When Forbes first began listing the 400 richest Americans in 1982, they counted only 13 billionaires. This Fall they counted so many, 300 U.S. billionaires were considered too poor to make the Forbes 400, meaning 700 in total. That’s probably an underestimate since billionaires have probably become too frequent for one magazine to count, but we’ll go with it.
Typically, Forbes reports that about 2/3rds of America’s super rich are self-made so let’s say 462 self-made U.S. billionaires. And I estimate about 93% are white males, so that’s about 430 white male self-made billionaires in America.
I estimate there are 232 million Americans old enough to be billionaires (the combined population of the Silent Generation to Generation Y, inclusive), and of these 67 million are white males. Thus becoming a self-made billionaire is about a one in 156,000 level achievement for white men, and the median white self-made billionaire is around the one in 312,000 level among white male self-made wealth. That’s equivalent to a normalized Z score of +4.53.
As noted in my last article, using the 0.16 correlation between IQ and net worth gives absurd results, it’s much better to think of self-made billionaires as people with super high permanent incomes. Among white men, the correlation between IQ and permanent income is 0.45, thus the expected IQ of a self-made white billionaire (0.45)(4.53 SD above white male mean) = 2.04 SD above the white male mean.
On a scale where all Americans have a mean IQ of 100 with an SD of 15, the white male mean and SD is 101 and 15.6 respectively, thus 2.04 SD above the white male mean equals IQ 132 (U.S. norms).
Even though this analysis was based only on white males, white males are about 93% of all U.S. self-made billionaires so it’s a good estimate of U.S. self-made billionaires in general. Even if you think the 7% of billionaires who are not white males would drag the average down, you have to keep in mind that a huge percentage of the “white” men are actually Ashkenazi which might drag the average up.
Further confirmation that the average IQ of U.S. self-made billionaires is around 130 comes from anecdotal evidence. The highest self-reported (old) SAT scores of any self-made billionaire are 1590 to 1600 (Bill Gates and Paul Allen) which equates to an IQ of about 170 on the pre-1995 scale and it’s difficult to imaging any elite being smarter than Bill Gates. The lowest self-reported SAT score of any gazillionaire is 500 (Bill Cosby) which equated to an IQ of 83. However my research shows that prior to the 1980s, black Americans scored 1.5 SD below whites on tests of reading and math, instead of the much more validated 1 SD gap on official IQ tests observed since WWI. Adjusting for this brings Cosby to about IQ 90.
Of course Cosby was technically never a billionaire, but he was worth $340 million in 1994 which is likely equivalent (in percentile rank) to being a billionaire in 2022.
Thus it seems reasonable to assume the IQs of U.S. self-made billionaires range from 90 to 170, and the mid-point of this range is 130, just as predicted from linear regression.
Based on her reading and math skills at age eight, I estimate Oprah has an IQ of 140. About 10 points higher than even the average self-made billionaire. This makes sense because unlike most self-made billionaires who come from an upper class background, Oprah overcame poverty, classism, weightism, colorism, and sexism to become the most worshipped billionaire on the planet, and thus needed to be more adaptable.
More importantly, while most self-made billionaires scored super high only on life’s IQ test (money), Oprah scored at the one in a million level on both life’s IQ test (money), and neurology’s IQ test (1884 cc brain size).
Scoring at the one in a million level on the two most Darwinian IQ tests (money AND brain size) shows much more intelligence than scoring Mega level on just one, hence she’s 10 points above even her self-made billionaire white male peers.
You can tell just from looking at her she’s the smarter than even most white self-made billionaires and was destined to spend decades of her life on the Forbes 400. As Donald Trump noted, nobody has more “it factor” than Oprah.
It is interesting to ask what Elon Musk’s IQ because in recent years, he overtook Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos as the richest person in the World (at least on paper). Of the 67 million white American men old enough to be billionaires, Musk is number one suggesting his permanent income has a normalized Z score of +5.53 and given the 0.45 correlation between IQ and permanent income among white men, a white male IQ Z score of 0.45(5.53) = 2.49 is expected. Given that white men have a mean of 101 and an SD of 15.6, this equates to IQ 140.
Of course this prediction tells us little about Musk’s IQ, but tells us a lot about the mean IQ of people who have been the richest American. When I think back at others who have held that title, Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, Warren Buffet, Sam Walton, Musk seems around the middle of the pack so 140 is plausible. His math IQ is probably above 150 but his verbal IQ seems below 120. Kind of the opposite of Oprah.
