# komponisto comments on Intellectual Hipsters and Meta-Contrarianism - Less Wrong

148 13 September 2010 09:36PM

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Comment author: 16 September 2010 04:23:56AM *  11 points [-]

I should clarify that I was specifically referring to the interesting placement of that superscript 2. :-)

EDIT: Though actually, this is probably the perfect opportunity to wonder if the reason people join this community is that it's probably the easiest high-IQ group to join in the world: you don't have to pass a test or earn a degree; all you have to do is write intelligent blog comments.

Comment author: 16 September 2010 04:31:25AM *  11 points [-]

Oh, then it was a misunderstanding. I thought you were (like me) amused by the poll result suggesting that the intelligence of the average person here is in the upper 99.865-th percentile.

(Just to get the feel for that number, belonging to the same percentile of income distribution in the U.S. would mean roughly a million dollars a year.)

Comment author: 27 September 2010 11:06:10AM 3 points [-]

Hmm.. Isn't the intelligence distribution more like a bell curve and the distribution of income more like a power law?

Comment author: 05 October 2010 04:58:09AM *  5 points [-]

Both can be power-law or Gaussian depending on your "perspective".

There are roughly as many people with a IQ over 190 as there are people with an income over 1 billion USD per annum. By roughly I mean an order of magnitude.

Generally IQ is graphed as a Gaussian distribution because of the way it's measured--the middle of the distribution is defined as 100. Income is raw numbers.

(edited to move a scare quote)

Comment author: 16 September 2010 04:42:44AM 2 points [-]

Upvoted for the quality of the analogy, although I also agree with you.

Comment author: 16 September 2010 04:34:15AM 1 point [-]

Well I'm also amused by that, to be sure.

Comment author: 16 November 2012 11:09:12PM 0 points [-]

And since the correlation between the two is about 0.4, that would suggest an income of 1.2 standard deviations above the mean, or about \$80,000 a year in the US, not controlling for age. Controlling for age, I suspect LWers have approximately average income for their level of intelligence (and because regression to the mean is not intuitive, it feels like we should be doing far better than that).

Comment author: 16 September 2010 04:48:04AM *  0 points [-]

the reason people join this community is that it's probably the easiest high-IQ group to join in the world

I find this sort of puzzling. There is clearly a demand for organizations which provide opportunities to interact and socialize with people carefully selected for their ability to solve clever puzzles (and whatever else is on the IQ test--I haven't taken a real one). Why is that? Does anybody here specifically seek out high-IQ friends? Do you feel like trying to explain the appeal to me? Intelligence is one of my criteria for my companions, to be sure, but I'm not sure it's in the top three, and I certainly wouldn't settle for it alone.

Also, I'm not sure that earning a degree is harder than writing an intelligent blog post. Not for everyone, anyway.

Comment author: 16 September 2010 05:26:10AM *  10 points [-]

There is clearly a demand for organizations which provide opportunities to interact and socialize with people carefully selected for their ability to solve clever puzzles (and whatever else is on the IQ test--I haven't taken a real one)

That's not the sense of IQ that I mean; rather, I mean the underlying thing which that ability is supposed to be an indicator of.

(My guess would be that this underlying thing is probably something like "richness of mental life".)

Does anybody here specifically seek out high-IQ friends? Do you feel like trying to explain the appeal to me?

My experience suggests that it makes a significant difference to one's quality of life whether the people in one's social circle are close to one's own intelligence level.

Not too long ago I spent some time at the SIAI house; and even though I was probably doing more "work" than usual while I was there, it felt like vacation, simply because the everyday task of communicating with people was so much easier and more efficient than in my normal life.

Comment author: 16 September 2010 06:11:57AM *  2 points [-]

That's not the sense of IQ that I mean; rather, I mean the underlying thing which that ability is supposed to be an indicator of.

See my response to cata.

My experience suggests that it makes a significant difference to one's quality of life whether the people in one's social circle are close to one's own intelligence level.

I suppose it's possible that I'm merely spoiled in this regard, but I'm not sure. Yes, most of the people I've spent a lot of time with in my life have been some kind of intelligent--my parents are very smart, and I was taught to value intellect highly growing up. But some of the folks who've really made me glad to have them around have been less educated and less well-read than I am, which isn't trivial (I'm a high school dropout, albeit one who likes to do some learning on her own time).

