Aug 29, 2022Liked by Steve QJ

My God, you are not only very smart, but also a genuinely well-rounded, nice human being! I absolutely love to read your back-and forths with people who disagree with you. The only good part of having remote access to so many opinions and news (real or fake) and facts and shit is that from time to time you read about (and interact with) great people you will never meet in real life, and sometimes that is enough. I am having a shitty week ("back to school" in academia, when colleagues are quitting 2 days before classes, and you need to scramble for finding somebody else to teach their classes, is NEVER fun!), so this is bringing a bit of reassurance that we are still able to think reasonably and to be kind to each other. Thank you for being normal :-)

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"Thank you for being normal :-)"

Thanks! Us normies are still out there.😁

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Aug 29, 2022·edited Aug 29, 2022Liked by Steve QJ

Beware comparisons of genetic commonality.

There is less divergence between a randomly-selected human and a randomly-selected chimpanzee than between two carefully-chosen humans. No conclusions can be drawn from that.

And while it's a shocking truth that African slaves were literally bred by their owners, I doubt it was over enough generations and in great enough numbers to significantly change their genetics very broadly. Such breeding was mostly done in part of Virginia and Maryland and the offspring sold in the south.

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"I doubt it was over enough generations and in great enough numbers to significantly change their genetics very broadly."

Yeah, I'm not claiming that it *changed* black people's genetics in any significant way, I'm just saying that certain pre-existing genetics had a better chance to thrive. It's a case of natural (or in this case, unnatural) selection.

If, for the next 200 years, we...oh, I don't know, sterilised gay people because we decided they were "born in the wrong body," we might expect to see fewer gay people in society at the end of that time (I realise that this isn't a perfect analogy because the genetic component of homosexuality is less straightforward than that of skin colour, but indulge me if you will).

We can affect populations, not by altering their genetics, but by culturally engineering the procreation of certain members of that population. And that can have a meaningful impact over just a few generations.

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Dog breeders actually do cultivate genetics. Rat terriers, pointers, herding dogs have genetic traits. I once had a corgi/shepherd mix (a short-legged shepherd). She herded our cats as a natural instinct having never been around another herding dog of receiving training to do that. I know, dogs are not people, but they are sentient with emotions like fear, aggressiveness, jealousy, etc. We may have different ideas about the nature of genetics.

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You can go through twenty generations of dogs in the time it takes for one generation of humans.

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True. The point being that with enough time actual generic change can be induced. With the short timespan and number of people not in direct lineage during transatlantic slave trade I would think that nothing as radical as with dog breeding happened. I was not trying to make a case for that.

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Didn't think you were. It's just that we've had thousands of dog generations to play with their genes, and look at the range, from chihuahuas to wolfhounds, vast diversity in size and behavior. and all from a single ancestor species.

I was reading about the breeding of slaves; of course I knew it happened but reading about it I was suddenly struck by the awesome barbarity; human being ordered, likely raped, into having child after child, not only sex but pregnancy. I almost threw up.

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"𝘍𝘪𝘳𝘴𝘵, 𝘴𝘭𝘢𝘷𝘦𝘳𝘺/𝘳𝘢𝘤𝘪𝘴𝘮 𝘨𝘦𝘵𝘴 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘣𝘭𝘢𝘮𝘦 𝘧𝘰𝘳 𝘴𝘰 𝘮𝘢𝘯𝘺 𝘳𝘪𝘥𝘪𝘤𝘶𝘭𝘰𝘶𝘴 𝘵𝘩𝘪𝘯𝘨𝘴 𝘪𝘯 2022, 𝘵𝘩𝘢𝘵 𝘴𝘰𝘮𝘦 𝘱𝘦𝘰𝘱𝘭𝘦’𝘴 𝘥𝘦𝘧𝘢𝘶𝘭𝘵 𝘩𝘢𝘴 𝘣𝘦𝘤𝘰𝘮𝘦 𝘵𝘰 𝘵𝘳𝘦𝘢𝘵 𝘢𝘯𝘺 𝘴𝘶𝘨𝘨𝘦𝘴𝘵𝘪𝘰𝘯 𝘵𝘩𝘢𝘵 𝘴𝘭𝘢𝘷𝘦𝘳𝘺 𝘩𝘢𝘴 𝘢𝘯 𝘪𝘮𝘱𝘢𝘤𝘵 𝘰𝘯 𝘣𝘭𝘢𝘤𝘬 𝘱𝘦𝘰𝘱𝘭𝘦 𝘵𝘰𝘥𝘢𝘺 𝘸𝘪𝘵𝘩 𝘪𝘯𝘤𝘳𝘦𝘥𝘶𝘭𝘪𝘵𝘺."

I'm ashamed to say that I feel myself being pushed in that direction by some of the Medium writers who publish a new "racist white person did this" story every day. If I suggest that racism is being given too much sway, I'm likely to be told, "Sit down, listen and learn white man. You can't possibly have anything to say." It's like they are trying to motivate me to look for a local Proud Boys chapter or something.

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"I'm ashamed to say that I feel myself being pushed in that direction by some of the Medium writers who publish a new "racist white person did this" story every day."

Yeah, sadly I know you're not alone. As I've pointed out many times, there's only so long you can tell any group of people that they're worthless simply because of their membership of that group before they lose interest in what you have to say. This is a universal human truth.

Now, of course, black people know something about being told (and treated as if) they're worthless. I'd be remiss if I didn't point out that a lot of the anger and frustration from certain black people comes from the exact same place the frustration you're feeling now comes from.

But I'll admit this fact does make it all the more frustrating to me that those black people can't understand (or don't care about) the cycle they're perpetuating. We all need to get better at looking at things from the opposite perspective.

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This reminds me of something I have tried not to think about for a long time because it made me so angry.

