It’s proved itself over the past 113 years

Friday, December 28th, 2018

Because Taleb has a much higher IQ than Steve Sailer has, the only way Sailer can win an argument with him is by being right:

It’s almost as if the IQ glass is somehow both half empty and half full at the same time…

This doesn’t mean that IQ is a perfect measure above criticism, just that in an imperfect world, it’s proved itself over the past 113 years as one of the social sciences’ enduring accomplishments.


  1. Kirk says:

    We’ve been over this ground, before. IQ as we have conceived it, is a really inadequate concept to describe and discuss that chimerical idea, “intelligence”.

    We call it intelligence, and give it a “quotient”, as though you can even enumerate the idea. The reality is that we’re really just measuring someone’s ability to do well on a relatively abstract test, which has some correlation with how well they can do in academics and other human-created environments, the more abstract, the better.

    The use of “IQ” and the testing of it is something that I suspect will be looking back at, in future years, as akin to the mania for phrenology and measurement of human features as proxies for those virtues the old timers valued. I don’t think it’s going to last the test of time.

    The questions that should be started with, and asked more clearly, would be “Just what the hell is this quality we’re calling “intelligence”…?”. Is it the ability to swiftly work through highly abstract testing regimes? Is it the ability to solve problems? Deal with people? Get things done? What, exactly, is it?

    I’ve met people who did really well on all the various and sundry tests, but who were completely useless out in the real world, where they had to think on their feet, deal with humans, and cope with constantly shifting circumstances. The guys and girls who could cope, and who somehow managed to outperform all the certified “smart people”, well… A lot of the time, they didn’t do so well on the tests.

    In truth, the quality of “intelligence” isn’t something we’ve defined well, or even comprehensively. We would do a lot better to frame it as “So-and-so did really well on the standardized tests…”, rather than “So-and-so is really smart! He has a high IQ!”.

    Because testing the abstract quite simply does not necessarily translate into knowing how that individual will do, out in the real world.

  2. Lucklucky says:

    Just agree with Kirk. Quality and span and time of intelligence. For example, what is the IQ if instead of one day to fix an issue you have one hour?

  3. Lucklucky says:

    For example, in military history it is known that there are commanders that are outstanding at battalion level but mediocre at higher level, others brilliant divisional commanders that when they get to army level do not grasp what matters at that level. Others are outstanding at staff level but completely unable to command any unit.

  4. Jim says:

    Kirk, IQ is not a perfect predictor of, say, academic success or job performance, but it is superior to any other quantitative predictor. It also clearly has a strong heritable component. It is measuring a real and highly heritable human ability. It doesn’t matter whether it is “really” intelligence or not. It is a very important human ability.

    I agree that other behavioral characteristics may affect success also, but IQ is important in almost all fields. The Armed Forces Qualification test is essentially an IQ test. The US military has found that recruits with IQ below a certain level are not worth attempting to train.

    Linda Gottfredson has extensively studied job occupation and IQ. Her large samples of individuals indicate that very few engineers, doctors, or lawyers have IQ’s below 115, which is about one standard deviation above the US average.

  5. Kirk says:

    Keep patting yourself on the back, Jim. I’m here to tell you that I worked extensively with that whole “AFQT” thing as a leader in the Army, and from that experience I can assure you that test scores emphatically do not equate to real-world performance. Some of the most suicidally stupid behavior and “problem solving” I had to deal with all came from people who’d done really, really well on their tests.

    Meanwhile, the guys who didn’t do well on them? Yeah, a lot of them actually were demonstrably “stupid”, but there were enough who weren’t that I learned the hard way not to rely on ASVAB scores in order to assess people’s potential performance.

    In the mass, you can infer a lot of stuff from IQ test scores–But, where it falls down is when you try to apply it to real people in real situations. The abstract reasoning that the IQ test rewards only works in precise circumstances, most of which are actually entirely artificial. You put those abstract thinkers into situations where they have to “think on their feet”, and a lot of the time, they simply cannot perform as well as they’re predicted to. Meanwhile, Joe, the test-dummy, is doing quite well, and managing to outperform your putative geniuses.

