IQ and life in more complex societies

 The more complex a society the greater the need for high IQ. As the number of humans living in social proximity increases more sophisticated social structures are required. A settled way of life amplifies this need further. The variety of occupations increases and, most importantly, the amount of stored knowledge becomes both larger and, once writing is available, more stable. Social organisation becomes looser and informal social support lessens. In place of a single world view competing ideologies vie for supremacy. Change and innovation become much more probable. There is so much more to potentially think about and learn, although any individual may actually have to know less than the hunter-gatherer to survive because of division of labour.

 The individual in such a society is required to both learn more complex and less immediately obviously practical skills and knowledge and to deal with a greater range of human personalities and ideas. A man’s life contains less physical activity. As he works with his brain rather than his hands, his focus of attention changes. Knowledge becomes obsolete through innovation and consequently the need to learn throughout life increases. There is less certainty and fewer simple cultural mooring posts. The individual has to make more intellectually demanding decisions.

To live in a more complex society requires a qualitative change in mental abilities. There is an ever increasing shift from learning that which is concrete to that which is abstract, both in terms of understanding the whys and hows of the natural world at a level beyond mere surface observation, for example, the extraction of metal from ores, and in contemplating the organisational problems posed by larger associations of human beings. Much of what is to be learnt has no connection with the natural world and consequently no innate interest for Man who has to persuade himself intellectually that such things should be learnt because they lead to useful outcomes.

The existence of writing enhances such behaviours but it does more than that. The storing of information in a stable form means that information can be disseminated more widely and more certainly. Oral traditions inevitably result in variation. So of course do written records but they are far less prone to change, especially where moveable type printing exists. Moreover, a written record is a permanent statement of what was thought or claimed at one time. It can be compared with later written or oral accounts of the same subject in a way that a society with a purely oral tradition can never compare past and present accounts. In addition, written documentation allows not only a vast increase in what can be handed down from generation to generation but also much more complex information. It also greatly extends the time over which information may be transmitted. According to Plato, Socrates lamented the use of written records because he believed they stifled the intellect, but what would we know of Socrates today if no written records had been made of his thought? The answer is nothing.

As societies become more complex the way in which people learn changes. Instead of invariably learning by personal instruction and example, human beings often have to learn without direct human assistance, for example by reading, or by listening to the spoken words of others without any practical demonstration. This is because in modern industrialised societies the number of people who really understand the technology which is in general use is seriously inadequate. This means that people are routinely expected to use technology without a proper understanding of it because there is no one to instruct them in its use.

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  • antiphonsgarden  On November 19, 2010 at 10:41 am

    Truly intelligent humans finds the idea of an IQ as measure of intelligence, very questionable!

    • Robert Henderson  On November 19, 2010 at 10:52 am

      The only people who do not take IQ to be the most accurate measure of intelligence are those who are ideologically motivated to reject the idea of innate qualities. IQ is not a perfect measure of intellect and is certainly not a measure of what any individual is in toto, but it is the most potent tool to assess whether someone is suited to a particular job or educational course. A high IQ will not guarantee success in occupations requiring high intelligence or academic study, but it is a necessary condition for such success. For example, someone with an IQ of 150 may or may not take a first in maths at Cambridge; someone with an IQ of 80 will never take such a degree.