Gay people of course got a lot of the same message, and by the time they finally started pushing back they acquired a lot of practice at resisting negative messages about gay sex. Promiscuity became the gay birthright, our offering to the repressed heterosexual world.

Then came AIDS.

While a lot of people changed their behavior and many worked hard getting out the message of safe sex and responsible behavior, a significant number went the other way, becoming aggressively promiscuous and even seeing HIV seroconversion as some sort of rite of passage. They refused condoms, they all but moved into the bathhouses, and they didn't care how many they infected nor how many died. Die they did, by the hundreds of thousands.

We're seeing something of a repeat of that with the politicizing of COVID, the insanity of the antivaxxers, though COVID is not the death sentence that AIDS was.

When I moved back to Seattle after caring for my mother and her cancer as long as I could and looked up my good friend Michael Taylor, who by the way was black, I learned that he had died only a few weeks before, of AIDS. And I wondered if the person who had infected him knew that he was a carrier.

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As you know, I am often a harsh critic of partisan politics. I have friends and acquaintances ranging from didn't want to leave their house, even to see their doctor (Might be people with COVID in there) to anti-vax, where can I shop without wearing a muzzle? I'm no fan of politicians making medical decisions for me, but my wife and I have been jabbed four times for COVID since we are in our 70s with "issues".

Having said that, after putting it off during the early days of the pandemic we did the get together with family thing (I see socialization as a significant health issue). As you might predict, the whole extended family had the same symptoms with some testing positive (one healthy young unvaccinated man hospitalized) and others testing negative. I don't think that the tests are all that reliable, but that's just my lay opinion. We took a risk, but we didn't get all those jabs to stay home and live in fear.

Your description of the evolution of reaction to AIDS in the gay community is tragic.

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AIDS is a sexually transmitted disease, which means that by definition it is one of the hardest to transmit. COVID is the opposite, aerosol droplets, you can be infected in an empty hallway.

By 1982 we knew all we needed to know to stop HIV from infecting a single new individual. Nothing could have been easier.

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I'm sure that there are vestiges of slave racism alive and well in our culture. Considering that Puritan cruelty and intolerance is still very much with us after a longer time, it would be folly to doubt the same of slavery.

But there is not a single white person alive today who is in any way personally culpable for slavery and the ones who like to say that it "wasn't so bad" or even "a sweet deal" are easily-ignored attention freaks. So calls for reparations are ridiculous.

Racism is an equal-opportunity destroyer. The best of us try hard to recognize and combat it. But it far from something limited to white people.

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Are you seriously suggesting that white Americans are genetically inclined to be cruel & intolerant?

I'd always assumed it was a cultural failing, one of the unfortunate consequences of starting from an "out-group" from European society and developing in isolation. The rest of Europe seems to have managed to make those behaviours less & less acceptable.

Calls for reparations are more to do with the practical consequences for today's citizens of previous generations' cruelty & greed than any personal animosity. The inherited inequality is financial, not genetic - the result of not allowing "coloured" people to get mortgages or own land, feeding down to poverty today.

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"𝘔𝘺 𝘱𝘰𝘪𝘯𝘵 𝘪𝘴, 𝘵𝘩𝘢𝘵 𝘦𝘷𝘦𝘯 𝘪𝘧 𝘸𝘦 𝘤𝘢𝘯’𝘵 𝘨𝘳𝘰𝘸 𝘰𝘶𝘵 𝘰𝘧 𝘰𝘶𝘳 𝘵𝘳𝘪𝘣𝘢𝘭𝘪𝘴𝘮, 𝘸𝘦 𝘤𝘢𝘯 𝘢𝘵 𝘭𝘦𝘢𝘴𝘵 𝘤𝘩𝘰𝘰𝘴𝘦 𝘮𝘦𝘢𝘯𝘪𝘯𝘨𝘧𝘶𝘭 𝘵𝘳𝘪𝘣𝘦𝘴. 𝘚𝘬𝘪𝘯 𝘤𝘰𝘭𝘰𝘶𝘳 𝘪𝘴 𝘯𝘰𝘵 𝘮𝘦𝘢𝘯𝘪𝘯𝘨𝘧𝘶𝘭. 𝘚𝘦𝘹𝘶𝘢𝘭𝘪𝘵𝘺 𝘪𝘴 𝘯𝘰𝘵 𝘮𝘦𝘢𝘯𝘪𝘯𝘨𝘧𝘶𝘭. 𝘎𝘦𝘯𝘥𝘦𝘳 𝘦𝘹𝘱𝘳𝘦𝘴𝘴𝘪𝘰𝘯 𝘪𝘴 𝘯𝘰𝘵 𝘮𝘦𝘢𝘯𝘪𝘯𝘨𝘧𝘶𝘭."

Since I know better, I won't accuse you of not reading Medium articles where those things are the most meaningful things there are. But then that is the point you are making. Are the SJWs doing more harm than good?

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Aug 29, 2022·edited Aug 29, 2022Author

"Are the SJWs doing more harm than good?"

Yep, another emphatic "yes" vote here. But for a very simple reason; these SJWs are absolutely uninterested in making things better. Not for black people or poor people or anybody. They're angry, unhappy people who want to normalise and justify that anger and unhappiness. Or they're grifters who make their money by stirring up the anger and unhappiness of their readers.

And the reason I make an accusation like this with such confidence is that they never, absolutely never, reflect the voices of the communities most in need of help. While black children are dying at the hands of black criminals in Chicago, they're writing about micro aggressions in Starbucks.

When a police officer saves the life of a black teenager by shooting a girl who was about to stab her, the fact that he saved that girl's life isn't even an afterthought in their coverage.