Knowing the average IQ of rich folks is important because money is one of the most obvious and important signs of intelligence and adaptability, so for IQ to have validity and relevance, rich people should score high.
And yet the correlation between IQ and networth is only 0.16 (Zagorsky 2007).
In his book, The Millionaire Mind, Thomas Stanley interviewed hundreds of millionaires and asked them about their SAT scores and grades.
At the time the median millionaire was around the top 1% of wealth. If there were a perfect correlation between IQ and wealth, we’d expect they’d have an average IQ of 135 (35 points above the U.S. mean of 100) but given a 0.16 correlation between IQ and wealth, we’d expect they’d average only 0.16(35) + 100 = IQ 106
And yet, after adjusting for self-reporting bias, Stanley estimated they averaged 1100 on their SATs. Stanley argued this was mediocre and proved IQ has little to do with money, however for their era, an 1100 equates to an IQ of 120 (14 points higher than predicted from the IQ-wealth correlation). And while 1100 may sound low compared to the stratospheric SATs of Ivy League students, we must understand that Ivy League students are selected for their score on the SAT and thus regress precipitously to the mean on all other tests. By contrast millionaires are selected by life’s IQ test, and thus regress precipitously to the mean on the SAT. In other words, the SAT overestimates Ivy League students, but correctly estimates millionaires.
But why did the 0.16 correlation underestimate the IQs of millionaires? In my opinion it’s because for most people, net worth is largely a function of how much you spend, and since smart people realize money is useless unless you spend it, a lot of smart people will end up with low net worth, thus driving down the correlation.
However there’s a limit on how much you can spend on yourself, and so the more prosperous you are, the less spending habits correlate with net worth.
To avoid this complication, it’s better to think of millionaires not as people who have a lot of money, but as people who have made a lot of money (or their heirs). This allows us to use the correlation between IQ and income instead of the correlation between IQ and net worth.
The correlation between IQ and income is about 0.30 (Zagorsky 2007) , but increases to almost 0.4 when you look at permanent income (which is most relevant for predicting wealth) and increases to about 0.5 when you look just at white men (the group the vast majority of millionaires belong to). Using these correlations would have made the predicted IQ more accurate.
Imagine if we took 100 randomly selected humans from the Earth today, and a random 100 of our ancestors from 2 million years ago, and placed all 200 on a random part of the Earth 1 million years ago (equally close in time to when both species lived so neither has a home team advantage).
Who would win in the struggle of survival?
Probably modern humans would, but you might say that proves little because we’re only one lineage that just happened to become uniquely adaptable.
Now imagine if we tried the same experiment on a hundred different randomly selected species, ranging in type from insects to reptiles to plants to large mammals.
Would there be a consistent trend for the modern version to outcompete its archaic ancestor, or would it be totally random, or would perhaps the ancestors win in most cases.
Of course such an experiment can not be done, it would prove whether evolution was progressive, random, or regressive.
Kanye West has recently been banned from social media for saying “I’m a bit sleepy tonight but when I wake up I’m going death con 3 on JEWISH PEOPLE” (defcon 3 is what he meant).
In my opinion, among gentiles, anti-Semitism is a sign of schizophrenia while philo-semitism is a sign of autism.
But unlike many black Americans who simplistically blame white supremacy for all their problems, or QAnon Americans who imagine bizarre Satanic cults, West at least is smart enough to know which group really has power in America, however recklessly lumping them all together in a way that incites hatred is reprehensible. Already, a major bank has told West to take his money elsewhere and Adidas is being pressured to drop him as a partner, and Forbes must decide whether he remains a billionaire.
So what is his IQ? He reminds me a lot of commenter Loaded in that his mental illness makes him seem way dumber than he is. Back in October 2018, West claimed to have seen a psychologist and obtained an IQ of 133, which he equated to the 98th percentile (to be precise it’s the 98.6 percentile).
This actually sounds quite plausible. Forbes proclaimed West’s net worth to be $2 billion, crowning him the richest black of his generation. Assuming there are about 8 million blacks in generation X, if there were a perfect correlation between IQ and lifetime earnings, we’d expect West’s IQ to be 77 points above the black American mean of 88 (U.S. norms) (one in 8 million level), but since the correlation is more like 0.5, we’d expect it to be 0.5(77) + 88 = 127 (only 6 points below his self-reported score).
