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Interesting interview with Bill Gates

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I enjoyed the below interview with Bill Gates by NY Times journalist Andrew Ross Sorkin.

The interview begins with Sorkin praising Gates as “the most consequential individual of our generation”. I wouldn’t go quite that far, but it was refreshing to see Gates fully accepting praise of that magnitude without even feigning humility.

Aside from the erratic hand gestures and awkward foot tapping (which may be involuntary ticks), Gates showed good social IQ. He got laughs from the audience when he said people at bars feel comfortable talking to him so “I try to stay away”. When mocking other billionaires’ obsession with space travel, Gates admitted he’s read a lot of sci fi, but “not as much as them”: Audience laughter.

It was also interesting the way a super high IQ billionaire like Gates looks down on investment billionaires for engaging in zero sum parasitic behavior. Just as in every day life, criminals tend to be less intelligent than productive citizens, it could be that even among the smartest billionaires, (i.e. those that made their wealth in math related fields), the most productive math billionaires are smarter than the psychopathic math billionaires.

Gates’s thinly veiled criticism of Elizabeth Warrens wealth tax was also interesting. Warren wants people to pay 2% a year on every dollar of net worth over $50 million and 6% a year on every dollar over $1 billion. According to Warren’s wealth tax calculator, Gates would have to pay $6.4 billion a year on his $107.4 billion fortune (as of today). That really adds up over the decades and if she wins the nomination, a lot of rich folks will go absolutely ballistic.

Defenders of the wealth tax insist the rich would still get richer because simply putting all your money in the S&P 500 increases wealth by 9.8% a year on average, but if it were that simple, why do so many rich people fall off the Forbes 400 every year? Indeed of the 400 richest Americans in 1982, only two still rank among the 400 richest today.

The fact is few billionaires are liquid enough to put most of their fortune in the S&P 500. Their fortunes are typically stocks in the companies they built and selling them would cause them to lose value.

It seems unfair to tax people just because they are rich. If there must be a wealth tax, Warren should tax people with a high ratio of wealth to lifetime taxes already paid. So someone who has only paid $100 k in cumulative taxes, yet has a net worth of $1 million should perhaps be forced to pay a wealth tax, but someone worth $1 billion who has already paid $500 million in taxes, should not.

Better yet, skip the wealth tax and simply increase the estate tax and capital gains taxes as Gates suggests.

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More data on Bill Gates’s social IQ

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For years this blog has has discussed Gates’s spectacular verbal and math IQ. But what about other parts of his intelligence?

Evidence of Gate’s social IQ can be gleaned from his performance at poker (a game involving bluffing and reading people). The late Paul Allen writes:

I spent more time with Bill at Currier House before his nightly Poker games with the local cardsharps. He was getting some costly lessons in bluffing; he’d win three hundred dollars one night and lose six hundred the next. As Bill dropped thousands that fall, he kept telling me, “I’m getting better”. I knew what he was thinking: I’m smarter than those guys.

From pages 71-72 of Idea Man by Paul Allen

Were the other players letting Gates win the first night so he would bet double the next night, or was he legitimately winning only half as often as he lost? Let’s assume the latter, in which case was likely a worse poker player than 2/3rds of the Harvard poker club.

On an abbreviated version of the WAIS-R, a sample of 86 Harvard students averaged IQ 128. Commenters Swank and pumpkinhead have argued this is an underestimate because the sample may not have been representative. On the other hand the WAIS-R norms were 25 years old, so the Flynn effect predicts IQ 128 would have been an overestimate. Error in both directions likely cancels each-other out, making 128 perhaps a plausible estimate.

Now if we assume Poker skill (like other measures of Theory of Mind) only correlates 0.43 with conventional measures of IQ, the Harvard poker club like averaged 28(0.43) + 100 = 112 in Poker IQ, and if Gates was worse than 2/3rds of them, his “Poker IQ” was likely only 107 (assuming similar practice, or assuming all had enough practice to reach diminishing returns).

So now we have two very rough estimates of Gates’s social IQ. “Fashion IQ” was 84 and “poker IQ” was 107. Both measures are of highly questionable validity, so unlikely correlate more than 0.5, thus a composite measure of his social IQ might be very crudely estimated at 95 which is extremely low compared to his his verbal and math IQ, but only slightly below the U.S. mean of 100.

Fashion as a proxy for social IQ: Best & worst dressed billionaires

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Commenter Philosopher often mocks Bill Gates and other math Geniuses for lacking social IQ, recently stating:

Whenever I see gates in that pink sweater for big interviews i laugh as well. It reminds me of Terry Tao wearing that jumper on Colbert’s show. These people are missing a part of their brain.

