The Mad Hater

In modern America, it is generally assumed that intelligent people are smart about everything, not just a narrow specialty. It is also assumed, with regards to social policy, that smart people are on the “right side” of the issue. Taken together, smart people are general experts, who agree and amplify the current Progressive fads. Whenever the television chats shows want to add weight to some claim, they roll out credentialed experts to repeat what the left-wing presenter just said.

The flip side to this, of course, is that critics of the current Progressive fads are ignorant and primitive. They oppose the current trends because they lack the intellect or proper education to understand the issue. There is an oriental quality to it. The experts are talked about as enlightened, as if years of focus have allowed them to ascend to a high plane of existence. The critics, in contrast, are unenlightened, unaware there is a higher plane and thus ignorant of their own ignorance.

It is a useful social control mechanism, as it puts a tremendous moral burden on the intellectual class. No one, especially smart people, wants to be considered ignorant, so the natural tendency is to conform to the latest trends. Social pressure is a powerful weapon, as humans are social animals. To live as a pariah is the worst punishment in a status seeking community like academia. The result is the people who know better tend to keep quiet, while the rage heads and cranks run free.

There is an exception to this. There are people who seem to be smart, but they also go against the current trends, usually in a flamboyant way. Today that means acting like a crazy homeless guy on-line, screaming about stuff to no one and everyone. A good example is someone like Nicolas Taleb, the popinjay of probability. His latest thing is to gainsay evolutionary biology, by claiming all of it is all bunk. It usually involves attacking people. Here he picks out people at random and calls them names.

Taleb has a special animus for psychometry. Here is a long essay where he claims that IQ is largely a pseudoscientific swindle. This is ironic, given he made his money in a field that does not rise to the level of pseudoscience. Finance is just a swindle, where the “winners” have found a way to swindle the losers. Putting that aside, his essay is typical of his work. Heavy on complicated graphs and meandering logic, all of which is intended to make the reader think the writer is a super genius.

Of course, this is the stock and trade of the intellectual grifter. A pretty good rule is that a graph in an essay better be a highly simplified representation of what the preceding text just explained. If on the other hand, it is a complicated splatter chart following a pile of spaghetti language, the writer is trying to run a con on you. There are exceptions and complex topics can sometimes defy simple explanations. Still, the Feynman Rule and its natural derivatives is good to keep in mind with guys like Taleb.

Another interesting aspect of the Taleb act is that he is extremely ethnocentric. In fact it is his ethnocentrism that drives many of his Twitter tirades. This one is a good example, as it reveals a couple of things. The first thing is he does not know much about fascism or localism. He seems to think the fascists were internationalists. Of course, he assumes fascism is a synonym for bad. Therefore, it must have an opposite, as all bad things are bad because they are the opposite of the good things.

He picks localism as his good opposite of fascism and then makes the claim that the Phoenicians were localists. A popular thing with Lebanese nationalists (Christian) is to claim they are descendants of the Phoenicians. What he is up to here is a sideways celebration of his people. They were the first anti-fascists! Put another way, the root of his political analysis is an extreme pride in his people and culture, real or imagined, not a desire to understand the motivations of those making public policy.

It may be that his attacks on psychometry are driven by his ethnocentrism. Lebanon is a curious place. It is blessed with many natural resources and an ideal location between Europe and the Middle East. Yet, Lebanon is pretty much the ghetto of the Levant. If not for the Palestinians, the Lebanese would be at the bottom of the status pole. Israel, Syria and Iran use Lebanon as a staging area for their proxy wars. The Lebanese live as perpetual victims of their more powerful neighbors.

For a Lebanese nationalist, it is easier to look outside Lebanon for reasons why their country is such a mess. To admit that the Lebanese smart fraction abandoned the place a long time ago, which is mostly true, leaving the less able behind, is not going to fit well with ethno-nationalism. From an ethno-nationalist perspective, it is better to just deny there can be such a thing as a smart fraction. That obviates the need to explain a lot of Lebanese history, as well as Taleb’s personal history.

Now, it is possible that the real motivation behind these frequent rants against biology is just good old fashioned attention seeking. Taleb is a bit of gasbag and he certainly likes himself a lot. On the other hand, he could simply be a great example of someone with one good insight and not much else. Intellectual history is littered with people who had one great insight and a bunch of crackpot ideas. There were a lot of brilliant physicists in the last century, who were convinced international communism was the future.

Regardless, Taleb is a good reminder that smart people are right about things more often than dumb people, but they are still wrong about a lot of things. The further they stray from their narrow specialty, the more certain they seem to be in their wrongness. That and intelligence is a different from morality. Holding the right ideas is a different thing from holding the correct ideas. A guy like Taleb, in addition to providing free entertainment in Twitter, is a good example of how dumb smart people can be when they try.

For sites like this to exist, it requires people like you chipping in a few bucks a month to keep the lights on and the people fed. It turns out that you can’t live on clicks and compliments. Five bucks a month is not a lot to ask. If you don’t want to commit to a subscription, make a one time donation. Or, you can send money to: Z Media LLC P.O. Box 432 Cockeysville, MD 21030-0432. You can also use PayPal to send a few bucks, rather than have that latte at Starbucks. Thank you for your support!

189 thoughts on “The Mad Hater

  1. Talebs article only “criticized” one IQ study out of thousands. His main mathematical premise there is IQ correlates only 60% with AVOIDING poverty. Thats obvious. 60% is still significant. More importantly are other studies, showing IQ correlates MUCH higher with STEM jobs, AKA building the modern world. His claim that “street smarts beat intelligence” falls apart quickly when you need your society to develop trustworthy electrical engineering, infrastructure, technology, medicine, chemistry and physics. Would Taleb take his family across a bridge designed by a low IQ guy with street smarts? How about to the top of a skyscraper? You cant drink the tap water anywhere south of the US border, and thats an IQ drop of about 12 points. IQ also correlates with crime and safety. Japan is the safest place in the world, very high IQ and no diversity for example.

    Also, Taleb is white. If he thinks he’s arab, his parents have been lying. Greeks and romans left white children all through the middle east. A fat nose and a beard dont give you a brown card, especially with skin that is obviously white.

  2. I follow Taleb on Twitter and his recent rantings on IQ had me wondering for the past few weeks if you would ever share your thoughts on him and what angle you would take.

    You did not disappoint.

    He has to respond, right?

  3. Stanford-Binet 139. (shrugs)

    It’s utterly useless from a practical POV without a good knowledge of historical facts, laws of the natural world, the ability to emotionally navigate with/around others, etc. Lower IQs can be more successful in the world than higher.

    It’s just one measure of several that are relevant.

  4. IQ matters because I don’t want to live in a place like the Congo or Venezuela.

    However it does seem as though a lot of the smart people have a bit of autistic tendencies. These people will often claim rationality is the most important factor in politics. They also admit that they find human behavior odd and human interactions difficult.

    Politics is fundamentally about what large groups of people want. If you find normal people indecipherable and unrelatable, than you probably shouldn’t get involved in politics.

    They also seem to be rather tedious. When a Napoleon Dynamite says he spent the summer hunting Wolverines in Alaska normal people diagnose it as a lie quickly. The Autistics require evidence that he’s lying. They seem to have a tendency to get distracted with bad faith arguments because they can’t recognize them. They also tend to think that others can’t recognize their own bad faith arguments without compiling a load of evidence. Humans detect truth in many ways, and one of those ways is pattern recognition from other humans. Because many really smart people seem to lack that ability they can’t find truth in piles of bull as quickly as normal people.

    • “However it does seem as though a lot of the smart people have a bit of autistic tendencies. These people will often claim rationality is the most important factor in politics. They also admit that they find human behavior odd and human interactions difficult.”

      Those aren’t smart people, they’re libertarians.

  5. I have taken two IQ tests – the first in elementary school and the second when I turned 50. Both were 136. I was a marketing executive and my IQ was always a hindrance. Companies increasingly don’t want you to think and implement smart ideas. They want you to be on whatever popular bandwagon that makes executives’ lives easier and satisfy the people who tend to bitch to the ceo. To make matters worse, I find that really smart people just use their IQ to better play this game rather than actually conceiving of and driving smart ideas. Maybe if I had worked in some other field, I would value IQ more but I find it more of a hinderence than an asset in the corporate world.

  6. Some researcher a few years ago released a study finding that smarter people more readily fool themselves than do average people. Vox Day and Taleb seem to be great example of that. They are so convinced about their brilliance that they automatically assume they are right based on just a gut reaction. You see that in Taleb and IQ and Vox and both the reconquesta and Q.

  7. Levantine Lysenko, Popinjay of Probability, Intellectual Yet Useful Idiot (IYUI), The IQ Taleban. I’m sure the nicknames will keep coming.

  8. Fun with numbers. By definition:

    – Half of the people you meet at random are below average intelligence. Column B, so to speak. Nearly 100%, if asked, would claim to be a member of column A.
    – You have equal chances that a randomly assigned doctor in the medical group finished in the bottom 50% of their class. Even if you assume some don’t get board certified, say 20%, your odds are still around 40%.
    – This week, many school students are receiving their PSAT results from testing last April. This will be their first experience with the meaning of “50th percentile”…and numbers below and above 50. The smarter ones, or at least the ones with better-informed parents, have had these scores since late May.

