etc.).

I have some (basically Objectivist) criticism of Deutsch's interviews which will interest people here. In short, he's recently started sucking up to lefty intellectuals, kinda like ARI. But his flawed approach to dealing with the public doesn't prevent some of his technical ideas about physics, computation and epistemology from being true.

But if one doesn't believe g exists,

I think g is a statistical construct best forgotten.

or that IQ tests measure anything real,

I agree that they do, and that the thing measured is hard to change. Many people equate genetic with hard to change, and non-genetic with easy to change, but I don't. There are actual academic papers in this field which say, more or less, "Even if it's not genetic, we may as well count it as genetic because it's hard to change."

or that IQ test results don't correlate with scholastics or job success across large groups, then there's really nothing to discuss.

I agree that they do. I am in favor of more widespread use of IQ testing.

As I said, I think IQ tests measure a mix of intelligence, culture and background knowledge. I think these are all real, important, and hard to change. (Some types of culture and background knowledge are easy to change, but some other types are very hard to change, and IQ tests focus primarily on measuring the hard to change stuff, which is mostly developed in early childhood.)

Of course intelligence, culture and knowledge all correlate with job and school success.

Finally, I don't think agreement is possible on this issue, because much of your argument depends upon epistemological ideas of Pooper/Deutsch and yourself, and I have read none of the source material. [...] I don't see how a discussion can proceed though on this IQ issue--or really any other issue--with you coming from such an alien (to me) perspective on epistemology that I have absolutely no insight into. I can't argue one way or the other about cultural memes since I have no idea what they are and what scientific basis for them exists. So I won't. I'm not saying you're wrong, I'm just saying I won't argue about something I know nothing about.

I'd be thrilled to find a substantial view on an interesting topic that I didn't already know about, that implied I was wrong about something important. Especially if it had some living representative(s) willing to respond to questions and arguments. I've done this (investigated ideas) many times, and currently have no high priority backlog. E.g. I know of no outstanding arguments against my views on epistemology or computation to address, nor any substantial rivals which aren't already refuted by an existing argument that I know of.

I've written a lot about methods for dealing with rival ideas. I call my approach Paths Forward. The basic idea is that it's rational to act so that:

  1. If I'm mistaken
  2. And someone knows it (and they're willing to share their knowledge)
  3. Then there's some reasonable way that I can find out and correct my mistake.

This way I don't actively prevent fixing my mistakes and making intellectual progress.

There are a variety of methods that can be used to achieve this, and also a variety of common methods which fail to achieve this. I consider the Paths-Forward-compatible methods rational, and the others irrational.

The rational methods vary greatly on how much time they take. There are ways to study things in depth, and also faster methods available when desired. Here's a fairly minimal rational method you could use in this situation:

Read until you find one mistake. Then stop and criticize.

You’ll find the first mistake early on unless the material is actually good. (BTW you're allowed to criticize meta mistakes, such as that the author failing to say why his stuff matters, rather than only criticizing internal or factual errors. You can also stop reading at your first question, instead of criticism.)

Your first criticism (or question) will often be met with dumb replies that you can evaluate using knowledge you already have about argument, logic, etc. Most people with bad ideas will make utter fools of themselves in answer to your first criticism or question. OK, done. Rather than ignore them, you've actually addressed their position, and their position now has an outstanding criticism (or unanswered question), and there is a path forward available (they could, one day, wise up and address the issue).

Sometimes the first criticism will be met with a quality reply which addresses the issue or refers you to a source which addresses it. In that case, you can continue reading until you find one more mistake. Keep repeating this process. If you end up spending a bunch of time learning the whole thing, it's because you can't find any unaddressed mistakes in it (it's actually great)!

A crucial part of this method is actually saying your criticism or question. A lot of people read until the first thing they think is a mistake, then stop with no opportunity for a counter-argument. By staying silent, they're also giving the author (and his fans) no information to use to change their minds. Silence prevents progress regardless of which side is mistaken. Refusing to give even one argument leaves the other guy's position unrefuted, and leaves your position as not part of the public debate.

Another important method is to cite some pre-existing criticism of a work. You must be willing to take responsibility for what you cite, since you're using it to speak for you. It can be your own past arguments, or someone else's. The point is, the same bad idea doesn't need to be refuted twice – one canonical, reusable refutation is adequate. And by intentionally writing reusable material throughout your life, you'll develop a large stockpile which addresses common ideas you disagree with.

Rational methods aren't always fast, even when the other guy is mistaken. The less you know about the issues, the longer it can take. However, learning more about issues you don't know about is worthwhile. And once you learn enough important broad ideas – particularly philosophy – you can use it to argue about most ideas in most fields, even without much field-specific knowledge. Philosophy is that powerful! Especially when combined with a moderate amount of knowledge of the most important other fields.

Given limited time and many things worth learning, there are options about prioritization. One reasonable thing to do, which many people are completely unwilling to do, is to talk about one's interests and priorities, and actually think them through in writing and then expose one's reasoning to public criticism. That way there's a path forward for one's priorities themselves.

