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Eliezer_Yudkowsky comments on For progress to be by accumulation and not by random walk, read great books - Less Wrong

35 Post author: MichaelVassar 02 March 2010 08:11AM

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Comment author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 02 March 2010 04:33:27PM 4 points [-]

I dispute that this is a non-explanation. Besides referring to concepts whose existence has already been confirmed by other means, it makes a testable prediction about the degree to which abilities should run in genetic families as opposed to student lineages.

Comment author: komponisto 02 March 2010 04:55:33PM *  14 points [-]

It's a question of which data you're interested in explaining. I'm more interested in understanding the mechanism of how Newton invented calculus than in explaining the (comparatively uninteresting) fact that most other people didn't. (If you want to program an AI to invent calculus, crying "IQ!" isn't going to help.)

[ETA: To be more explicit: the vague hypothesis that "Newton had a high IQ" adequately explains why, given that calculus was invented, Newton was among two people to have invented it. But does a much less effective job of explaining why it was invented in the first place, by anybody.]

(As it happens, most of the world's intellectual power has in fact been spread via students rather than children.)

Comment author: SirBacon 02 March 2010 08:31:37PM *  0 points [-]

As for Newton's exact mental processes, they are lost to history, and we are not going to get very specific theories about them. Newton can only give us an outside view of the circumstances of discovery. His most important finds were made alone in his private home and outside of academic institutions. Eliezer left school early himself. Perhaps a common thread?

Teachers select strongly for IQ among students when they have power to choose their students. This might be a more powerful aggregator of high-IQ individuals than transmission from parents to children. It might be the case that teachers don't transmit any special powers to their students, but just like to affiliate with other high-IQ individuals, who then go on to do impressive things.

At a certain level of IQ (that of Yudkowsky, Newton) pedagogy becomes irrelevant and a child will teach itself, given the necessary resources. At this point, teachers are more likely to take credit for natural talent while doing nothing to aid it than they are to "transmit intellectual power."

Comment author: MichaelVassar 03 March 2010 06:24:46AM 7 points [-]

If academic lineages are due to an ability that teachers have to identify talent, this ability is extremely common and predicts achievement FAR better than IQ tests can. I am struck by the degree to which the financial world fails to identify talent with anything like similar reliability.

Also, the above theory is inconsistent with the extreme intellectual accomplishments of East Asians, and previously Jews, within European culture and failure of those same groups to produce similar intellectual accomplishments prior to such cultural admixture.