    To me, intelligence, or “smarts”, is about raw, uncoached, problem solving ability given an array of information (some useful, some not). Intelligent people can work out a solution to a problem, even one they’ve never encountered before that is outside their general area of knowledge. it’s not so much about having or knowing the answers as it is about being able to quickly develop workable solutions. They usually also have great retention of information, and are able to quickly access it, process it, and then adapt and use it in new situations.

    Many intelligent people are quite talented at being con-men. (Or women). They know how to target and isolate slower folks, and outwit them to achieve some end. I once had a student, really brilliant, who used her intelligence to make people believe she had learning disabilities. She was lazy and hated working. She got to spend a lot of time out of school seeing “specialists” who hooked her up to gizmos to measure her disability. In a way, they all teamed up to snooker her parents. I would bust her all the time for lying and cheating, telling her, “You finally met someone smarter than you. Just because you’ve fooled everyone else, doesn’t mean you’ve fooled me.” She would start in on some excuse and I’d just laugh and ask her why she thought I’d believe her. Man she hated me for that. To her parents’ credit, when she went to college, they refused to CO-sign any loans.

    I suspect, assuming the data is right, that the general decline in measured intelligence over the past 50-100 years is at least partly due to a lower need to retain information (why memorize what you can google?), and less need for problem solving due to automation. A post-scarcity society is also a post-problem society. The big problems of survival are largely solved. The remaining problems happen less frequently, and well above the operational level of your average human.

    Which explains also why so many other things from entertainment/TV/movies to the clerk at the grocery store are the way they are. There are lots of intelligent movies that make you think, but fewer customers to watch them. Many of the store clerks are incapable of simple tasks if the computer messes up. You’ve seen this mocked at the ER on “Idiocracy”, but it’s no different than watching somebody’s head explode when the cash register bloops instead of bleeps.

    If you’re not sure whether IQ is a real thing or not, use the “explosion of definitions” rule. Important things that not everyone can do, but which are understood to be of value, are frequently redefined by society to be more “inclusive”. For example, STEM fields are now referred to in many academic quarters as STEAM. The A? “Arts”

    That is, in a word, horseshit. But the low analytical types felt excluded, so the A was added.

    With IQ, we now have terms like emotional or spiritual intelligence. This, to salve the egos of the 110-120 and 90-100 IQ folks.

    An explosion in definitions…LGBTQ for example…is almost always a dilution of the core principle in favor of inclusivity.

    • Anybody older than 50 who thinks the Flynn Effect is real hasn’t spent much time around many people

      • I think the data is real, but nobody really can explain why. There’s also a measured “reverse” Flynn Effect in Western nations over the last 20ish years.

  9. Heraclitus said: “Character is destiny.”

    Lefty Gomez said: “I’d rather be lucky than good.”

    Thomas A. Edison said: ” Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration.”

    Here’s a website called: “PlanetofSuccess.” With an artical called: “12 Qualities of Highly Successful People.”

    Here’s a website called: ” The Positive Parenting Centre.” With an artical called: ” Our List of Virtues and their Definitions.”

    Ecclesiastes 9:11. ” New Living Translation.”
    “I have observed something else under the sun. The fastest runner doesn’t always win the race, and the strongest warrior doesn’t always win the battle. The wise sometimes go hungry, and the skillful are not necessarily wealthy. And those who are educated don’t always lead successful lives. It is all decided by chance, by being in the right place at the right time.”

    I’m sure there are plenty more out there.

  10. High IQ doesn’t mean wise. Einstein was smart and a complete idiot when it came to Religion and was a Communist (or was it socialist). A high IQ con-man and crook is a menace – and so are High IQ foreigners – who want to rule our country. Finally, once you get past a certain point, IQ = 140, the rest is irrelevant. People need to understand high intelligence isn’t a virtue, its an attribute. Like being physically strong.

  11. I had my doubts about Taleb when I read his third book, a collection of banalities he called “aphorisms.” The icing on the cake was when he tweeted that, although he rarely tosses around such terms, he thought Claire Lehmann is a “neo-Nazi.” Now, you can think about Claire Lehmann what you will, but anyone who claims she is a “new-Nazi” has a screw loose, no matter how profound their mastery of statistics.

  12. A humble person has no trouble saying “I have no idea,” when he in fact has no idea. That is a good starting point for analysing the mouthings of “smart people.”

    • High IQ is like concealed carry. It is for your own protection, and you only show your weapon when it might be really necessary to use it. Do not trust people who openly carry, or openly talk about their IQ, until you get to know them well. You might not trust them even then.

    • Yep, but it’s partly a byproduct of their education. “Smart” kids are often put in smart kid classes with other smart kids. So there’s this natural “never show weakness” thing going on. The classes themselves are often structured to avoid failure…leading to the idea that only dumb people don’t know or are wrong. So a lot of the “smart” kids grow up as thin skinned whiners who won’t admit they’re wrong or don’t know…because you’re not “smart” if you do that. And oftentimes their whole identity is built up around that test score in 3rd grade which declared them “smart”.

      Smart parents avoid schools with TAG programs. And if their kid is in one, they create situations for failure so their kid doesn’t get all screwed up in the head.

  13. thezman said: “He picks localism as his good opposite of fascism and then makes the claim that the Phoenicians were localists. A popular thing with Lebanese nationalists (Christian) is to claim they are descendants of the Phoenicians. What he is up to here is a sideways celebration of his people. They were the first anti-fascists! Put another way, the root of his political analysis is an extreme pride in his people and culture, real or imagined, not a desire to understand the motivations of those making public policy.”
    Everyone has a foundation myth that anchors them in the past/present/future. And sense he’s not Anglo-Europian, he gets to have a nice one. And given his financial and academic careers, it’s not surprising that he has a load of progressive crap ratteling around in his head. Personally, I didn’t remember the guy until I right clicked his name and read some of his Wiki page. He’s obviously an accomplished man, who is as you say, stepping outside his field of expertise and blabbering about the current years world views. The ” Revalution” has largly always been a middle class enterprise, who turned to the lower classes for muscle.

  14. Whatever. As Murray said a week or so ago, neither the IQ denialists nor the absolutists ever cite the massive distributional overlap between groups to bolster their arguments.

    • Name a prominent person in the field who is an IQ absolutist. I can’t think of anyone, off the top of my head. I can probably rattle off a dozen denialists.

      • FWIW Z, IQ absolutists do exist. I didn’t say they were prominent in the field. On the contrary they rarely have any background in genetics, or stats. That doesn’t prevent them from opining or having followers. Sorry if I misrepresented.

        • No doubt. I just think science deniers do the same gag as Progs do when discussing dissidents. They find one lunatic and pretend he is an example of the whole. Anyone serious in the HBD world is fully aware of the limits, much more so than the deniers.

      • thezman said: ” Name a prominent person in the field who is an IQ absolutist. I can’t think of anyone, off the top of my head. I can probably rattle off a dozen denialists. To me, being an IQ absolutis is just as silly as being a denialists. It’s like the nature/nurture stuff. It’s a obviously both, not one or the other. IQ is obviously an importent factor in a persons success or failure, especially in certain fields. But Humans,Civilization and the Universe are absurdly complicated. If IQ where everything, no one with an IQ of 95 or below would own so much as a pair of socks.

        • Thinking about it, I suspect it goes something like this. The denier wants to expound on his new wildly complex reason for some phenomenon. The on-line HBD’ers then point out that general intelligence already explains the observed phenomenon well enough. Denier then flies into a rage, mostly because no one is taking his absurdly convoluted explanation seriously. That then results in the denier calling the HBD’er an biological absolutist, as a way to wave them off.

          Either way, there are lots of people in the prestige press who believe in magic. There are no prominent people arguing in favor of biological determinism, much less IQ absolutism.

    • Why would they cite overlap? Their arguments are never made to categorize the individual, but rather the collective (group). And collective arguments are valid and useful. For example, recognition of inherent group differences is the death knell to the current blather of “blank slatism” and the lie of White racism being the cause of outcome differences among groups.

  15. “Taleb has a special animus for psychometry. Here is a long essay where he claims that IQ is largely a pseudoscientific swindle. This is ironic, given he made his money in a field that does not rise to the level of pseudoscience. Finance is just a swindle, where the ‘winners’ have found a way to swindle the losers.” Ironic, because Taleb would probably agree with you about finance as a pseudoscience. That’s been his position since he started writing for a general audience. He’s a professional skeptic. It’s not surprising that he takes an equally skeptical view of IQ.

    • I agree, as in the philosopher who denies the possibility of knowledge, or even rational belief, in some sphere.

  16. I had an argument with a relative in which she claimed to be “more enlightened” and even tried pulling the White privilege canard on me. If we weren’t related I wouldn’t have restrained myself, but I got my licks in. She kept blathering about Roy Moore being a pedophile. Eventually I asked her what she thought of drag queen story hour. Of course that’s totally cool. Then she claimed she was more enlightened because she knows more gay people. This incoherent mess of an argument somehow makes her one of the smart people. Her badly regurgitated NPR drivel gives her this sense of superiority that’s unbearable.

    I could parrot the party line far better and be one of the beautiful people, but I prefer unpopular truths to the approbation of CultMarx lunatics. That’s the difference between men and women. When you see a man doing the globohomo bit you know he has a feminine mind or is just doing it for money or status. I rarely bring up politics for obvious reasons, but I do enjoy taking people apart when they’re stupid enough to engage me, particularly women. Their opinions are earnest but paper thin. Most of the people in this section could have your average shitlib wahmen in tears in five minutes of debate.