    I’m not saying that IQ tests are invalid; what I’m saying is that they are inadequate, and not actually assessing much in the way of a valid definition of intelligence.

    A lot of the problems we have in modern life stem from this insane idea that the “expert” person, who is validated by their IQ test and educational credentials, is in any way worth listening to. I can think of a round dozen companies I know of where the MBA “outside experts” who were brought in completely broke functional businesses that were put together by uneducated and uncredentialed people that somehow managed to build and run them quite successfully, in the absence of “expertise”.

    The cult of credentialism starts with the idea that the IQ test actually means more than an ability to do well on an abstract test. We would do well to abandon the entire concept, and try to find something that actually works as a proxy for real-world performance–Because the paper-chase credentialism we’ve self-inflicted on ourselves is going to be the death of our civilization.

  6. Kirk says:

    “This doesn’t mean that IQ is a perfect measure above criticism, just that in an imperfect world, it’s proved itself over the past 113 years as one of the social sciences’ enduring accomplishments.”

    This paragraph, right here? This is a clear case of someone who has pretty much eaten the dog food, drank the Kool-Aid, and completely bought ever bit of the bullshit they were sold.

    The problem with that paragraph is that there is no evidence whatsoever that there are any real “enduring accomplishments”. Look around you: The evidence for all this supposed “accomplishment” is… Where, precisely?

    Everywhere I look, I see an intellectual ecosystem in shambles. These idiot savant “certified geniuses” that we’ve used IQ tests to select, and then put in charge of everything? What the hell good have they done? Where’s the benefit? The “meritocracy” we’ve set up, with these abstract academic tests? What, precisely, have they accomplished…?

    Education system is destroyed, essentially. They’ve been running it since Dewey, and what have we got now? A shambolic system that produces dunces, and ohbytheway, the scores on the IQ tests themselves are demonstrably dropping. Why, do you suppose, that might be? Could it be all these genius meritocratic types who’ve been running the system, following every single self-invented educational fad for the last century or so, and who’ve signally failed to actually, y’know… Educate the children?

    People keep telling me how wonderful all this crap is, but I look at it closely, and I’m afraid I’ve got to be that little boy telling y’all that the Emperor is wandering around stark naked.

    There’s enough dysfunction in the system that I think it’s blindingly obvious that we’ve gotten something fundamentally wrong–And, I think it starts with this whole phrenology of the mind we call the “IQ Test”. I’ve been to MENSA meetings, taken the tests myself, and while I’ve done pretty well on them, when I met the people at those meetings…? LOL… Intelligent? Nope. Most of those idiot-savants couldn’t fix a doorknob that didn’t work, but they were oh-so-exquisitely educated. Refined thought? Sure; day-to-day practicalities? Not a fucking bit.

    We keep getting plans in from a particular architectural firm; they have clients that want gigantic cathedral ceilings in their “Great Rooms”, in order to take in the mountain views. Here’s the ‘effing problem, though… They keep leaving out the little details like “Where are the cold air returns supposed to go…”. Literally “Left the ‘eff out”–We ask the question of where we’re supposed to be putting the ventilation in for the HVAC, and the reply is “Well, that’s the contractor’s problem… It just can’t be noticeable…”. WTF? Are we magic, or something? These are college-educated architects, who get tens of thousands of dollars to design these custom homes, and they’re unable to grasp that they have to design around the mechanical systems that make a home work. Somehow, they have the idea that whatever they design will work, and that the whole question of routing HVAC and other systems is simply a minor problem for the contractor to figure out. Couple of times, these idiots have done stuff that literally ended the project, because by the time we got back the bidding on the HVAC systems, it was completely unaffordable to actually move forward with construction… But, oh my, the design won an award!!

    All I can say, looking around at the world these people have “managed” and built for the rest of us? A pox on their houses, and their prideful arrogance about their supposed “intelligence”. From the evidence, I think what we’ve actually managed to do is put low-grade autists into positions where they can do the most damage possible to society, enabled by a bunch of sociopaths who’re basically co-conspirators.