Another reason for thinking West is high IQ is the quality of his lyrics. In 2000 he wrote a song about his professor mother but refused to release it until he could perform on Oprah’s show. After five long years of trying to get on her show, he finally got his wish.
The song contains the following stanza which I thought was quite clever:
My mama told me go to school, get your doctorate
Something to fall back on, you could profit with
But still supported me when I did the opposite
Sadly, despite his moments of genius, Rushton would have likely considered West to be genetically inferior. Even though Rushton “would imagine that a lot of these black entertainers are very intelligent”, he believed the early time period (200,000 years ago), when Africans branched off the evolutionary tree meant they were cursed with other deficiencies like oversized genitalia, and so even though an individual might contradict the racial stereotype in one area (West has a high IQ), he would likely regress to his racial mean in other areas (West is mentally unstable which Rushton viewed as a primitive trait).
Unlike, another black billionaire Oprah, West does not have a huge hat size:
Indeed West’s brain may even be smaller than Donald Trump’s, which means he likely doesn’t have the cognitive reserve to protect his IQ from neurological attacks like the bipolar he claims to have:
Assuming West really did score 133 on an IQ test in 2018, his IQ has likely since declined (at least when unmedicated). In an edited out scene from his recent Tucker Carlson interview, West claimed there were fake children in his home sent to sexualize his own kids. One of these fake kids was the child of a business associate and West knew the child could not be hers because it was so much smarter than her. LOL
I had recently discovered that that people who took both the old GRE and the old SAT (circa 1990) had a verbal old SAT distribution of:
mean: 510.1 (SD = 107.7).
Because the SAT distributions if all 17-year-old Americans had taken the SAT would have been 376 (SD = 102), this implied GRE takers had a mean IQ of 121 (SD = 15.4) (U.S. norms).
Unfortunately this led to ridiculous results like the 95th percentile of the GRE population being at the 99.9 percentile of the general U.S. population. Clearly college admission tests are not normally distributed so we must look at the observed distribution, not the theoretical normal one.
And so I looked at Ron Hoeflin’s Omni sample norming of the Mega Test, where seven Mega Test takers reported scores on the old LSAT.
Then by pairing the Mega and LSAT scores by equal rank in the sample, we get the following equivalencies.
Now to put these numbers in perspective, a 630 was 92nd percentile (among LSAT takers) in 1960 and 725 was the 98th percentile, in 1974 (source: Law School: Legal Education in America from the 1850s to the 1980s, by Robert Bocking Stevens).
From here we might conclude that the 95th percentile of the LSAT population was around 700, which equates to an IQ around 138 (99.5 percentile in the general population). (Note: I’m being 8 IQ points more generous than Mensa, which equates the top 5% of the LSAT population with the top 2% of the U.S. population and thus IQ 130).
This kind of makes sense, because if we assume that roughly 10% of Americans pursue post-grad degrees, and almost 100% of the very brightest do so, then the top 5% of those taking post-grad admission tests should be the top 5%/10 = top 0.5% of Americans as a whole.
Many high IQ societies accept scores from the GRE, LSAT and other graduate school admission tests. For example Mensa, which requires you to be smarter than 98% of Americans (for your age group), will accept you if your LSAT score is higher than 95% of LSAT takers. But how does Mensa know that being smarter than 95% of LSAT takers is equivalent to being smarter than 98% of Americans? I don’t think they do, they just know that since the LSAT population is smarter, one’s percentile among the LSAT population underestimates one’s percentile among Americans, but conservatively assumed the underestimation is small to avoid admitting unqualified people. So to Mensa’s credit, they probably erred on the side of maintaining standards (instead of profits) and rejected LSAT scores below the 95th percentile, even though many of those people likely qualified.
I can’t find much data on the IQ distribution of LSAT takers, but assuming they’re roughly equivalent to GRE takers (both tests are for admission to post-bachelor degree schooling), then the following is relevant:
In a sample of people who took both the GRE and the SAT (circa 1990), the mean GRE and SAT verbal was 510.1 (SD = 107.7) and 518 (SD of 104.7) respectively. Rare norming studies show that if all Americans took the SAT circa 1983, the mean and standard deviation (SD) would have been 376 and 102 respectively, which means that on an IQ scale (mean 100; SD 15) they had a mean verbal IQ of 121 (SD 15.4).
