Sunday, February 14, 2010

Intelligence isn't just good for your head, it's good for your heart!

Work by Britain's Medical Research Council (similar to the NIH in the US) provides more support for the assertion that intelligence is good for your health:
Intelligence comes second only to smoking as a predictor of heart disease, scientists said on Wednesday, suggesting public health campaigns may need to be designed for people with lower IQs if they are to work.

Research by Britain's Medical Research Council (MRC) found that lower intelligence quotient (IQ) scores were associated with higher rates of heart disease and death, and were more important indicators than any other risk factors except smoking.

Heart disease is the leading killer of men and women Europe, the United States and
most industrialised countries.
This is further evidence that libertarians like Bryan Kaplan and Megan McArdle are off the mark when they argue that an uber-intelligent society would be an inefficient and unpleasant one. Essentially, they contend that if everyone is a brainiac, near-geniuses would be forced to pick up garbage and work in fast food restaurants, whereas in contemporary Western society, there are people of more modest intelligence to do that sort of work.

The flaws in such an argument are legion. Even in jobs not requiring sophisticated skill sets or abstract reasoning ability, more intelligent people make for more reliable employees. They are less likely to injure themselves or others, or need constant supervision in performing menial tasks. Of course, these over-qualified workers will be more likely to find better and more efficient ways of performing their duties. With fewer smart people (think lawyers, social workers, etc) devoting their careers to tending to the problems created by (mostly low-IQ) criminals, welfare recipients, drug users, the unhealthy, and the like, more brain power will be available for technological innovation and the increasing of process efficiencies--things that lead to real standard of living increases. More blatantly, Lynn and Vanhanen's book IQ and the Wealth of Nations shows an indisputable relationship (r = .82) between intelligence and national wealth. The more intelligent a society is, the wealthier it tends to be.

Further, what people do as compensated employees does not constitute the sum of their contribution to society. Think of Linux or the HBD blogging community. I've enjoyed Japanese rpgs never released stateside thanks to enthusiasts who have programmed emulators to run the games for free on my PC, complete with English language translations. These guys aren't getting paid for this, it's just the type of thing intelligent people like to do. If they mow lawns or sweep parking lots by day and program emulators by night, they're still providing me with a higher quality of life than the contemporary lawn mower or lot sweeper is. And intelligence is positively correlated with a host of other socially desirable behaviors (lower criminality, higher marriage rates, better financial management, etc).

Well, the article excerpted above constitutes another piece of evidence to be marshaled against collectivist libertarians--intelligence is the second most important factor in predicting who will suffer from the leading killer of both men and women in the developed world. In our theoretical uber high-IQ societies, fewer people will suffer from heart disease (in addition to obesity, and probably a host of other maladies as well) than do today.

The piece goes on to emphasize educational strategies that putatively increase IQ, without making mention of more consquential factors like birthing patterns, and, at the national level, immigration trends. But policies aimed at increasing average intgelligence via these later factors deserve at least as much consideration. Progressive child credits (as opposed to the regressive credit currently in place) and the growth of charitable agencies like Project Prevention are potential methods for increasing home-grown intelligence. The EB-5 visa program provides a way to circumvent the political problems inherent in an immigration system explicitly tailored toward accepting aspiring high-IQ immigrants while rejecting those of lower intelligence.

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

"The piece goes on to emphasize educational strategies that putatively increase IQ, without making mention of more consquential factors like birthing patterns..."

OK, I'm aware that lower IQ people tend to space their kids births closer together. But that's not the cause of their kids' low IQ's, right? That's merely a product of low IQ, not a pattern that can alter the IQ of the kids from the same parents. Or am I wrong? Or do you mean something else when you talk about "birthing patterns" e.g., the fact that the dumb reproduce more often and start earlier?

Anonymous said...

"Essentially, they contend that if everyone is a brainiac, near-geniuses would be forced to pick up garbage and work in fast food restaurants, whereas in contemporary Western society, there are people of more modest intelligence to do that sort of work."

This would only be temporarily the case if everyone turned brainiac overnight.

However, if everyone's a brainiac, robotics and computerization takes a quantum leap (more brainpower to mechanize menial and skilled labor.)

I'm surprised these "smart" people can't reason in terms of accelerating returns. They oughta read Kurzweil.

JB

TGGP said...

I think Caplan's argument is slightly misstated. I'm sure he would approve of raising the IQ's of the left-half of the bell curve. He just thinks that, even with their lower IQs, they can contribute to our wellbeing and so we are better off having them around (though we would be even better off than that if they had higher IQs). It's a comparative advantage story that would be better understood with the knowledge that he's very pro-natalist (more people = good).

Stopped Clock said...

Do you or anyone here have the ability to get at the article behind this SciecneDirect link:

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science?_ob=ArticleURL&_udi=B6W4M-4M33W4G-1&_user=10&_coverDate=12%2F31%2F2006&_fmt=abstract&_orig=browse&_cdi=6546&view=c&_acct=C000050221&_version=1&_urlVersion=0&_userid=10&md5=7e2776b0cfb56233a6bb1fe666c89959&ref=full

It claims to be a new study listing IQ's in all 50 states and states that California ranks 2nd to last. But it's not available without a paid login.

Audacious Epigone said...

Anon,

The latter. Birthing patterns among various demographic groups across time, in a wide sense, not just the spacing of births.

I should just give up on eloquent variation entirely--it's not a strong suite :)

Anon,

Exactly. Necessity is the mother of innovation... and it is helped along by a high concentration of intelligent people fueling it.

TGGP,

In the post linked to, he continues on to make exactly that--a comparative advantage argument. But the fact that "the Brains" are still able to benefit from it does not negate the fact that if there were no Brawns, and only Brains producing both computer programs and bushels of wheat, comparative advantage benefits the programming Brains via the bushel-generating Brains more it does when there are only bushel-generating Brawns around. So, in his hypothetical, a smarter population still means everyone tends to be better off than they would be in a more cognitively stratified society.

Stopped Clock,

I don't have access. Have you tried any of the GNXPers? Razib might have a key.