    I really do not buy into this whole “worship of the IQ”, despite the fact (or, maybe because of…) I do really well on these tests, myself. The ability to score highly on a test is only a fraction of the answer to the question of “Is this person someone I should listen to, or even pay attention to…?”. All too often, a really high IQ score just means that when you do watch or pay attention to the person who attained that score, you’re gonna see some highly entertaining pratfalls.

    It’s like the whole fascination with celebrity; why on God’s green earth do I give a flying f**k what some dipshit actor thinks about anything? What qualifications does Sean Penn have that would make his opinion about what was going on in Venezuela at all worth listening to…? Has anything that moron said about the situation there proven true, in the years since he first opened his mouth on the issue?

    Look around you: We live in the world these self-proclaimed “geniuses” have built. Do you like it? Do you see actual positive results, from trusting the word of this meritocratic “elite”, selected from those who do well on tests…?

    Shit’s broken, yo. Pay attention, and start asking questions about performance, and whether or not the results of all these things are actually worthwhile. The “technocratic elite” has given us all sorts of wonderful things, but along with it, the price we’ve paid…? The things they’ve broken, trying to “improve” things? Is the juice really worth the squeeze?

  7. Graham says:

    Well, that certainly made me feel better about this:

    Why the SJWs are already winning and disgruntled liberals have lost the plot.

    I am entirely convinced. I found it more interesting as an example of how one cannot argue with an SJW on his own terms, or indeed argue at all out of the all-embracing linguistic framework they have built.

    More in line with Kirk’s thought, I commented on an earlier thread about how the culture has been reshaped to served and reflect a certain neurotype. Among other things, they are fascinated with stories of elite education- Harry Potter as a cultural archetype, but it appears in other franchises. It is as though the mindset of the 19th century English public schoolboy has been reflected in that of the 21st century young intelligentsia.

    It’s not unlike the same culture’s mindset I alluded to on yet another recent thread- intellectual superiority married to the faux spirit of adventure married to the idea of elite competition in closed settings.

    It’s as though Harvard Law is the 21st century Starfleet Academy, the drier version of Hogwarts, or a [more] progressive Rugby School.

  8. Kirk says:


    And, again, what has this “cognitive elite” got to show the rest of us, that would justify and validate their superior sense of their performance?

    I hear these types constantly decry the “anti-intellectualism” of the American public, but from what I can observe from here is a set of performance metrics that should make them grateful that they haven’t all been strung up by their heels like so many tin-pot Mussolini wannabe dictators whose frauds finally catch up to them.

    There is going to be a reckoning for all of this, and when it comes…? Ooooh boy…

  9. Graham says:

    The SJWs will probably point out Mussolini would be on my side of the argument, not theirs. There’s a case to be made against that given a thorough review of the man, his background, his ideology and his backers, but at this point I’d be more prepared than some to accept it.

    I think of the SJWs more as Star Trek’s Borg, if you know the reference. Maybe a little more cheerful, like the Federation. Still annoying.

    Apropos of all that, a few years ago someone wrote a young adult Star Wars novel that used every SJW/overclass/prog trope imaginable to good effect.

    Two young humans from the same world, one boy from the upper class more recent colonists a few centuries ago, one girl from the lower class older colonists who arrived millennia ago. They are aware of each other on the homeworld and part of its social tensions.

    Both get recruited to the Imperial Academy. THey embrace it to varying degrees. It is, as imagined, space Hogwarts or some other Starfleet Academy analogue. Hijinks ensue.

    The girl takes to it better, or course. Space Hermione. She spends much time assimilating a repeating what she is taught about the meaning of her new life, the importance of letting go of the petty identities of her homeworld, embracing a larger identity, larger goals, larger virtues, progress, the future, unity, harmony. It’s all resonant of our own world.

    It’s fun to always remember that the thing she is being raised to embrace is the Empire.