    • Her badly regurgitated NPR drivel gives her this sense of superiority that’s unbearable.

      That describes the self-righteous attitudes of the 1960s radicals. They knew they were right and they knew those they opposed were wrong and they were not about to prove it to either themselves or their enemies.

  17. Taleb is the Mickey Hatcher of the Good-Think intelligentsia. A light-hitting utility player for most of his career.

    But in the 1988 World Series he hit .368 w 2 HRs and 5 RBIs, and when you bring up the name Mickey Hatcher and his mostly undistinguished 12-year career…….the first thing that pops to mind is that 1988 World Series.

    Mickey was lucky that way. As is Taleb.

  18. Oh dear, I would bet dollars to donuts that NN Taleb searches for himself on google daily. You are likely to elicit a large number of unkind words from the Phoneyecian Phenom.

  19. Intelligence as biological computational power translates to wisdom, but only in the presence of humility. I’m not sure if the two traits are often hand and hand. I know very few people who can just sit down and objectively and honestly describe an ideological opponent’s worldview and why someone would be drawn to it. Fewer the caveats and hesitations they have about their own worldview and why someone would not be drawn to it.

    • I have found that the older (mostly) honest folks get, the more they can see the other side as well as the negatives to their own side. The older dishonest folks get, the more they are bound to the lies that they tell themselves…

  20. “Yet, Lebanon is pretty much the ghetto of the Levant.”

    I’m told it was a nice enough place before the 1975 to 1990 civil war wrecked the country and its society. Beirut was once called the Paris of the Levant without too much exaggeration.

    • It seems that the brain drain that had been going on for some time rapidly accelerated into the 1970’s. Watertown Mass, for example, had a large Lebanese population that mostly arrived in the 1970’s. These were Christians and educated. The Lebanese will often say that those who stayed behind are better off staying in Lebanon. I’ve heard the same thing from Cubans who escaped Castro. The Lebanese in America have been a highly successful immigrant group.

      Lebanon has been cursed with the worst neighbors on earth.

    • I go there on business a couple of times a year. Beirut is on a peninsular and a sort of sloping hill. Before the civil war it was full of low rise buildings where most could see the sea, and the city was classic and beautiful. After the war, they restored a few streets, and it appears that the builders bribed the councilors to allow them to build high rise flats galore. I’d say it’s now the Marseilles of the Middle East, as it is just high rise after high rise that could once see the Med, but now just looks on to the next high rise 20m away. Nice food though.

  21. A few months ago I read his argument that IQ was not a predictor of success. I sort of like some of his books – currently have Skin in the Game, which I’m reading. He was also arguing with Clare Lehman at the time on twitter. His argument was that IQ did not correlate with success. His essay and argument seemed disingenuous to me, as his essay did actually prove what most on the d-right believe to be true. Low IQ was a predictor of failure with the increase in failure correlating with lower IQ. What wasn’t correlated was that higher IQ equaled higher success. What his graph showed was that over and above a certain IQ, then other factors would come to the fore – I’m guessing industriousness, life choices, social ability etc,. He then used that lack of correlation at the higher level to argue that IQ could not be used as a success indicator at all. He didn’t mention that it could be used as a failure indicator for low IQ – even though his essay and graph clearly showed that correlation.

    To me this reinforces the idea that success is dependent on having an IQ above a certain level. Below that level it does correlate with failure, and above that it doesn’t correlate with success on its own. But you need the average/high IQ as the foundation to build success.

    A few weeks later Clare Lehman found some of NNT’s old tweets from 2015/2016 where he was ranting and referring to people has having a low IQ. She then claimed checkmate!

    • I’ve seen persuasive (to me at least) studies that the higher IQ = greater success correlation starts to fail much above 2 SD’s up. The theory is that above that level the far larger number of somewhat less smart but still bright people view one as a not to be trusted outsider: being an outlier on the upside has its downside.
      The Bell Curve giveth and the differential calculus of the Bell Curve taketh away.

    • Yes, but over a certain level of IQ, you are working with a restricted range population. This selected population of high IQ’ers *will show less correlation* with your measure of “success” simply due to this phenomena.

      We learned about this problem in our second year stat’s or measurement course. Problem usually illustrated with any number of social science research examples that use college sophomores as subjects and then apply results—or lack thereof—to the general population (majority of course, not college educated).

  22. Ah, the felicity of your epithet “popinjay of probability” is such a delight that I cannot help but smile. That is Zman at his best.
    I know an astrophysicist who left academia after his second post doc because, he confessed, there were probably only four people in the world who truly understood his work. When Taleb resorts to mathematics rather than aphorisms, I feel he is channeling a similar dynamic. It obfuscates rather than explains or confirms, leaving one unable to parse the argument. One ultimately agrees or disagrees based on the forcefulness of his personality, which is a very unsatisfactory basis for knowledge.

  23. My personal litmus test for “Smart” people is: Have you ever been wrong about anything of consequence? I don’t mean stuff like “Where’s the nearest McDonald’s” or “What’s the best way to get to the post office.” I mean questions of war and peace, that kind of thing. If you haven’t, you’re a poseur. I’d bet long money Taleb has never been wrong in his life. (N.b. this is especially true if you today hold positions 180 degrees from your previous positions. It has never ceased to fascinate me, the way the ivory tower herd moves like a school of fish. Somehow they just know when yesterday’s orthodoxy is today’s heresy, and they never mention it, even when they all are on record vehemently defending it. It’s like it never happened, because they can’t possibly ever have been wrong. Understand how they pull that little juggling act off, and you’ll finally fathom the Liberal mind).

    • Pretty good filter for poseurs. The “carcass of dead policies” problem in politics largely results from inability to admit you were wrong (see W on almost everything, ever – see me, 2000-2008, believing him).

      • I was right there with you, buddy. In fact, there was a time when the kindest term to describe me would’ve been “civic nationalist.” A more accurate term would’ve been “cuck,” though, which is why I rarely make the Left’s mistake of believing my own BS anymore. Experience is a dear school, as Franklin once said, but fools will learn at no other.

      • Getting a bunch of 7th century tribesmen to morph into the founding fathers overnight. I still can’t believe I fell for that one. Now I can see it was about Israel and justifying our defense budget.

      • Yep. I remember arguing that we just *HAD* to go into Iraq because of all the WMDs and how we don’t want us to get nuked by some crazy dude like Saddam…

        Would that I had a time machine to go back and punch myself in the face.

  24. I can say from personal experience that someone can be a world-class scientist, with the mathematical, logical mind of a demi-god. And be a complete, total, political moron. There are people who can understand ‘D-branes’ (highly abstract mathematical concepts used in ‘super string theory’) and NOT understand why whites becoming a minority is a problem. I’ve actually been genuinely puzzled by this, I find it weirder than quantum mechanics to be honest.

    I like Taleb but as an applied mathematician/statistician. I don’t know enough about him politically and he may indeed be bonkers. I guess that sort of supports his conjecture that IQ should not be overestimated. Or at least that one number (or the natural numbers) carry insufficient measure (more abstract way of saying ‘information’) to really rank human minds. I could actually believe that. I’ve never understood why there had to be a fundamentally true, as in ‘given by nature’, answer to a question like “who was more ingenious, Gauss or Beethoven”. Any, I can tell Im going off on a geek rant here lol

  25. I don’t understand how someone can repackage Minsky’s credit cycle theory into a “Black Swan Event” and be hailed as a genius for groundbreaking research. He owes royalties to the Minsky family. As a matter of fact he owes a lot of royalties to a lot of people.

    Taleb is a repackager of ideas, not an originator of them. He knows the media, and the personae that the media is looking for. No bright person in his field would come off well in the media. He’s the Neil DeGrasse Tyson of Finance.

    People like that come from generations of swindlers, selling carpets in stalls, claiming to be royalty fallen on hard times. He wouldn’t have made it in Lebanon because everyone has “a story” there. You need to go to a place where people believe stories and story tellers. Obviously he found fertile ground here among the “educated” rubes.

    • There’s always a market for telling people, who think themselves elite, that the mess they created was the result of forces outside their control.

    • Consumers of financial services fall for stories all the time. 99% of it appears to be looking for confirmation for their being “in” or being “out”. The appearance of intellectual or occupational depth seems to count for a lot in exercising authority.

  26. Yup. My proggie in laws were like that and they drove me bonkers with it. Their idiot son spent 7 YEARS getting a mickey mouse BEd degree. He went to school part time and had to repeat courses. When he went for his masters he quit because it was too hard. But his degree in public education made him an expert on everything in their opinion. Of course he was a card carrying environmentalist, feminist, socialist and general leftist ass hat. Creationists and Christians were all a bunch of rubes and idiots – even though my braying jack as of a mother in law was once a Baptist. I suppose I shouldn’t be such a dink because I was one of them, once upon a time, and put up with their shite for years. Only got Red Pilled when Darwin and Murphy caught up with me.

