How to use high IQ effectively?

From: Russell Wallace (
Date: Wed Aug 23 2006 - 20:50:38 MDT

On 8/24/06, Michael Anissimov <> wrote:
> Intelligence is one of the Singularitarian Principles
> (
> "At the heart of an appreciation of the Singularity lies an
> appreciation of intelligence. The Singularity places a horizon across
> our understanding because we can't predict what someone smarter than
> us is going to do; if we could, we'd be that smart ourselves.
> Intelligence isn't just the ability to come up with complex solutions
> to complex problems; it's the ability to see the shortcuts, the simple
> and obvious-in-retrospect solutions to complex problems - even
> emotional or philosophical problems. Intelligence isn't just
> high-speed thinking, perfect memories, or other party tricks;
> intelligence is also wisdom, and self-awareness, and other things that
> extend into every aspect of mind and personality."

I agree that intelligence is important, but let's pause and step back: the
above quote correctly observes that an operational view of it includes a lot
of things that aren't strongly correlated with IQ.

I suppose the point I'm trying to make here is (editing the subject to
match): attempting to create more accurate tests for the high end of the IQ
range, or arriving at more accurate conclusions as to how good a predictor
it is, even if successful, would not be a very useful enterprise. What
_would_ be a useful enterprise is finding ways for people who have
reasonably or very high IQs - i.e. possess the raw brainpower to potentially
do something useful - to actually put it to good use. SL4 like any mailing
list is necessarily, as was said about my Scottish ancestors, "long on
tongue and short on purse", so within that framework...

Eliezer's papers about rationality are a very good contribution in this
direction. I'd recommend a lot of Robin Hanson's writing as well. (In
addition to the usual reading list, of course, and seconding the idea that
evolutionary psychology is a particularly important subject to study.)

What else is there?

As I said recently in another thread, I think finding an emotional place to
stand is an important issue; man does not live by bread and logic alone.
There were a couple of "transhuman religion" mailing lists that had other
takes on that; they sort of petered out because, well let's be honest, a
group consisting mostly of geeks (yours truly of course included) isn't the
most qualified to do something like that, but they represent some ideas

Plain drive is another thing. A lot of intelligence is being sharpened on
video games; how much is also being buried in them? Probably less than gets
buried in television and fashion, at least in a video game you're actively
doing _something_. I'd like to have a shot at designing a video game such
that when you completed the last level, defeated the last boss... the next
level of the game is to discover a cure for cancer, or create AI, or build a
molecular assembler in the real world. But there are only 24 hours in the
day. (I will, however, add another item to the reading list: 'Skallagrigg'
by William Horwood.)

Mistuned neurochemistry is a problem for some people, as has been remarked
here. Plenty of more qualified people than me are on that problem, so I
won't comment further on it here.

What are the biggest reasons why people with so much brainpower don't end up
accomplishing much with it? I'm guessing the following, in no particular
order, are the most important reasons:

1) Neurochemistry sometimes gets wonky when you overclock that much; see

2) Lack of drive/interest. Just because a man is built like an ox doesn't
necessarily mean he has a drive to enter weightlifting championships;
presumably it's sometimes that way with the mind too. If anyone like that is
reading this: there is a war being waged, not against your fellow man but
against the ultimate enemy that waits for us all, where the weapon of choice
is not the gun or missile but the mind. I do not know what to say that would
convince you - emotionally, not just intellectually - that your service is
needed; personally, something I have done from time to time is remind myself
of the stand of three hundred Spartans at Thermopylae that, it has been
coherently argued, ultimately gave us this chance; in that light I can
forgive myself only if I failed because the task was beyond my ability or
resources - not because I didn't try with everything I had. If that image
doesn't work for you, then I would ask you to look for one that does.

3) When we're teenagers everything looks terrible one minute and wonderful
the next; a social encounter turned sour is occasion to weep into one's
beer, a good idea occasion to contemplate immortality. As we grow older, it
becomes more clear that the more extreme dreams were just that, nothing
worthwhile is gained without long, exhausting labor, and the future is
inherently uncertain. It's hard to make that adjustment - that goes back to
my earlier comments on an emotional place to stand.

4) We get stuck in intellectual dead ends. Einstein rejecting quantum
mechanics, Hoyle with the extreme panspermia, George Lucas, Robert Jordan
and other victims of the notorious Brain Eater of the narrative arts; but
there are any number of lesser cases. There are times when one must discard
one's inventory to walk through the next veil. I don't know offhand how to
convince people of that.

(I'm trying _not_ to just repeat certain things I've stated in the past that
certain members of this list find controversial. If said members find such
repeat has occurred and they need to reply thereto, go ahead and take the
last word on that; I won't argue unless I've something new to say. I'd still
be interested, separately, in your opinions on what I am trying to get
across here.)

Other ideas welcome!

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