  10. Kirk says:

    A striking thing about all of this is just how much of the BS is framed as “story” or “narrative”, and then embedded into the culture via those means.

    What is Hogwarts but a justification for things like Oxford, Harvard, and the French École Polytechnique mentality? Start the kiddies off young, and they’ll believe that the “magic letter” they get from these institutions in later life is not only justified, but actually meaningful. It’s all a part of the vast tissues of lies and misfeasance that the so-called “intellectual classes” have been foisting off on the rest of us for the last few generations.

    When the blinders finally come off, and we start looking at the actual performance these vaunted “smart people” have managed, there’s going to be a wave of real, live “anti-intellectualism” that will make the Chinese Cultural Revolution look tame–And, they’ll deserve every bit of the resulting nastiness. The intellectual class in Europe and the United States has hated the majority for years, mostly because that majority does not automatically defer to them, and make them the kings of all. They’ve tried, and to a degree, managed to get to a point where they’ve actually got power in society, but the problem is, they keep screwing it up by the numbers. Wilson? LOL… Marx? Sad jokes; nothing either of those two managed actually works, and the damage that they’ve done, when totted up? The number of human lives lost to the Marxist delusion and grandiose irrationalities of Wilson’s peculiar beliefs is staggering, and yet the people who promulgate and pass on those beliefs in our educational systems are yet to be held accountable. The teaching of Marxism as anything other than a cautionary tale ought rightly to be a capital offense, and I believe that one day, it will be. When the contradictions of it all become clear, then the whole mess will inevitably cave in, to be replaced by some other form of irrationality.

    I am developing a very low opinion of other human beings, the longer I live. Y’all, in general, are a bunch of ‘effing idiots that keep running back into a burning barn, repeating the same set of self-evident mistakes over and over and over again…

  11. Graham says:


    I’m now stuck on a small phone (was earlier on a desktop per usual), so i’ll now only note I sympathize, though i’d put in a note of defense for higher ed to some degree. At least as I knew it.

    I had a note to self to go through recent Isegoria again maybe tomorrow so i’ll think some more then. Again wishing I could track comments on here. Ah well.

    Right now standing in snow waiting for a cab taking me to a new year party from 9-12+.

    Happy new year to you, our host and all who here post!

  12. Jim says:

    Kirk – I think the fallacy in your approach is yes once who select a group of people based on a particular characteristic such as IQ you may find that there is still a lot of variance in their performance dependent on other factors. Thus nearly all doctors or engineers have IQ’s more than a standard deviation above the US general population. Since they are all pretty bright the differences in their performance may often reflect other personality characteristics. You then conclude that IQ doesn’t matter for becoming a competent doctor or engineer. But only people with fairly high IQ’s can become doctors or lawyers whatever their other personality traits may be.

    Only about 5% of the world’s population have IQ’s above 115. So in much of the world there simply isn’t the human capital available for a first world economy.

    The ethnic group with the highest measured IQ are Ashkenazi Jews. Not only do Ashkenazi Jews have an astonishing record in high intellectual achievement but they do very well in practical affairs. Look up how many of the CEO’s of Fortune 500 companies are Ashkenazi Jews.

    Compare the military performance of Israel with that of it’s much larger Arab neighbors to get an appreciation of the advantages of a higher IQ population.

  13. Jim says:

    Kirk – Given the recent advances in uncovering the genetics of IQ it will soon be feasible for employers to get good estimates of the IQ’s of potential employees solely from data on their genotype without bothering at all with educational credentials.

    By the way it will also be possible to get a good idea of potential employee’s other behavioral characteristics from knowledge of their DNA since most such characteristics are subject to substantial genetic influence. So they will be able to tell a smart but lazy person from a not quite so smart but highly ambitious person.

  14. Kirk says:

    Jim, you are missing the point that I’m making, here: The observed facts are that the criteria for doing well on an IQ test are not the whole picture; there’s a huge difference between the autistic savant who can score highly on assessments, and the guy who can actually… Produce.