    But… about that evolution thing, Z. There is no evolutionary evidence AT ALL that it occurs across species – only within them. I am supposed to believe that mutation explains it… when the astronomical number of mutations overwhelmingly prove fatal. The Big Bang – an explosion of cosmic proportions – would ordinarily produce a mess of cosmic proportions. Yet our universe runs like a swiss watch, our biology and ecosystems run with precision… but this kind of stuff never comes up for discussion with our informed and edgy scientific atheists. I am not here to convert anyone, but I will not take shite off our learned and pure atheists either. I am as smart as they are, I know what they’ve been taught, and if they treat me with contempt I will return it with interest.

    • Being an atheist never made sense to me. You have to believe in spontaneous generation. Literally taking science back before Pasteur.

    • John S;
      You are right re The *Theory* of Evolution. This hypothesis was an elegant explanation for the diversity of nature based on what smart guys knew in the 1840’s. But almost all of the underlying scientific theories of that time on which it was based have been disproven since.

      Ordinarily, when disconfirming findings begin to accumulate, the current hypothetical scientific theories are adjusted, restated or replaced. That’s what science is and does. Mostly.

      As an extreme example, in my youth, the Phlogiston Theory of Combustion was widely derided by chemistry professors. However, given the state of scientific knowledge in the mid 1600’s when it was propounded, it was a reasonable scientific hypothesis. Then disconfirming findings began to pile up and it was finally discarded/superseded by 1780 when Lavoisier ran the conclusive experiments.

      What the chem prof’s glossed over in the 1960s was that, no matter how ridiculous it seemed 300 years later, for over 100 years Phlogiston Theory was as good an explanation for atmospheric combustion as any other.

      Similarly, Darwinism was as good an explanation as any other for the diversity of life prior to the disconfirming breakthroughs in paleontology, biochemistry genetics and cosmology that, as you say, began to pile up after WWII.

      The difference is that, soon after its introduction, Darwinism became a pillar of the religion of materialistic Marxism. And so it is fanatically defended in academia to this very day. A so-called scientific theory that cannot be questioned on the basis of disconfirming findings is no longer a ‘scientific’ theory (just like Human Caused Climate Change).* It’s part of a religion.

      IMHO, the atheists and materialists know at some level that if they let go of strict Darwinism or even allow it to be questioned, they’d be without excuse for not bending the knee before Almighty God.
      *My favorite aphorism against Al ‘the science is settled’ Gore and his grifter ilk is, “If it’s science, it’s not settled. If it’s settled, it’s not science”. That’s not original to me, I think.

      • Well said, Al.

        I think what’s happening is that people are looking for some kind of morality and redemption. When the church got corrupted with grift and scammers, it took a chit kicking as people fled in droves away from the television evangelists, the scam charities and all the other BS. (The church deserved that too; it didn’t police its ranks and the pedos, perverts and scammers ran away with it and people got fed up).

        I think they turned instead to science, hoping to find something there… and as you say, guys like Fat Al Gore got into it and did the same things to real science that they did to the church.

        This in turn opens up a can of worms for the dissident right: what, exactly, ARE our morals and ethics? And how do we arrive at them and define them?

  27. Frankly, I was glad to see someone with some credentials at least try to take the IQ fanatics down a few pegs. In fact, most of what I gleaned from Taleb’s tweets seemed consistent with what people have said here: IQ is something but actual success in ones field or in life depends on many additional factors,. Also, Zman’s point about bullshitting with graphs seems to be exactly Taleb’s point about all these IQ distribution charts. Of course, unlike Taleb, I will admit I may be wrong,

      • Feynman was witchy-smart, one of my favorite science guys – deserved all the accolades the overrated Hawking received and then some.

        • I absolutely agree. I personally think Feynman was the best American-born physicist of the golden half-century of physics from 1905 (Einstein’s miracle year) to the 1950s. I think he was the first one to speculate about parallel universes and I believe (believe, none of us can know) this is the only way to resolve various inconsistencies in physics; uncountably many parallel universes. Anyway, this is not a science blog, so

    • Sure, there’s no doubt that it’s possible to go way too far with the whole IQ thing, and had Taleb limited his criticisms to IQ fanatics, he would have been making a useful and valid point. But his near hysteria on the topic, his denial that IQ means anything at all, and his insults and blocking of critics ruined what could have been a valid criticism. Taleb’s huge but fragile ego really detracts from his value as a thinker and critic, and, as with Vox Day, his sycophantic echo chamber doesn’t help.

  28. This fellow Taleb hardly qualifies as “The Great Iconoclast” for attacking evolutionary biology theory and IQ testing. On the contrary, he’s simply promoting the doubleplusgoodthink of the standard social model, i.e., blank slate theory. That at the same time he promotes chauvinistic beliefs about his Lebanese/Phoenician heritage just make him a hypocrite and fool.

    That said, we’re talking Lebanon here, so if it makes him feel better about himself, who really cares? Sailer has written about this fellow fairly often, but I haven’t seen anything about him that makes me think I should take him seriously.or anything that separates him in any substantive way from the countless other people singing from the same hymnal.

  29. “If you can’t dazzle them with dexterity baffle them with bullshit.” I’m looking at YOU Taleb.

    • I see this in law a lot – confident delivery’s often enough to make people assume you know what you’re talking about and not dig deeper, particularly if you keep firing for effect. The more a guy says, the more I want to fact-check him.

      Buckley’s entire career was built on this. I always believed he was a WASP version of Cornell West. Check out his old “Firing Line” episodes and watch him use the “wall of words” to crush his opposition like Taliban on a tranny. If he bothered to rhyme, he’d be indistinguishable from guys like West, with the possible exception that he knew the real meanings of more of the words he was spraying for effect.

      • My theory on lawyers is they spend much of their academic life as the brightest person in the room or at least one of the brightest. The trouble is, they rarely go into rooms with truly smart people. As undergrads they are in the humanities, not STEM. In grad school they are around people just like them, where social skills dominate. In their work life, they have little interaction with people outside the law, at least in a professional sense. In other words, they gets lots of positive feedback, but never run into unsolvable problems.

        This theory really only applies to the upper tier of lawyers. The guys doing real estate and tax law live different lives from guys at prestigious firms.

        • Can confirm. I’ve seen wanna-be PUA lawyers perform “verbal hysterectomies.” Mostly midwits with a tendency to overestimate their intellect and trickiness, socialize mainly among their own (not really joking, due to ostracization – they tend to talk shop constantly and otherwise be boorish). Prefer to hang out with proles like the peeps I grew up with.

        • Congressman Hank Johnson, of the question regarding Guam infamy, is a lawyer who graduated from a historically Black university in Georgia. ‘Nuff said.

          • And his answer was quite lawyerly as well:
            “The subtle humor of this obviously metaphorical reference to a ship capsizing illustrated my concern about the impact of the planned military buildup on this small tropical island”

        • I learned all too well how you can fool yourself into thinking you’re very smart when you are surrounded by the ‘less-smart’. I was in the US Navy a long time ago, where my job was to navigate ships. By way of learning celestial navigation, I got interested in astronomy, then astro-physics. I read as many of the pop-physics books that I could and thought I had a pretty good idea of what I was getting into when I left the Navy to study physics full-time. It took me way too long to realize that I struggled with the math (and that’s really all that physics is) because I just wasn’t as smart as my classmates who made it look easy. It was humbling to say the least.

        • My theory on lawyers is they spend much of their academic life as the brightest person in the room or at least one of the brightest.

          Physicians same deal.

        • Respectfully, I have to disagree. Most patent lawyers have STEM backgrounds. Most litigators at white shoe firms are quite creative and quick-on-the-uptake about a wide range of issues. They are consumate generalists, able to follow a complex medical process in a case alledging malpractice, then turning to the technical details of developing a cogeneration plant in a contract dispute. Sure, there’s a lot of ham and egger attorneys scrapping over the policy limit and comparative fault in auto collision cases, but sometimes you want a Big Mac and not a Michelin 3-star meal. At the end of the day, there is a huge difference in intelligence between someone who got their J.D. from a T-20 school and passed the Bar on the first go round and the sort who went to a non-ABA night school and finally punched their ticket after taking the Quiz for the third or fourth time. Everybody hates lawyers until they need one. The interminable jokes don’t bother us because we have the last laugh.

          • Most the people at top law firms are clocking in at 125. That’s smart but not physics department smart or even biology department smart. That was my point. Walking around with a 125 in a world of 115 is going to lead to a different sense of self-worth from the guy with the 130 who spends his days figuring out what he got wrong yesterday.

          • White shoe culture surely plays a part, for it’s denizens. I’ll also point out the over-representation of lawyers in the Jacobins and the Phalangists regarding the outlooks and abilities of the most hated profession.

          • I once knew a guy who made a nice living selling expensive cars to lawyers and engineers. That seems like an odd combination, but when he explained why he targeted those professions it made sense. Both were easily flattered. He may have been the smartest person I have met.

      • Everyone, especially those you admire, must be fact-checked.

        One useful habit to develop is when you read/hear about such things as Republican Russian collusion or Republican white supremacy, you can be fairly certain that is an ego defense mechanism in action -projection – and that the person/party making those accusations are/were guilty of the very same actions they falsely accuse of others of being guilty.

        I assume most readers here know the Democrat POTUS Platform of 1898 had posters stating that they represent the white man and the white man must rule

        Now, of course, the media is not going to tell you this fact, you have to discover it on your own and I discovered it when the media began the white supremacy stuff

        I searched out the facts and was not surprised it was the democrats that ran on white supremacy

  30. It’s important to make a distinction between people who use their intelligence in their routine working lives (doctors, engineers, etc.) and those who roll it out occasionally for public display. For the former, intelligence is an adjunct to one’s everyday life. For the latter, it’s most often ego gratification. Regardless of the degree of intelligence that you were born with, you must make the best of what you’ve got. And a little humility is never a bad thing.