  • gedaliah braun  On November 19, 2010 at 12:59 pm

    Dear Mr Henderson,
    I sent you some comments within the past day or two and thought you might be interested in the following observations. Since leaving the teaching profession I have made a living purely by my wits. For the past 22 years I have made a living primarily by making and distributing chocolate brownies. In the course of this in the last month or so, the following happened. The brownie batter is poured into 8 x 10” trays and then put into the oven, six at a time. On at least two separate occasions there was a filled tray on the other side of the table where I was working. The black woman helping me was on the other side. For extra room, I had to shove the tray on the other side of the table slightly over the edge of the table. The side of the cake furthest from me (and at the edge of the table) was the 8” side (the shorter side). I moved it at most 2” over the edge – in other words, with 80% of the tray still on the table.
    In both cases the woman on the other side (this happened with two different women, both black) ‘lurched’ to grab the tray, thinking it was going to fall off the edge! Even though I’ve lived in Africa now for 34 years, this still amazed me, though I have given considerable thought to that part of physics which I believed is called Mechanics (at which I was a whiz in high school by the way) and such things as leverage and to the question of how much our intuitions about leverage are a priori and how much they are based on observation and experience, as well as the question of what black-white differences there might be regarding this.
    Be that as it may, I realized right away that this was something that a white person is extremely unlikely to do (thinking the tray was about to fall off when it was only slightly over the edge), and I realized right away that this reflected something about blacks’ lack of understanding of geometry and such ideas. (As you may know, there are no words in Zulu [and presumably in other black languages] for shapes, straight lines, precision, number etc – in other words, abstract concepts and ideas. I discuss this at some length in my book.) Nevertheless, it was striking to see it exhibited right before my eyes in such a dramatic fashion.
    Then just the other day, with one of these two women, we were putting something away in a chest freezer whose hinges (of the lid) were shot, necessitating putting two 5 litres bottles of water on the lid to keep it closed properly. As we was doing this, I asked this woman where she thought the best place to put these two bottle would be – at the back (nearest to the hinges and furthest from the front of the lid), in the middle or at the front? I told her to show me where the best place would be. She put them in the middle, mid way between the front and the back.
    Now how many whites – above infancy or slightly older – do you think would do that? Few if any, I would bet. In fact, if such research hasn’t already been done, I would be fascinating to do it, testing black’s – as well as whites — geometric (’mechanical’) intuitions about such things as leverage. If someone has done it, I would be most interested to know about it.
    I wrote a brief note about this to Phil Rushton (whom I know slightly), but he never got back to me.
    Gedaliah Braun
    Friday, November 19, 2010

  • antiphonsgarden  On November 19, 2010 at 4:59 pm

    Truly intelligent people are not interested to participate to an absurd attempt to qualify their inner diversity into a society pleasing hierarchy game of “qualification to success”.They might even see through the attempt to call their sense of perception “ideological”, as if the IQ himself was not an ideological concept. Academical study job licence vanity’s might appear considering the evident failing of the elites to care for our specie as not the highest possible aim to express intelligence, but more as a class fear to face reality in her whole expression.They might have a brighter concept of what intelligence might be to the individual as much as to humanity.

  • michaeleriksson  On November 20, 2010 at 11:30 pm

    Truly intelligent people understand that even an imperfect measure can be better than no measure at all. (Further, they try to judge things on their actual, respective merits.)

  • antiphonsgarden  On November 21, 2010 at 9:04 am

    Truly intelligent people don’t assume that measuring humans to divide them truly matters and that the description of worth and values through a class system insisting on his own perpetuation despite his evident failure is simply clinging to his own bureaucratic petty privileges, not truly caring for the ACTUAL needs of all.

  • antiphonsgarden  On November 21, 2010 at 9:10 am

    The arrogant assumption of the aspiring(and actually drastically failing!) middle class as being the centre of seriousness is only reflecting her own aim to appear society relevant through uncritical pleasing “well behaving”, not his effective ability to care.

  • Paul N.  On November 25, 2010 at 4:56 pm

    Truly intelligent people …

    Who is intelligent enough to judge how truly intelligent people behave?
    It was an intelligent man who wrote “Scio nescio”, wasn’t he?

  • antiphonsgarden  On November 25, 2010 at 7:26 pm

    Well, some intelligent people understand irony.
    I guess, people who know the disadvantages and pleasures of such a situation knows well what it means.Some might confuse it with an ego hybris, but the difference might be noticeable, at least to both…the truly intelligent one and those thinking they are.

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