    Isambard Brunel would be someone I’d consider an actual genius; the clods who designed that pedestrian bridge down in Miami…? Not so much. Yet, the clods in Miami had tons of qualificatiions, great credentials, and a host of educational attainments. Not to mention, nearly 200 years of refinement in the realm of engineering. Yet, many of Brunel’s constructions still stand, and theirs didn’t. What does this tell us about the value of our current credentialing system? Because, that’s what it is; the possession of certifications doesn’t make it certain that the practitioner actually knows his business, and is competent. Hell, most of those idiots in Miami were certified Florida Professional Engineers, and they still committed mass stupidity that the average guy like me would never have done in their place. I’m sorry, but erecting a precast concrete bridge over a working roadway, before all the supports were in place…? Dude, that’s such compounded stupidity that it takes my breath away.

    And, they did it. Expecting it to work.

    Scoring well on a test that is a proxy does not mean you’ll do well, in real life. McLuhan once said something to the effect that the map is not the territory; we have a problem in that we’ve decided the map of a person’s intelligence is known, and that it accurately describes the territory of what it takes to function well in the real world. What I am saying is that the IQ test is not even a decent proxy for the “map of intelligence”, and that it’s a mistake to continue the metaphor into thinking that the territory is the map.

    I’ve known some astonishingly stupid people who do really well on tests; they get put into positions to commit mass stupidity because they did well on those tests, and everyone thinks “Oh, they’re smart… They’ll figure it out…”, when the reality is, they’re situational dunces and will not ever figure that fact out for themselves–Even after they’ve killed people.

    The IQ testing regime, and the so-called “meritocracy” that we’ve built up around it and all the other standardized academic tests are flatly not working. They function well enough that we can fool ourselves into thinking they mean something, but the reality is that they have warped our society far past recognition by our predecessors. I would rather have a not-so-smart guy with real wisdom about people and things making decisions than some “high-IQ” type that utterly lacks either wisdom or humility.

    The era of the technocrat is an era of failure; this crap is simply not working. Every one of the vaunted “solutions” these jackasses have come up with since Wilson’s era has blown up in our faces, and what’s worse is that we keep doubling down on the stupid. A dumbass like me? I might try whole language as a teaching technique, but I’m wise enough to recognize reality when the results don’t match expectations, and then revert to what does work. Our “betters”? LOL… They’re still beating that dead horse, hoping that they’ll somehow get it right, and meanwhile? We’re graduating more and more kids who’re totally unequipped to navigate the modern world, simply because they aren’t able to read well enough to grasp simple instructions.

    The point that I’m making isn’t that the people we’re selecting and training for these positions are not intelligent; what I’m trying to suggest is that we’re selecting for the wrong criterion: We need wisdom, and we’re selecting for autistic geniuses who utterly lack that virtue.

  15. Kirk says:


    I meant to say something about your post projecting genetic analysis becoming reliable and capable enough to replace the current regime of IQ testing and academics. I might be wrong, but I don’t think that is going to ever happen.

    Firstly, genes are only a part of the story. If they were all that there is to it, then the children of geniuses would be far more likely to exhibit evidence of genius on into the second and third generation after the lightning struck. So, genetics as a basis for evaluating and predicting performance…? Nope. Genes are not predestination; they are, at best, predisposition. Whatever it is that makes for a Benjamin Franklin, you don’t get that automatically passed on to the next generation.

    The other thing that this whole “engineer/select a better human” thing is missing is the fact that whatever the hell makes for that quality of humanity which we term “intelligence”, it’s spread chaotically across the entirety of the human genome. It’s not like there’s a rheostat in there, that you can turn up and down to get smarter people. More than likely, it’s like domestication in animals (and, humans, likely…) where there are sets of traits that get modified right along with the things you’re reaching for–And, the nature of intelligence is so highly variable that there are likely to be dozens of places where genes can be observed to have effect.

    Like eugenics, I don’t see genetic sorting of any kind really working–All you’re going to accomplish is throwing a thin veneer of sciencism over the whole thing, and the end result is going to look like the current regime, with a bunch of functional idiots running things.

