Why IQ is BS

 

 

As I hinted at a while ago in my “How to develop intellectual success” post, I think that IQ is a pretty horrid way to describe intelligence in general. Plenty of people have already discussed the invalidity of the current IQ test and scale before (here’s probably the best one), so what I instead wanted to do was describe why I think that an IQ test/scale could never work in the first place.

I’ll start with the obvious but true argument that there are many different types of intelligence. The original idea behind general intelligence was that it was supposed to be a good measure of how fast you could learn things in general. There’s, of course, a big problem with that; we don’t learn everything by a given set of speed. Say, if we had really high acuity for maths and social skills, then we learn maths and social skills faster. But, if by chance we also have a low acuity for creative tasks like reading and writing, then we would learn these lower. The combination of all these elements is sort of a hodge-podge that could quite possibly go one way or the other on the scale but is typically going to land straight in the average. And, unlike examining the skills separately, this average really doesn’t teach us much.

In addition to this, I don’t think that there is a good way to measure these as opposed to, say, just general skills. Of course, if you are bad at reading and writing, or maths, or social skills, you can just go out to improve them. And, sure, you might not be able to improve it as much as someone with a natural disposition for the skill, you can still definitely get it to a point where it’s greater than you started. This conflicts with IQ’s main theory that the IQ that you’re born with stays the same. You can certainly improve your speed of learning by finding the right combination of methods for you, and you can certainly improve any of the different intelligences by just well-developed practice. Hell, I didn’t even catch some of the patterns in a standard IQ test the first time I took it; after I had found them, my score increased significantly.

IQ, however, is still good for some things. Perhaps the greatest example of this is the ability to diagnose mental defects like Down Syndrome and the like. That being said, there are likely better ways to turn this into a test specifically for detecting syndromes and other such things rather than just taking an IQ test.

 

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How One Joke Can Ruin Your Life

 

 

I had originally put the topic of this blog post down as “In defense of all jokes”. This was actually a topic I had kept on the doc since the older days of Astuka’s Blog (and so, in a way, this serves as a throwback to last week’s article). Of course, as we’ve already addressed, my opinions have changed a lot since that time… and so, do I still believe it’s reasonable to defend all jokes?

I’ll start off with my original thesis for the article. It is true that there are offensive jokes, and it is true that there are jokes that can sometimes be mistimed (i.e. “too soon”) or otherwise poorly conceived. However, my idea was that we should be judging exclusively the quality of that joke rather than extrapolating it to judge the character of the person telling it or their intentions. If a joke is bad, leave it as a joke is bad, rather than trying to dig up more out of it. Take in mind this thesis came out at a time where the “big comedy scare” was occuring; comedians seemed to be getting banned from college campuses en-masse, and many prominent comedians (most famously Ricky Gervais) were speaking out against this.

A few weeks from now I intend to write an article in full about what I call “The Shame Economy”, and I think this whole comedy scare plays a lot into that. When someone makes a bad joke, it’s very easy to change the narrative and harvest shame off of them, exiling them back to some dark corner of the internet. This was the main idea of the TED Talk by Jon Ronson, where all of our key elements seem to be in place: we have an individual who makes and offensive + poorly conceived joke, who is then set on by a group of irrational actors who extrapolate the joke to the character, and then harvest shame, and then cause a groupthink incident to occur where the woman gets much more punishment than any of us really think she ought to deserve, including a full dox as well as a constant bombardment of realistic death threats.

To me there’s two key aspects that play a role here: the audience of the joke and the actions of the individual pre- and post-joke. Starting with the first, it’s much harder to send out an offensive joke of social media, where a variety of irrational actors are scouring the feeds looking to gain a share of the Shame Economy. So, if one really did want to take a joke like this, it makes more sense to due it in a deep friend circle or otherwise with people you could trust would take the joke well. This is similar to what I do personally, telling different “tiers” of jokes based on my knowledge and relationship with the person. Secondly, I think the way the person is perceived by others before the joke makes a big difference. I think Ricky Gervais is in a much more advantaged position to make an offensively bad joke than Justine Sacco, as Gervais’ whole schtick is making jokes like these whereas Sacco was a relative no-name who hadn’t particularly done anything like this before. Similarly, I think content in post means a lot as well. Silence is probably the worst scenario in such a case, as prevailing silence from the person allows one to continue to develop false assumptions. Apologizing does work, but has a fairly low success record (that is, specifically on social media; it does have a fairly high success rate in normal conversation), and another option I like to call “Calling it out” where you make it very clear that the irrational actors are acting irrationally and that “it’s just a joke” (this is similar to something Ricky Gervais would use) actually does work fairly well in social media environments but still doesn’t have a perfect success rate (Of course, Sacco specifically wasn’t given too much of an option since the groupthink incident regarding her literally happened overnight as she slept).

