Archive for December, 2014

Update 29 Dec 2014

Michael has now published an updated and expanded article, which explores this theme further. Highly recommended.

Despite the author of this article describing it as “archaeological” when I asked him about it a few months ago, I have continued to find it a valuable resource to quote from and link to when making particular points about IQ and success. Today I was disappointed to find that the page had finally disappeared when I was trying to link to it elsewhere, and I have had to use the web archive to locate the article. I have saved a copy on my computer for my own reference, but I feel that this article is just too good a resource to have it simply disappear from the Internet. I have therefore reposted it here to save it for posterity.

The web archive link I found is here.

The Information Age Knowledge Class

by Michael Ferguson

IQ correlates well with the likelihood of entering and remaining in an intellectually elite profession with the probability increasing to a 133 IQ.  However, beyond that level, the probability begins to decrease.  By 140 IQ it has fallen by 1/3. By 150 IQ it has fallen by 97%!  This means that over a quarter million English speakers are being excluded from participating in those professions that could most use their intelligence.  Their exclusion appears to be directly related to inappropriate educational and productive environments.  Furthermore, we conclude that this is an Industrial Age phenomenon.  Consequently, as the global Information Age civilization emerges, we assert that a profoundly affluent and polymathic Knowledge Class, comprised primarily of the previously excluded high IQ population will will concurrently emerge.  Polymathica, through its Polymathica Institute’s Fellowship, intends to play a critical, facilitating role in that process.

A Necessary Digression into Success and IQ

When the use of IQ tests first became widespread, many groups within the intellectual elites allowed themselves to be tested.  The results were less spectacular than one might have expected and today these groups do not generally agree to testing.  Medical students had a mean IQ of 125.5 and a standard deviation of 6.5. (The Journal of Medical Education,1965, 40, 1130-1143)  The science faculty of Cambridge University had a mean IQ of 126.5 and a standard deviation of 6.3. (Nature, 1967, 213, 442)  Top executives had an average IQ of 124 and a standard deviation of 7.9. (Personnel Psychology, 1956, 9, 207-209)  More recent evidence suggests somewhat lower means for the various elites.  Robert Hauser found mean IQs for professors of 115 and for physicians of 121.  However, we believe that this is primarily a difference in the definitions of the groups selected, rather than a deterioration in IQs among intellectual elites.  We present it to demonstrate that while large groups of elites are no longer inclined to subject themselves to IQ tests, the mean IQs of these groups has certainly not gone up.  From this we draw the general conclusion that intellectual elites have a mean IQ of approximately 126 and a standard deviation of 6.7.

The first attempt to assign IQs to exceptional people was Catherine Cox’s 1926 review of 301 eminent people.  These estimates were most closely akin to a 16 point ratio IQ and must be restated for the purposes of modern comparisions. For example, Newton, rather than having an IQ of 190, on a modern 15 point deviation scale would be rated at 164.  In 1952, Anne Roe actually gave IQ tests to 62 of the most eminent American scientists  who were active at the time.  She found that the average IQ of the group was 152.  There are several methodological problems with this study, however. First, it was normed based upon the results from a group of PhD candidates in Education.  Since this group probably had a mean IQ of about 117 and a standard deviation around 12 (Science, 1961, Vol 133, Jan-Jun, 679-688), the group was inappropriate for norming the target group.  Secondly, while it is unclear whether the reported IQs were on a 15 or 16 point scale, necessarily, the distribution would be more similar to a ratio IQ than a modern deviation IQ.  Therefore, an IQ of around 144 to 146 would be more comparable to a modern test result.  A rather clever inferential analysis concludes that the mean IQ of Nobel Laureates is similar to the Roe group or about 144.

This all ‘hangs together’ statistically.  In other words, an IQ of 145 is at the 99.8%’ile of the elites from which these eminent members are selected.  This implies that IQ is an important component of success in entering and remaining in these elite professions and that the most eminent among them have higher IQs to a statistically significant degree. However, imbedded in these statistics is a surprise.  By dividing the distribution of the elites (126 SD 6.7) by the distribution of the general population (IQ 100 and SD 15) we can statistically infer the relative probability that a person of any given IQ will enter and remain in an intellectually elite profession.  Not suprisingly, the probability increases with higher IQ.  It does so up to an IQ of 133.  It then begins to fall, slowly at first but precipitously at higher IQ levels.  By an IQ of 140 it has fallen by 1/3.  By an IQ of 150 it has fallen by 97%!