When black residents in Minneapolis ask for *greater* police presence on their streets, "activists" convince the city council to defund the police. In fact, BLM in general has been a net negative for protecting black lives. There is no topic in racial discourse that makes me angrier.

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Sep 29, 2022·edited Sep 29, 2022


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". . . they never, absolutely never, reflect the voices of the communities most in need of help." This. A thousand times this.

We all fundamentally understand the universal hierarchy of needs (e.g., Maslow) until we put on the blinders and listen to entitled people pontificate on any potential for microaggression.

No one seeking shelter security or food security is concerned with this because . . . 'survive first'. In a relative world with few absolutes and speaking in absolutes is a pervasive fallacy, I violate all that by claiming that no one in true need cares about SJWs and certainly do not identify with them . . . at all. Only entitled people seeking esteem and self-actualization care.

While SJW voices dominate, they crowd out the needy voices. They certainly are not seeking input from those in true need. This lack of representation of needs that crowds out needs is causing harm and so is a literal microaggression. SJWs, through crowding out actual needs are committing microaggressions against those needing the most help.

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I would unhesitatingly and emphatically answer yes. I'm sure a lot of fence-sitters have been disgusted over to voting more conservatively, just for starters.

How would this affect the unprepared reader? https://medium.com/prismnpen/trans-reality-this-will-piss-you-off-5e45cad585ad

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Chris, this comment you made was potentially subtle while mostly providing a link. Are you implying that an unprepared reader might take something wrong from the article? Are you also implying this for the first statement, that the shift to conservative voting is largely based on a lack of preparation but general dissatisfaction with those in power today? You put a tempting morsel out there without revealing yourself.

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Image: flipping off the reader

Title: this will piss you off

I really felt I didn't need to add anything to that.

The article is mostly "don't expect miracles from the hormones" but I doubt many people got past the raw offense and read it.

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Yeah, I don't know your writing style to be able to follow you, especially since some irony might be implied(?) between movement toward conservatives yet potential rejection of a conservative-friendly article. Perhaps I will understand your communication style soon, given a little more exposure to it within this substack. Cheers.

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Sep 2, 2022Liked by Steve QJ

Meaningful tribes - love it. Since various forms of tribalism appear to be inherent or at least significantly imprinted into our psyches, a more enlightened tribalism might be the best short term move we have. Anything that increases the likelihood that we treat each other more humanely is a good idea in my book.

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I am somewhat surprised at the amount of Blank Slatism on this thread. Intelligence heritability is certainly a thing. The challenge is that no one really knows the particulars. Where things go off the rails is when someone tries to tie the science of heritability to the unscientific concept of "race". But regardless, there's clearly a degree of heritability.

I'll drop this (HT Blocked and Reported). Worth a read.


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"Intelligence heritability is certainly a thing."

I think the issue is the idea that "intelligence" is this solid trait that can be meaningfully measured like height or eyesight. If you have two people, one with a higher IQ than the other, what does it mean to say that one is more intelligent than the other?

Was Mozart more intelligent than Picasso? Was Stephen Hawking more intelligent than Terence Tao? The answer, at least as far as I can see, is, "it depends." But we can very confidently say who was taller or stronger or any number of other characteristics. Intelligence is a different class of trait than the others we ascribe to genetics.

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Sure, "intelligence" as a concept is somewhat abstract. And IQ as a predictor of "success" relies on that definition as well. But IQ itself is a measurement. And as such, it can reasonably used in correlation studies.

Few people claim strict genetic determinism. And few geneticists are willing to use the unscientific concept of race as a grouping mechanism for genetically influenced traits. But I don't think it's reasonable to deny that inheritability of skills is a thing, even if it's difficult to specifically quantify the boundaries and degree.

And that's the point of continued research on these line in genetics and brain science. The continued curiosity of the degree of inheritability and how concretely one can define an inheritable trait/skill.

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Sep 1, 2022·edited Sep 1, 2022Author

"But IQ itself is a measurement"

Not exactly. Otherwise it would be the same measurement each time. Also, you wouldn't see phenomenon like the Flynn Effect (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flynn_effect). IQ is really a test of ability to think in a certain way. A measure of problem solving ability, yes, but grounded in a certain view of the world.

It logically follows that this is a good predictor of career and financial success because the ability to think in ways that are advantageous in your culture will obviously improve your odds of success.

But this isn't the same as saying that intelligent people will succeed or that less intellgient people won't. Lewis Terman discoverd that in his Genetic Studies of Genius (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Genetic_Studies_of_Genius#Follow-ups). And it's certainly not to say that somebody with a high IQ thinks in a way that is "better" than somebody with a lower IQ.

I'm not trying to claim that there's no heritability to IQ. Genetic or environmental. My issue is with carelessly conflating IQ and intelligence. Especially without thinking about what you mean by intelligence.

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"One of the other educational dogmas of our times is the notion that standardized tests do not predict future performances for minority children, either in academic institutions or in life. Innumerable scholarly studies have devastated this claim intellectually,13 though it still survives and flourishes politically." -"Black Rednecks and White Liberals", from the section on Black Education writing about the M Street/Dunbar School before public schools were converted to neighborhood schools and 85 years of achievement vanished.

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"Black Rednecks and White Liberals" by Thomas Sowell debunks that quite well. That does not mean that the book would be well received by people championing much of current "thought" on the subject.

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Just re-opened my copy. In no way does Sowell deny inheritability. He simply shows that it's not an explainer for group differences in the set of unscientific groups known as 'race'. Which is not an argument I ever made, nor was in the article I linked to.

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He was quite specific about inheriting the zeitgeist of the culture you are born into which is quite different from genetics. Slaves in America were brought into the redneck culture while the slaves in the Caribbean were not which he opines made a difference in attitude and achievement. Same "race", different cultural behaviors. Hardly a case for racial traits.

