“Seekers of wisdom first need sound intelligence.” - Heraclitus. Fragments 49
The other day I overheard someone say to their friend “when are people going to wake up?” Sounds innocuous enough. This begs the age old question - is intelligence innate or can it be learned? The classic nature vs nurture argument. The term waking up is used to denote that someone has woken up to how things really are. So, the ability to wake up is a sign of intelligence. Right? Simply, can one discover that they are in a cave or not?
Not so fast. If waking up is the ability to see things rationally, then that suggests it can be learned. To wake up implies one just needs to discover what is objectively true about reality and use that information rationality to be successful. However, telling someone to wake up isn’t quite as straight forward as one may believe. The ability to wake up assumes that one is adequately equipped to do so.
One could as easily say to any random person to solve Hilbert’s problems with no prior study or training. It’s not a matter of waking up for most people because that is a universal statement that implies everyone has the capacity to do so. Not everyone has the capacity to wake up or to see things objectively. Lets dive into why.
Intelligence is the ability to detect patterns in the world and in the agent itself, measurable in terms of emergent behavior of "achieving complex goals in complex environments". A "baby-like" intelligence is initialized, then trained as an agent in a complex adaptive reality to produce a more powerful intelligence. Genetics with epigenetic kickers to get things firing. In short, intelligence is the ability to recognize patterns and act upon them to increase the probability of ones survival in a complex adaptive environment.
We are born with certain limitations to what we are able to do both mentally and physically. This is due to ones ancestry and ones environment. We are more of the sculpture in marble waiting to be discovered rather than the painting being created ex nihilo. With that in mind, it is much more useful for some people to accept this fact and update their priors accordingly. Doing so will increase their ability to be successful in the future.
Soft determinism if you will, is actually very freeing. If one can determine ones limitations and act freely within those parameters one can be extremely successful and lead a flourishing life. The established degrees of freedom for each individual allows them to exert less time and effort domains with low payoff functions.
There is a gradient of cognitive ability levels. No need to review the normal distribution of intelligence quotients at this time, rather think about different people you have encountered in your life or read about. Most people don’t realize how vastly different the cognitive capabilities are across the spectrum of human intelligence, simply because it is something that happens subconsciously. Humans are constantly ranking and matching things in their environment; humans are naturally hierarchal.
For example, how does one grasp this principle of an intelligence spectrum without ever experiencing the other levels? One has to venture outside of ones lived experiences to determine what is objective, the search for truth. This is done through reading, conversation, research and so forth. This is the cultivation piece of intelligence that is key to one fully maximizing ones potential.
The counterfactual can never be truly be proven, but one can get a sense of something not directly experienced by studying other accounts. So, one may never know the true power of the mind of John Von Neumann, but one can at least peak into his mind through his writings and discern what their intelligence allows.
The brain is a mysterious black box that is still not understood. Is the brain the thing that produces consciousness and reality or is it simply the hub in which all the sense perceptions meet and create consciousness and reality? Ones reality is shaped by their level of intelligence and experience. The whole Positivist movement was predicated on language understanding alone. It’s difficult to determine if the person you are interacting with understands what you are communicating because they not be equipped with the ability to fully do so. AND How can I prove that the person I am talking to is not a zombie? Is this a simulation? Solipsism is a nasty thought experiment, but I digress.
What is IQ?
The idea of IQ is more easily grasped when thought of as another sense one possesses like hearing, sight etc. So, when someone asks when will people wake up (magically turn on another level of intelligence)... It's like asking when will the blind see? Not trying to be disrespectful or dramatic - just honest.
Intelligence is a rating of how well one can "see" complex patterns without any effort. (that's why one cannot really improve an IQ score.. It's like a vision test). Barring some sort of innovation - smart drugs, gene editing, Neuralink, one is born with certain potential abilities and it is the responsibilities of those around them to cultivate and discover how much raw kinetic intelligence can be unleashed.
The average IQ in America is apparently 98. Wasn’t it 100 just a short time ag? For the rest of the world, it's 100. One standard deviation up from 100 is where a real difference in cognition takes place.
It's like the difference between an observer seeing the waiter coming to the table vs seeing a young man trying to make a living, not really wanting to be there right now, with worries and concerns and hopes and dreams and so forth. One sees complexity and depth in all things, yet actively applies a mental filter to be able to function IRL.