There are an estimated 250,000 English speaking people with IQs over 150.  They are being nearly entirely excluded from intellectually elite professions.  There are undoubtedly many reasons for this peculiar inference.  Certainly one is the wholey inappropriate educational environments within which these people find themselves.  This is clearly chronicled in a comparative case study by Miraca U.M. Gross.  Additionally, the work of Keith Simonton on pursuasiveness, leadership success and IQ is also relevant.

When IQ was originally developed by Alfred Binet, it was a quotient of Mental Age over Chronological Age.  This is referred to as a ratio IQ and, in a sense, is an absolute scale.  In other words, if a child is precisely 8 years old and, when given the IQ test, scores identically to the average 12 year old, the child’s ratio IQ is 12/8 X 100 = 150.  When children are assessed this way, however, the result is a significant overabundance of very high IQ children.  Some, such as Marilyn vos Savant, have results that fall outside of the range of what is probable.  In adults a related problem occurs.  If a test is created and the results are tabulated for 1,000 norming individuals selected at random, a standard deviation of raw score can be calculated.  If we apply that standard deviation to a significantly larger population, say one million, we find that too many people are scoring too high based upon the statistics of the middle.  They both say the same thing,smart people appear to be too smart, not just to succeed in contemporary Industrial Age settings, but also in some absolute sense.

Psychologist Leta Hollingworth, made the observation that, “… generally speaking, a leadership pattern will not form–or it will break up–when a discrepancy of more than about 30 points of IQ comes to exist between leader and led” Children Above 180 IQ Stanford Binet: Origin and Development (1942 p. 287)  It is critical, however, to note that the Stanford Binet IQ test of that time rendered a 16 point ratio score.  This means that the IQ of 180 corresponds to a modern 15 point deviation IQ of 159.  When she indicates that there exists a critical difference of 30 points from her base IQ of 180, she is referring to a 150 16 point ratio IQ, which corresponds to a 140 modern score.  Consequently the critical difference, at this level, in modern terms is only 159-140 = 19 points.  If we take the modern IQ of the average imember of an ntellectual elite profession of 126, it translates to a 16 point ratio IQ of 130.  If we add 30 points to that we get 160, which translates back to a 15 point deviation IQ of 147.  This is an astonishing result.  What it means is that a person with an IQ of more than 147 literally cannot take a leadership position among today’s intellectual elites.  They will either detach from the leadership role or be expunged.

We also see from Simonton, that the most persuasive people within a population that has an average IQ of 126 will be 126+18=144.  Dennisen, interpreting Simonton, suggests that comprehension of this group will approach zero when the individual within the elite has an IQ of 156 or above.  In total what this suggests is that people of eminence within Industrial Age organizational structures, even in intellectually elite groups with mean IQs of 126, will generally have IQ’s between 144 to 147 and that there is a computed absolute limit at 156.

Most elites have mechanisms by which young members progress from the bottom up.  This is most clearly evidenced in the large, hierarchical enterprise structures of the Industrial Age.  The recent graduate will enter the organization at the professional level, proceed to first level management, next to middle management and, finally, to senior management. Many of the very high IQ participants will distinguish themselves at the professional level.  However, it is often perceived that the person lacks the ‘people skills’ to succeed in management positions.  This is how the organization interprets the overly high IQ.

While recognizing that some people do have difficulty with the interpersonal demands of management, most often in the high IQ group, this simply means that their IQ is above Simonton’s optimum 18 point differential and, often, above the Hollingworth 30 point maximum.  Even if the high IQ individual is given first level management responsibility, the result is likely to be less than satisfactory.  Often this leads to a process of demotion back to senior professional and almost universally results in a stalling of the career progression.  In other words, if one wants to find the smartest people in a company, one should look to well tenured senior professionals and first line managers.