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Again, I'm making no such argument.

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What argument were you making? As an aside, I'm not trying to argue, it is discussion.

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I am making the argument that inheritability is a thing and that pure Blank Slatism is bunk. I made no proposition regarding group traits.

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Aug 29, 2022Liked by Steve QJ

Hi Steve. You could make the same point for Chinese training programs for their top level athletes as you did about Jamaican training programs for their sprinters. Several of the top figure skaters in the world are Chinese now, too along with swimmers, etc... The Chinese are NOT genetically selected to be excellent in all these sports; they identify outstanding candidates early and put them into rigorous training, just like every other country does with its potential medal-winners.

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"You could make the same point for Chinese training programs for their top level athletes."

Yep, absolutely. Same for academic achievement too. It's baffling with all we know about genetics at this point that people still don't see this. M has built his entire understanding of genetic variation by looking at the starting line of the 100m final! It's kind of sad that I stumped him simply by listing a few other sports.😅

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I'm of the belief that a lot of people excel at something simply because they believe they can. For example if you are from Kenya, if you are a good runner, you are going to believe if you train hard you can be one of the best, because others from your same area have done it before you. The same as sprinters from Jamaica. Or political families in America, acting families in Hollywood. And so on...

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There's another issue here: people misunderstand statistics, big time. Sorry, this is going to be a long one!

"M" gives, for example, some individual examples of very fast runners who were black & then says she's "...talking about averages". Well, those individuals don't affect the average very much, when you're looking at a large group of people. Epic fail, there.

And you very correctly point out that those individuals come from several different communities with different attitudes to what it's worth working hard to achieve: a Jamaican boy who can run faster than his mates is going to be more supported & more motivated to train as a sprinter than someone in the US. There are going to be some exceptionally fast runners from Jamaica (but that says nothing about whether the average for Jamaicans is different to the average for Americans).

But there's another hobby horse of mine that needs to come in here: the idea that we can measure intelligence, for all humans, with "IQ tests".

First of all, what do we mean by "intelligence"? If you mean the ability to do IQ tests, then perhaps we can measure that, but either you have to design an equivalent test for each culture on Earth - and then how do you know they're comparable, that people who get the same score on different tests in fact have the same ability?

Or your tests are probably culturally biased, so people from one group might be advantaged compared to another. Isn't it odd that while males from America tend to do better on existing tests that were designed by (wait for it) white males from America?

But if you're claiming that "IQ tests" actually measure intelligence, I'd say - prove it. Do the searches: no one ever has published a peer reviewed paper showing that IQ tests work. They have published papers that show that using some tests, chimps are cleverer than people, though, and that's a bit of a facer if you're relying on IQ tests to claim superiority, isn't it?

To prove that IQ tests are a valid measure of intelligence, you have to define intelligence, other than by saying it's the ability to do IQ tests. If you say that intelligence is the general ability to solve problems, then you're looking at an infinite-dimensional fuzzy space (yes, that really IS a mathematical term for something where no matter how many different aspects you try to measure, you've always missed one, and where the score varies a bit from day to day or from time to time) - and they are not measurable. You can never tell how far apart two points are in one of those spaces, for reasons related to Pythagoras extended to deal with approximations & infinite dimensions.

So anyone who tries to convince you that intelligence can be measured or compared, whether using genetics, race or any other difference between people, is just plain not bright enough to tell you much about anything. It's in the underlying maths - and that's without looking at the neuroscience, that says that the human brain is unbelievably plastic and the starting point - the genetics - are pretty much irrelevant.

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We discussed IQ tests a few weeks ago and I answered several of your points.

The tests are a lot more sophisticated than you seem to think and cultural biases are balanced in. Balanced, I say, because without accounting for culture you will get wildly varying results for comparably intelligent people, and with too much accounting you get a 100 IQ for everyone.

A single metric is an obsolete idea, there are usually six scales, for example mathematical ability, 3D visualization, and others.

Illuminating reading on this: https://www.amazon.com/Mismeasure-Man-Revised-Expanded/dp/0393314251/ref=sr_1_1

"They have published papers that show that using some tests, chimps are cleverer than people, though, and that's a bit of a facer if you're relying on IQ tests to claim superiority, isn't it?"

Oh, please.

Two of the six metrics are 3D visualization and athletic prowess (yes that is indeed one scale). Any arboreal animal will soar past humans on the 3D scale because their world is three-dimensional; a squirrel will solve certain problems on level ground that will have a dog whining helplessly. We have been out of trees far too long and lost that.

On athletic ability a cat will score 500. I'm sure you've seen videos of cats performing freakishly agile stunts.

I am unsurprised that chimpanzees outscore humans on some metrics. I am also unmoved.

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On the subject of tests, for a time I worked as a technical instructor, training customers of our avionics products. Aeronautical authorities require training of maintenance personnel to certify maintenance shops. The requirement is simply "attend/receive training" with no reference to having passed a test. Although English is the language of technical aspects of aviation, I taught classes with a Chinese interpreter on one occasion and a Russian interpreter on another. Most of my students were from other countries. The engineers normally had better English language skills than the technicians and every morning started with questions from the previous day, stated by the engineers on behalf of the technicians whose English language reading skills surpassed their verbal skills.

One of the instructors tried to argue that we should develop tests. Immediately one might ask, could I have written tests for the classes with interpreters. Another instructor whose degree was in industrial education declared that none of us were qualified to write a test. That was challenged so he told us all to write a twenty-question multiple choice test for one of our courses that he had never attended. He passed them all without considering anything relating to the course material. One test he chose the shortest answer for example. Writing tests must consider things that most people who are specifically untrained in won't consider.