I'm thinking particularly of my coworkers at my last job. We worked behind the counter at a dry cleaner. These were not people with college educations, or who had learned much about critical thinking or logic or debate. This is not to say they had below average intelligence--just not particularly higher, either. They were confused as to why I was working this dead-end job with them instead of going to college and making some of myself; I was clearly capable of it.

But those people made the job worthwhile. They were thoughtful, respectful, often funny, and supportive. They were good at their jobs--on a busy day, it felt like being part of a well-oiled machine. There isn't one quality in that list you could have traded for outstanding intelligence and made them better people, nor made me happier to be around them.

If your point is right, maybe all that means is that my brain is nothing to write home about. But I'm fonder of the theory that there are other qualities that have at least as much value in terms of quality of life. Would you be happy living in a house of smart people who were all jerks?

Comment author: 16 September 2010 04:27:43PM 4 points [-]

Would you be happy living in a house of smart people who were all jerks?

Of course not. What caused your probability of my saying "yes" to be high enough to make this question worth asking?

I could with more genuine curiosity ask you the following: would you be happy spending your life surrounded by nice people who understood maybe 20% of your thoughts?

Comment author: 16 September 2010 08:39:27PM 1 point [-]

What caused your probability of my saying "yes" to be high enough to make this question worth asking?

It was rhetorical, and meant to support the point that intelligence alone does not make a person worthwhile.

Would you be happy spending your life surrounded by nice people who understood maybe 20% of your thoughts?

I'd rather have more kindness and less intelligence than the reverse. I think it's clear we'd both prefer a balance, though, and that's really all my point was: intelligence is not enough to qualify a person as worthwhile. Which is why social groups with that as the only criterion confuse me. :)

Comment author: [deleted] 17 September 2010 02:47:43AM 7 points [-]

Here I go, speaking for other people, but I'm guessing that people at the LessWrong meetup at least met some baseline of all those other qualities, by komponisto's estimation, and that the difference of intelligence allowed for such a massive increase in ability to communicate made talking so much more enjoyable, given that ey was talking to decent people.

Each quality may not be linear. If someone is "half as nice" as another person, I don't want to talk to them at half the frequency, or bet that I'll fully enjoy conversation half of the time. A certain threshold of most qualities makes a person totally not worth talking to. But at the same time, a person can only be so much more thoughtful, respectful, funny, supportive, before you lose your ability to identify with them again! That's my experience anyhow - if I admire a person too much, I have difficulty imagining that they identify with me as I do with them. Trust needs some symmetry. And so there are probably optimal levels of friendship-worthy qualities (very roughly by any measure), a minimum threshold, and a region where a little difference makes a big difference. The left-bounded S-curves of friendship.

Then there is order. For different qualities, the difference between a person at minimum-threshold and at optimal is worth very different amounts of satisfaction to you. Some qualities probably have a threshold so low, you don't think about it. Not having inexplicable compulsions to murder is a big plus on my list. When that's the case, the quality seems to vary so slightly over most people, you almost take it for granted that people have enough of that quality. The more often you meet people at the minimum, the more amazing it will seem to meet someone at optimal. If you spend a long time surrounded by jerks, meeting supportive people is probably more amazing than usual. If you grow up surrounded by supportive people who have no idea what you're talking about half of the time, gaining that ability to communicate is probably worth a lot.

Finally, there's the affect heuristic. If a personality quality gain compared to the experienced average is worth a lot, of course it can distort your valuation of the difference of other qualities. If I were trapped all my life in a country whose language could capture only 1% of the ideas mine did, filled with good people who mostly just don't care about those other 99% of ideas, I would still feel greatly relieved to meet someone who spoke my language. Even if the person was a little bit below the threshold that marks em a jerk. But why is the person more likely to be a jerk anyhow? What if the person is actually really good and decent as well? I might propose.

I don't know if komponisto had the urge to marry anyone at the meetup. But I'm sure it happens.

Comment author: 17 September 2010 03:02:12AM *  3 points [-]

I think this is a really excellent analysis and I agree with just about all of it.

