Sunday, February 5, 2012

Societal IQ and Leadership

This post is based on the musings in a Bruce Charlton post regarding IQ and leadership in different societies. First consider IQ scores by country.  Then look at a map of IQ score averages.

First Charlton supposes what is the probable level of IQ needed for leadership. His reasoning is logical.
Suppose that the threshold IQ for effective leadership is about 105 (roughly the top one third of the population of England, when IQ is normed at 100 average and with a standard deviation of 15). In other words, by IQ 105 I mean a level of general intelligence (as measurable by capacity for abstract and systematic thinking, ease of memorising, swiftness of calculation etc.) which is somewhat but not much above average for European natives. (This is roughly the IQ of an effective foreman, police or Army Sergeant, or a master craftsman - somebody with potentially high technical skills, good practical reason and tactical nous.) I am suggesting that IQ 105 is the threshold for 'intellectuals' in a global and historical context - for those who take leadership roles in social domains requiring cognitive expertise (most obviously priests, sorcerers, sacred kings, law makers and judges, in military societies those roles where 'generalship' is required and so on).
 So, if you think back now to the IQ map and look at Africa, parts of South, Central and Latin America you would start to think there is no way those countries have enough leaders to function. Yet, some of those countries seem to be getting along (Brazil with a 87) while others not-so-well (Haiti with a 67). Yes, that is a 20 point difference and probably correlates well with Charlton's next point.

Therefore: In a population with an average IQ of 70 or less, there would be (functionally) zero individuals capable of intellectual leadership. Therefore it would be intellectually egalitarian. In a population with an average IQ of about 80, there would either be just a few percent or less of the population as an intellectual leadership - therefore at most specific individual leaders (and not an intellectual leadership class). In a population with an IQ of about 90, there would be an intellectual elite of leaders (more than just a few percent, something around 10 percent of the population). It would probably be ruled by an upper class or caste. In a population with an IQ of about 100 plus, there would be around a third of the population above 105 IQ, and therefore potential leaders - this would be a middle class society, tending toward some version of 'democracy' or majority (skilled class) rule (eg rule by organised skilled workers, crafts, guilds, unions etc). * Summary: Average IQ 70 or less (two and one third SD below IQ 105) - zero/ very small proportion of individuals are intellectuals, therefore no significant social role for cognitive specialists. Average IQ around 80 (one and two thirds SD below 105) - a few percent of intellectuals, therefore individual intellectual leadership. Average IQ around 90 (one SD below 105) - an elite of intellectuals. Average IQ around 100 (one third of an SD below 105) - a mass-minority middle class of intellectuals. * The general point is that the proportion of 'intellectuals' in a society (when 'intellectual is defined as above) is likely to be a strong influence on the general type of society, and the diffusion and nature of power in that society.
From this we can see (based on limited data correlation), that a society most likely needs an average IQ of about 90 to have a good chance in the modern world. On the other hand, a high average IQ does not necessarily guarantee success. Look at Italy, for example, which has an average IQ of 102 but seems to forever have political and economic turmoil. Why?
There are things which a society with a given IQ distribution can and cannot do - higher average IQ brings new capabilities and powers, but also new pitfalls and problems - since being an abstracting and systemising intellectual is a disposition which entails that life will be framed in abstract and systematic fashion. Hence the societies with an average IQ around 100 must expend tremendous resources on internal propaganda, to maintain cohesion of the abstract world of the large minority of intellectuals - such that much intellectual activity is merely keeping intellectuals in order, and not contributing to social well being... * This is NOT a prediction relating to monarchy, oligarchy and democracy - rather relating to whether power is individual (e.g. Big Man), minority elite (Priesthood), or minority class (a large minority of multi-specialized intellectual/ skill specialists). * This set of assumptions is consistent with my impression that the societies which have the most cohesive and obvious intellectual elites are mid-range IQ societies - despite that these intellectual elites are less intellectual than the intelligentsia of high IQ societies. Indeed the intelligentsia of high IQ societies (those c. ten percent of the population with an IQ greater than 120) are a different thing altogether from the intellectual elites of the mid-range societies which constitute much of the current and recent world populations; and quite possibly are not a sustainable leadership class. It is possible that things work better over the long term when there are only a handful percent of 120 IQ intelligentsia - not enough to form an elite, but enough to provide specialist expertise and advice, operating as one-off gifted individuals not as an interest group. *** The 'smart fraction' theory suggests that there is a threshold IQ around 108 The argument here and in the above paper is different' but 108 is anyway so close to 105 that the two values cannot reliably be distinguished in individuals and small groups.)
Maybe, once there becomes a larger percentage of the population at the 105 level or greater, you actually run into problems. As Charlton stated, (not his exact words) a greater amount of resources must necessarily be spent on propaganda to keep the intelligentsia placated and confused. Maybe that explains what happens in some Western societies. Asian societies are on the ascendance though to me they are being very careful not to tip their hand and make western countries feel inferior. They know that this will be detrimental to them in the short-term for sure. Long-term, it is probably inevitable that they will take a ruling role if demographics don't do them in (China's 1 child rule for example causing an ever aging population).

The next group I wonder about is the middle-eastern countries whose societies are controlled by their religion to a large extent. Iraq comes in at a 87 and then Iran, Afghanistan, Jordan, Pakistan and UAE at 84 with Lybia and Syria at 83. Those countries are just at the level where there is an emerging intelligentsia capable of discerning the proper direction of the country irregardless of religion. They must be encouraged and not beaten. Forcing the smart ones in those countries into a corner will not be in the long-term interests of the western world. Pakistan, for instance, already has "the bomb" and helping that country maintain stability is in the world's interest. The western world must intelligently appeal to the silent middle-eastern intelligentsia - not too hard for a smart person to imagine.

There are many ways to look at and interpret this data. I have made just a few suppositions and discussion lines pertinent to current thinking in the group I discuss world events with. What do you think?


Link to study of IQ correlation to income success

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