There was a reason that the training requirement did not include testing. In a world-wide field support role that I once had which included training, one of the things that I found was that every shop had one "strong man" who I could teach a lot to, one or two who were "good" and could pick up the strong man's sword if he was hit by a bus. The rest were typically able to learn to properly follow procedures. In one location which I will not name, the best and brightest was limited to following procedures. There were a number of reasons for the diversity in abilities, one of which was clearly basic intelligence when that includes the ability to draw logical troubleshooting conclusions.

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"There were a number of reasons for the diversity in abilities, one of which was clearly basic intelligence when that includes the ability to draw logical troubleshooting conclusions."

This is a big part of the reason I reject the idea that intelligence is too vague and nebulous to measure. Smart people are usually more adept at broad ranges of problem solving, not only in one area that can skew a test result. Aside from people with some savant ability, like the guy who can tell you if a 12-digit number is prime in a few seconds, bright people tend to be broadly bright.

There is an absolute delight in communicating with smart people; you rarely have to finish a sentence because they grasp where it's headed and then leap past it to the ramifications.

There is a "perpetual motion" video on Twitter right now; https://twitter.com/ScienceGuys_/status/1564200865547689985 ... I took one look and said "the ball rises farther than it falls. It's a trick." Turns out there's an electromagnet accelerating its descent. OK, that doesn't make me a genius, but the analytic process that begins with knowing the law of energy conservation kicked in all by itself.

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First problem: define intelligence. Tell me what you mean by that, with enough precision that we can agree a mathematical framework against which to test your "cultural balance" mechanism.

Next problem: you haven't answered the fundamental issue, that the underlying mathematics says "you can't put a reliable measure on an unmeasurable space".

However many additional dimensions of intelligence you include by adding extra types of test, you've always missed some important ones.

If you called them "aptitude tests" I would be happy, but you're not measuring intelligence as I understand it.

At a time when there's confusion between "artificial intelligence" and "machine learning", this is not a trivial question.

"The map is not the territory".

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"First problem: define intelligence."

Any argument that begins with a demand for definition of an uncontroversial term has already fallen on its face. Same for "who gets to decide" in all its incarnations.

Intelligence is the ability to process information, to discern patterns, to think in abstractions.

Your hostililty to the idea seems extreme. Care to share why?

Edit: "At a time when there's confusion between "artificial intelligence" and "machine learning", this is not a trivial question."

Software development is a steaming pile of neologism manure and imprecise terminology replacing the precise, because the new ones sound "cool." You cannot draw any conclusions from this more profound than "programmers are compulsive conformists." The best I can venture is that ML is a subset of AI.

Let me give you an example ... "unfinished work" is now called "technical debt."

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𝘈𝘵 𝘢 𝘵𝘪𝘮𝘦 𝘸𝘩𝘦𝘯 𝘵𝘩𝘦𝘳𝘦'𝘴 𝘤𝘰𝘯𝘧𝘶𝘴𝘪𝘰𝘯 𝘣𝘦𝘵𝘸𝘦𝘦𝘯 "𝘢𝘳𝘵𝘪𝘧𝘪𝘤𝘪𝘢𝘭 𝘪𝘯𝘵𝘦𝘭𝘭𝘪𝘨𝘦𝘯𝘤𝘦" 𝘢𝘯𝘥 "𝘮𝘢𝘤𝘩𝘪𝘯𝘦 𝘭𝘦𝘢𝘳𝘯𝘪𝘯𝘨", 𝘵𝘩𝘪𝘴 𝘪𝘴 𝘯𝘰𝘵 𝘢 𝘵𝘳𝘪𝘷𝘪𝘢𝘭 𝘲𝘶𝘦𝘴𝘵𝘪𝘰𝘯.

This is one of the places that you can help me with this idea. My work pertaining to computerized things was heavily about controlling things. The code has subject to rigidly defined rules. There will never be a HAL telling Dave, "I'm sorry, I can't do that." A computer becoming sentient is fantasy in my mind.

There is software that incorporates heuristics which could be considered to be learning but I don't know about a relationship to intelligence. Do chess playing computers actually learn, or just have the power to map possibilities in a timely manner due to ever increasing computing power and incorporate it heuristically?

This is a bit astray of the original article but what are your thoughts on artificial intelligence? I put emphasis on "artificial" and don't conflate it with intelligence in a sentient being.

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I would not be so sanguine about machine sentience. Right now software is structurally unsuited for it; software executes in response to some event, be it a user operation or a signal of some kind, runs whatever handler is triggered by the event, executes in a deterministic fashion (or, maddeningly, unpredicably), and finishes.

If you have not heard of John Horton Conway and the Life game, you should look it up. Even the most entry-level programmer can implement it (I wrote a version on a TRS-80 with Cassette-BASIC), and it does seriously Wonderful Things. It's a grid, with a clock, and on each tick the state of one cell in the grid changes from off to on or vice versa depending on the number of cells around it that are on.

It's an example of cellular automata.

The point is that complex behaviors emerge from a supremely simple set of rules. Consciousness is a complexity that emerges from the firing states of neurons, which have rules more complex than a flat grid but ... well, you get the picture.

Machines do learn. Chess-playing machines can, yes, calculate vast permutation sets but they also remember mistakes, self-modifying memory; if we insist on looking at everything as bits and data it's easy to say it can never exhibit Complexity ....

.... but then, we don't experience synapses, either.

Be. Very. Afraid.

It will probably begin with simulated consciousness, which means machines that are never idle, always running, their processes distributes across vast numbers of ... cells.

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In aviation the pilot is king or queen and can override automatic functions (a violation of that not long ago demonstrated the wisdom). But there was a case where it is believed that a pilot purposefully flew a commercial aircraft into the ground. Could "no, I can't let you do that" be implemented? Yes, it could but mistrust of computers is greater than mistrust of pilots.