So, going back to the main point of the article, I do think in the wide majority of cases jokes can still be defended, although I think individuals making these jokes should still keep in mind those two key aspects. There are certainly fringe cases where offensive jokes are the tells of more malicious behavior (e.g. a joke about jews told by a white supremacist) but not only are these cases much rarer but I also think it’s much easier to tell malicious intent in an open scenario (one could also take in mind here previous actions before the joke was told).

 

Anyway, that’s all for this one. If you want to keep in touch, check out my biweekly newsletter! Following this will give you the low-down of all the new stuff I’m working on, as well as some things I found interesting. As an added bonus, you’ll also receive the Top 10 Tools I Use on a Daily Basis to help better manage your workload and do high quality work in a shorter amount of time. You can subscribe to the newsletter here.

Why Neighborhoods Turn Bad — and Stay That Way

 

 

What we think of when we see a bad neighborhood usually sticks in the present. We just see the gangs, the dilapidated housing, the food stamps, and be done with it — saying “This needs to change” without putting too much thought in how it started in the first place.

 

But in order to truly stop something, you have to prevent it. And preventing something involves looking at it from the very beginning. When we look at neighborhoods that become dilapidated, they usually become this way due to poor economic conditions — either companies begin to leave, or the economy gets bad, or some sort of major event occurs that causes a particular region or people to go under.

 

From here, people begin to develop certain habits. They begin to save less and spend more. They begin to commit crime to survive — small at first, but gradually increasing over time. These acts cause them to further fall into the pit. While in some instances, the growth of these actions on a community scale is small, other times they increase exponentially, and it is with these exponential increases that you get to the creation of long-term ghettos. What causes this exponential increase is something that needs further investigation, but is outside the scope of this article.

 

Once this behavior spreads far enough, it becomes commonplace. Once it becomes commonplace, it is taught — either formally or informally — to future generations. This is what causes these areas to linger for such a long time — not because of current conditions, but rather because past conditions have shaped the future.

 

Anyway, that’s all for this one. If you want to keep in touch, check out my biweekly newsletter! Following this will give you the low-down of all the new stuff I’m working on, as well as some things I found interesting. As an added bonus, you’ll also receive the Top 10 Tools I Use on a Daily Basis to help better manage your workload and do high-quality work in a shorter amount of time. You can subscribe to the newsletter here.

English vs. Mandarin: Which Will Dominate the World?

 

 

While I don’t believe we’ll have a universal language any time soon, it seems like the two obvious answers for one would be either English or Mandarin. This seems like a bit of a fight between east vs west, and I’ve heard good arguments from both sides, but I wanted to see if I could throw my own thoughts about this into the ring.

First, I find it ironic that the two most likely candidates for lingua franca are the two languages that are possibly the most complicated. English, with its various nuances and outdated rules, can certainly be hard to understand. However, I believe that the sheer size of the Mandarin language causes it to be much harder to grasp fully than english. While having a large alphabet combined with a large vocabulary may help in describing details, most international communication would be fine in just getting the general point across; and so I think more would be willing to describe less in order to spend less time learning a new language for business.

There’s also the fact that, due to eurocentricity, English has already had a grasp on global communications for quite some years now. With China not opening up broadly until roughly the 1960s, combined with the fact of the relatively isolationist nature of Asian cultures in general, Mandarin has had much less time to fester internationally. And while China’s population may have exploded in the meantime, this doesn’t necessarily translate to exponential cultural exporting. As English has expanded, more English-speaking generations have passed, and more people globally are prone to picking up English as their preferred second language.

Finally, to summarize this, I do think it’s certainly possible to have a lingua franca. In an age where the majority of people on Earth have endless knowledge at their fingertips, it becomes quite a bit more easy to learn a new language. And, with globalization becoming a key force due to such technology, more and more people need a common tongue to speak in.

 

Anyway, that’s all for this one. If you want to keep in touch, check out my biweekly newsletter! Following this will give you the low-down of all the new stuff I’m working on, as well as some things I found interesting. As an added bonus, you’ll also receive the Top 10 Tools I Use on a Daily Basis to help better manage your workload and do high quality work in a shorter amount of time. You can subscribe to the newsletter here.