  31. “makes the claim that the Phoenicians were localists“

    That’s odd, the first thing I learned about the Phoenicians is that they had a international maritime trade in the Mediterranean and maybe beyond, they founded Carthage in the coast of what is today Tunisia, it seems some stereotypes associated with Jews started with the Phoenicians

    • I found that an odd idea in reading him, too. The Levantine Phoenecians traded all the way to the coast of Britain, the ur-seafarers, more so than the Greeks by a stretch. They mostly delegated their fighting and farming to mercenaries and helots and worshipped a fire god. The later-arising Jews share some genes and a lot of behaviors with them. Similar genetic fitness, similar environmental challenges, similar strategies/behavior.

      This is a good sample of what we know, from what I know:

    • Chiron;
      Agree about Phoenicians being widely traveled traders in the Med. And besides that they practiced a truly evil religion that featured burning infants alive as sacrifices to their gods: Molech in the Bible, Tanit and Baal Hermon in their language.

      Even the Romans, who were no slouches in pagan depravity, were horrified at the Carthaginian religious practices. Not sure why NNT would wish to associate himself with these folks.

  32. As I go through life accumulating knowledge, the more I learn, the more I realize how much I don’t know. It seems like most people don’t have that view. Taleb’s probably one of them.

    • The Lebanese I have met are very bright and very clever, but are convinced of their own infallibility and won’t listen. Taleb seems to fit the mold. But then, I have this constant habit of quickly characterizing people by their roots and their culture. Maybe it’s me.

      • Once had a Levantine in the family by marriage (much Appalachian Sardaukar wailing and gnashing of teeth ensued and persisted) – can confirm.

        • Join the discussion…”Once had a Levantine in the family by marriage” . . . me, too. She still doesn’t listen. But the babaganoush was great.

      • It’s the food. Serve me some dolmas and shish tawook, with a couple glasses of arak, and I will happily agree with my Lebanese host that Lebanon is the cradle of civilization and its people beyond compare.

        • I adore Mediterranean/North African food (Turkish, Lebanese, Greek, Iranian, Moroccan). The people, in their own environment, as well. As paper Americans/Europeans, not so much. Fwiw, I bought cookbooks by locals when I lived overseas. It may not be original, but with the right ingredients and a bit of effort one can prepare pretty good copies. One needn’t import the original people for muh ethnic restaurants.

    • Yes. I was always told how smart and well-read I was and the d-right has humbled me over the past decade. I’ve learned so much from so many insightful people so much more knowledgeable than I on so many subjects, and then I read the standard “liberals are smarter and more credentialed” crap. I have all the credentials needed to impress the standard lib and I know I’m still amazingly ignorant about so much.

  33. This phenomenon reminds me of the ‘Why Speculate?’ essay by Michael Crichton; specifically this part:

    “Media carries with it a credibility that is totally undeserved. You have all experienced this, in what I call the Murray Gell-Mann Amnesia effect. (I refer to it by this name because I once discussed it with Murray Gell-Mann, and by dropping a famous name
    I imply greater importance to myself, and to the effect, than it would otherwise have.)

    Briefly stated, the Gell-Mann Amnesia effect is as follows. You open the newspaper to an article on some subject you know well. In Murray’s case, physics. In mine, show business. You read the article and see the journalist has absolutely no understanding of either the facts or the issues. Often, the article is so wrong it actually presents the story backward—reversing cause and effect. I call these the “wet streets cause rain” stories. Paper’s full of them.

    In any case, you read with exasperation or amusement the multiple errors in a story, and then turn the page to national or international affairs, and read as if the rest of the newspaper was somehow more accurate about Palestine than the baloney you just read. You turn the page, and forget what you know. That is the Gell-Mann Amnesia effect. I’d point out it does not operate in other arenas of life. In ordinary life, if somebody consistently exaggerates or lies to you, you soon discount everything they say. In court, there is the legal doctrine of falsus in uno, falsus in omnibus, which means untruthful in one part, untruthful in all. But when it comes to the media, we believe against evidence that it is probably worth our time to read other parts of the paper. When, in fact, it almost certainly isn’t. The only possible explanation for our behavior is amnesia.”

    Swap out the newspaper for your Intellectual-Yet-Idiot of choice and the metaphor still stands.

    • Amen.

      When I was in HS in the1960s I felt sorry for the poor men in Russia who had to rely on Izvestia and Pravada as their news sources and it was only later (for me, it began with believing Time mag etc on Jimmy Carter) that I realised the major media of America is as trustworthy as was the Commie press.

      I no longer read the newspapers ( i assume that what makes it into print is only accidentally accurate) or listen to the TV new/talk shows etc.

      As to why the press produces such a ghastly product was explained by the notion of “The Hive” by Joe Sobran.

      What Hilaire Belloc wrote about the popular press and how it came to exist was also eye-opening.

    • The effect is especially true in finance: economic statistics are a joke, If GDP stats for example are read by a chain store owner he’ll mutter about the retail numbers being wrong but accept the rest. The developer will pooh-pooh the the housing starts number etc etc.
      Anything you know about is falsifiable yet people believe the rest,
      Quite odd really,

  34. “Social pressure is a powerful weapon, as humans are social animals. To live as a pariah is the worst punishment in a status seeking community like academia.”

    Which is why creating our own community is where our future begins. It’s fundamental. Muslims can ignore the media’s rantings because it’s made up of people who not part of their community. The media is rendered powerless. This is why I say that despite its facade of invincibility, TPTB are, in truth, quite vulnerable. They have few weapons against a unified community. Muslims – some of the least capable people on the planet – defy TPTB in Europe and the United States because they’re immune from the social pressure.

    Whites still view the media, schools, academia, government leaders, etc., at “our” community so the social pressure remains that powerful weapon. We need to break that link, and that’s only done by replacing that community with our own. Normies will join us in droves, but only after we create a separate society.

    It’s an extremely difficult task, but a doable one. What’s more, it’s a task that each of us can help accomplish. Join groups, do subtle recruitment (mention that your neighbor’s kid will be a despised minority), note around friends and family that you don’t watch such and such show or channel because the people who make the show or run the station hate people you so why should I support them (honestly, it’s surprises people, but, again, since you’re not challenging them, it allows them to think about it).

    We can win this thing, but it all starts with creating a separate community where whites in that community look to each other – and not the media, academia or the government – for social cues.

    • Citizen: Brilliant take on how to turn Whites’ susceptibility to social pressure to our advantage. Thank you for a much-needed White pill.

      • We really can win this thing. What’s more, our task is going to get easier over time. The anti-white propaganda and policies will simultaneously hurt whites and make them more susceptible to our message.

        In the near term, things will get worse, but the longer-term term future is up for grabs, and we have a good shot of carving out a niche for ourselves.

    • Social reinforcement’s a huge part of the 5PT strategy. You unplug from Big Other and fill the gaps with normal, pre-bugged social inputs. Face to face positive reinforcement from people you actually know and respect is much more powerful than muh likes and retweets.

      • That is true. But big media will always be there, and kids and women will watch it unless we create an alternative.

        Vox Day is odd fellow for sure, but he’s dead right about trying to create alternative content. I don’t read him much but he mentioned the other day about trying to get enough subscribers to fund the making of a “Little House on the Praire” type show or an Owen Benjamin comedy. Shows that would support our people and values and not tell use that white people are terrible.

        That’s our path. We’re not going to violently overthrow the TPTB nor are we going to vote them out. To win, we need to create a separate world, a world that has it’s own media, which is the most powerful propaganda tool around.

  35. I’ve met several guys like Taleb. Really smart guys who have shown some really creative insight on a few topics but on other topics are raving madmen.

    Taleb has also gotten into with Charles Murray, who argued (and wrote a book) in favor of the obvious superiority of Western Civilization. Taleb was butt-hurt and claimed Murray was unfairly classifying Mediterranean civilization as Western. Obviously that dovetails with his resentment on group IQ.

    • He’s either blind to or utterly dishonest about his personal biases. You could ret-con his bio from reading what he considers his rational deductions.

      • That blindness to personal biases is really evident whenever anyone not of White Christian ancestry comments at d-right or d-lite sites. Jews who acknowledge Negro dysfunction but insist their own coethnics are pure and righteous. A particular Korean commenter who’s ruined Audacious Epigone for me, with his insistence that his hapa kids are White and that he loves White people, but mention Koreans specifically or merely Asians generally and he goes to town on how everyone else’s experience or belief is wrong and All Asians are smart and cultured and Koreans in particular are awesome. Then there’s the typical female commenter who rants the d-right will never get anywhere until they recognize the special wahmen and celebrate their awesome specialness. When my future husband mentioned that his Irish ancestors were drunks and the smartest thing the Italian ones had done was emigrate to America, I knew it was a match made in heaven.

        • Had a run-in with one of the d-right feminist types at Counter-Currents in the Tommy thread last week when I dared to say d-right women should lead from the home. We like-minded men made allowance for outliers like Queen Ann but many wanted the whole equality grovel – lotta white knighting resulted. Apparently it’s going to take some time before either sex fully gets their firmware updated on gender roles in Our Thing

          • I’m convinced that the ‘famous’ d-right women, and especially the ‘conservative woman’ are grifters out to make a buck. I might make an exception for Coulter, but even there I don’t think I will.

