Intelligence as a political cleavage

Intelligence is increasingly a political cleavage, thanks to the phenomenon of skill-biased technological change.

If your income is earned through competition on an open market, intelligence is an unambiguous good. You need it, you want it, possessing it makes you succeed and lacking it makes you fail. The continued development and maximization of artificial intelligence is an obvious and mundane reality of business development.

If your income is earned through a bureaucratic office of any kind, success in that office increasingly requires opposition to intelligence as such. Unions were always essentially anti-intelligence structures, defending humans from innovative insights that threatened to displace them. But unions were defeated by the information revolution, which was a kind of global unleashing of distributed intelligence. Now, atomized individuals within bureaucratic structures spontaneously converge on anti-intelligence strategies, in a shared sub-conscious realization that their income and status will not survive any further rationalization.

How else do you explain the recent co-occurrence of the following?

  • Mass political opposition to mundane psychology research on intelligence
  • Evangelical public moralizing against competence as an increasingly visible career track (in journalism, some academic disciplines, the non-profit sector, etc.)
  • Social justice culture in general as a kind of diffuse “cognitive tax.” It is a distributed campaign to decrease the returns to thinking while increasing the returns to arbitrary dicta.
  • The popularity of pseudoscientific concepts serving as supposed alternatives to intelligence, e.g. “emotional intelligence,” “learning styles,” etc.

Finally, it is no surprise that many of these symptoms are rooted in academia. This is predicted by the theory. The authority and legitimacy of the Professor is predicated on their superior intelligence, and yet their income and status is predicated on anti-intelligent cartel structures (like all bureaucratic professions). It is no wonder, then, that increasing intelligence pressures are short-circuiting academic contexts first and foremost.

Once upon a time, professors could enjoy the privilege of merely slacking on competitive intelligence application. These were the good old days, before digitalization. Professors could be slackers and eccentrics: a low-level and benign form of anti-intelligenic intellectualism. They didn’t have to actively attack and mitigate intelligence as such. Today, given the advancement of digital economic rationalization, humanities professors work around the clock to stave off ever-encroaching intelligence threats.

The difficult irony is that anti-intelligence humanity professors are acting intelligently. It is perfectly rational for them to play the game they are playing. Not unlike CEOs, they are applying their cognition to maximize the profit of the ship they are stuck on.

One comment on “Intelligence as a political cleavage”

  1. Nice, thought provoking. I completely agree that here (as in general) we should try out the idea that ppl are responding to incentives as if this was a self-serving choice.

    The distinction between intelligence and intelligenic is wonderful. I take intelligenic to mean "encouraging adaptive socially coordinated behavior". The opposite might be "intellilytic", causing the breakdown and dissolution of collective intelligence.

    Another way to look at the academic behavior is that it is literally conservative, resisting change. There is much social conservativism in the woke establishment. The 60's radicals changed the establishment from within, and now here we are.

    But resisting change is intellilytic. You do not need intelligent collective application of new ideas simply to maintain the status quo, so collective intelligence becomes an unnecessary risk.

    I have read and thought a lot about nature/nurture issues. Intelligence research being in disfavor, and popular alternate theories (add SES educational determinism, grit), these are not new, and not clearly on an uptick. This really started in the 70's when Cyril Burt was posthumously cancelled. Lewontin's argument about the genetic irrelevance of race also dates to then. Multiple intelligences is from '83.

    My feel has been that the reason so many smart ppl are on the anti-intelligence bandwagon is some combination of yuck factor (Nazis, inequality) and a political sensibility to resist the elitist tendencies of blue credentialism, for the benefit of the Democratic coalition.

    Wokism is a recent related development. It is similar in that it involves the use of intelligence to advance egalitarian ideology (with opportunity to gain status by doing that).

    Some sense of equal human value is tremendously socially valuable, and dates back millennia. In modern times, probably linked to the rise of science, there has been a rise of egalitarian fundamentalism, with claims of literal scientific equality, rather like the modern religious fundamentalism, with its concrete literal reading of scripture.

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