Re: Eight-year-old physics genius enters university

From: Jef Allbright (
Date: Sun Nov 06 2005 - 15:43:35 MST

On 11/6/05, Michael Anissimov <> wrote:
> There is actually significant evidence that intelligence (g) operates
> independently of context. The notion that intelligence is highly
> dependent on context is reminiscent of the SSSM (Standard Social Science
> Model), which asserts that humans are essentially blank slates whose
> attitudes and abilities are shaped entirely by their upbringing and
> environment.

Well, I certainly don't support the blank slate model of human
intelligence, as might be apparent from my frequent references to our
environment of evolutionary adaptation, and please don't get me
started on the various weakness of the Standard Social Science Model
or contemporary studies of psychology (not to be confused with
scientific studies of cognition.)

So it might be inferred that my point was about something different.

A few weeks ago, Michael Vassar posted an excellent
> article, "Why G Matters", which is one of thousands of articles
> presenting important evidence for the context-independent predictive
> validity of g:
> The predictive validity of g is powerful in all job domains, but
> increases in intensity with the intellectual demands and abstractness of
> the task. University physics is perhaps one of the most intellectually
> demanding and abstract domains known to man, and therefore it should be
> expected that a high g value will convey especially significant
> benefits, regardless of context.

This study is all about performance of individuals *within the
standard environment* and how those with above average IQ will do
better generally accross the board. The usual bell curve is shown and
they say "For the top 5% of the population (over IQ 125), success is
really 'yours to lose.' These people meet the minimum intelligence
requirements of all occupations, are highly sought after for their
extreme trainability, and have a relatively
easy time with the normal cognitive demands of life."

I suspect that many, if not most of the members of this list fall
within that 5% category and would generally agree that higher
intelligence correlates with greater success in the regular world
(even discounting stereotypical social awkwardness.)

However, the paper you referenced is not about the extreme forms of
intelligence (off the bell curve) associated with child progidies who
often require sheltering as I tried to point out earlier, or the
extreme performance in mathematics or music sometimes associated with
Aspergers or Autism, or the kind of narrow "intelligence" currently
exhibited by some machine performance.

My point was about intelligence operating *within a sheltered or
sharply constrained environment* being popularly assumed to have a
greater understanding of the bigger picture even outside of their
environment of interaction. It's a fallacy of extrapolation.

- Jef

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