biases

Why we’re too obsessed with being brainy

This is a terrible time to not be brainy. Until a few decades ago, possessing average intelligence wasn’t a barrier to success. Employers were less concerned with elite degrees. Rather virtues such as integrity, work ethic, and a knack for getting along were as important. But today, we fetisise the brainy, IQ and intelligence. What can we do to prevent these becoming the sole measure of human worth?

Being brainy

How brainy you can affect:

  • how much money you make,
  • where you live, and
  • whom you marry.

Not only that but at time goes on companies insist on ever-higher academic standards from job applicants. Even when it’s not justified. Education officials devote endless effort to locating and nurturing gifted poor children. But worrying less about the ungifted majority. These are the ones whose future jobs are disappearing as a result of automation.

Also, even worse than that: racists can abuse IQ tests. How? They fail to take into account cultural and environmental barriers to educational progress. I wonder if the actual meaning of the word ’intelligence’ doesn’t translate well into different languages? This would invalidate comparisons. In other words, I believe we need to acknowledge that intelligence is multifaceted.

Einstein’s intellectual strength

EinsteinEinstein struggled with mathematics. As a result, he didn’t get a place in a university physics department. Yet this patent clerk had an outstanding intellectual strength. It was in spatial and mechanical thinking. This allowed him to transform our understanding of world physics. Einstein went on to create both quantum physics by realising that light was a photon. And his masterpiece, the space time universe of general relativity.

In other words, for recruiters, IQ tests need to recognise and assess every facet of what it means to be brainy. We need to think more about how to make our society work for people of all capacities. Not only the bright minority.

In 1958 the British sociologist Michael Young coined the term meritocracy. He used it to describe a dystopian satire. In his imaginary world, people who were brainy and intelligent thrived. People who weren’t brainy languished. At the time people considered this predatory and far-fetched.

Yet his vision is fast coming true.

What do you think? Why not leave a comment below?

Photo by Robina Weermeijer on Unsplash

Leave a Reply