How can self-modifying code be certified when safety of human life requires it? It could already be happening in areas I have no visibility to and there are valid arguments in some applications for crowning the computer king, but I am very afraid of that for reasons I don't need to describe to you.

You may have read https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/I_Have_No_Mouth,_and_I_Must_Scream

I can't remember when I first played with that game of life. I think it was with a Commodore 64. I didn't think about it being a case of cellular automata, but now that you mention it...

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The point about how poorly we predict the future is spot on. My background is limited to trying to make software that does something specific and constrained be bug free which is challenge enough for me. I really have no idea about creating a generalized intelligence in software. The thought does occur that it would have equivalence to genetics since new software is often dependent upon the old functions it is built upon where ancestor code potential for a bug is revealed in new software that uses it.

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An issue made more worrisome when you consider that militaries are actually seeking autonomous warfare capability. What could go wrong?

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"Uncontroversial"? In an era of machine learning vs artificial intelligence? When you want to "fix software"? As someone trained in maths, but also as an experienced systems analyst, I always start by clarifying what people mean by the terms we're discussing - it saves a lot of misunderstandings.

I do agree about the problems with software development, though - run by salesmen rather than developers, to a large extent. Currently we have "machine learning" that is totally not intelligent because it's entirely determined by the data it's given to learn from. But the philosophical & neuroscientific questions that arise from the question of whether we can develop genuinely intelligent machines are fascinating - and "what do we mean by intelligence?" is part of that, related to the hard question of "what is consciousness?".

That's an interestingly limited description of intelligence that you offer, though.

When you talk about "processing information", what do you include/exclude? Are you limiting that to information that can be written down, categorised, counted? Reading body language, for example, is a key human skill but it's a whole new dimension in itself, hard to measure without including a lot of cultural bias.

Patterns, ditto - if you talk to someone who's deeply aware of the ecosystem they inhabit, the patterns they perceive will be completely different to anything you could use in an IQ test: subtle, complex and ever-shifting. That habitual depth of perception bleeds through into every aspect of their thought, too.

How exactly can you measure people's ability to think in abstractions? Because what's an obvious superficial fact to one person is an abstraction to someone else. This whole discussion is a case in point.

As a mathematician, it annoys me when other would-be scientists (psychologists for example) misuse the tools provided and then claim authority for their crackpot theories. IQ testing is part of the whole eugenics thought-pattern: it assumes the superiority of the Western mindset, and yet it doesn't even respect the rules that mindset imposes, breaking them whenever it suits. Psychologists' use of statistics is famously "the way a drunk uses a lamp post: more for support than illumination". Attempting to apply a measure to an unmeasurable space is a bit special, though, even for them.

I have a friend with "learning difficulties" whose ability to work in 3-D is astonishing: he can look at an object like a car with a rusty inside wheel arch, and cut & weld a replacement with its complex sets of curves, faultlessly. And yet he can't read well enough to do one of your tests. His information processing, pattern perception & even thinking about abstractions are phenomenal in some ways, just not in the ways that suit IQ testing. His way of tracking how much cash he's got left in his bank account is dizzying - but it works.

I score highly on IQ tests, as long as I remind myself to give the answer the test compiler expected, rather than the many other possibilities that spring to mind. Offered a chance to discuss the results, as I have been when people were trying to develop new ones, it became clear that the people designing the tests wanted to reward people who think just the way they do, and to reject anyone who thinks differently. That's only human, of course, but it's a big problem if you're claiming universal validity for your test.

I came through college at a time & in a place where the leading mathematicians of the day were developing chaos & complexity theories, and I've carried on following developments in this topic. It's taken me into all sorts of areas of study and made me realise just how limited Western thought has been over the last couple of hundred years. It's achieved some wonderful things but only in limited areas, and if we are to move forward, we need to understand the gaps in our thinking. Assuming that everything that matters can be measured & counted is one of those gaps - some things are just not measurable, in maths or in real life.

ps - steaming piles of ideas manure are a vital part of a healthy ecosystem of ideas. The dead ones have to go somewhere to be broken down ready for reuse!

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"That's an interestingly limited description of intelligence that you offer, though."

That wasn't a description, that was a few examples.

I come here for discussions, not for arguments; it seems you want to take almost everything I write as the springboard for an argument. I'm not interested in another dormitory bull session debate on what consciousness is nor the deficiencies of Western thought; I live in the East and they don't seem to have figured out much more than we have.

A pity; this is an area that interests me a lot, I too am degreed in mathematics and have studied Devaney and Kaufmann since that introductory article in Scientific American (before it turned into another Popular Mechanics).

The comparative measure of intelligence doesn't require an infinite number of dimensions and it can't account in generality for anomalies like savants. It can compare Weyl and Einstein but cannot account for a Galois.

But then, that's not what it's for.

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Sorry, I never had a "dormitory bull session debate" so I don't understand the reference. Intelligence is a really interesting field, though, and the overlap between maths & psychology is fertile ground as far as I'm concerned.

I'm curious: why do you think we need to measure intelligence?

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" IQ testing is part of the whole eugenics thought-pattern"

This is unpardonable hyperbole. Intelligence testing is Heinrich Himmler and Zyklon-B. I really think you should dial that WAY back.

"he can't read well enough to do one of your tests."

One of MY tests? I'm not involved in evaluating anyone other than potential software hires, is there some reason you are making this discussion so personal?

"... if we are to move forward, we need to understand the gaps in our thinking. Assuming that everything that matters can be measured & counted is one of those gaps"

You're about a century behind in your education. It is fundamental to science, and has been for a century, that there are limits to what is knowable. Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle shook up science profoundly and required a fundamental rethinking that went far, far beyond measurement of position and momentum.

