Why IQ doesn't matter

From: Chris Capel (pdf23ds@gmail.com)
Date: Wed Aug 23 2006 - 13:39:27 MDT

I think this is fairly relevant, as it offers one specific and
concrete example of where high IQ, good education, and curiosity
aren't enough to lead to serious accomplishment.

I'm smart. At 6, my IQ was tested to be in the 98th percentile, with a
raw score of 142, or some such number. I have a wide variety of
interests and skills, ranging from the Singularity to Lojban, computer
programming, and music performance. In these respects, I'm sure I'm
not terribly exceptional among the participants of this list. And yet
I'm not able to accomplish much of anything. I dropped out of a
second-rate university (instead of transferring to a more challenging
school, and not because I could do better with self-study). I can't
finish personal programming projects that I start. I can barely pay my
bills on time (not for a lack of money).

I have pretty severe ADD. The only medications that work are
stimulants, and I have anxiety problems, which they exacerbate. I have
delayed sleep phase syndrome, where without treatment, I get sleepy
about an hour later every day. This makes it really hard to get enough
sleep, and without enough sleep your mental acuity nosedives. I
probably only spend a third of my days fully rested. Stimulants also
exacerbate this problem.

Perhaps related to all of these things, (especially the ADD,) even
though I have tons of interests and ideas for things to accomplish,
I'm incapable of being motivated to do them. I can barely motivate
myself to clean my dishes or take out the trash. I spent the last week
or so programming a web application related to Lojban. It was about
all I could think about during that period, and about all I could do.
I finished a good portion of it, (with a working release,) and started
on a second portion. Yesterday I lost interest, and now I can barely
bring myself to look at the code I started.

I suspect that those with high IQ tend to be afflicted with ADD,
depression, anxiety, and other phychological maladies at higher rates
than others. The people that end up accomplishing a lot are those
without these problems. People that can sustain a focus on a topic for
months and years on end. People that can easily control their
motivational systems. In other words, people with self-discipline.

I don't blame myself for these problems, and I'm not writing this for
sympathy. (And I flatly reject the claim that any of these things a
moral failing. That discussion isn't germane.) I'm working on them,
and with luck, I'll be able to fix them eventually. But that's not
certain, and if I don't I would be completely useless (even if I were
smart enough) for anything resembling a creative-participatory rule in
creating a Friendly singularity. I'm sure that, to a great extent,
many of these problems could be mostly worked-around by the proper
social environment, like a Manhattan or Apollo project. (Problems like
depression or psychosis can't, but ADD can.)

But for most circumstances, problems like mine are a huge handicap,
and at my level of intelligence, a vastly more significant bottleneck
than IQ. Especially, problems like mine can keep me and others like me
from getting the education (self- or not) and the recognition needed
to be selected into programs that can provide the right kind of
supporting environment to work around these problems. With the right
upbringing and early education, I may have never been seriously
adversely affected by this things.

While ADD is particularly my problem, I'm certain that there are other
kinds of afflictions that produce similar effects.

I don't think my problems are all that unusual among genius-types,
which is why I think they're relevant to the list and the discussion.
Others may disagree, of course.

Chris Capel

"What is it like to be a bat? What is it like to bat a bee? What is it
like to be a bee being batted? What is it like to be a batted bee?"
-- The Mind's I (Hofstadter, Dennet)

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.5 : Wed Jul 17 2013 - 04:00:57 MDT