    I have to tell you that I’m losing faith in the entire proposition our society is based on, which is that the properly anointed ones are the ones who ought to be in charge. You do well on the tests, get into the right schools, do the right jobs, and you’re suddenly credible and worth listening to. Performance isn’t even looked at, in most cases. And, that’s a huge damn problem–Look at Trump, for an example. Here’s a guy who nobody likes, including myself. He’s a bombastic loudmouth whose personality grates like fingernails on a chalkboard, and yet… Look at the actual performance metrics of what he’s accomplished since taking office. The orange bastard has kept far more of his campaign promises than any politician in my memory, and he’s done a lot to fix things in the government and get the economy moving again. So… How do you think he compares to the smarmy “system” man, Obama? Who, in the end, is a man who did all the proper rubbing of blue mud into his navel, and yet… Was about as ‘effing competent as a lobotomized house fly at getting things done. He essentially destroyed the Democratic Party, and turned it into the party of liberal billionaires.

    The idea that we’re going to be able to find people and select them via either testing or examination of their genetic codes is sheer idiocy. I don’t care what their genes look like, or what they can do on a test: I want to know what they can actually accomplish in the real world, and the only way to do that is by evaluating their real-world performance and then basing your decisions on that.

    I can think of a lot of parallels in real life. There have been innumerable occasions where I’ve run into solutions to problems that were counter-intuitive and just plain ugly; but… They worked. That’s the metric which we ought to be going for: Does it work? Is this “genius” actually that smart? Does what they say work?

    You want a classic example of the way modern society is set up, go look at the history of Elizabeth Holmes and Theranos. She sure tested well, didn’t she? But, real-world performance was lacking, and instead of everyone looking at her ludicrous claims from the beginning and going “Oh. OK, that’s a set of extraordinary claims… Let’s see some extraordinary proof, eh?”, they went “Oh, she’s pretty, she talks a good game, and she did really well on her tests in school… Let’s give her billions.”.

    That example right there is why this path of relying on tests or genetic prognostication is a bad one. Look to performance and track record, not some BS crap that’s barely more reliable than phrenology.

  16. L. C. Rees says:

    The Habsburgs ran a selective breeding program for hundreds of years. Their accomplishments were thin on the ground, unless you count producing stock with oversized chins as an accomplishment. But that’s more appropriate for a kennel club than a measure of human progress.

    bella gerant alii, tu felix Austria nube.

  17. Kirk says:

    The problem with eugenics and all the other supposed “human breeding programs” is that the idiots doing it were going at it the same way that the American Kennel Club has ruined breed after breed of dog–Breeding for “Conformation”. You go for looks alone, and you’re going to get some rather spectacularly bad results in other areas, like behavior and intelligence.

    On the other hand, the long-term breeding programs that have been going on for generations and run by the informal sort of people that had to actually, y’know… Use the products of said program? Those are fairly successful, because they make decisions about things based on observed performance, and the hell with the looks of things. Examine what the results are for various working breeds like the Border Collie and the Pyrenees/Maremma/Akbash breed complex, and then tell me that it’s not possible to breed for specific personality and behavioral complexes. Some of these longer-term dog breeding programs aren’t too far removed from multi-generational computer programming, when you get down to it–The behavioral traits are that complex and that deeply embedded. The Pyrenees I’ve known over the years have a continuity of personality and behavior that’s hard to miss, when you know it.

    So, it is possible. It’s just that nobody has taken the right approach to it all, and the fact that we don’t have the ability to do the long-term behavioral observations and then be able to go back and decide who is worth breeding from…? Yeah; that’s the problem. With dogs, the lifespans are short enough that you can do it; with people? Not for us. Maybe someday, though.

    Personally, I suspect that there are a bunch of things coming along that will eventually make something like eugenics actually work, but the question is, who’s going to run the programs, and who is going to decide what the criteria are going to be?

