TBR: Outliers

This week's book is Outliers: The Story of Success, by Malcolm Gladwell.  It's his attempt to look at the environmental and cultural factors that affect why some people succeed and others fail, and to blow apart the idea that individual genius is responsible for success.

It's a quick read (probably took me less than 3 hours front to back) and each section is reasonably entertaining, but it doesn't quite hold together as an overall book or argument.

In particular, the middle section, where he argues that Korean airlines have a terrible safety record because of the cultural pressures for subordinates to defer to their supervisors, seems to have little connection to the rest of the book.  And while it's possible that Gladwell is correct in his claim that the reason that Asian cultures respect hard work is that rice is more work to grow than wheat or corn, he sure doesn't present enough evidence to convince me.

Gladwell is correct that Bill Joy (one of the founders of Sun) and Bill Gates were extraordinarily lucky in having the opportunity to program a lot when very few people had access to computers at all.  And there's no doubt that practice is necessary (if not sufficient) for being good at programming.  On the other hand, the reason that Gates is one of the richest men in the world has very little to do with his coding skills. (He didn't write the code for DOS, after all.)

I thought the discussion of the relationship (or lack thereof) between extreme intelligence* and success** was the best part of the book.  In particular, Gladwell tells the story of an early 20th century researcher who identified 1470 highly gifted California elementary school students, and was shocked to learn that only a small fraction of them were particularly successful later in life.  Moreover, there was a huge correlation between economic class and success (not exactly shocking to me, but still sad).  Gladwell cites Lareau and argues that the upper class kids know how to manipulate systems to their advantage, but I'm not convinced –I'm pretty sure that "concerted cultivation" wasn't around in the 1920s.

In the last part of the book, Gladwell returns to the question of education and class, and argues that the intensive school setting of KIPP lets poor kids spend enough time learning to catch up with their middle class peers.   Among other things, he cites the data that shows that much of the growth in the gap between poor and upper class kids during elementary school is not about what happens during the school year, but that the wealthier kids continue to gain over the summer, while the poor kids stagnate, or even slip backwards. I've heard that before, but had never seen the underlying data before — what struck me the most is that for the upper class kids, they gained about half as much over the 3 month summer vacation as they did over the 9 month school year.  In other words, per month, the upper class kids learned more during vacation than during school. 

*When I initially wrote this post, I omitted the word "extreme" which significantly fails to represent Gladwell's argument.  He cites Arthur Jenson (whom he calls an "IQ fundamentalist") as saying that the four cutoffs that matter for IQ are 50, 75, 105, and 115 — and that for real world applications, the difference between having an IQ of 115 and 150 or between 150 and 180 is less important.

**Jennifer asked what constituted success.  Here's what Gladwell writes "But few of his [Terman's] geniuses were nationally known figures.  They tended to earn good incomes — but not that good.  The majority had careers that could only be considered ordinary, and a suprising number ended up with careers that even Terman considered failures.  Nor were there any Nobel Prize winners in his exhaustively selected group of geniuses.  His fieldworkers actually tested two elementary school students who went on to be Nobel laureates — William Shockley and Luis Alvarez — and rejected them both.  Their IQs weren't high enough… if Terman had simply put together a randomly selected group of children from the same family backgrounds as the Termites — and dispensed with IQ altogether — we would have ended up with a group doing almost as many impressive things as his painstakingly selected group of geniuses."

