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Monday, September 15, 2008

Social Status and Intelligence

I read an article that said, in high school, nerds typically don't try as hard at earning social status than their peers. They are busy learning things, instead of trying for social status.

If you assume "coolness" has a bell curve distribution, then the nerds are near the low end of the bell curve. However, the super-cool children aren't the ones who pick on the nerds; they just ignore them. It's the children in the middle or slightly below average that pick on the people at the bottom. They're trying to raise their own status by abusing someone else. Suppose the nerds make up 1% of the population and the middle is 40% of the population. Only some of that 40% is looking for someone to abuse, but the only tempting target is the bottom 1%. From the point of view of the bottom 1%, they get abused disproportionately way too often.

However, what if the explanation is backwards? By statistical randomness, *SOMEONE* is going to be in the bottom 1%. Rather than playing a game they can't win, the bottom 1% look elsewhere. They can't be at the top in terms of social status, but they can be the best at computers or Math.

The people at the bottom are trying to figure out "Why am I at the bottom?" In other words, the very act of being on the low end of the abuse scale, RAISES YOUR INTELLIGENCE. You're trying to figure out what's going on, so your intelligence increases to compensate. It's like a blind person developing a better sense of smell.

With most animals, the bottom 1%-25% die. Their parents neglect them or they can't get food. In humans, everyone typically survives, EVEN THE BOTTOM 1%. This bottom 1% turns out to be useful, because they develop intelligence that lets them build and invent things. However, accustomed to being on the bottom, they promptly let other people steal what they build.

This is a very interesting theory. Are the smartest people near the bottom of the social scale because other people abuse them for being smart/different? Or, does the very act of being near the bottom of the social scale cause someone to get smarter when they try to figure out what's happening?


Klava said...

Easy answer. Nerds aren't smart at all. In fact they are so dumb, that they perceive their ability to understand machines as smartness.

They don't even realize that everything else is much much more complicated. Human-created rigid world of machines, is the most complicated thing they will ever able to get (with help of a manual).

Being on top of social order, takes much more complicated mind, the real rules are never spoken, and they change every second, and there are no manuals.

Frequently, very smart and successful people will appear helpless with machines. There are two reasons for that:

1. They aren't used to the rectangular world of machines, without subtle clues, where they can only use the knowledge, not intelligence.

2. There is no motivation to learn the machine for anyone smart. There are plenty of "machine controllers" that can be had easily, and made to deal with machines for cheap.

Mike Gogulski said...

I just struck everyone named "Klava" off my Christmas list.

Klava said...

That was a funny line, Mike.

But seriously, the last thing you should do is to allow yourself think you're smart. Obviously this is an even worse sin than refusing to look the truth in the eyes, even if it isn't in your favor.

I didn't want to offend anybody, I just pointed out what I've been shown, assuming that everyone here seeks for the truth above all.

Anonymous said...

Late comment - couldn't resist...

The idea that being one of the imperfect, oddball, bottom percentile individuals (iobpi's) gives one a special insight or intelligence (in part because they're aware of being iobpi's) is explored in the novel "brave new world." I also believe that the 19th century philosopher, Hegel, touches upon that notion when he asserts (I am paraphrasing here) that in the master-slave relationship, only the slave can truly view the world from the others perspective (the slave can see where both the master and slave are "coming from" whereas the master only knows where he or she is "coming from").

As to the response by Klava ...
1. Did you pass a Dale Carnegie course?
2. Did you ever play king of the hill as a child? (a limited analogy of being on top of the social order...or not) I don't so much recall the dazzling intellectual prowess of the "kings" but rather their use of simple brute force and intimidation. If Klava is instead referencing confidence artists (as an example of someone with unique insight into social relationships) then Klava is 100% wrong and 100% right. Con artists understand humans and humans are, in many ways, biological machines. There are even manuals albeit incomplete for now - textbooks on sociology, psychology, neurology, etc.

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