            Live your values. Have some kids to keep your civilization going. If you’re sterile, adopt some. There are no shortage of heritage American kids in need of homes thanks to opioids. (as an aside, this is what really steams me about the Christian that goes and adopts a bunch of African babies when there are lots of their own at home without parents).

    • “Really smart guys who have shown some really creative insight on a few topics but on other topics are raving madmen.”

      Was his name Vox Day? This is the primary problem over there other than being a very delicate little flower unable to take even a slight amount of critique of his ideas. He is the Super Genius and can -never- be wrong, that is a huge blindspot and he lashes out like a petulant child. Having a tribe of sycophant loyalists hanging on your every word doesn’t help matters.

      The guy has deep insight into certain topics that keep me ‘checking in’ every now and then, but then on the other side of it he also believes some outlandish conspiracy theories and has bizarre ideas about other stuff. Not to mention like I said he is extraordinarily insecure and constantly battling his gamma nature. Nobody would be that obsessed about one topic who didn’t have very deep seated lifelong issues they were grappling with.

      • What’s the matter? Don’t you trust the plan? Don’t you know the God Emperor has it under control? You don’t like calling him the God Emperor? Gamma.

    • If the Greeks, who were certainly not Englishmen, were not Western Civ, nobody is. Curiously, the evidence mounts that the Greeks were in fact German tribes, with the exception of the Attics. One can see how that might hurt a Phoenician butt. After all, the best that the smart fraction of Phoenicians could build was a rather successful civilization in Carthage based on baby sacrifice. Me, all I ask is that you do not mate with your first, second, or third cousin and things may work out.

  36. Taleb like most libertarians lacks self-awareness. He seems oblivious to how much he resembles the infamous IYI (intellectual yet idiot) he skewers in his books when he ventures into fields of specialty knowledge like IQ science.

    I’ve read most of his stuff and he’s my #2 brilliant-yet-unreliable source for information behind Ayn Rand (another gloriously myopic NT-type lib-sperg). Some ideas and insights are great, some are nonsense. Every idea has to be unpacked and rigorously tested on its own, otherwise you end up buying into Phoenecians, Steve Jobs, open borders for smart fractions and nonsense like “IQ is pseudo-science.”

    He spends a great deal of time harping on the “domain dependence” of expertise but exempts himself from the concept. Watching him spar with James Thompson on IQ suggests he’ll start back-seat driving cosmologists next. Neil D’Grasse-Tennesseecoates best not be slippin’.

    Despite the Peterson-grade levels of pretension and myopia, antifragility is an interesting twist on an old concept and I’d recommend that over-lengthy book for anyone who wants to learn everything useful Taleb has to offer – it’s his opus. The rest are essentially prequels or filler. His “barbell” investment strategy is useful when properly executed and is probably his most reliable idea, not surprising in that it’s the one that he actually field-tested in his real profession. You’ll get the essentials on both in that book.

    Measure twice, cut once when he ventures into other “domains.”

  37. As a bit of an aside, Taleb is a true believer in the keto diet. That’s the mountain he’s defending in the diet wars. That struck me as very odd coming from the likes of him. But I suppose next to politics and religion, diet zealots can be pretty damn strident if not irrational. At any rate, Taleb comes off as a crackpot, at least on the diet score.

    Full disclosure—-I’m largely an agnostic, diet wise.

    • Keto’s legit if your body likes it, YMMV. I’ve lost considerable weight and managed to keep if off by using it when necessary. He has some decent ideas on diet to the extent he’s kinda-paleo and skeptical of “scientific nutrition.”

  38. The most hilarious thing about Taleb is that he does not realize that he is the classic example of so many things that he is always railing about; he fulminates against the “Intellectual Yet Idiots”, without realizing that his attacks on IQ put him squarely in this camp. He claims to believe that national or racial differences don’t exist, yet he spends a large portion of his twitter feed stating that he is not Not NOT ARAB! He goes on about how most successful people think that they are smart when they are just lucky, when of course, if this describes anyone, it describes Taleb, who is still living of the big score he made in the 1987 crash, when he, yes, got lucky. It’s actually pretty funny.

    Taleb actually does have some good ideas and good points, but a man with less self-knowledge never walked.

    • Yes, I always enjoyed reading NNT and his book Fooled By Randomness had a genuine impact on me while I was going through school, and probably contributed to the way I think no as much as anything.

      However I have found it ironic that he dramatically demonstrating his “IYI” logic live in person, for everyone to see.

      That being said, his general hostility to ProgThinkers is entertaining.

      • Yeah, I actually like Taleb and find a lot of his stuff informative, but he’s just gone off the deep end on the IQ thing. I mean, it’s fine to point out that it’s a very imperfect measure, and that lots of highly intelligent people can do very stupid things, but he seems to have taken the tack that if a measure is not perfectly predictive, it’s worthless, which is just absurd.

        • I wonder if in many areas of this discussion folks are not drifting back and forth (conflating, unwittingly) between usefulness of IQ in group decisions and analysis and decisions regarding individuals.

          • I find the argument sifting process that goes on here very valuable. Which is why I hate the Tiny Duck intrusions, as they upset the flow of things.

  39. I don’t agree that smart people are necessarily more correct on issues than dumb people. They can just muster better arguments. I think views of people are driven more by emotion and experience than by a dispassionate weighing of facts. The Righteous Mind by Haidt goes into detail on this.

    • The main peril of high-IQ is hubris and lack of self-awareness. Haidt’s right in regarding rationality as merely the rider on the elephant. High-IQ’s tend to underestimate the power and influence of the beast beneath their awesome cortex. Mere mortal thinkers trust Dirty Harry and “know their limitations.” Still, high-IQ’s will be more correct than low-IQ’s by definition unless they trip over their frontal lobe in the thinking process.

      Some of this is more related to the type of thinker rather than raw IQ. MBTI breaks this down on an N (intuitive) and S (sensing) axis. N’s relate to the world more through ideas and abstractions. S’s relate more by observation and doing. You want an N designing the plane. You want an S flying the plane. An intuitive pilot hates boring, repetitive checklists. A sensor aero-engineer has a harder time imagining new designs.

      • MBTI is fun and all, but it’s really more like astrology than anything else. Big five is a bit better, but generally psychometrics (even ‘g’) are a really, really grey area.

        For lots more good info from a dissident right-winger and honest math guy:

        On psychometrics:

        “The goal people have is to develop an entirely objective “rubric” which anybody can use to rate a person along some dimension or dimensions. I argue that this is an impossibility. Not that it is unlikely, but it is impossible. Perfection, therefore, is not to be had.”

        Other stuff:
        *Fantastic* post about IQ vs Intelligence:

        The Talebites vs Sailerons (with a fun laugh about Nassim Taleb at the end):


        • I use MBTI loosely – the problems tend to arise when pigeon-holing someone into a category with insufficient evidence and/or assuming that everyone fits perfectly into the boxes. What Taleb would call a “Procrustean” error. If you couple it with function-preferences/stacks you can develop some useful strategies for better evaluating people, relating to them and helping them cope with tasks. Treating any kind of psychometics like physics is obviously a mistake.

          I’ll quibble on the astrology comparison – MBTI’s based on what you observe, then less reliably on what’s self-reported by the subject. Astrology’s totally arbitrary and based on no evidence whatsoever.

    • Intelligence is just horsepower. The old computer science term, “Garbage In, Garbage Out” holds true. Young adults today have been fed garbage since their kindergarten days. They have no ability to produce correct answers from bad data, no matter the horsepower of their computing machinery.

      We live in the most counter-factual time in human history. Primitive people believed absurd things because they didn’t have the data to know any better. We’ve produced generations of modern primitives that have been fed bad data, leading to absurd beliefs, despite the fact that there are people who KNOW the data is wrong. Reality doesn’t suit their purposes.

  40. One of the weird aspects of modern society is how wide the gap has become between people with academic credentials, ex. college degrees. and people who are actually intelligent and informed. This was true when I was in college in the early 90s and it seems to have really accelerated since my college days.

    • When you’ve made it your goal to get everyone to go to college, you have to debase the currency of academic credentials. But people don’t really comprehend how much. I mentioned to some person that credentials in the Angry Studies have virtually no correlation to intelligence and he insisted that a person with a Ph.D. in Gender Studies was still a more-intelligent-than-average person. But this plainly isn’t true, if you believe the evidence of your own eyes. The Zman’s Xrrl Science as exhibit A.

        • Yes, the thesis cited is legit. Obviously copied before it became controversial and removed from the library at Princeton. I read through it years ago in the early reign of the Obamas. What is sad is that it epitomizes how far a dullard like Michelle Obama could go via AA, the corruption of the Princeton faculty, and the scary part—how often her name comes up as a logical presidential candidate—pushed by the intersectionality advocates I assume. We are truly screwed.