21 Responses to “TBR: Outliers”

  1. amy Says:

    Elizabeth, I don’t find it surprising that the UC kids learned more when out of school. For them, the standards are much (much) higher at home – not just for the academics, but all around. The parents understand and live competition and follow-through in a way that public schools will not go near. All you have to do is watch those parents schooling the kids in some social nicety, the grip on the kid’s shoulder, the repetition until the kid gets it right, the kid’s docility in the process. That method and intensity is ordinary there, as is attention to detail, and there is some measure of scorn and/or embarrassment attached to poor performance.
    I am watching our school district push itself off a cliff by gerrymandering for socioeconomic equality and trying to pretend that All Kids In the District Get an Equally Wonderful Education. Many of the kids do get terrific educations, but that’s because their parents are wildly overeducated university types. As the school board tries to stir children of gang members in with the oncology fellows’ kids, the private schools expand, and the highly-acclaimed public schools start to fail. We have two or three enclave public schools left, and I’d move closer to one of them, but its day will come too. Yes, we have very highly trained teachers, and they work very hard, we take them seriously as professionals. But the real teachers are the parents, and when the parents who read pull their kids, you have trouble.

  2. dave.s. Says:

    I guess I should read Gladwell, everybody has. I did read Bell Curve, once years ago when it came out and once again last year, and I was struck by how strongly Herrnstein and Murray made the case that brighter people did better across a whole array of professions: the brighter electricians were better at it, as were the brighter plumbers, laborers. It seemed pretty convincing to me. Elizabeth, how about a deal: I’ll read Outliers, you read Bell Curve, and we’ll come back to this space in a month.
    Gladwell has in general seemed to me sort of like Vance Packard: a guy who packages conventional wisdom and what the great and good would like to be true and is very successful at it.
    Amy, I’ve been watching from a distance what has been happening in my old high school (Berkeley, in Calif – same mix of university types and kids who will not do homework, with an overlay of Bill Gates’ small schools now abandoned for funding by the Gates Foundation and drifting forward as enclaves within the larger school). I squandered a lot of my junior high school career reading science fiction, and in particular I liked Heinlein, and he had one of his characters say, “When the people vote for the impossible, the disastrous possible happens instead”.

  3. Elizabeth Says:

    Dave, sorry, Gladwell does not say that IQ does not matter to success — that was my too hurried paraphrasing — what he says is that the difference between having an IQ of say 120 and an IQ of 150 doesn’t matter to success.

  4. Jackie Says:

    I’m interested in that summer statistic too. Did Gladwell go into it much? If not, Elizabeth, what do you think it’s attributable to: summer camps and vacations and other cultural outings educated parents are more likely to do in the summer? Or is it the differing quality of summertime childcare available to parents of different classes?

  5. bj Says:

    “But the real teachers are the parents, and when the parents who read pull their kids, you have trouble.”
    I hear this argument a lot, but it doesn’t particularly help the “poor kids” if the kids are all in a different school in the same system — they might as well be in a private school. Segregating schools so that the rich parents will stay doesn’t create any particular societal value, except for the rich parents.
    I too am intrigued by the statistic on summer learning. Does Gladwell adequately back it up? I’m confused by how one measures the learning in this context. And, these days, it does seem like there’s significant academics going on in UC families over the summer, especially for kids middle school and higher (i.e the “camps” that are really academic programs). Is this the cause? Or is there more casual learning that’s going on?

  6. Jennifer Says:

    What’s the measure for success and failure?

  7. Jackie Says:

    I disagree, bj. The more “rich” parents that stay in the city for schools, the more property taxes they pay, which benefits the city overall. No city can thrive without a middle class, and we “rich” parents who stay for schools are part of that too. When cuts are threatened to that school district overall, it’s a good bet that there will be some of those “rich” parents there advocating. Also, in Baltimore, at least, even those schools end up with a fair percentage of “not-rich” kids, both through NCLB-enabled transferring and through parents who can’t afford to live in the district living in apartments or rentals and sending their kids there. The myth of the public urban school entirely filled with “rich” kids is a myth here in Baltimore.

  8. Andrea Says:

    I think concerted cultivation is inevitable in any society in which some parents can afford to buy access to opportunities for their children that aren’t publicly available. I fail to see a significant difference between today’s soccer teams, piano lessons and camping trips and the tutors, governesses, art teachers and etiquette lessons of yore. In both cases, children of upper classes are being extensively schooled in teh kinds of skills that are perceived to advance their careers (whether public or domestic) and to negotiate their world in successful ways.
    Why would it be new? Am I missing something? If anything, a hundred years ago the disparity would have been worse.