This got me thinking: Is our choice of clothing a measure of intelligence? At first glance it sounds silly, but the granddaddy of IQ testing himself, Alfred Binet, included aesthetic judgment on his test, famously asking children to pick the prettiest face from each of three pairs.

This requires the same aesthetic judgement as picking what clothes look best on you. An important part of social cognition.

In 2015 Gates ranked as the 13th worst dressed billionaire on the planet. Of the 562 U.S. billionaires, Gates was the 9th worst dressed. This implies he’s in the bottom 1.6% of billionaire fashion, or 2.13 standard deviations below the billionaire mean.

How aesthetically intelligent is the average billionaire. When it comes to conventional IQ, self-made billionaires recently averaged IQ 133 (U.S. norms), though this number continues to fall as billionaires become more common. Of course only 2/3rds of U.S. billionaires are self-made. Billionaires who inherited their wealth likely average an IQ of 115, given the 0.45 IQ correlation an individual has with his spouse or child. Thus all U.S. billionaires combined likely average IQ 127. Meanwhile, aesthetic judgement has a g loading of 0.6 (see table 6.14) so we might expect them to average 0.6(27) + 100 = 116 in fashion sense.

Thus Gates being 2.13 SD below the average billionaire fashion implies an aesthetic IQ of:

116 – 2.13(15) = 84.

Of course one shouldn’t take these numbers too serious. Gates’s poor dressing might simply reflect a lack of social motivation or a mind with more important things to consider. But if the number is corroborated by other evidence of social obtuseness (i.e. Gates’s distracting hand gestures), it may serve as important proxy.

By contrast in 2005, Oprah was ranked as the third best dressed billionaire on the planet, behind only fashion moguls Giorgio Armani and Ralph Lauren. She was the second best dressed in America.

In 2005 there were 341 billionaires in America so Oprah’s second place fashion put her near the top 0.5%, or 2.53 SD above the billionaire mean. This implies an aesthetic IQ of:

116 + 2.53(15) = 153.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not arguing Oprah’s overall IQ is higher than Gates’s. Overall Oprah is probably around 140 while Gates could be anywhere from 150 to 170.

But when it comes to abilities related to social IQ, Oprah’s off the charts, as even conservatives admit:

Test your social IQ

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Below is a Theory of Mind test used in actual autism research. The test consists of six scenarios, each of which is followed by a question or two. Please watch the video only once and as you do, write down the answer to the questions as quickly as you can. Post your answers in the comment section. I will not publish your answers to avoid compromising the test, but if you post a SEPARATE comment asking how you did, I will publish that, and respond to it with your score.

Each of the six items is scored on a scale of 2, 1 or 0, for a maximum score of 12.

A published study of 163 autistic adults who averaged normal Wechsler IQs found they averaged 9.1 on this test (SD = 2.4) while the non-autistic control group (n = 80) averaged 10.4 (SD = 1.5). This shows that when you control for IQ, people diagnosed with autism have an average social IQ of 87 and that a score of 9.1 on this test, equates to a social IQ of 100.

CBC radio explores the replication crisis in psychology & beyond

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As I was driving home from work tonight I managed to listen to a really great episode of Ideas on CBC radio. The show talked about how a study claiming psychic powers were real managed to get published in a reputable psychology journal because the results were statistically significant at the 95% confidence level.

This led to a crisis in the field and the realization that we can’t be 95% confident in the 95% confidence level because scientists cherry pick which way they’re going to analyze the data, so that 95% is a biased sample of what they’re trying to measure (a phenomenon known as p-hacking). Kind of reminds me of how people only report their highest ever score when telling their IQ.

It turns out that only about one third to one half of all psychological claims proven at the 95% confidence level can be replicated by independent researchers. In other words, there’s regression to the mean.

And it’s not just psychology but almost the entire field of science is afflicted by this replication crisis.

You can listen to the full episode here.

The scariest 3 seconds you will ever watch

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I’ve been saving this for Halloween night…

The following video is only 3 seconds long but utterly terrifying. It contains no violence, no dialogue, no gore and no blood. Simply a middle aged suburban man opening a refrigerator and smiling.

What’s so scary about that you might ask? Well imagine if that were your father, or your husband, or your son…

You’re sleeping underneath your covers in the middle of the night and he decides to go down to the kitchen to make a sandwich. But upon opening the fridge he suddenly smiles. Something in his declining middle aged brain has snapped. Is it early onset Alzheimer’s? A mid-life crisis? Demonic possession? Whatever it is, you’re no longer safe in that house.

This clip is from a new TV series called Evil. The show itself is not worth watching, but that commercial made my skin crawl. If I had seen it as a child I would not have been able to sleep for weeks.

