Low intelligence is a problem we should care about more

In the past many things we today consider very bad were normal. Slavery, war, starvation, dirty water, oppressive governments. Many people realized that these things were bad but did nothing to try to change them. Why? Some of the reasons are obvious. Instinctive passivity. Collective action problems. Different/wrong morals. Still, I think one of the major reasons people didn’t do more is that they were essentially blind to these problems because they saw them as natural and inevitable. I think something similar applies to IQ today.

People have vastly different levels of intelligence. Some of this is due to culture and other environmental effects that take place after birth. From teaching rationality to reducing ambient lead exposure, there are things we do to try and alter the environmental influences of intelligence. Still, in developed nations most of the root cause of a person’s intelligence isn’t environmental, it’s genetic. IQ is highly hereditary and dumb people are usually dumb because they had dumb parents and visa versa.

The existence of stupid people is a problem. It’s bad for those people because they are less productive, easier to take advantage of and also less capable of thinking, reasoning and understanding the world. It’s bad for society because the stupider a person is, the less economically productive, more predisposed to violence/crime and less capable of voting well they are.

I find it strange that we aren’t shouting from the rooftops about how much of a problem stupidity is. I think it’s partly the assumption that it’s natural/intractable and partially social desirability bias. Normal people, even elites, don’t want to publicly state that they have high intelligence as it’s seen as immodest and insulting to others. I also suspect that because most people’s filter bubbles are so strong (what proportion of professors/engineers/doctors/lawyers regularly interact with a sub 85 IQ person?) most of us encounter an artificially narrow range of intelligence around us and so underestimate how big the real differences are.

A closing fun fact. Around 25% of people (IQ <= 90) literally can’t understand conditional hypotheticals(e.g: If X happened, would Y be true?).

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