    You’re not likely to get much good effect out of attempting genetic engineering at this point; our knowledge simply isn’t deep enough. As well, the number of side effects you’re going to get, by making modifications in order to try to enhance intelligence? LOL… The genome is a mess; there’s no telling what else you’re going to have happen, when you do that. Just like with domestication–You select for specific features like “likes people”, and you get a bunch of other strangenesses like dappled coats of fur and the like. Making mods for intelligence won’t be any different, and I suspect that the things that make humans human are sufficiently fragile and kludged up that any attempt at engineering intelligence is going to result in some very damaged results…

  18. Lucklucky says:

    We also should keep in mind that any reliable measure of “intelligence” gets more difficult as we specialize.
    And how much specialization affects intelligence.

    “Compare the military performance of Israel with that of it’s much larger Arab neighbors to get an appreciation of the advantages of a higher IQ population.”

    I can’t say that is due to IQ. I think the cultural framework matters much more. Now we of course could argue the existing cultural framework is result of intelligence.

  19. Kirk says:


    I’d have to agree that the Arab issue with putting together a decent modern army is more cultural than an issue of “intelligence”. Well, culture and its effects, namely the prevalence of cousin marriage and the attendant in-breeding… Which does tend to manifest in lower general intelligence, I’ll grant.

    But, it’s all of a piece; the Arab military dysfunction stems from a general cultural dysfunction that is another one of those “Which came first–The chicken or the egg…?” questions. Are the roots in the religious/cultural matrix, or the genes and the in-breeding?

    Arabs are capable of being fairly good soldiers; the Jordanian military that grew out of the Arab Legion is a pretty professional force that somehow does not have all the vices of your typical mob of armed Arabs, so I’m not willing to say that the Arabs aren’t capable of being good at modern war. As individuals, sure… Systemically, as a general culture…? Not so much. The nature of most Arab cultures, in terms of them being low-trust and very class-conscious militates against it. There’s a guy who spent years training the Saudi Arabians, both the Army and their regime-protection force, the National Guard, and his briefings about Arabic military potential are illuminating. The majority of the problem is that the culture of the “yes-man” is ingrained so deeply that actual honest communication between the leaders and the led, which is critical to modern warfare and even peacetime operations with complex equipment, is basically not happening, and probably can’t happen, culturally. Not without considerable change, the nature of which is gonna be wrenching for the Arabs.

    The root problem is that the Arab culture is basically very poorly adapted to modern conditions, and while it may be optimal for desert nomads operating on the margins of civilization, the changes that come with the modern industrial world are just not something that they’re navigating at all well. I’d go on to speculate that they’re not going to make the adaptation to anything off-world, when the time comes. More than likely, they’re going to get left in the backwash, simply because they can’t make the leap to a high-trust and open society. You don’t know what a zero-defects mentality and culture is, until you’ve been around an Arab military. Absolutely nobody wants to be that guy who tells the boss the bad news, and because of it, when things go wrong, nothing effective gets done to correct it. There’s no feedback, no bottom-up information flow. The guys running things wind up without having any ground truth being shared with them, and from that, the whole shoddy edifice crumbles. It’s why they hire so many foreign nationals–Most of those people are there to serve as scapegoats, when things go wrong. The ritual firings that happen with contractors are illuminating–They tell their Arab bosses “Hey, we need to order X parts, and do Y maintenance…”, and when that doesn’t happen, then the sacrificial firings get started, ‘cos none of the local boys who are related to the King are gonna take the blame.

    While there are implications with regards to overall intelligence, the real problem is cultural dysfunction.

  20. Aretae says:

    I read Taleb’s line a bit ago. When i read it, I said to myself, “I’ll wait for Sailer’s response”.

    As expected, Sailer is accurate, smart, clear and correct.

    Surprisingly, it doesnt seem to me like he understood or responded to Taleb.

    Taleb’s line seems to me to read like: Because the many worlds interpretation of QM is true, flowers dont bloom in the spring.

    Sailer’s response is: Flowers do bloom in the spring.

    But Taleb isnt talking about flowers. He’s talking about his own personal QM interpretation, the applicability of statistics to life.

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