I suspect that the difference in our initial reactions had to do with your premise that intelligent people are easier to communicate with. This hasn't been true in my experience, but I'd bet that the difference is the topics of conversation. If you want to talk to people about AI, someone with more education and intellect is going to suit you better than someone with less, even if they're also really nice.

I've definitely also had conversations where the guy in the room who was the most confused and having the least fun was the one with the most book smarts. I'm trying to remember what they were about ... off the top of my head, I think it tended to be social situations or issues which he had not encountered. Empathy would have done him more good than education in that instance (given that his education was not in the social sciences).

Comment author: [deleted] 18 September 2010 06:21:31PM 4 points [-]

Your suspicion rings true. Having more intelligence won't make you more enjoyable to talk to on a subject you don't care about! It also may not make a difference if the topic is simple to understand, but still feels worth talking about (personal conversations on all sorts of things).

Education isn't the same as intelligence of course. Intelligence will help you gain and retain an education faster, through books or conversation, in anything that interests you.

Most of my high school friends were extremely intelligent, and mostly applied themselves to art and writing. A few mostly applied themselves to programming and tesla coils. I think a common characteristic that they held was genuine curiosity in exploring new domains, and could enjoy conversations with people of many different interests. The same was true for most of my college friends. I would say I selected for good intelligent people with unusually broad interests.

I still care a great deal for my specialist friends, and friends of varying intelligence. It's easy for me to enjoy a conversation with almost anyone genuinely interested in communicating, because I'll probably share the person's interest to some degree.

Roughly, curiosity overlap lays the ground for topical conversation, education determines the launching point on a topic, and intelligence determines the speed.

Comment author: 17 September 2010 06:14:17AM 2 points [-]

I've definitely also had conversations where the guy in the room who was the most confused and having the least fun was the one with the most book smarts.

Isn't that what you would expect for most conversations, when all else is equal? This is an effect I expect to in general and I attribute it both due to self selection and causation.

Comment author: 17 September 2010 06:23:26AM *  2 points [-]

I've definitely also had conversations where the guy in the room who was the most confused and having the least fun was the one with the most book smarts.

Isn't that what you would expect for most conversations, when all else is equal?

... well, it isn't what I do expect, so I guess I wouldn't. The thought never crossed my mind, so I don't really have anything more insightful to say about it yet. Let me chew on it.

I suspect that I mostly socialize with people I consider equals.

Comment author: 17 September 2010 03:58:16AM *  1 point [-]

I'm guessing that people at the LessWrong meetup at least met some baseline of all those other qualities

Actually, I was talking about my two-week stay as an SIAI Visiting Fellow. (Which is kind of like a Less Wrong meetup...)

But, yeah.

Comment author: 17 September 2010 06:03:16AM *  3 points [-]

I'm quite curious about what benefits you experienced from your two week visit... anything you can share or is it all secret and mysterious?

Not that I am considering applying. If I was I would have had to refrain from telling Eliezer (and probably Alicorn) whenever they are being silly. The freedom to speak ones mind without the need for securing approval is just too attractive to pass up! :)

Comment author: 17 September 2010 06:27:25PM 2 points [-]

I'm quite curious about what benefits you experienced from your two week visit... anything you can share or is it all secret and mysterious?

Perhaps the most publicly noticeable result was that I had the opportunity to write this post (and also this wiki entry) in an environment where writing Less Wrong posts was socially reinforced as a worthwhile use of one's time.

Then, of course, are the benefits discussed above -- those that one would automatically get from spending time living in a high-IQ environment. In some ways, in fact, it was indeed like a two-week-long Less Wrong meetup.

I had the opportunity to learn specific information about subjects relating to artificial intelligence and existential risk (and the beliefs of certain people about these subjects), which resulted in some updating of my beliefs about these subjects; as well as the opportunity to participate in rationality training exercises.

It was also nice to become personally acquainted with some of the "important people" on LW, such as Anna Salamon, Kaj Sotala, Nick Tarleton, Mike Blume, and Alicorn (who did indeed go by that name around SIAI!); as well as a number of other folks at SIAI who do very important work but don't post as much here.

Conversations were frequent and very stimulating. (Kaj Sotala wasn't lying about Michael Vassar.)