Some suggested reading:



And before you object that this is irrelevant to the discussion, the calcium ion gates in the synapse are small enough to have quantum mechanical properties and while the debate over the role of the quantum in consciousness is unsettled, it is far from rejected.

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My observation, which could be wrong, is that generalized intelligence tests are a measure of problem-solving ability in various realms. One obvious flaw is that many of the tests rely upon pattern matching ability. A Fibonacci sequence will jump right out at you while someone who did not study or remember math will have to puzzle it out. They may well be able to do that, but the tests have a time constraint so there is a penalty there. Conflating intelligence and education-based knowledge is certainly an issue. If comparing people with similar education the test might be a measure of the ability to apply their education which I consider to be an aspect of intelligence, but the fact that test takers don't all have the same education is an issue.

The question then becomes, fairness if your objective is to rank people with a number or something to identify where people need help (the original purpose of the test). The first has historically led to horrors and the second has been beneficial to many, including the disenfranchised.

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Then why do intelligent parents tend to have intelligent children?

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Successful parents give their children all sorts of advantages: they stimulate them intellectually, expect them to behave well, feed them well, educate them, surround them with books & conversation, teach them to read early... You could call those parents "intelligent", though not all of them would do well in an IQ test, and not all of them are rich. But they are successful as parents. You can account for all the strengths of the children by evaluating their environment.

And of course wealthy parents produce wealthy offspring by showering them with advantages: money, education, contacts, trust funds... Would you claim some genetic component there, too?

There are very clever & wealthy parents who are emotionally stunted, who produce damaged children, too - but sometimes those children survive amazingly in tact.

And not all successful parents have successful children, any more than failing parents have inevitably failing children, although there too the effects of environment can be huge and usually unfortunate.

Many of the twin studies used to justify the relationship between genetics & various forms of "success" have been debunked, by the way. They simply do not stand up to scrutiny.

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I've started reading "Black Rednecks and White Liberals" by Thomas Sowell and already give it a strong recommend. Defenders of the idea of genetic low IQ in black people and/or of the idea that all of the woes of black people are due to slavery and racism will hate this book (views from opposing groups).


A quote, "In short, some kinds of cultures tend to produce lower mental test scores, whether the people in those cultures are black or white,American or European. As someone has aptly said:“The tests are not unfair. Life is unfair and the tests measure the results.” No one chooses which culture to be born into or can be blamed for how that culture evolved in centuries past."

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If you're going to take this seriously, then you have to consider that epigenetics complicates the picture. Because we're learning that acquired traits can be, and are, passed on. But this point remains clear in the murkiness: this thing where white people try to justify slavery because Black people are just stupid--but so strong and fast!--bc genetics, is just plain idiotic. It's looking at things through the wrong end of the telescope: you cannot apply data points to individual humans. It's disingenuous as hell. Not worthy of serious consideration.

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Genetics is far from idiotic, it's popular conceptions of genetics as absolutely deterministic that are idiotic. Yes genetics works better statistically than on individuals but it still predicts with accuracy. An extra chromosome 23 predicts subnormal intelligence with superb accuracy.

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But that's an extreme example, an anomaly.

In general it is not possible to determine any aspect of someone's character from their genetic profile, unless they have a specific abnormality like the one you cite.

It is not generally possible to distinguish between the effects of genetic factors, the progress of development in the womb (eg exposure to hormones) and experiences during & after birth when examining behaviour or intellectual performance.

The brain is so plastic, the initial genetic pattern is barely visible in the adult, unless, as you say, there is a significant abnormality. Add to that the way that genes are switched on & off even in the living animal, and you have a perfect storm of data.

The genetic inheritance of a normal individual cannot be in any way used to predict their intellectual or emotional behaviour.

And that is demonstrated in the way that the variance in the results of tests of mental characteristics within groups that can be determined genetically (gender, eye colour) is much bigger than the variance between such groups.

I omit race from that statement because race can't be determined genetically - there has been way too much mixing over the centuries. And that, in itself, suggests strongly that anyone thinking there is a link between race & intelligence "because of genetics" is not - shall we say politely - quite a full pound; or that they have an agenda that has nothing to do with science.

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There is no specific addiction gene but there are genetic variations that can confidently predict a tendency for addiction. Is a tendency for addiction an emotional behavior?

If you remain here for much time, you'll notice that I often mention ratios. Often with an accompanying, "And I don't know what that ratio is in individual instances or as a generality." The influence ratios of genetics, environment and nurture are a frequent topic of debate. I am not one to completely dismiss any of them. People generally have no issue with genetic influence until it touches a 3rd rail issue like intelligence. Another ratio appears; how many are looking at the technical merits of the issue and how many don't like a possible resultant conclusion. History shows that the idea has led to some awful things and "where does this lead/what is the objective" is an influencer with me. There is too much that is unknown for me to argue the amount of influence under various situations.

Recently an eye surgeon discussing a spot on my wife's eye said that if she was white, she would be more concerned about it being cancer but because she is highly melanated it is more likely to be melanosis than malignant. More likely was not the only decision point and she had a biopsy. Melanosis.

As a retired test engineer my bias is toward the idea that testing does tell you something although I can tell you about things with more precision than people.

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"There is no specific addiction gene but there are genetic variations that can confidently predict a tendency for addiction."

Well there is definitely a genetic component to alcoholism. I won't speak for other addictions,, which can be based on intermittent reward more than on substances, but the evidence for alcoholism being genetic is very strong. For one thing it is attenuated over time (millennia); Chinese have had alcohol longer than anyone and you won't see a lot of Chinese in drunk tanks. Alcoholics tend to have fewer children and so pass on the genes less.

In those societies most recently introduced to alcohol like native Americans it can be so bad that the stuff is banned in some places, with a majority of adults who have tried it end up being hooked.