Now assuming the same for the LSAT, the 95th percentile (+1.66 SD) equates to an IQ of:
1.66(15.4) + 121 = 26 + 121 = 147
So when Mensa was screening out anyone with LSAT derived IQ scores below 130, they were also screening out everyone with IQs below 147!
Several years ago, Oprah returned to her old stomping grounds of Baltimore Maryland (where she spent her twenties looking for love in all the wrong places) and was interviewed by a nice blond reporter.
The difference in brain size could not be more stark.
Oprah was there to play the daughter of Henrietta Lacks. In the excellent HBO film, Oprah’s character is informed by a white journalist that the medical community had turned her mother’s miraculous cells (nicknamed Hela cells) into one of the most valued commodities in medicine, and the family didn’t get anything.
I was reminded of Ayn Rand who argued Middle East oil belonged to America because they discovered it and extracted it, so without them it was worthless.
Sadly, I suspect by the same logic she’d feel that Hela cells belong to white people, and not Henrietta Lacks and her heirs.
Despite about a six standard deviation difference in cranial capacity, Oprah and Cher have always got along well. Because Cher’s brain is literally several times smaller than Oprah’s, she needed Western beauty, a great body, a great singing voice and musical talent to become rich and famous.
Oprah didn’t have those advantages, but her huge brain gave her the adaptability to turn situations around to her advantage. The essence of intelligence.
The two women recently reunited for the premier of the Oprah produced documentary Sidney, but the two women, they go back.
Oprah always respected Cher because Cher, like Lady O, is a celebrity, so back in 1993, Oprah was shocked when some nerdy kid in the studio audience name Jeremy had the nerve to tell Oprah he would not date Cher because she was too old for him. Oprah was so indignant she ordered a staffer to get Cher on the phone.
In one of the great moments in TV history, Cher actually did call and ripped the kid a new one. Good times!
[The following is a guest post and does not necessarily reflect the views of Pumpkin Person]
Humans can be narcissistic; I don’t need a degree to tell you that. That’s something that most people figure out just from interacting with members of their species. Unfortunately, this narcissism has seeped into our research of life sciences and has had profound effects on the way we conduct said research, and I believe these effects are the most apparent within the current debate on animal consciousness and intelligence.
Humans have two bad habits, prescribing anthropomorphic traits to animals and things. The other is hyper skepticism to the idea that anything that isn’t human could be conscious and feel something the same way humans do. Unfortunately, the former has resulted in incidents like at the Berlin Zoo, where a gorilla named Bokito broke out of his enclosure and beat the shit out of some dumbass who thought the aggressive behaviors the gorilla was displaying towards her were friendly (“Gorilla Goes on Dutch Zoo Rampage,” 2007). The latter has led to enormous animal abuse, like whaling practices and dog fighting.
There is massive debate and research on whether animals are conscious or intelligent in the way that we are. I’m not going to regurgitate the entirety of this debate; if you’re interested in going further than what I have presented here, I suggest the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy article on animal consciousness as a start. In this post, I will give an example that I believe characterizes this debate the best! And nothing, I think, does this more than the ongoing feud between Dr. Marino and Professor Paul Manger (“We discovered that whale and dolphin brains produce lots of heat. Why it matters,” 2021).
Note** I wrote this almost a year ago, and some of the citations that were originally here were no longer in existence. One was a podcast that interviewed Marino and Manger about this topic and their papers. If you want to see the whole debate, just take Dr. Marino’s or Manger’s paper and put it in google scholar, and you can see who else has cited their papers. From there, just look for Marino/Manger in the list that pops up.
So, to put things simply, Manger believes that many of the supposed complex behaviors Dolphins and other Cetaceans exhibit have been overstated by the researchers documenting them and are not actually that special or impressive compared to other species. Moreover, he believes his hypothesis proves that Cetacean brains are built for thermogenesis, not intelligence. He also maintains that this caused increased encephalization during the Archaeocete-Neocete transition (Manger, 2006), (Manger, 2013). While Marino believes she is not overstating any perceived intelligence of cetaceans and that Manger is simply ignorant of the literature (Marino et al., 2007).