If one didn’t have cognitive filters constantly applied to reality one would never be able to get anything done. One senses a certain level of reality that allows them to optimally function in the environment. Like, I am hungry so I should eat versus the paralysis that would ensue because one cannot get over the fact that quantum entanglement is a real phenomena and the atomic makeup of the table I am sitting at is an abstraction of the substrate that is reality… Just eat the sardines.
Intelligence is effortless and instant. For example, 1 standard deviation up, roughly equates to to 7 in 10 Americans not having that capacity of intelligent vision and never will have the ability to obtain it. Not really a problem back in the days of hunter-gatherer societies, but when you have government by the people, for the people well it sounds good at first, but it means having the blind leading the blind and the non-blind, too. Not ideal for those on the other side of the spectrum. This is the tyranny of the masses incarnate.
Indeed if you are reading this then you clearly have some powerful tools in the shed…Including a Husky Observator Pro 9000, a DeWalt Contemplator XL, and an iRobot Automatic Pattern Recognizer with the upgraded iAdvanceIQ™ chipset. And man.. Those tools are well maintained!
Now when you direct those tools towards the so-called masses... What do you find in the average person's tool shed?
Whatever you find... You can use that knowledge to avoid the all too common mistake of expecting others to do the kind of jobs you do with your tools... ... When their tools might differ so greatly... perhaps they're broken-down antiques in comparison. The majority of people on this planet have primitive tools in the shed. This includes not only the poor and uneducated, but you can also find plenty of doctors, attorneys, cops, businessmen, politicians. You name it.
It's easy for the enlightened minority to wish to elevate and educate the masses. The dreams of many including Thomas Jefferson. However, everyone is doing the best they can with the tools they have already. You can't get the masses to see what you see because they literally lack the cognitive capacity to even begin to see like you can.
Nobody can think about things that are forever beyond their comprehension.
Half the world's population at least who are seemingly so oppressed would make great hunter-gatherers, which is what they're biologically evolved to be. Yet a very small minority through vision and innovation incomprehensible to the rest have collectively raised us all out of the stone age into our world today.
It's like if an advanced alien civilization decided to transport us all to a new world with wonders beyond our understanding.. Even the brightest of us will suffer because the highly intelligent choices we made on earth will seem like awful choices to the aliens. Advanced aliens who can see what we can never see.
There's a correlation between the tone of one's message and their following. In general, people tend to follow what makes them feel better (and they stop following anyone with messages that make them feel worse). I.e Confirmation bias.
People are really good at doubling down on a conviction when presented with hard evidence refuting the beliefs they want to be true. Who wants to update their priors, when it is easier to stick to what you already know? The stronger the evidence against their beliefs, the crazier their rationale for discrediting the evidence becomes... Ultimately you get stuff like "those people are all followers of satan'.
Dunning writes: "If you're incompetent, you can't know you’re incompetent.… [T]he skills you need to produce a right answer are exactly the skills you need to recognize what a right answer is." The majority of humans on the planet are not endowed with competency needed to persist the world and species at it's current level of advancement.
They can only take us back to the dark ages. Trading in the secret leadership for overt leadership by kings and lords. Through advances in science we may be able to elevate the cognitive powers of everyone. In essence bringing sight to the formerly blind. It would level the playing ground and eliminate many terrible misunderstandings and the disparity they bring.
These advancements are already being developed and in some areas deployed. Will these things reach the masses and increase the overall intelligence of the population or will they be reserved for a select few? This is akin to the future is here, it just isn’t evenly distributed as the wealthy and connected will always be the first movers as they have the capital to pay for the large initial expenses.
Intelligence in leadership is often overlooked as a given. One doesn’t need to be intelligent to lead. In fact, most leaders are not intelligent, they are simply more sociopathic than those around them… What is needed are leaders that are both intelligent and competent. In a word virtuous. Virtuous leadership is essential across myriad planes - in homes, in corporations, and in society.
The concept, or rather, obligation of noble obligesse shrouded in noble lies used to be the way leadership was wielded and justified. Ah, Plato strikes again. These leaders were charismatic and magnanimous. A form of leadership that did what needed to be done because the ends justified the means. When things need to get done, it usually takes a central point to move things along to be completed in a timely manner. Bureaucracy is the antithesis of expediency.