          • Anecdote time (insert usual disclaimer about that here). While in graduate school there was this fellow student, a single black woman with a kid, who claimed to have a bachelor’s in biology from Stanford or some other big name Cali school. She had figured out early on that I was one of the “smarties” that she could rely on to give her the answers so she always tried to sit near me. After class one day I overheard her and the professor talking. She was asking if the colors in the molecular models reflected what color the atoms “really” were. Are oxygen atoms “really” red? The prof was trying to explain that things that small don’t really have a color as they are far smaller than the wavelengths of light we can see. He quickly realized he was talking to a wall and gave up. I often wonder how academics (even in the sciences) manage to stay so left wing when they all must have to deal with these AA types quite a bit. Compartmentalization – it’s a magical thing.

      • My father had a HS diploma and an Associate’s degree from the local community college and he was better educated than the vast majority of college educated Millennials. He was a Silent Gen class of 1953 Catholic HS. He did his electrical engineering classes with a slide rule.
        Today, illiterate kids graduate from HS. Kids who cannot do even arithmetic or read above a 6th or 7th grade level graduate from HS. They enter college woefully unprepared because liberals thought a HS diploma was actually a magical talisman which brought riches to anyone holding one at least as far back as the 60s and 70s. Even smarter kids are held back because the schools are just not set up to deal with them.

        • Not all the kids graduating are illiterate. PISA test scores look pretty bad for a 1st world country such as the USA when compared to most European and 1st world English speaking countries—such as Australia or Canada. However, when the non-white US population is separated out, we (Whites) do fairly well.

          Overall however, I think education expectations/achievement have certainly lowered in the last century as lower class Whites and POC have increasingly joined the ranks of “schooled” population—and if Dutton and Woodley are correct—our population IQ has declined. Heck, a college degree isn’t even the new HS diploma today.

        • When Obama was in power one of the things I thought especially wretched was his mad plan to make sure every Murrican got a college degree. The people pushing this always cited those studies showing higher lifetime earnings for people with degrees as proof that this was a good idea. As Dr. Farnsworth from Futurama might say – take that causality!

      • Agreed. The Studies departments exist to handle all those affirmative action admits. They didn’t get in because they were smart but because they were brown. I am immediately suspicious of the intelligence of anyone with such a degree. Intelligence finds its level in society. Sadly, that process has been supplanted by credentialism. I knew many men in the 70s who had no college degree yet were CEOs of banks, petroleum companies or large agricultural operations. How often would that happen today?

        • My Dad was a hospital executive from the ’60s through the ’80s with nothing but a high school diploma and extensive experience in his field, before that he’d been in restaurant management. He saw that world change. In the ’80s he hard to retire from his directorship due to health issues, but later he wanted to get a less-stressful job in the field and was virtually unable to find anyone who would hire him without a college diploma, despite more than forty years experience. I’m sure there was also a bunch of age discrimination in there, too, but the diploma was the excuse they used.

          • That may change. Credentialism is used (appropriately) derisively to describe those know nothing’s graduating from our institutions of lower learning. However, that may not always be the case.

            Even as I was ending my career there was a rise in the field of CS for folks with certifications in certain specialties; networking, systems administration, etc. In that manner, employers knew what they were getting in the hiring process as well as produced a path for employees to improve upon their skill sets while employed. And it’s sure cheaper than attending a four year institution for a degree in a fast moving field.

      • Vizzini, if one assumes the average as 100 or say below, then perhaps the college attending student majoring in “Angry Studies” (love that term) might do better than that. However, there still are a lot of non-college folk who test out better than 100 and also—my biggest conundrum—is what the difference between two individual IQ scores means, as IQ is a rank order, not interval scale measurement.

        Is the difference between an average person (say IQ, 100) and a mediocre angry studies student (say IQ, 106–if that) meaningful in any practical sense? I suspect not, although if I had my druthers, I’d prefer more non-college “educated” 100 IQ’ers than college educated angry studies majors. 🙁

  41. There’s an awful lot of people in the world that have gotten themselves so “smart” – that they don’t understand anything.

    • I’ve always had a suspicion that people dealing with statistics are more likely to over estimate their own intelligence. It’s as if they come to believe probability is the Rosetta stone of the universe. On the other hand, people who do math or math dependent work like engineering or computer programming, tend the other way. Constantly getting the wrong answer and spending long days debugging their work humbles them.

      • I’ve always found that people who base their understanding of the world on things like statistics and mathematics – get extremely frustrated when they’re forced to go out and make their assumptions work in the outside world where the dirt lives.

        • Out in most real-world situations, there are too many unknown variables for which it is impossible to compensate. The many people who think they can manage the economy (or housing, or welfare) fall victim to this all the time.

          • Economics seems to me to be a good case in point.

            One of the refreshing things I ran across when I looked into Austrian economics – was that some of their adherents did not strictly rely on math and statistics. They also tried to factor in human nature and human action.

            I’ve yet to see anybody accurately model human behavior with an algorithm. The damn commies thought they could – and the only way they could come up with to make it work was to kill people who didn’t fit the model.

          • Calsdad, fractals describe a lot of human behavior patterns as well as phenomena in nature. The problem, as Mandelbrot found out, was that fractals are largely descriptive, not predictive, in how they work, which means the practical applications are few.

          • Very true. I had a statistics class when I got my MBA and I kept trying to figure out things I could correlate for my job. I showed my professor all my failed attempts and he just laughed and told me all my regressions had too many real world variables to model successfully. A little common sense that I did not possess at the time.

        • This is the N vs. S distinction I mentioned below. Extreme N-types are the autiste-spergs we all meme about. N’s prefer to relate to the world by abstractions and ideas and S’s prefer to see, hear and touch “real” things. In terms of socialbility, S’s win out – they relate to observed social cues from the actual person rather than their theory of who the person “should” be or how they “should” act.

        • It seems like our culture insists on jamming a potential array of outcomes into something resembling a “right-wrong” math problem, and at the same time taking the binary math sort of questions and placing some sort of “spectrum of answers” overlay on them.

          My own conclusion from all of it is that there are two kinds of people in the world. Those who accept the boundaries of reality and operate within them, and those who rail at things as they are, demanding that man and nature adapt to how things “should be”.

        • Those folks should be forced to read dissident right blogger / “statistician to the stars” W.M. Briggs’ book, Uncertainty. It basically takes a sledgehammer to most of modern frequency-based as well as most Bayesian statistical methods.

          The big problem is that most folks derive their understanding of statistics from gambling and (industrial) quality control, two areas where the problem sets are very well defined and the unknown unknowns are nearly non-existent.

          The thing everybody, *everybody* forgets is that all probability is conditional.

      • “Constantly getting the wrong answer and spending long days debugging their work humbles them.” Z describes my life at the moment. How I long to find the solution.

      • You’re spot-on with NNT. He’s uber-ghey about numbers and stats, gushes over them like a schoolgirl and openly blabbers about an emotional love of the stats of probability in Antifragile. Not once does he acknowledge that this hyper-domain-focus might result in his awesomeness being domain-dependent while he’s gassing on for pages about how guys misinterpret stats.

        • That guy says some interesting things here and there, but he’s pretentious and sets off my b.s. radar too. If he bites back in response to Z Man’s post, Z will run circles around him intellectually.

        • He also is a blubbering retard about numbers sometimes. His love of the Precautionary Principle re ‘climate change’, for example. We *might* get invaded by Martians. I suggest a massive government program to stop it, as the consequences are dire!!

      • Okay….I get that IQ is measurable, yet such a limited measure, BUT 2 immediately obvious qualities are often lacking.

        1) Common Sense: The wisdom gathered from experience over time. Can’t tell you how many Stuuuupid people are out there with supposedly enough gray matter to get out of their own way….but they don’t and can’t.

        2) Throw in folks on “the spectrum” or some such label. Years ago, I knew a family in my babysitting co-op. The father was a prof at Cal State Hayward and on the BART Board of Directors. His brain was so specific, in the morning, his wife would remind him to tie his shoes, remind him to gather what was needed for the day and turn him toward the door. I don’t consider this smart.

        Worked with a couple of Mensa guys in Water Treatment and Distribution. Noticed high degrees of arrogance and lack of social skills with these guys. Note I’ve rarely seen women display these qualities as women are hardwired for herd group cohesion …maybe more in the middle and few on the fringes.

        Sure wouldn’t consider Swedish Greta smart. Damn, what an annoying hypocrite, set up and used by the Lefty Enviros. Too bad she isn’t left alone to just grow up in a more stable environment.

        • IQ is like horsepower in a car. People brag about the numbers, but it is really about the application and how the operator manipulates the capability. But the raw number seems to be the starting point and the source of bragging rights (and both get wildly inflated in conversation after a couple of beverages).

          Hat tip to Vizzini, didn’t see your post before commenting.

          • If IQ is like horsepower in a car – then there seems to be an awful lot of smart people who have massive drivetrain loss and can’t put much power to the ground (which is the only place it counts if you’re trying to move the car forward)

  42. I gave up on Taleb (without ever actually reading his patently-silly books, just lengthy quotations of him) when I discovered something rather amusing about him.

    The self-styled High Poobah of Noticing Things apparently wrote a book in which two imaginary characters, whom he called Fat Tony and Dr. John, were emblems and signifiers of some rather uninteresting cliches.

    He seems to have been blissfully unaware that the names Fat Tony and Dr. John are ALREADY TAKEN as cultural signifiers in American society, they already have quite specific cultural meanings and associations, they are not Monopoly squares upon which no one’s yet built a hotel.

    The Great Noticer of American Culture did not even “notice” that Fat Tony is just, oh, I don’t know, a much-loved character on the most famous TV show in history.