To conclude, I think a diversion into methodology could allow us to get the genetic intelligence discussion unstuck. I also believe that such methodology (epistemology) issues are a super important topic in their own right.


Elliot Temple on October 14, 2017

Comments (7)

> FYI Deutsch is a fan of Ayn Rand

If he is a fan of Ayn Rand he has kept it hidden. Some fan. If this is only something he has told you in personal communications then I am suspicious that he wasn't just lying.

> an opponent of global warming

Doesn't seem like it. In one of his TED talks he says people need to take a problem-solving approach to global warming. He is against the idea of sustainability but not against the idea of global warming.

Anonymous at 5:56 PM on October 14, 2017 | #9177
I have talked with DD about Ayn Rand many times, so I can tell you he read a lot of her work, liked it, knows a lot about it, etc. He also gave me explicit permission to public say he's a fan of Ayn Rand, specifically b/c of his limited public comments on the matter. I can attest that he isn't lying about this because it wasn't just an assertion, it was a fact about him that was relevant in hundreds of discussions.

Everything DD says about global warming is:

1) literally true

2) calculated to challenge the leftist "consensus"

Publicly, DD prefers very airtight arguments that no halfway serious intellectual can challenge, such as:

On Apr 22, 2012, David Deutsch wrote to the BoI email list:

> > This article tosses around lots of accusations aimed at environmental scientists. For instance, scientific consensus is that indiscriminate use of DDT is harmful on many levels. Why should we ignore scientific consensus in this case?

> Well, again, "indiscriminate use of DDT is harmful on many levels" is not an assertion of scientific fact. It contains two value-laden terms: 'indiscriminate' and 'harmful'. We should not contradict scientific consensus on scientific issues without ourselves following the methodology of science. But the consensus of people who happen to be scientists, on non-scientific issues, is not 'scientific consensus'. Thinking of it as such is scientism.

This is DD's way of making correct arguments which challenge the DDT scare in particular and the global warming "scientific consensus" by extension. He's not wrong. It's a matter of tactics that he refrained from also naming a bunch of pro-global-warming "scientists" and calling them out as fools.

In any case, I know DD very well and told you he's an opponent of global warming. I have far more knowledge of his beliefs than you do. I've talked with him about it many times. If you think I'm lying, well, whatever. If you're trying to debate me on this, I don't get it. I have a great deal of information about it that you don't have, but not vice versa. (You posted anonymously so maybe you're unaware of these things which my regular readers would know. If so, now you know.)

curi at 6:12 PM on October 14, 2017 | #9178
Why has Deutsch made only "limited public comments" about Rand? Why didn't he discuss her at some length in his books? Rand's ideas are central to BoI right? I would be interested to know what he has said publicly. Can you point me to that?

Re. global warming, this is the video I was referring to:

https://www.ted.com/talks/david_deutsch_on_our_place_in_the_cosmos/up-next#t-975644

What is your take on what he says beginning at about 15:30 in the video? Do you disagree that he is saying that global warming is real, that it is already too late to prevent, and that it is the prevailing
scientific theory?

Anonymous at 1:59 AM on October 16, 2017 | #9179
DD presents a socially acceptable reason to oppose destroying the economy over global warming, which doesn't depending on standing up to the "experts". that argument is worthwhile, but not the only one he's aware of.

why did he choose that argument? partly b/c it's important, it would be helpful to a lot of ppl, it's not well known, etc. plenty of good reasons!

and he chose that argument partly for the same reasons he didn't make the speech about Rand. for some understanding of what mistakes he's making there, you should check out the link in the post:

http://curi.us/2017-david-deutsch-interview-undermines-his-philosophy

> Rand's ideas are central to BoI right?

no. i don't know why you think that. BoI does a great job of not contradicting Rand, but I don't see how she would have a central place in its topics. examples? Rand surely isn't central to the epistemology, physics, memes/evolution, infinity or computation stuff.

Anonymous at 8:22 AM on October 16, 2017 | #9182
Ok, thanks for clearing that up regarding Deutsch and gw.

Regarding Rand and BoI, I am thinking that there can be no BoI without Rand's moral philosophy. Her ideas are central in that respect. I don't think you disagree that moral philosophy is important in bringing about BoI. Yes, she is not central in the physics, memes/evolution, and all the other stuff you mentioned. But you can't ignore moral philosophy if you want a BoI. You have to understand it and make it a central component.

Anonymous at 4:58 PM on October 16, 2017 | #9183
what moral philosophy in BoI, exactly, with quotes, do you think is super Objectivist and central?

Anonymous at 5:07 PM on October 16, 2017 | #9184
When I said "Rand's ideas are central to BoI" I didn't mean the book but the Beginning of Infinity that is the topic of the book. Deutsch may or may not agree, I don't know. Who cares? What's important is what is true. And what I think is true is that you cannot have unlimited progress without Rand's ideas. If you think it is possible, please explain.

Anonymous at 6:48 PM on October 16, 2017 | #9185

What do you think?

(This is a free speech zone!)