So, who is a virtuous leader? A leader that has character and foresight that persuades people to accomplish things that will payoff in the end, but that most can’t thoroughly grasp in the moment. This is where noble lies come in, sometimes obfuscation is needed in order to execute. Leaders that understand the moral foundations of Western culture. Leaders need to study the past in order to optimally function in the present which thens shapes the future.
Looking backwards in time is often akin to looking into what the future will bring. Western thought is built not only upon Plato and Aristotle, but upon critical theorists like Nietzsche, Machiavelli, and Hobbes, also - the romantic Rousseau, and the legalists Montesquieu, Locke, and Publius.
To become truly great, one has to stand with people, not above them - Montesquieu
Leaders that Understand that with success comes responsibility. Leaders that internalize that responsibility and carry out the obligations that come along with it.
It takes both intelligence and ethics to lead, one cannot be overcompensated by the other. Man is a social animal and those that think they can live outside of politics are mistaken. You are either directly involved or indirectly influenced.
Consider how political investors view the masses. I.e. do they have any reason to care about their well being (for moral or even purely selfish reasons)? Political and economic investors that is? These are the elites that are the puppeteers of our supposed leaders. Many of the investors never take a public position because it is not in their best interest to do so.
These are the people that ensure the bills that are drafted and presented to elected officials are done in a way that optimizes their returns. These are the people with real influence, that actively choose not to be in the public eye, but are shaping the realties of billions of people. Do these people have a higher level of intelligence? In large part they do, but this is not always the case.
Investors should care about about the masses from a selfish stand point. But it is not readily apparent that they do. Some may argue that the elites need the masses in order to do the real work and labor in an economy, these are the jobs that are outside of what used to be called white collar work and is now called knowledge work.
Simply having the masses do the work is something that needs to be revisited in modern times and hence the popularity of universal basic income and increasing social safety nets. Modern governmental aid is akin to supplying your tribe with bows and arrows to stave off predators. One needs money and support to survive and thrive in modernity.
As technology progresses and pervades all aspects of life, less workers (in the developed world) are needed to do the work that is needed. This should make most cheer in the streets. Wasn’t it Keynes that said leisure time should increase with technological advancement? Yet, this is not the case as technology has increased many work more hours and received less in return. Is this due to an intellectual gap or something else?
The masses need to be influenced to behave in certain ways to keep a level of homeostasis in a society. Being influenced on how to live, what to think and or focus on, and how to spend. This isn’t necessarily anything that falls into the lines of classism, its simply the way things work. Morally investors/elite/intelligent should care about everyone else because it benefits them, but it is more selfish than altruistic. The plebs are satisfied to keep order not necessarily to do right by them.
Status and prestige are still highly coveted in the Western world. As Thucydides stated "There are those that dominated and there are those that dominate." This is the natural order that most populations have lived by and continue to do so. Most may no longer fear a violent death such as Hobbes proclaims, but fear is still something commonly wielded against others for compliance. It is not right or wrong it just is.
A way to keep the masses content when there isn’t as much work that needs to be done is paying them when they are not working so that they can pursue things of interest and desire. This seems perplexing, but it is what the elites prefer. Why not let the masses have their bread and circuses, the alternative is usually the guillotine. This is why elites and plebs get along on so many things and it is the middle that feels ostracized.
Automation and AI have already lead to many great advancements, but have simultaneously displaced many from jobs that used to provide a decent life. The saying that the future is already here, it is just not evenly distributed is fitting. Elites are smart and do not want to see a modern rendition of the French Revolution. Thus, bread and circuses is the norm and no longer a snide quip.
Is vs Ought
C’est la vie. Leibniz figured as much with his assertion that this is the best of all possible worlds. Most people are going to believe what they want to believe and there's a powerful minority who apply their means to improve their lives the best they can and at the same time work hard to create whatever illusion is needed to keep them from freaking out (riots, violence, etc.) This is the perpetuation of Plato’s cave. It has been used successfully for millennia. Only now, the cave is extended into a virtual world that for many, is more rich and diverse than the real world in which they inhabit.
It’s hard to believe there's a better way - because the masses aren't able to take good care of themselves as it is. They're dependent so much on the secret help of others. If they truly could choose their own leaders, they'd make terrible choices and it would end badly, rather quickly. Rene Girard is an essential study on this point as memetic are a strong subconscious driver. The advent of technology and social connection through the internet have accelerated the memetic flywheel to unprecedented speeds.