As a result of having done this, I am now "in the network", which will tend to facilitate any specific contributions to existential risk reduction that I might be able to make apart from my basic strategy of "become as high-status/high-value as possible in the field(s) I most enjoy working in, and transfer some of that value via money to existential risk reduction".

Not that I am considering applying. If I was I would have had to refrain from telling Eliezer (and probably Alicorn) whenever they are being silly.

Eliezer is uninvolved with the Visiting Fellows program, and I doubt he even had any idea that I was there. Nor is Alicorn currently there, as I understand.

Comment author: 17 September 2010 06:58:38AM 2 points [-]

Not that I am considering applying. If I was I would have had to refrain from telling Eliezer (and probably Alicorn) whenever they are being silly. The freedom to speak ones mind without the need for securing approval is just too attractive to pass up! :)

Neither of these should stop you. Alicorn lives on the other side of the country from the house, and Eliezer is pretty lax about criticism (and isn't around much, anyway).

Comment author: [deleted] 17 September 2010 06:20:18AM 1 point [-]

I hear that the secret to being a fellow is show rigorously that the probability that one of them is being silly is greater than 1/2. Just a silly math test.

Comment author: [deleted] 17 September 2010 06:13:45AM 1 point [-]

Ah, you lucky fellow!

Comment author: 16 September 2010 05:02:48AM *  6 points [-]

There is clearly a demand for organizations which provide opportunities to interact and socialize with people carefully selected for their ability to solve clever puzzles (and whatever else is on the IQ test--I haven't taken a real one).

Really? I don't think that's true; I think people just tend to assume that IQ is a good proxy for general intellectualism (e.g. highbrow tastes, willingness to talk and debate a lot, being well-read.) Since it's easier to score an IQ test than a test judging political literacy, education, and favorite novels, that's what organizations like Mensa use, and that's the measuring stick everyone trots out. Needless to say, it's not a very good one, but it's made its way into the culture.

I mean, even in casual usage, when most people talk about someone's high IQ, they probably aren't talking about focus, memory, or pattern recognition. They're likely actually talking about education and interests.

Comment author: 16 September 2010 05:54:47AM 3 points [-]

I mean, even in casual usage, when most people talk about someone's high IQ, they probably aren't talking about focus, memory, or pattern recognition. They're likely actually talking about education and interests.

That's precisely what troubles me. I don't like that we use a term which actually only means the former to refer to how "smart" someone is in vague, visceral sense--nor the implied equation of either IQ or smartness with utility.

I'm not accusing you of that necessarily, it's just a pattern I see in the world and fret about. Actually, it reminds me of something which might make a good article in its own right; I'll ruminate on it for a bit while I'm still getting used to article etiquette.

Comment author: [deleted] 17 September 2010 03:11:26AM 1 point [-]

I definitely agree on this. It's an abused and conflated word, though I don't know if that's more of a cause than an effect of problems society has with thinking about intelligence. I wonder how we could best get people to casually use a wider array of words and associations to distinguish the many different things we mean by "smart".

Comment author: 17 September 2010 03:24:09AM *  1 point [-]

I don't know if that's more of a cause than an effect of problems society has

You've hit an important point here, and not just about the topic in question. Consider body image (we want to see people on TV we think are pretty, but we get our ideas of what's pretty in part from TV) and media violence (we want to depict the world as it really is, but we also want to impart values that will change the world for the better rather than glorifying people and events which change it for the worse). How, in general, do we break these loops?

I wonder how we could best get people to casually use a wider array of words and associations to distinguish the many different things we mean by "smart".

So far, I haven't thought of anything better than choosing to be precise when I'm talking about somebody's talents and weaknesses, so I try to do that.

Comment author: 16 September 2010 06:09:17AM 1 point [-]

I don't like that we use a term which actually only means the former to refer to how "smart" someone is in vague, visceral sense--nor the implied equation of either IQ or smartness with utility.

Well, me neither; I think it's a reflection of how people would like to imagine other humans as being much simpler and more homogeneous than they actually are. I look forward to your forthcoming post.

Comment author: 16 September 2010 06:16:14AM *  0 points [-]

Well, me neither

That's reassuring. :)

I look forward to your forthcoming post.

Me too. I don't have a post's worth of idea yet. But there's cud yet to chew. (Ruminate has one of my favorite etymologies.)