Stanovich on intelligence enhancement

From Stanovich’s popular book on the distinction between rationality and intelligence (p. 196):

In order to illustrate the oddly dysfunctional ways that rationality is devalued in comparison to intelligence…  Baron asks us to imagine what would happen if we were able to give everyone an otherwise harmless drug that increased their algorithmic-level cognitive capacities (for example, discrimination speed, working memory capacity, decoupling ability) — in short, that increased their intelligence…

Imagine that everyone in North America took the pill before retiring and then woke up the next morning with more memory capacity and processing speed. Both Baron and I believe that there is little likelihood that much would change the next day in terms of human happiness. It is very unlikely that people would be better able to fulfill their wishes and desires the day after taking the pill. In fact, it is quite likely that people would simply go about their usual business-only more efficiently. If given more memory capacity and processing speed, people would, I believe: carry on using the same ineffective medical treatments because of failure to think of alternative causes (Chapter 10); keep making the same poor financial decisions because of overconfidence (Chapter 8); keep misjudging environmental risks because of vividness (Chapter 6); play host to the contaminated mindware of Ponzi and pyramid schemes (Chapter 11); be wrongly influenced in their jury decisions by incorrect testimony about probabilities (Chapter 10); and continue making many other of the suboptimal decisions described in earlier chapters. The only difference would be that they would be able to do all of these things much more quickly!

This is part of why it’s not obvious to me that radical intelligence amplification (e.g. via IES) would increase rather than decrease our odds of surviving future powerful technologies.

Elsewhere (p. 171), Stanovich notes:

Mensa is a club restricted to high-IQ individuals, and one must pass IQ-type tests to be admitted. Yet 44 percent of the members of this club believed in astrology, 51 percent believed in biorhythms, and 56 percent believed in the existence of extraterrestrial visitors-all beliefs for which there is not a shred of evidence.


  1. Luke says

    Source on Mensa study:

    Chatillon, G. (1989). Acceptance of paranormal among two special groups. Skeptical Inquirer, 13(2), 216-217.

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