The rationality movement is trying to assist in this dilemma through effective altruism, quadratic voting, and curated education. Sadly, these efforts may fall flat due to the underlying complexity involved when dealing with complex adaptive systems. It may be perfectly rational to conclude that a given strategy is sound based on first order probabilities, but there is no way of knowing what the second and third order consequences will be.
The same things have been going on since the days of serfs and lords, it's just far less obvious to the serfs that they're serfs. It’s not an evil plot, the serfs don't stand a chance at survival any other way. They literally lack the cognitive power to understand how poorly their own cognition is in comparison to others.
It is unworthy of excellent men to lose hours like slaves in the labour of calculation which could safely be relegated to anyone else if machines were used. - Leibniz
As Montaigne said: Each mans morals (customs, a person's standards of behavior or beliefs concerning what is and is not acceptable for them to do) shapes his destiny. Below are planes in which one can think of morality. Morals seem context dependent and should be weighted against what increases the probability of ones survival. That is a true sign of intelligence.
Moral in Christian sense
Moral in capitalistic sense
Moral in survival sense (natural order, reproduction)
By a defect of nature common to all men, we place our trust, rather, in things unseen, hidden and unknown, and are terrified to distraction by them. Do not stop at the unknown, push through and discover what is there. Leverage the intelligence you have to be as successful as possible in the complex adaptive environment in which you are enmeshed.
Morality is in the eye of the beholder. Morals are the oughts in the is/ought dichotomy. Some feel things ought to be a certain way while others feel that the subjectivity of ought takes away from the objectivity of the is. Consider that everyone ought to have the ability to write beautiful code, the fact is that this ability is not evenly distributed and the top 10% of coders outperform the bottom 90% by orders of magnitude. This isn’t because there is evil afoot, it is because abilities along with luck work in an exponential fashion.
The wise don’t care about morals per se, they care about truth and how they can either shed light on it or obfuscate it away. Things have not changed much ontologically throughout time, however there been facades created to mask them. Christianity, government, etc were created in large part to manage the is with structured ought. Societies are complex systems that are not always orderly, so rigid processes and beliefs help to provide order so that these societies can function across space and time. Order is needed to ensure one neighbor does not steal from another, that one nation can trade with another, and that one can feel safe walking down the street at night.
When we start to lose sight of or forget the values that Christianity ushered into the west like equality and love the facade starts to recede and things start to appear how they really are. Christianity worked as a hedge against the extremes of capitalism, much of this is lost today. Adam Smith, most often remembered for his principles of free markets and the invisible hand also wrote about morality that also needs to be applied in economics to ensure bad actors and exploitation is kept to a minimum. Capitalism functions the best for the whole not the few when it is coupled with morality that is adhered to by the public and administered by trusted institutions. Sadly, this seems to fade with each passing day.
We are in a time when religion is not important for many and governments are being heavily questioned. The rise of secularism has spurred a turn inward by many to establish their own set of beliefs and morals. Hence the popularity of anything that seems to bring a sense of belonging or empowerment. Participation in Christian religions is declining while the interest in Islam, Stoicism, and CrossFit are increasing. Maybe the obstacle is really the way and not everyone wants a life devoid of rigor and fulfillment. Unfortunately, this is still a small subset of the population, rather most are open to everything and have no true compass to guide them. Religion and government are not perfect and are wrought with problems, but they are also components that have allowed our current society indulge in such prosperous time.
Both of these institutions either have or had monopolies on power and violence. Monopoly of violence is the first step in control, the monopoly of money usually follows. This is necessary to keep order in society, not everyones ideals align at all times and you may encounter the individual that would rather take your bread than work to earn their own. Sadly, as religion has lost sway in The West, Media has mainly filled the void. The problem is that religions are an amalgamation of truths gathered throughout time that have persisted due to their utility to those who adhere to them. There is a reason people still eat Kosher. Media on the other hand follows no such form, rather medias aim is to corral as much attention from an individual as possible in order to propagate certain ideas that are of more benefit to an external entity than to the person receiving the message.