    It’s like if I said, Let me give you an example using two totally imaginary characters, just pulling names out of a hat we’ll call them Steve Martin and Yoko Ono.

    Is there a Malcolm Gladwell Award for this nonsense?

    • I liked his first two books, he’s clearly a smart man, his main problem as the Zman points out is that he wishes he was European, I mean if you have an above average IQ it must suck to be an Arab

      Imagine being a high IQ black dude in Africa (yes they do exist) the majority of people you have to deal with are utter fools, hard not to feel sorry for them

      • That’s why the smart fraction in Sub Saharan Africa is jumping ship and heading to the whitest countries they can find as fast as possible. Unfortunately, their less capable brethren are hot on their heels.

  43. A famous quote, attributed to Orwell: “There are some ideas so absurd that only an intellectual could believe them.”

    On the right nowadays, everyone is talking IQ and throwing made up numbers out there of their own genius.(actually genius and high IQ are two different things.) Most people do want to be considered learned and smart and the cheap and cowardly way is to go along with leftist ideas and scams. Your right, it is a arena ripe for grifters.

    I do like Lebanese food though, kafta, schwarmas and the sort. That’s something.

    • An astounding thing is the number of people I see claiming a 140+ IQ. That’s a pretty small club. I was recently reading some comments on Qora about IQ and about half claimed to have an IQ over 140. I asked one of them the test they used to learn their score and they told me the SAT.

      • I hope that those still on twitter take a minute to post selected lines from this in Taleb’s timeline.

        Even if he can manage to check his ego and not bite – which would be a black swan in itself – some good people might mosey over this way for a peek. In which case be nice.

      • IQ does increase over time for the super intelligent. Vox’s and Owen Benjamin’s were mid 140s and now have traversed the 150 barrier.
        Remember the meme , pics or it didn’t happen. Well, now I want pdfs of original IQ test or calling BS. Weird

        • I would take Vox Day’s own assessment of his IQ with a very large grain of salt. The guy recently made a quite silly statistical blunder (both the math *and* the logic) while going on about his intuitive grasp of mathematical relationships.

          Nothing against the guy, he’s right on a lot of stuff, but good lord could he shut up about how ‘smart’ he is.

          • I regard him as a performance artist like Cerno or Milo. They play very well to the young, disaffected cellar dwellers and soy boys that haven’t matured enough or been around enough to see them for what they are. But they DO manage to get those kids thinking along the right lines and once they’ve been around enough and grown up… most will make excellent dissidents.

        • you need that kind of brain power to make comic books. i always laugh when he calls people midwits and then goes on to demonstrate his taste in low class culture.

      • Mensa-holes are insufferable. To get some idea of what their “gatherings” are like, pick the worst 10 assholes from a group of libertarians.

        Find where they congregate, harvest their genes for research then implode the building.

        • pick the worst 10 assholes from a group of libertarians.

          That’s a good way to put it lol I never understood why ppl would think they would meet the best people simply by selecting for ppl who are above average at elementary cryptology which is what IQ tests mostly are, code breaking. Your comment made me laugh haha

      • People who have 140+ rarely tend to let others forget the fact. I am reminded of the commenter Authentic Jazzman, who reminded us of his Mensa membership in every post over at Unz Review. If it were so, he should of stuck with music. As you note, specialists often run into trouble outside their field of expertise.

        • When I used to do testing, I noticed that people who scored in the average range or slightly below would usually ask how they did. They were no interested in the score. They just wanted to know if they filled out the exam properly. The rare people in the 130+ range never seemed to show much interest in the result. The above average and high average types, 110 – 125, would always want to know their score and they were always disappointed when they were told.

          As far as Mensa, they claim to be filtering for the top 2%, but they don’t race norm and they accept tests that are not very good proxies for IQ. My bet is the cut-off is probably 120, which means they can fish in a much larger pool of potential dues payers. Mensa is a business, after all.

          Regardless, anyone claiming a 140 IQ should provide some proof.

          • I guess I must be either a genius or a dullard, then, because I never understood the hyperventilation about IQ. Buckley’s crack about wanting to be ruled by the first 2000 names in the Boston phone book rather than the faculty of Harvard pretty much sums it up — it’s a 50/50 bet if a dullard has horse sense or not, but it’s 95% certain that a guy who knows what his IQ is and brags about it is a dumbass. You don’t have to meet too many “educated idiots” to be deeply skeptical of the whole idea of intellectual credentialism, be it IQ scores, college degrees, or what have you.

      • From what I understand, the old SAT is functionally equivalent to an IQ test. Guys in their 50s can use the SAT but guys in their 20s and 30s cannot.
        I find it hilarious that in California it is illegal to give a black kid an IQ test.
        IQ is something everyone wants but wants to deny exists or is otherwise meaningful.

      • I took an honest to goodness IQ test in 2nd grade (c1963 or 64) but don’t know the score 🙂 It wasn’t like any other test I have taken, with problems involving seeing a geometric shape from one angle, then imagining how it would look from another angle.

        anyone else take one of these?

        a lot of real bright people are lazy and unambitious, so their smarts go to waste. that woman who supposedly has a 200+ IQ makes up cross-word puzzles.

        • Those tests that show geometric shapes and ask you to properly pick the rotated version of the same shape are probably a standard issue test you can pick up somewhere.

          IMHO they test a person’s spatial orientation abilities more than they test IQ, although I suppose if processing power = IQ then they’re one and the same.

          In any case – men do far better on the spatial processing tests than women tend to do. I took the Civil Service exam for firefighters a number of times back in my 20’s and 30’s and those tests always had a large section that was comprised of those spatial orientation tests. One of the few places I’ve actually seen people tested for things that directly apply to the job.

          • I understand that spatial orientation tests are important components of the exams they give potential air traffic controllers. That makes sense given the kind of work involved in ATC.

            But does facility imagining spatial relationships have anything to do with normal day-to-day intelligence? How?

        • I did too in elementary school in the early sixties. The state of New York used to administer IQ tests at various times IIRC. I remember my parents railing on about my lackluster scholarship, I thought school was a complete waste of time, compared to my “potential”, 140+.

          Must be true. Proof? I support this work with a modest monthly contribution which is a pretty “smart” thing.

      • I’m pretty sure that the SAT, GRE, GMAT, LSAT, etc., like the ASVAB, are fairly reliable predictors of IQ.

      • Not that small a club. 99th percentile (135+) still means there are 3,000,000 in your cohort. Presumably they are all on the internet and computer literate, so over-repersented in comments. If interwebs comments represented the population, we’d have 100 million pothead libertarians and 200 million vegans.
        FWIW, my WAIS-iv score fell right between my LSat and SAT predicted score. Also, the tests’ ability to meaningfully differentiate breaks down at around 135-140.

      • 140 IQ is one person in 261. Sounds pretty unlikely. Wasn’t this a cutoff point or so for Mensa? I never visited them or cared, but every idiot I’ve seen who claimed membership therein was always proud to list such in their signature. My second observation is the frequency of the IQ number, 160, bantered about (one in 31,560). A fantastic score if there ever was one.

        I believe Charles Murray stated that the way to find out who is the smartest of the smart, i.e., “scary smart”, was to survey a set of notable (ordinary smart) folks in any particular field as to whom they considered the best and brightest (as IQ tests are limited both in range and of course, breadth). Folks he came up with had a lot of face validity if nothing else.

        • Well, I have met and talked to two people in Mega Society. Therefore, I do not think I will ever meet someone with an IQ over 140, in real life on the internet.

          I’m by no means an expert, but I have worked with people who would qualify as experts. The rule of thumb, with regards to standardized tests, is that they are a perfectly useful approximation within the context they are used, ie admissions, class ranking, etc. The other limitation is their accuracy falls off quickly as you get outside the normal range.

          I’ll note that in the area in which I did some work, subjects were given a number of tests multiple times over a period of six months. They also had other tests, including reflexes, which are a surprisingly good approximation of IQ.

          It’s why I’m skeptical of people claiming genius level IQ based on their SAT. These are subjects who would have turned up during standard testing in grammar school. Those scores well to right do not go unnoticed, if you get my meaning.

      • Z is correct Intelligence is not morality. Taleb is correct about Binet, which means he’s essentially correct about the IQ test. Binet designed it to catch learning disabilities so those students would not be tossed into general pop.
        After that screen it fails.

        As the next rejoinder will be IQ is most predictive of life outcomes; is anything else such as Father present or not (my own “theory” being Fathers are the greatest privilege now), socioeconomic status, etc also considered?
        Because they should be

        Is it not also true that if you control for missing fathers the crime racial disparity disappears?

    • I know a single individual with an IQ of 160. He is modest because he is well aware of his defects, which are considerable enough to hold him back. The sweet spot for chess grandmasters has been found to be 135, which allows for intelligence to be mixed with other essentials without repelling them. The 130’s wont get you a prize in physics but I suspect that most of the people I don’t personally know who interest me are 130’s.

      • 130 may not get a Physics prize, but could land you a faculty position in the Physics department. I believe awhile back on Unz a table of average IQ’s for faculty in University Departments was printed (possibly in a Thompson article). Physics departments had the highest at an average IQ of 133. And their doppelgänger, Philosophy, had an average IQ of 130 or so. Neither, after some thought, seemed surprising to me.

Comments are closed.