Sunday, July 27, 2008

IQ Studies, Retardation, and Robots

Can people accurately predict others’ IQs on sight?

I sure feel as though I can spot stupid young women at a glance sometimes, without even hearing them speak, and I can’t claim to know exactly what cues I’m responding to.  There’s just a young, helpless, wide-eyed, often overly-fashion-conscious look common to the stupid, at least on the streets of NYC, I think.  Overhearing snippets of their conversation (often conducted in overly youthful-sounding, chirpy, questioning tones) seems to bear out my (very crude) judgments.

Is it simply that dumb people have no qualms about, say, trying to look like Paris Hilton, whereas smart people would never in a million years want to be mistaken for her — or worse, just for someone who’s trying to look like her — given that she’s an idiot?  Then again, one intern at work tells me even the Ivy League women these days are aiming aesthetically for Hilton more than Bohemia, a further sign I’m out of touch (and more on that this coming Friday, in my discussion of the book American Nerd).

On a non-IQ-related note, I’m also told that at the University of Austin, the women often dress in sloppy, hyper-casual sweatpants and the like while being carefully and artfully made up, creating the illusion that their faces look great even when they’ve just rolled out of bed to take out the garbage, thus luring unwary, awed UT males to their dooms, or at least to their dorms.

Isn’t human intelligence important enough that there should be a vast literature on questions like this, though — as well as on questions such as which professions and political groups have the highest IQs?  But I’ll bet there isn’t all that much research on such questions and instead elaborate taboos arrayed against such research as there is.

Wouldn’t we benefit from being able to spot morons on sight more easily, though?


On a related note, those who attended last week’s egg-sellers panel should know that yet more genetic analysis reveals that the seller who feared she might have a low probability of passing on Fragile X (great band name) and thus causing mentally retarded children is in fact arguably within the “normal” range after all, depending what criteria different genetic testers use, so her already very-low odds of causing future generations to have problems are not even worth worrying about, it now appears (I knew she’d do better on those genetic tests if she studied hard and tried again).

Luckily for us, her brief brush with retardation-anxiety fell during our panel discussion, though, to add a little drama.

And it made me realize that with all sufficiently low-probability inherited disorders these days, one could plausibly gamble that biotech and cybernetic progress will be able to cope with the problem by the distant future time when the genetic slot machine comes up “disease” — assuming pinhead politicians (so to speak) and green/religious activists don’t outlaw biotech (nor outlaw cybernetics, despite the alarming future depicted in that Terminator: Salvation teaser trailer running before Dark Knight).

More on such matters in April, though, when my planned Book Selection of the Month, suggested by Dan Greenberg, will be the stories of Cyril Kornbluth, a possible inspiration for the movie Idiocracy.  You might as well mark your calendars now, since that’s only nine months away, like a newly-conceived baby.


Christopher said...

“Wouldn’t we benefit from being able to spot morons on sight more easily, though?”

If “we” is defined as the species, probably not. Beyond a certain point, intelligence (vaguely defined here as problem solving ability) is not often an advantageous trait in terms of passing on one’s genes. I believe there have been studies in which scientists have bred fruit flies to be more intelligent by selecting those who could solve some sort of difficult food acquisition problem. When released into a general population, they did less well at surviving and breeding than the “average” fruit flies.

And then there are those clearly intelligent individuals who choose not to pass on their genes…(not that there’s anything wrong with that!)

And though Paris Hilton is a vapid moron with no redeeming qualities whatsoever, she is certainly more successful as an economic, social, and cultural force than I, you, or most people we know will ever be (but I don’t believe she has passed on her genes yet, so at least some of us have some hope of besting her there).

Todd Seavey said...

I just meant “we” in the sense of “people who don’t want to talk to morons,” though. I admit I’m not consistently eugenic.

Christopher said...

I would go with assuming they are all morons. Then you’ll be pleasantly surprised on occasion!

Diana Fleischman said...

I thought I could tell who was smart on sight and then I went to this conference in Holland. I realized later that one of the smartest people and best conversationalists I met there was someone that I thought was utterly vapid at first glance. I still take some superficial cues as indicating stupidity such as wearing the name of fashion designers in big letters all over your clothes (seriously why would anyone pay to advertise for someone else other than to conspicuously consume-also stupid).

I had a friend who lamented that people couldn’t tell by looking at him that he was smart since he dressed a little like a hipster and didn’t wear glasses or anything else that might give him away as an intellectual. Then I said “well I dress fashionably and don’t wear glasses or anything but I’ve been told I ‘look smart’ whatever that means” and he said “yeah, but you look Jewish”.

There ya go.