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Nassim Nicholas Taleb is Exposing IQ Measurement as Scientific Fraud

January 4, 2019 12 comments

Over past few days, one of the more interesting Twitter controversies which I have been closely following started with Nassim Nicholas Taleb (henceforth referred to as NNT) firing off a series of tweets about how IQ is a pseudoscientific swindle perpetrated by a bunch of charlatans.. I mean psychologists.. on a credulous public. In case you still don’t know who he is, NNT is one of those rare guys with very good grounding in mathematics (especially statistics) who also happened to have made a lot of money on the stock market and in finance. To make a long story short, he has had tons of fuck-you money for decades, is often contrarian and does not suffer fools well. NNT has also written bestsellers books such as Fooled by Randomness: The Hidden Role of Chance in Life and in the Markets and The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable.

You can read a summary of his original tweet-storm on the topic in a recent Medium post titled- IQ is largely a pseudoscientific swindle. In it, he makes a number of points starting with the fact that IQ as a test originally came into existence as a “scientific way” to identify kids with mental retardation, rather than a way to identify people who are smart. He then makes the point that it ‘selects’ for people who are good exam-takers, future paper shufflers, obedient IYIs (intellectuals yet idiots) ill adapted for real life. He goes on to point out that the biggest promoters of IQ are a] racists who want to “prove” that certain racial or ethnic groups are somehow inferior to them and b] psychologists and associated professionals whose livelihood depends on many people taking such tests or that test being considered a valid measure of intelligence. He then goes on to show that measured IQ (by any method) has very poor correlation with real world success.

Along the way NNT exposes the various fallacies, mathematical problems and often plain logical issues with using IQ scores as a measure of intelligence. For example, he shows that measured IQ scores exhibit pretty poor correlation with SAT scores- though they are usually thought to be tightly linked. NNT also show how apparently medium degrees of correlation are more statistical noise than correlation. He also points out that there is a logical problem in making a correlation between a Gaussian function (IQ measurements) while real life performance (fat-tailed). NNT also talks about the problem of negative correlation- basically how many people with a high IQ score end up working menial and mediocre paid jobs while those who average scores end up being far more successful or rich. And he blasts psychologists at every step.

Finally he goes through a list of common objections and bullshitting employed by psychologists and other believers in IQ to deflect criticism about that topic. As many of you might have guessed by now, his tweet-storm as well as habit of being confrontational generated hilarious responses from defenders of IQ scores- from charlatans such as Charles Murray, Razib “I hate being brown” Khan and a bevy of other “famous” psychologists as well as assorted racist fuckwits such as Stefan Molyneux. I find it amusing how all of these sad losers are responding to NNT dismantling the mathematical basis for their bullshit and lies. Then again, what else can you expect? But it is fun to watch, nonetheless. As some of you might remember, I too have written many posts which made some of the same points NNT is making- and it is nice to see them vindicated.

A couple of examples. In one of his tweets, NNT makes the point that whatever IQ is measuring cannot be very important since it was not selected by evolutionary pressures– and here is me making that point in 2012. In his Medium post and some tweets, NNT makes the point that ‘high IQ’ is associated with good exam-takers, paper shufflers and other obedient IYIs (intellectuals yet idiots). Here is one of my post making a similar argument in 2012. To quickly summarize, NNT has torn new and big holes into the sad scam of measuring IQ score and trying correlating them with real world success- financial or otherwise. I have long made similar arguments about the sad losers who believe in IQ scores and the lack of connection of such scores with real life success.

What do you think? Comments?