Furthest Right

Intelligence Determines Width of Focus

Our future seems to be shaping up to be a conflict between narrow focus and broad focus. The narrow focus people follow procedure and like means-over-ends logic, where cause and effect are the same, but the wide focus people like ends-over-means logic and cause-effect discernment.

Much of this comes from the tendency of people who are not filtered out for antisocial or free-thinking opinions by meritocracy to have thin intelligences as described by Michael Crichton:

They don’t have intelligence. They have what I call ‘thintelligence.’ They see the immediate situation. They think narrowly and they call it ‘being focused.’ They don’t see the surround. They don’t see the consequences.

This leads to inverted thinking, where effects are seen as causes and therefore causes are unknown, in the wet streets make rain style of thinking:

You read the article and see the journalist has absolutely no understanding of either the facts or the issues. Often, the article is so wrong it actually presents the story backward—reversing cause and effect. I call these the “wet streets cause rain” stories. Paper’s full of them.

Much of this is explained by the overconfidence of the lower IQ, who like psychopaths have confidence because they lack the ability to see where their thinking will end up badly in reality through the Dunning-Kruger Effect:

In 1995, McArthur Wheeler walked into two Pittsburgh banks and robbed them in broad daylight, with no visible attempt at disguise. He was arrested later that night, less than an hour after videotapes of him taken from surveillance cameras were broadcast on the 11 o’clock news. When police later showed him the surveillance tapes, Mr. Wheeler stared in incredulity. “But I wore the juice,” he mumbled. Apparently, Mr. Wheeler was under the impression that rubbing one’s face with lemon juice rendered it invisible to videotape cameras (Fuocco, 1996).

We argue that when people are incompetent in the strategies they adopt to achieve success and satisfaction, they suffer a dual burden: Not only do they reach erroneous conclusions and make unfortunate choices, but their incompetence robs them of the ability to realize it. Instead, like Mr. Wheeler, they are left with the mistaken impression that they are doing just fine. As Miller (1993) perceptively observed in the quote that opens this article, and as Charles Darwin (1871) sagely noted over a century ago, “ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge” (p. 3).

Some blame this on time preference; we know that time preference correlates to intelligence, with the dumber being able to see only the present moment and the smarter more cognizant of longer time, up to the geniuses who think in terms of eternity and perpetuation.

But, more importantly, time is one form of width in intelligence, which means not just duration but ability to see effects outside of the immediate circumstances and locality of the individual. Principles achieved in one locality spread to others, but this is invisible to most.

Any understanding of consistency in law, language, politics, philosophy, and science requires this higher understanding, yet few of the audience have it, so in demotic systems or those utilitarian systems based on the preferences of the individual, incoherent opinions win out.

Demotic systems include democracy, consumerism, and good old-fashioned social popularity. The opinion at the pub or church board that wins is the one that is simple and therefore mentally tangible and manipulable to the people there. The group defers to what each individual imagines is the group opinion.

The problem with narrow thinking is that it works really well in the short term by galvanizing people but fails catastrophically in the long term when it collides with reality. Perhaps that more than anything else summarizes the last millennium of Western history.

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