  9. dave.s. Says:

    Well, I’m #211 on the County queue reserving Gladwell at the library, so it will be a while before I see the book. The Herrnstein and Murray discussion of better results in basically all occupational groups without limit for higher IQ, and which I would think Gladwell would need to respond to in a book written fifteen years later, is Chapter 2 and Chapter 5-12. Chapter 3, too.
    When I was going to policy school at 79 Then Boylston Street, there was a huge dustup because one of our stats professors (Klitgaard, now a university president in CA) wrote a memo to Bok pushing IQ – and also wrote about racial differences. There is a moderate amount of record of this trouble available through Google.
    Feynman famously went to his high school and found his IQ – 127 – and afterward delighted in saying, well, that winning the Nobel was not so much, but winning it with an IQ of 127 was pretty special. It’s worth taking a look at the Global Warming denialist story in Sunday’s Times mag, about Freeman Dyson, and the awareness of intellect in the physics community. Dyson had heard about the difficulty of calculus, found the Britannica article about it when he was 13, and taught himself in a weekend, what was the fuss about? My guess is that Feynman wasn’t very well measured, in high school…

  10. dave.s. Says:

    Still haven’t hit the head of the queue for Gladwell at the library, but a couple of things on the general subject: Kristof in the NY Times http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/16/opinion/16kristof.html?_r=1&em and a book by William Poundstone called How Would You Move Mt Fuji, about the brainteaser questions some of the Wall Street and Silicon Valley companies are using to pick employees. Poundstone says Gates is an enormous IQ believer, and there are a lot of questions Microsoft has used again and again in interviewing people. He has some interesting stories about IQ believer Shockley, who hired a number of very smart people to work in his transistor company next to Stanford before he so alienated his best engineers that they quit him (and went out to found Fairchild and Intel…). Poundstone himself talks flaws to intelligence testing and takes a line a lot like Gladwell’s, but it has to be somewhat impressive that Gates’ beliefs have led him to, shall we say, a modicum of success.
    Kristof stresses the importance of intellect, as measured by IQ, for success, and talks up studies showing malleability of intelligence, in children adopted from poorer families to richer ones and in children who get intensive schooling. Both Kristof and Poundstone seem to be cherry picking the data which leads to the most ideologically attractive results, but they are both worth reading.

  11. dave.s. Says:

    Nice line from the Derek Lowe blog, In the Pipeline: “On that point, I like E. O. Wilson’s metaphor for nature versus nurture. He likened a person’s genetic inheritance to a photographic negative. Depending on how it’s developed and printed, the resulting picture can turn out a lot of different ways – but there’s never going to be more than was in there to start with. (These days, I suppose that we’re going to have to hunt for another simile – Photoshop is perhaps a bit too powerful to let loose inside that one).”
    Kristof’s basic suggestion is that the life experience of poorer children is damaging, that it can be repaired with some kinds of interventions, and with it their life prospects. He suggests that it should be an urgent national effort to do so.

  12. amy Says:

    Dave, I want to reiterate that “poor” is a bad handle, because there are too many roads to low income. About half my friends with kids are low-income; the other half are doctors, professors, lawyers. The kids are nearly indistinguishable because they come from the same universityland social class. It’s just that some of the parents wandered off to be nightclub singers, writers, organic hemp growers, etc. The only substantial difference I see now is that the professional-salary kids have vacations at expensive resorts. Both groups tend to travel a lot, though. They read the same magazines and sites, go to the same gyms, sign the kids up for the same programs.
    bj, I agree with Jackie, and I’m watching what she describes happening here. The rich parents stay committed to the district so long as their kids don’t get dragged down by the poor kids (ack, I do it too). They keep the property values up, they keep the tax basis up. As soon as you make their kids sit by while the teachers try to wrangle the thugs’ kids, they move. It happens fast. Your tax base vanishes, and then you get real dilapidation in the schools.
    I visited my daughter’s kindergarten on Friday — parents are invited to come in whenever. I went in for “read and relax” time (formerly naptime), and as soon as I sat down on my daughter’s blanket with a book, eight other kids suddenly appeared wanting to hear the story. I have no idea how they got there; just, blam, there they were. But they didn’t do what seriously poor kids do. They weren’t hanging on me like barnacles looking for attention, trying to make a connection. They wanted to hear the story. And it was possible to read — they didn’t yell at each other or start a fight in the middle of my reading, though one shushed another. After the story they had gym, and then music. The music teacher was serious, and was teaching rhythm and meter, and the kids got it — in part because half of them had private music lessons outside school. Some have been going to music school for two years.
    You can teach these kids more in school. You can expect more from them than you can from the kids whose mothers are out trailing them around town at 10:30 pm and can barely read themselves. Is there a social benefit to being able to teach these kids more? Yes, of course there is. It means that when they go to college they can do something other than remedial middle school. And when they get out, they’ve got a better shot at making something go. In the aggregate, that’s meaningful, that’s helpful to society.
    The idea of desegregating the kids classwise doesn’t, I think, do much for the kids at the bottom. It certainly helps the “bad” schools — their averages come up, and they look better. But it’s not like you can transfer years of parental education by osmosis. The college-prep kids don’t start hanging out with the routinely-evicted kids. The kids self-segregate by class inside the schools. Which is to say, by behaviors.
    The “rich” kids do well because they’ve been on the receiving end of tens of thousands of hours of teaching and coaching at home. They’re the ones who had the crazy parents saying, “A! This is an A!” when they were three months old, and “gentle, gentle,” and “what can you say to Olivia to let her know how you feel,” and “This is not a toy, Mr. Elephant. You must get out and do your shopping,” and “Try it. Sound it out,” and “No, you must shake hands, it’s very rude not to,” and “No, you aren’t done, I see toys here, and what is this over here, laundry. Finish up and then we’ll ______.” There is no osmotic shortcut.

  13. dave.s. Says:

    More! More! http://www.nber.org/papers/w14884
    abstract: This paper estimates the effect of the childhood environment on a large array of social and economic outcomes lasting almost 60 years, for both the affected cohorts and for their children. To do this, we exploit a natural experiment provided by the 1949 Magic Carpet operation, where over 50,000 Yemenite immigrants were airlifted to Israel. The Yemenites, who lacked any formal schooling or knowledge of a western-style culture or bureaucracy, believed that they were being “redeemed,” and put their trust in the Israeli authorities to make decisions about where they should go and what they should do. As a result, they were scattered across the country in essentially a random fashion, and as we show, the environmental conditions faced by immigrant children were not correlated with other factors that affected the long-term outcomes of individuals. We construct three summary measures of the childhood environment: 1) whether the home had running water, sanitation and electricity; 2) whether the locality of residence was in an urban environment with a good economic infrastructure; and 3) whether the locality of residence was a Yemenite enclave. We find that children who were placed in a good environment (a home with good sanitary conditions, in a city, and outside of an ethnic enclave) were more likely to achieve positive long-term outcomes. They were more likely to obtain higher education, marry at an older age, have fewer children, work at age 55, be more assimilated into Israeli society, be less religious, and have more worldly tastes in music and food. These effects are much more pronounced for women than for men. We find weaker and somewhat mixed effects on health outcomes, and no effect on political views. We do find an effect on the next generation – children who lived in a better environment grew up to have children who achieved higher educational attainment.
    Amy, you are clearly right that ‘poor’ is shorthand at the least, and does not capture some of what is going on. There is interesting research on SAT scores by parental income crossed with race:
    this is from an article in Journal of Blacks in Higher Education: “…Income-Based Affirmative Action Will Do Almost Nothing to Produce Greater Racial Diversity in Public Schools or in Colleges and Universities….According to statistics supplied to JBHE by The College Board, college-bound white students from families with low incomes score considerably higher than college-bound blacks from families with low incomes. For example, for white students from families with incomes below $10,000, the median SAT score in 2006 was 488 on the critical reading portion of the test and 505 on the math portion. For blacks from families with incomes below $10,000, the median SAT score was 398 on the verbal portion and 395 on the math. A similar 90 to 110 point gap occurs at other low-income levels such as those for families with incomes between $10,000 and $20,000 and for families with incomes ranging from $20,000 to $30,000. In fact, the SAT score gap between blacks and whites in the lower-income brackets mirrors the gap for the test-taking population as a whole.
    Therefore, if college admissions officials were to shift affirmative action or preferential admissions programs to a system based on socioeconomic status and give preference to students from families from these lower-income brackets without regard to race, it appears that white students — based on their significantly higher test scores at all income levels — would continue to hold a huge admission advantage over black students…”
    Here’s a NYT article about the failure of prosperous suburban districts to get equal results for students: http://www.nytimes.com/2003/06/04/education/04EDUC.html?ex=1370750400&en=fea635218b907fe6&ei=5007&partner=USERLAND
    Eduwonkette summarizes a paper by Reardon: http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/eduwonkette/2008/09/cool_people_you_should_know_se_1.html “..How does the progress of initially high-achieving black and white students compare as they progress from kindergarten through 5th grade? It turns out that high-achieving black students fall back significantly more than low-achieving black students. For students who start school at the 84th percentile, black-white gaps grow twice as fast as students who start school at the 16th percentile. (See Reardon’s paper here.)
    The question, then, is why. Reardon suggests a few possible mechanisms, each of which deserve more attention in future research. The first possibility is an outgrowth of racial segregation. The average black high achiever attends school with lower achieving students than the average white high achiever. If teachers teach to the middle, high-achieving black kids may lose out compared to their white peers. A second possibility is that teachers treat black and white low achieving students similarly, but differentiate treatment among high-achieving black and white students. (This seems less plausible to me, but perhaps you have thoughts here.) A third possibility is that the home environments of high-achieving black and white students diverge more than the home environments of low-achieving black and white students…”
    Amy, you are voting for door #3, I think. But it’s hard to know what the schools can do about parental choice of the home environment to provide.

  14. amy Says:

    Dave, yes, I think the home environment is crucial, and that there’s little schools can do about it because the schools do not provide the culture, nor can they.
    Like Elizabeth, I’m Jewish. Despite all the internal propaganda about “yiddische kup” (a Jewish head) I hadn’t really appreciated how important a factor that can be in secular education until I was drafting a proposal for my divorce decree. My lawyer’s a bright, hard-driving, self-made woman in the Suze Orman mold, obviously has a graduate education, put a son through school. But even to her, the primal force of the Jewish “the child will go to school and will concentrate on her studies” was a total aberration. Local law provides for the judge to examine the parents’ finances and order them each to pay up to a third of in-state costs. I think that sounds hapless. Too little much too late, and to leave the child deep in debt at 22 or so — no. So I pushed for, and got, a provision that has A.’s dad giving me a fixed amount each month to invest for her education in a manner that accounts for probable tuition inflation, and we will pay 90% of costs. Any money left over from investments can go for costs of graduate education.
    I don’t know any single Jewish mothers with less than a BA. Most of those I know have graduate degrees. They might be living hand-to-mouth, but the children have music lessons, Hebrew school, etc. I do this too. Really, I cannot afford the violin teacher (who can’t afford to _be_ a violin teacher); I’m taking A. on a research trip to Sunny Coastal City where there’s a Jewish day came she’ll attend. It’s wildly expensive and I don’t qualify for scholarships because I”m not from the area. Can I afford it, no. Is she going, yes. Even more hardcore? The Chinese parents. Look out for the Chinese mothers, man. The violin teacher’s Chinese students’ mothers come armed with video cameras. They tape the lessons and both parents review them with the tiny kids all week. Kids come in with the lesson down pat, ready to move on. The local schools offer after-school Chinese lessons and I know that ain’t because the administrators thought Chinese was nifty.
    The thing is, it’s not about status or what other people might think. There’s a sense that this is vital to the child’s wellbeing. You’d no more leave out the education than you’d leave out food. This is a cultural thing and it’s reinforced by the whole community. When I was 28, I caught hell from an ex-boyfriend’s Jewish father — a secular man married three times to Christian women — for stopping at a terminal master’s and not going on for a PhD. In other cultures, team sports and family events have the same sort of feel — you’ll drag the kid all over creation for the meets and the special training and the reunions and weddings. Locally, the predominantly German culture still has a serious thing about music, for which I’m grateful. I was genuinely impressed by the kindergarten music teacher, and all over town the children are serious about their instruments. (I’m less excited about the serious local thing about punctuality.)
    If the kid’s culture does not value education, all you can hope for is an unusual kid. I see variously disguised efforts at removing the kid from the home culture, but they’re all attempts at playing Indian School, which on the whole will fail and create a backlash. I don’t think you can fight that much with mama and win. The schools make various efforts at reeducating mama, of course, but I don’t think they have the commitment to make it work, nor the power unless mama shows up interested and willing to put up with a lot of clumsy treatment.

  15. Amy P Says:

    “I see variously disguised efforts at removing the kid from the home culture, but they’re all attempts at playing Indian School, which on the whole will fail and create a backlash. I don’t think you can fight that much with mama and win. The schools make various efforts at reeducating mama, of course, but I don’t think they have the commitment to make it work, nor the power unless mama shows up interested and willing to put up with a lot of clumsy treatment.”
    That’s an interesting point. How do you make education more palatable? My suggestion would be to make it more relevant and visibly useful in parents’ day-to-day lives.
    One of the most successful adult education programs I know of is Dave Ramsey’s radio show and his Financial Peace University. I’m doing the 13-week DVD course right now at a downtown Baptist church. FPU covers all the stuff you should have learned earlier, but somehow didn’t: the risks of using credit, budgeting, paying down debt, emergency fund, retirement, buying a house without risking your financial security, insurance, etc. He’s got a step-by-step plan called the Baby Steps. It’s very helpful for anybody (like me) who has been doing it all wrong before and finds standard financial advice confusing. One of the interesting things about Ramsey is that he’s an Evangelical white Southern guy and isn’t super refined, but you can tell from listening to the radio show that he does have a significant minority listenership. It may be hard to grasp for anyone to whom it is second nature, but there’s a big jump involved in going from just making money to managing to hold onto it. I was leaving the FPU class last night when I overheard the mature African-American woman from the group pointing to her beautiful car and crowing “It’s paid off!” Likewise, the white pastor who facilitates the class is himself working hard at paying off debt accrued while putting kids through college on credit cards.
    The thing is, it is possible to change, and it is possible even for grownups. You just have to be able to clearly see and understand the need for change and there has to be immediate positive feedback.

  16. Elizabeth Says:

    The Nisbett book looks really interesting — my library doesn’t have it yet. (I admit, I’m somewhat tempted by the Kindle version even though I’d have to read it on my iPod.)
    I blogged a bit about the Turkheimer study on low-income suppressing IQ several years ago here:
    http://www.halfchangedworld.com/2005/06/iq_class_and_ge.html
    Geoff Canada clearly thinks that you can’t change children’s lives without bringing the parents along as well. It’s not “Indian schools” because it’s mostly black people from the neighborhood running the Baby College — I think the exact same model run by outsiders wouldn’t be as successful.
    http://www.halfchangedworld.com/2008/12/tbr-whatever-it-takes.html
    Kristoff says that Nisbett is positive about the KIPP model — I think there’s probably a big selection effect going on there, and one of the things that they select on is parental commitment to their kid’s education. That’s not dismissing the value of the model — those same kids were failing in conventional schools — but doesn’t make me optimistic about the possibility of bringing it to scale.

