Sunday, September 26, 2010

Slumdog brainpower

I found the comment below interesting. Currently I think the effective population of India for producing elite brainpower (i.e., comparing to a reference population with average IQ = 100 and access to first world education and training) is roughly 100 million. For China this number might be 300+ million, but we don't feel their presence in the West as strongly because of language barriers and because of the ability of the Chinese economy to absorb many of the high achievers domestically. (Despite all the Chinese scientists and engineers emigrating to the West there are just as many staying at home to develop a continent-sized economy with a space program, high speed trains, tech and defense industry, etc.) Both the China and India numbers should increase drastically in another generation, although see below for challenges confronting India.

See these related posts, or click the India label below.

More where those came from

IIT uber alles

To have and have not

Shanghai from an Indian perspective

Battle for brainpower

Background: I come from Southern India, high achiever, made a pile as they would say, so broadening my attention to study these subjects to understand the cause of our underdevelopment and what we can do about it. I only have experience with Southern India, where I live and travel extensively; I also get to travel the world extensively so I can give detailed comparisons. While I obviously do want to help my country, I am of the "Face Reality As It Is" persuasion, so I don't worry about political correctness of any discussion here.

First, the good news: thanks to better nutrition, I have witnessed IQ go up substantially in the past 30 years. The typical South Indian immigrant you see in the US today (and they do seem to come mostly from the South these days) comes from a vastly lower social scale than the one you saw 40 years ago. The typical immigrant has parents or grandparents who would not be able to function well in Western society, because they lack the cognitive skills. So the Flynn effect seems very visible to me, from my vantage point in South India.

Second, there are even more gains to be had. Malnutrition is slowly going away in the South, but in the North, it is still very very prevalent - we are talking more than 50% of kids malnourished.

Third, a pacific temperament and a traditional respect for authority keeps lower IQ populations from the pervasive social breakdown you see in the US in similarly situated communities. Families are staying intact; if that changes in India in any large scale, I would write India off, because collectively, we Indians are still too dumb to handle "sophisticated" mating behavior (though I think even the Swedish men stay together with their mates to support their kids, in spite of the promiscuous reputation of their society) - I hope our Hindu Gods literally save us on this one!

Now the bad news. Democracy empowers the dumb, probably true everywhere, but truer in India. The elected need to be skillful at manipulating the dumb, so they tend to be smarter than those electing them. Still, all this manipulating exacts a toll. One of the manipulating they do is jobs-for-dumb-constituents, which begets appallingly bad government, particularly at local levels.

This has all sort of bad effects. With such bad local governance, much of India looks like an ungoverned mess - your senses get physically assaulted in almost any urban space in India, disgusting levels of filth and squalor. This is the result of the utter inability to plan, explained by the IQ of those in charge at local levels.

This is more serious than even that. As India urbanizes, we risk going back on Flynn effect, because poor sanitation leads to *urban* malnutrition - not lack of food, but gastrointestinal illness among kids - which lowers IQ. So not having functional lower levels of government puts India's progress at risk. This, I attribute, directly to democracy.

Given these two opposing forces, which was is it going to go? I believe the good edges out the bad, but that would be a hard case to make when you see the filth.

Only good news I can gather is that London and Hong Kong and so on were extremely filthy at a point in their development too.


ABCD said...

It would be interesting to get IQ numbers from your IIT-Princeton acquaintance's firm. When do you expect an update on that?

Catperson said...

Malnutrition is really holding India back. The average young man in India is only 5'5", compared to 5'10.5" for young white men in the U.S. Assuming roughly equal genetic height, this implies that malnutrition has impaired Indian height by over 2 SD. If malnutrition has also impaired Indian IQ by 2 SD, we might expect to see average IQ there rise from 82 to 112, though an increase of that size sounds impossible. On the other hand, White American IQ went from 80 (by today's norms) to 100 during the 20th century; a process that was paralleled by the average white American man growing from 5'7" to 5'10". And it's a myth that only the poor are malnourished. Sub-optimum nutrition afflicts the entire country as evidenced by the fact that even the elites of third world countries tend to be shorter than elites in the first world.

ABCD said...

unrelated article on china and western music:

Sam said...

So when will China stop making cheap plastic stuff? :-)

anon said...

And young Dutch men are on average over 1,83 m tall - is malnutrition holding white America back?!

Catperson said...

I don't know if young Dutch men really are that tall, but yes, nutrition in white America is still sub-optimum which is why we continue to see the Flynn Effect even in 21st century America, even though the effect has ended and even reversed in parts of Europe.

Glossy said...

A few questions for the author of that comment:

I've heard from others before that southern India is doing better than the north. Do you have any guesses about the causes of that? Was this true under the British earlier in the 20th century? Was this true 300 years ago? 500 years ago? I've also heard that Gujarat - a northern state - is doing quite well. What do you think separates it from other northern areas? Just curious.

ABCD said...

I think anon's point is a fair one. You're assuming, without citing evidence, that the mean heights of different populations will be identical if nutritional differences are neutralized. Even if it were, there's no reason to expect cognitive functioning to be equally responsive to changes in nutrition levels, or for said responsiveness to nutritional level change to not interact with race.

Catperson said...

Well the Indians I've seen who are born in North America, seem to be just as tall as North American whites (I had a young Indian doctor who was 6'6") and often seem to be way taller that their parents who were born in India, so my anecdotal impression is that Indians have the genetic potential to be about as tall as whites, but I could be wrong. And since nutrition based gains in height seemed to have paralleled gains in IQ and brain size (and probably brain complexity) during the 20th century Flynn Effect, a good default assumption is that gains in nutrition raise IQ to the same degree they raise height. If anything we should expect height to be less responsive than cognition, since height is more genetic than IQ is, so any environmental improvement powerful enough to raise height should easily raise IQ in the process.

worf77 said...

When the Indians start making cheap plastic stuff! ;)

anon said...

Height is harder to measure than you might think, but incomparably easier to measure than intelligence.

Yan Shen said...

I've heard that people in China, in addition to being extremely intelligent, are also extremely hard working. This combination of both intelligence and conscientiousness apparently irks quite a few of Steve Sailer's readers. One commenter by the name of Dave even stated that working hard was a form of, get this, dishonesty. :) I wonder how much he had to donate to Steve Sailer's latest panhandling drive in order to make sure his idiotic comments weren't banned by Steve out of a sense of embarrassment.

Harry said...

Dear Stephen,

What is your sense of the mean IQ and SD of China's population?

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