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In a conversation with a coworker who is Navajo I asked why the Navajo didn't open casinos like the other tribes to bring in money. His reply was, "We already have alcohol and drug addiction. Should we add gambling addiction to our misery?" Just one man's opinion but he clearly saw a generalized tendency for addiction in his tribe. But he could have been speaking from stated views of tribal leadership too.

What you wrote is a strong case for alcoholism being specific to alcohol, neither affirming nor denying a generalized tendency for addiction in general.

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The people I've been chatting to would say "drugs & alcohol" too. It's not surprising when you think about what their families have been through, and how badly they still get treated sometimes. The Navajo rez has terrible problems with the mess left behind from uranium mining, from what I've been told.

The Standing Rock Sioux are trying to replace their casino income with wind generation - they got good funding for it after the occupation in 2016/17, and North Dakota has a lot of wind to spare. The casino is a good employer there, though, & I didn't hear much about the tribe itself having a gambling problem - they mostly take cash off the townspeople.

Interesting what you can pick up if you're willing to chat with people!

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It's widely accepted that there are many illnesses that are made more likely by minor genetic variations, and that alcoholism in particular has a genetic component in some cases, although isolating specific genes is difficult so it may still turn out that it's the product of either nurture or some specifically epigenetic changes.

The indigenous Americans and Australians I have spoken to - some of whom are recovering alcoholics and some are well-respected therapists - say that the problems with drugs & alcohol in indigenous communities are to do with cultural stress & inherited trauma which is again thought to be an epigenetic phenomenon. When parents & grand parents were stolen as children & placed in residential schools where they were abused, starved, beaten for speaking their own language and isolated from their parents, it's not surprising that there are problems in many families with parenting style and skills. They are finding that encouraging people to re-learn their culture is a great help, and they are developing successful treatments for both addiction and PTSD that are a good cultural fit with indigenous beliefs.

Some tribes are trying prohibition but this is generally no more successful than it was in the 20's.

In the early days of colonisation, indigenous societies had no cultural patterns available to them to deal with booze, when the settlers had had centuries to develop coping strategies - almost like the European diseases for which indigenous people had no antibodies.

The Chinese, equally, have been exposed to alcohol for centuries - although they did experience serious problems when the British introduced opium for the first time.

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Most therapists these days regard addiction as an illness rather than a behaviour, but I'm not saying there aren't tendencies - particularly to illness & sometimes even mental illness - that relate to genetics.

But the big general stuff, like "intelligence"? Far too complex to tie to any gene, or even a bunch of genes. Most people who spout off about it can't even define what they mean by it, in any rational sense. Environment, upbringing, what your grandma ate & how much practice you've had at intelligence tests all strongly affect the outcomes, even when the test was designed by someone who comes from the same cultural background as you.

I'm all for applying a battery of aptitude tests to see who might do well with the chance to train for a job, as long as the tests are broadly related to the job, and there are a wide enough range of tests to give the employer some sort of general picture. Your example of the military using a battery of aptitude tests is a good example - and even then half the people who passed the tests didn't make it through the training. But I do wonder if some of the people who failed the tests would have done better? Did they waste some good applicants? Testing is tricky stuff when you're dealing with people.

There are companies (and worse, schools) that use a "general intelligence test" to evaluate people & that's just silly. I did one for IBM many years ago, got offered the job but turned it down because I didn't want to work with the kind of person who thought those tests were fair. They were clearly so biased, I lost interest. Happy days when you could afford to turn down a job!

The trouble with testing people's psychology is that often it tells you more about the people who designed the test than the people taking it. Medical tests are different, as are the sort of tests you can do on a newly designed widget.

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The culling process that I mentioned was not necessarily about eliminating people who were unsuited to the field. The tests were curved, and each question was weighted by its history. If I missed a question considered to be harder (more people historically got it wrong) than someone missing an easier question resulted in me acing the test and the other person getting a 99. The people scoring at the bottom were culled, though it was a bit like ranking the Apostles. The people who were culled might have been capable, but the objective was a heartless best attempt to find the "most" capable.

The psychology part was (I think) pertaining to suitability for combat. Most of the military people who went to Vietnam (my war) never fired their rifle. Many of those people were subject to incoming fire and were wounded or killed even though they were not active combatants. You didn't want somebody who was likely to have a cold rifle barrel at the end of contact because he was laying low. Laying low during a mortar attack and during a small arms firefight are different in that one is logical, the other is a hazard to your comrades. Psychology probably has some validity as a predictor, some.

While I would never argue that tests are flawless or without any bias, there are times when they are appropriate when they are the best that we can do.

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People who can design THAT level of testing get my complete admiration - and probably had experience on the front line as well as book learning. Marking those tests was as difficult as designing them, too - they had to be the result of a lot of iterations of adjustment, re-testing the test & checking what happened in reality.

But that's a test for a very specific situation. General intelligence tests have to be more, well, general. And it's so much harder to evaluate how accurate they are - there's no validation tests that can be guaranteed to be correct and objective, whereas your military test had one very specific and very objective deciding factor: were the guys who passed able to operate under fire?

There's a big difference between using psychological testing in such a very specific situation with such a specific success criterion, & using data from thousands of tests to make grand statements about whole populations.

When you do that, you can make reasonable claims about the statistics you generate, but you need to know the background of how the tests were carried out in some detail to evaluate their real value. I've seen many examples of "standardised" tests that could easily be misinterpreted, and seen papers showing that people who had practiced those tests & been given detailed feedback about their results were able to improve their scores significantly. In those circumstances, well-prepared candidates are going to appear more intelligent and the results are going to be completely unreliable but still have the veneer of respectable science.

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Thanks for articulating more fully what I intended in my comment.

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Some people need stuff spelled out for them in detail...

Didn't mean to step in but it was related to another conversation I was involved in!

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