  17. amy Says:

    Yeah, Amy, if the parents are interested — as the Ramseyites are interested — then you’re in like Flynn. Not to say it’s easy, but what it means is that they’re going to absorb your message and make it part of their culture. Then you’ve got change, though I bet you still have to work and work to take care of errors in translation. But how would you feel if social workers from your kids’ school sent you a flyer and bugged you with phone calls telling you that you had to show up to learn about the advantages of, say, “white healing”? And if the principal and your boss strongly recommended that you go along and learn what there was to learn, and implement it in your home? And said they’d be checking up on you? And tagged your child as “at risk” when you decided not to go? I’m thinking it wouldn’t be so effective. The parents have to want it first. Which really means that the mothers have to want it and see it as useful and good and not too foreign.
    I think you’re right about KIPP, Elizabeth.

  18. Amy P Says:

    amy,
    Did that happen to you? Because it has the awful ring of possibility.

  19. dave.s. Says:

    One of the great lines ever, I think, was Speer: his interrogator at Spandau asked him how he had known the Reich was losing, when all he read in the papers was SPLENDID! SUCCESS! and he said, well, the glorious victories of the Fatherland were coming ever closer to Berlin. It seems to me that that’s a decent metaphor for the ongoing nature/nurture intelligence-as-merit debate. Nisbett, the current Great Hope of the nurturists, in his book (I haven’t read it, but have seen reviews) says intelligence is ‘about half’ inherited. This is an enormous climb-down from the all-nurture all-the-time theories of the 70s, and Lewontin and Gould attacking any suggestion of inheritance and attacking the validity of the test in predicting competence. Gladwell, another Great Hope for the liberal consensus, says (and quotes Jensen) that +1 standard deviation is important for being functional in some occupations.

  20. amy Says:

    :) No, Amy, thankfully, it hasn’t, but people is people, and all that protects me is class and money and the fact that they can engender some fear. But I have watched the social-worker/recipient-victim scene enough times, and it’s very clear who’s boss. The wisest social workers and teachers i’ve met are the ones who understand that they’re intruders in a complex world with the power to cut off income and take away children — and that while they may have something of value to offer, it’s worthless unless it’s wanted and sustainable once they go away. Unfortunately this is not necessarily what you get.
    (I can’t remember the actual name of that thing I had in mind, the “energy work” business that involves waving your hands around somebody. White something.)
    I did once work for a midsized organic-lifestyle crunchy-healthy-sporty magazine publishing co where a few of the VPs were into some crazy cult involving a guy who called himself Bubba Swami,or some such, and had the nexus of the universe in his feet and lived in Bali. They used to send out “invitations” to come to their houses for meetings about this guy, where donations were encouraged. I thought the whole thing both offensive, funny, and possibly illegal, but I didn’t have much to lose and could afford to laugh. Plenty of other employees went along and gave money because they felt they had to. I regret now not having gone so I could’ve done a writeup.
    dave, yes, there’s that. But what’s there can still be wasted. I think it’s probably useful to think of intelligence as a form of talent, to be developed or not. And that part involves work. After all, nobody’s really interested in raw intelligence; it’s what you can do with it that matters. I don’t think either that we have nearly a sophisticated enough notion of intelligence as something that changes with age and the rest of the body.

  21. dave.s. Says:

    Steve Sailer found a paper which says smarter is better for truck drivers – at least for staying on the job longer: http://isteve.blogspot.com/2009/04/truck-driving-and-cognitive-skills.html

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