I’ve been a horror fans since childhood and despite my love for the genre, I never found them all that scary. Often what scared me the most were the things that weren’t meant to be scary, like a commercial they used to run about Parkinson’s disease in which a middle aged suburban man with Parkinson’s could complete a jig-saw puzzle because his hand kept shaking until finally his young son holds his hand down so it can fit the pieces together. It was a metaphor for hope, but in my pre-school mind it was horrific.

Every night I would have vivid images of the parkison man wheeling himself out of my bedroom closet and shaking, shaking, shaking as he wheeled his way closer to me.

Perhaps my most traumatic experience came during a trip to Alberta to visit relatives. That day my father and/or my uncle mysteriously had his/their camera(s) stolen from the front of my uncle’s house in broad daylight. Well that’s odd, they though. Stuff like that just doesn’t happen in suburbia.

That night I was sleeping in an unfamiliar room and could have sworn I saw a woman standing in the closet. An older woman with red hair, who looked a lot like this.

She was smiling, as if to say “it was me, silly! I stole the camera(s)”.

I suddenly started screaming waking up the entire house, who raced to the room to see what the matter was.

“You just had a bad dream,” they told me.

But it seemed so real, and I spent a big chunk of my childhood being terrified of my bedroom closet.

Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer (1990)

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pumpkin person rating: 8/10

In the spirit of Halloween, I re-watched this movie a couple weekends ago. Neither Netflix, the Movie network, nor pay per view have enough selection for me, so I added Amazon Prime to boot and this film was prominently displayed in their horror section.

It’s a disturbing, well organized film based on real life serial killers Henry Lee Lucas and Otis Toole.

Psychiatrists reportedly found Toole to be be schizophrenic, psychopathic, and mentally retarded with IQ scores ranging from 54 (Trainable [moderate] Retardation) to 75 (Borderline Retardation). It’s hard to assign a single number, but assuming the lowest and highest score were from tests that correlate around 0.7, a composite IQ of 61 is implied (Educable [mild] Retardation).

Actually it’s likely his IQs was even lower because in those days people didn’t know about the Flynn effect inflating the scores of people tested using old norms.

Toole’s low IQ seems to be part of a larger pattern of neurological impairment. He was also epileptic and sexually aroused by fire and from his mug shot it seems he had asymmetrical features, suggesting genetic mutations or developmental insults..

Toole’s art therapist Dr. Joel Norris described Toole as “the lower end of the gene pool”. The genetic garbage of society. Indeed in the film his body is literally stuffed into a garbage bag.

Of course HBD deniers could argue his problems were cultural, not biological. Raised by a mother who dressed him up as a girl, a sister and male neighbor who raped him, and a grave robbing granny, the illiterate Toole drops out of school to become a prostitute and part-time transvestite. Toole’s horrific backstory is not shown in the film.

Toole would become close friends with Henry Lee Lucas, whose mother also made him wear a dress as a kid. With a much higher IQ of 87, Lucas is widely believed to have been the leader of their murder spree.

While the film never mentions IQ it does imply Lucas is the smarter of the two, warning Toole not to kill people he’s been seen with.

Although Lucas towers over Toole intellectually, both men are morons compared to a quick-witted overweight TV salesman who belittles them with biting sarcasm. Luckily the sarcasm flies above their heads, but when the high IQ salesman pushes his luck, he proves too clever by half.

Scene from Rob Zombie’s Halloween

With Halloween only a few days away, I though I’d share this scene from Rob Zombie’s Halloween.

Many people hated Zombie’s 2007 remake of the 1978 classic because it turned Michael Myers from a middle class kid to white trash. They also felt Zombie’s dialogue was gratuitously disgusting, however this is how Zombie remembers kids talking when he was growing up.

One of the first things we notice is that young Myers has a low social IQ (or at least low impulse control). Rather than laughing off his bullies’ taunts, he descends into rage, the exact reaction his bullies were hoping for.

More importantly, Myers says “F@*CK YOU” to the school principal. This is where Myers crosses the line from normal bad behavior (getting into fights at school) to pathological, clinical, and diagnostically significant. Even the principal is nonplussed because such behavior is so outside the norm. Clearly Myers is the most deranged kid he has ever seen in say 30 years working in schools. Telling the principal to “F@*CK YOU” is such a violation of social norms that it implies he’s dealing with a psychopath.

Lastly, we see how the correlation between genes and environment increases with age. Because of Myers’s bad behavior, he goes from having a lower class social environment to being locked in a mental hospital room to rot. His genetically low IQ and low impulse control cause him to make rash decisions which quickly drag his environment down to his genetic level.

Are the Tarahumara an example of reaction norms?

For years commenter Mug of Pee has been saying that HBDers naively assume the Phenotype = Genotype + Environment model.