According to Hauser, most professional groups have mean IQs centering around 108.  This suggests, per Simonton, that the optimum IQ for a first level manager is 126.  Translating to ratio IQs, applying Hollingworth’s 30 pont differential and translating back to deviatin IQ, we discover that the range of successful first line managers has a upper limit of 132. This corresponds closely to the maximum probability of entrance into an elite profession.  Since middle managers are selected from the population of successful first level manager’s, their IQs, from a practical standpoint, cannot exceed the 132 limit of the human resource pool from which they are selected.  The evidence, per the citation above, is that the IQ of top executives, at 124 does not exceed the average of first level managers.  Because the original population restricts the progression of intelligence with higher management levels, other selection criteria must be used.  This, in turn, leads to a generally poor correlation between IQ and career success.  In other words, it is a function of the organizational processes not of IQ, itself.

The Emerging Knowledge Class

We now understand that, over a broad range of educational and productive environments, the relationship between leader and follower and ranges of mutual understanding restrict the opportunities of exceptionally intelligent people.  These educational and productive environments, however, are Industrial Age institutions.  The Information Age is ushering in a completely different set of institutions.  Several aspects of the Information Age strongly suggest that the inverse correlation between measures of professional success and IQs above 133 will soon be ending.

First among these new environmental factors is the creation of significant, new social universes.  In our article, Polymathic Pundits, we conclude that Polymathica will be a global community of refinement and erudtion with characteristic IQs between 120 and 144.  Over time, its members will create enterprises that will provide the products and services for Polymathica.  This constitutes a radical new environment within which individuals in the problematical IQ range above 140 will have new opportunities for success.  Within Polymathica, the optimum leadership IQ (ratio vs deviation IQ differences are significant) is 144.  In hierarchical Polymathica organizations, the range of success for first level managers will be bounded on the top by the IQ of 152 which then becomes the functional limit for organizational leadership.  Howver, this means that over 93% of the people with IQs over 140 who currently have difficulty succeeding in traditional productive environments will have optimumal intelligence for success within Polymathica organizations.

However, the Information Age will be much more entrepreneurial and traditional career progressions will be far less normative.  Entrepreneurial organizations form from the top down.  In other words, very high IQ people, such as Bill Gates and Sergei Brin, form new organizations and then seek followers.  The very high IQ person starts at the top.  A visionary with an IQ of 160 will attract followers with IQs above 140 and a mean of approximately 149.  This process is creating new, hyper-intellectual and, potentially, polymathic productive work environments.  In our articles, we discuss new, Information Age polymathic knowledge professions that with characteristic IQs of its incumbents that are above 150.

As was the case with the Industrial Age, the Information Age will have organizations that are comprised of intellectual elites.  However, rather than averaging IQs of 126, the average IQ, as we see from above, is likely to be around 150. This suggests that the persons of eminence within these elites, rather than average IQs in the 144 to 146 range, will likely average 160 and be bounded on the top by 167.  Consequently, the usual institutions of enterprise in Polymathica will accommodate all but the .000397% of the population with deviation IQs of 168 or above.  This is a population of approximately 2,500 English speakers.  We expect that nearly all of them, over time, will find their way to Polymathica. They can and should be intentionally provided with exceptional educational and productive environments.


The preceding article is an extremely important aspect of Polymathica.  Simply put, its leadership will not be created from individuals already occupying positions of leadership within society.  Rather, Polymathica will allow  individualswho are currently experiencing difficulty in succeeding in Industrial Age educational and productive environments a new set of environments within which they likely will be more success prone.  Another important consideration is that high IQ does, in fact, correlate with superior solutions and decisions over its entire range.  The problem, as we have seen, is not with the quality of the decisions but rather with the ability of the organization to understand and appreciate their superior quality.  In other words, as the Polymathica organizations within which the high IQ and polymathic knowledge professions function begin to become established, they will simply outcompete the traditional organizations.  From the organizational triumph will come the triumph of the Polymath and the emergence of a polymathic Knowledge Class.

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