Commenter Deeru asked me to blog about Jeff Bezos’s IQ. I don’t know much about him beyond seeing him on Oprah way back in the 1990s or early 2000s. What I most remember is that he was constantly giggling and when he first came on stage he turned to the audience and said:
I just have one thing to say. I LOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOVE OPRAH!…Oprah is the exact same person off camera as she is on TV.
Bezos was there to teach Oprah how to surf the web.
“It was fun surfing with you, Jeff” Oprah said flirtatiously causing Bezos to giggle even more.
At the time Bezos and Oprah were both already members of the Forbes 400 richest Americans list but since then Bezos’s fortune has skyrocketed to the second richest person in the World.
So what is his IQ?
Steve Hsu mentioned the following quote from Jeff Bezos:
So, I went to Princeton primarily because I wanted to study physics, and it’s such a fantastic place to study physics. Things went fairly well until I got to quantum mechanics and there were about 30 people in the class by that point and it was so hard for me. I just remember there was a point in this where I realized I’m never going to be a great physicist. There were three or four people in the class whose brains were so clearly wired differently to process these highly abstract concepts, so much more.
Notice that Bezos is clearly smart enough to understand that intelligence is a PHYSIOLOGICAL ability and not acquired knowledge and skill. The brains of super smart people are WIRED differently. He continues:
I was doing well in terms of the grades I was getting, but for me it was laborious, hard work. And, for some of these truly gifted folks — it was awe-inspiring for me to watch them because in a very easy, almost casual way, they could absorb concepts and solve problems that I would work 12 hours on, and it was a wonderful thing to behold. At the same time, I had been studying computer science, and was really finding that that was something I was drawn toward. I was drawn to that more and more and that turned out to be a great thing. So I found — one of the great things Princeton taught me is that I’m not smart enough to be a physicist.
This tells us Bezos math IQ was much lower than the top four math students of his Princeton graduating class. So what was their math IQ? Given that about 1100 people graduated from Princeton a year, these top four represent the top 0.36%. If we assume Princeton was representative of the top ten colleges in America, who enrolled 18,000 freshman a year circa 1990, and if we further assume that virtually 100% of the pinnacle of U.S. math talent ended up at a top ten college (and whatever shortfall was balanced by brilliant foreign students), then this top 0.36% of the top ten colleges represented the 65 best math minds out of all 3 million U.S. 18-year-olds per year. This equates to a math IQ of 161+.
So we know Bezos’s math IQ was much lower than 161.
At the same time, the mere fact that he was in this extremely challenging math class, and was getting good grades suggests his math IQ was well above the average Princeton student’s. Circa 1990, the average math SAT score at Harvard (and presumably Princeton also) was in the 695 to 718 range (pre-recentering), which I estimated equated to a math IQ of 133.
So we can guess Bezos’s math IQ is well above 133 yet well below 161. Can we be more precise than that? A member of the Prometheus high IQ society had a brilliant theory that because the human mind operates in parallel, complex learning and problem solving speed doubles every 5 IQ points. So if it took Bezos 12 hours to grasp the physics concepts that his math IQ 161+ classmates grasped easily and casually (i.e. in under an hour?), then:
Math IQ 161+ = grasp in under an hour
Math IQ 156 = grasp in under 2 hours
Math IQ 151 = grasp in under 4 hours
Math IQ 146 = grasp in under 8 hours
Math IQ 141 = grasp in under 16 hours
Thus, I’m guessing Bezos has a math IQ above 141 but below 146. Let’s say 144 (U.S. norms), or 143 (U.S. white norms). Smarter than 99.8% of Americans in his generation.
Of course math IQ is not the same as overall IQ, but this nonetheless seems like a random non-biased sample of his intelligence so I would not expect his official IQ to regress to the mean the way it does for Ivy League students as a whole.