A good example of this model is sex and height. For example in 1914, the average Canadian man was 5’7″ and the average Canadian woman was 5’2″. Then after 100 years of modern nutrition and health, the average Canadian man is 5’10” and the average Canadian woman is 5’4″.

So even though environment added a few inches of height to both sexes, it did not change the male > female rank order and if expressed in SD units, may not have even changed the gap. The P = G + E model sees environment as a rising tide that lifts all boats but doesn’t change their relative heights. No matter what the environment, having a Y chromosome predicts greater height, while no matter what the genome, 20th century nutrition predicts greater height. In other words, both the genetic effect and the environmental effect are independent of one another and thus can be added together.

By contrast the reaction norm model sees environmental effects as lifting only some boats, while at the same time sinking others. So rather than adding environmental effects to genetic effects, you either add or subtract depending on which environmental effect combines with genomic effect.

While I thought this model was interesting, I couldn’t think of many real world examples.

Then one night I was watching the The evolution of us, a two part documentary on both netflix and amazon prime, which features such luminaries as John Hawkings, Steve Hsu, and Daniel Lieberman. The documentary briefly discussed the Tarahumara.

In their native Copper Canyon environment, the Tarahumara are extremely fit and slim and can outrun white athletes who come and visit, yet when they move to urban areas, they appear to be several standard deviations fatter than white people..

It’s not surprising that the Tarahumara are fatter in an urban environment than in a pre-industrial one (that’s true of all populations). But the fact that they are so disproportionately penalized by an urban environment might be an example of reaction norms.

Of course I know of no evidence of the cognitive equivalent of the Tarahumara: a group that scores as high or higher than whites in one environment, yet scores lower in another.

IQ, social environment & DNA

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Commenter RR argues that IQ tests measure social class. If by social class he means the home one grew up in, the following author begs to differ:

First, family has little effect on whatever cognitive abilities you have after the age of 17. While family environment is potent early on, its effects fade away to low level by age 17 and become insignificant by maturity. As you grow up, you move outside the family and go to school, become a member of a peer group (your close friends), find a job, and marry. You enter a current environment that swamps the lingering effects of family environment. Current environment is surprisingly self-contained: it influences one’s current cognitive abilities with very little interference from past environments. Most of us assume that your early family environment leaves some indelible mark on your intelligence throughout life. But the literature shows this simply isn’t so.

Second, once the influence of family disappears, the cognitive quality of your current environment tends to match your genetic quality. This is often called the tendency toward “gene-environment co-relation”. This means simply that if your genes are at the 90th percentile for cognitive ability, your current environment tends to be at the 90th percentile of the population for cognitive quality…In other words, chance events aide, genes and current environment tend to match, so whatever genetic differences exist predict cognitive performance without any need to take current environment into account.

You might think the above was written by Arthur Jensen, but it was written by Jensen’s most formidable opponent, James Flynn. It’s from pages 5 to 6 of Flynn’s book Does Your Family Make You Smarter?

Evidence in support of Flynn’s comments is a 2010 study by Haworth et al, where an astonishing 11000 pairs of twins from four different countries were intelligence tested. The results: heritability was 41% at age nine, 55% at age 12, and 66% by age 17.

66% is very similar to the WAIS IQ heritability found in the Minnesota study of twins reared apart, but Haworth et al compared the IQ correlation of MZ twins raised together with the correlation of DZ twins raised together (the classical twin study). If one assumes that both types of twins are equally similar in their environments (including prenatal), the greater IQ similarity found among MZ twins can only be explained by their greater genomic similarity. This is known as the equal environment assumption.

Critics claim that MZ twins raised together enjoy more similar environments than DZ twins raised together and so genes are getting undeserved credit for an environmental effect. However Arthur Jensen notes:

…some same-sex DZ twins look much more alike than others. In some cases their parents even wrongly believe that their DZ twins are identical twins, and they treat them as such by dressing them alike and giving them the same hairstyles and so on. But DZ twins whose parents and others had mistaken them for MZ twins are no more alike in IQ than other DZ twins or ordinary siblings who don’t look much alike.

Source: Intelligence, Race and Genetics by Frank Miele, pg 98

Indeed if people think MZ twins have more similar environments than DZ twins because they look identical, then it follows that same sex DZ twins should have more similar environments than opposite sex DZ twins because they too look more similar (and are treated more similarly) and yet the IQ correlation between same sex and opposite sex MZ twins are virtually identical.

Further support for the equal environment assumption comes from a study of 1,030 female-female twin pairs from the Virginia Twin Registry with known zygosity. About 15% of the twins disagreed with their actual zygosity, however perceived zygosity had no impact on the correlation between twins when it came to any of the five psychiatric disorders studied.