Now, I know a little about Neuroscience, but I won’t pretend that I am as competent as these two are in comparative Neurobiology. Admittedly I can’t tell which one of them is bullshitting because they both accuse the other of being dishonest or ignorant of the Neurobiological data on Cetaceans. But, as the smug fence sitter, I am, I have found some problems with both of their approaches to this kind of research.
If you read Manger’s 2013 paper I cited previously; you’ll quickly notice a pattern when he starts going down the list, “debunking” each example of supposedly complex cognition. His criticisms can be summed up as “Other, less encephalized animals do it too, so it can’t be that complex or special at all.”. And when he can’t just handwave it away with that argument, he instead will claim that it doesn’t align with the Archeocete-Neocete transition.
I can’t fault him for not seeing the irony in his criticism because he’s just trying to defend his hypothesis and is not an “anthropocentric individual .” At least, as far as I know. But what’s hilarious about all this is that he undermines his entire point in his hyper-skeptic frenzy. Because if none of those behaviors like tool use, the ability to count, or cooperative hunting are particularly impressive or cognitively demanding, what the hell makes Primates unique? I mean, all of the abilities mentioned above can be done by multiple species of invertebrates, and they all have “primitive” neurological systems (Carazo et al., 2012), (Gross et al., 2009), (Pierce, 1986), (Alloway, 1979), (Vail et al., 2013), (Mikhalevich & Powell, 2020).
Meaning it can’t be due to the structure of the Nervous System because the behavior that makes said neural architecture important is present across virtually all orders of life! This problem leads to my other issues with his critique. One is his claim that the absence of a prefrontal cortex means Cetaceans are dumber or lack abilities associated with the said region. This is puzzling because areas of the cerebral cortex are not demarcated by morphological differences but by function, and said functional localizations vary significantly between individuals, minute by minute (Sporns et al., 2005), (Uttal, 2014). So to suggest that the absence of a prefrontal cortex means Cetaceans are incapable of higher-order thought is complete asinine bullshit, and I’m pretty shocked someone of Manger’s caliber would make such a mistake.
Furthermore, his critique of their “language” capabilities seems wanting. The idea that it takes a long time for these dolphins to learn the language doesn’t really help his case because it takes a long time for humans too, and if you’ve ever been on the internet, like ever, some adults still haven’t mastered their language even after decades of using it. He goes as far as saying that dolphins don’t even understand when objects disappear, but this was later refuted after adjusting the settings of the experiments to match more closely with their natural marine environments (Johnson et al., 2014).
I’m not here to shit on Manger, I may cover his paper in more depth in the future, but I simply want to draw the relation between anthropocentrism and his thesis mentioned earlier. His skepticism is so exaggerated that you almost have to wonder if Manger even believes other humans are conscious. After all, that is the burden this side of the aisle must be ready to take on if you think it is impossible to understand the mental states of other organisms. I mean, everyone interacts daily with members of their species and never really questions whether that person genuinely has consciousness or not. We just assume this is the case, and we base our interactions, which are sometimes Machiavellian, upon the perceptions of other people’s mental states. Maybe it is better to go with this intuition and not be afraid of anthropomorphizing “lower” species.
However, the problem with that and Marino’s side is that, as scientists, we have to base our beliefs on empirically reasonable grounds. Unfortunately, she has not provided ample evidence suggesting that cetaceans are as conscious or intelligent as they appear. Moreover, just as I wouldn’t say that Manger believes we can’t ever know if animals are conscious, I also wouldn’t say that Marino has entirely made up her assertions that Dolphins have human-like cognition. But sometimes, she can go a little far, like in her interview on the All things wild podcast, where she suggests a group of orcas is “culturally conservative” when you could equally assert that they are too dumb to adapt to a changing environment.
But no one wants to say that because humans are not rational creatures. We all enjoy going by just our common sense and intuitions, and even our coldest logic is still directed by emotion. To me and many others, it’s as obvious that animals, like cetaceans, have minds as it is that my neighbor has one, but that’s not empirically provable (yet). And, of course, this is in direct conflict with how we ought to operate in science which we often like to see as an objective lens through which we use to decipher the world around us. At the same time, this conflict poses a severe problem for people who want to toss intuition aside because you end up arriving at ridiculous conclusions. Ultimately, we may never know “what it’s like to be a bat,” but maybe in the future, when cognitive science becomes more developed, we will (Nagel, 1974). But for now, we must sit back and wonder whether animals have consciousness.