So, if our institutions are crumbling both literally and figuratively, what will replace them? On the surface it seems to be shells of former great institutions and malicious media. However, my hopeful short answer is intelligent leaders that are guided by virtue. Perhaps the millennial generation will be able to take the reins from the sclerotic Baby Boomers and implement systems that have aligned incentives and people that are willing to do what is right for the greater good. This again, makes one weary as there are only a few people that are fit to lead, the question is what will compel them to lead? It is apart of a cycle that when institutions fall, charismatic leaders emerge to cross the chasm to the next chapter. This is not always for the better and can be rather violent. The vacuum will have to be filled, the question is by what? A despot, Authoritarianism, Marxism, Techno-libertatainism, Guerrillas etc.
My long answer to the question of what fills the void is that these unwatched institutions need to be watched. They need to be filled with leaders that posses intelligence and character. This is where leadership matters and the leaders in place need to be guided by virtue and act in ways that are more long term oriented. This is not easy to do in modernity as most incentives are aligned for immediacy. Immediacy is often the cause of many maladies. Low time preference planning that accounts for events that can occur outside of existing models is an optimal approach. Society needs to be lead by those that grasp the concepts of the sciences, psychology, and politics. For it is a wise leader that is able to look past themselves and make decisions that will benefit society at large.
Does autonomous code solve this? This is the modern day application of the originalist view of the US Constitution - it was written a certain way to endure no matter the current environment and society should adhere to it. This is functioning currently in the crypto world within Bitcoin. Once written it is nearly impossible to amend unless changes are adequately deliberated, vetted and voted on. This can only be done by those with skin in the game, those that have displayed a track record of proper decision making and execution along with substantial economic exposure. So, perhaps forks in a coded constitution will function like amendments. The caveat being that the coded constitution will live on through a dormant chain, relegated to obscurity based on inefficiencies.
Individual - Family - Community
As Nietzsche said - god is dead. So, what replaces god and the logos? The ubermensch of course! But, who does one model in modernity to become the Ubermensch? The Nietzschean superman is the embodiment of the self sovereign individual. Someone who is fully rational, magnanimous, and strives for power. The intellectual, the strong, the prudent are all characteristics of ubermensch, which is the antitheses of the enlightened Hegelian last man.
Modern man is mostly an embodiment of Hegels Last Man rather than the ubermensch and it shows. The ubermesnch is the ideal, but not everyone can reach the ideal. The ideal is a model to strive towards, but never fully attain. It is the motivation to always do more and do better. In philosophy the archetype was embodied by Socrates, in the East Buddha, in Christianity Jesus.
The model archetype matters, what is the modern day version of the ideal archetype? It seems to be the person that is worried about everything and does nothing. Procrastination is a virus that pervades modernity. Wait to have children, wait to buy a home, wait to get married, wait to start a business. All delayed due to instant gratification fueled by sloth, avarice, and jealousy. Trips are more important than having a home, a career is more important than children, and climate change is more important than what is happening with your mother you no longer talk to…
Family structures are falling apart. Not only are three generation households mainly a story of the past, the increase in the erosion of nuclear families is occurring as well. Men are a sliver of what they once were. Women don't have a clear identity. And children lack structure and molding. Essentially there is nothing to model at the moment that seems worthwhile outside of fame and riches. Only a few will evert attain fame and fortune, the rest will simply fawn over those that do posses these things and never feel fully content.
People don't know history, nor do they care to learn. They view the world through structuralism - everything is man made and shaped. This is misguided and not objectively true. Don’t rely on scientist to uncover truths that are in plain sight. It doesn’t take a research project to tell a man how to be a father or a woman how to be a mother. Too much credence is given to science, the problem is, as in capitalism, that the incentives are not always aligned to benefit the common good. Leaders in all areas need checks and balances to ensure what they are pursuing isn’t just about making another buck, but advancing what we are able to accomplish as a species. We need leaders to lead, because it is evident that not everyone can adequately lead themselves. Again, this is not good or bad, just the way it is.
It is up to those with the intellect to take action that benefits society as a whole. One does have to make sacrifices to do so. For nothing worthwhile is easy. It is a noble obligation to ensure that society continually progresses in a direction that is good. Progress without direction ultimately leads to chaos. Chaos is fine in limited amounts, but it is up to the leaders to reign in chaos and supply order. Chaos destroys and allows new things to be born, but like children, new ideas need cultivation by those with more wisdom and experience for them to fully flourish.
In short, don't pressure those around you to see things how they really are, because they are only that way to you. Rather, do what you can to lend support and cultivate those around you. Not everyone is on a level playing field, but it shouldn’t stop you from doing what you can to improve yourself and others.