(Totally irrelevant posts ahead)
493. Competent Elites
…these people of the Power Elite were visibly much smarter than average mortals. In conversation they spoke quickly, sensibly, and by and large intelligently. When talk turned to deep and difficult topics, they understood faster, made fewer mistakes, were readier to adopt others’ suggestions.
No, even worse than that, much worse than that: these CEOs and CTOs and hedge-fund traders, these folk of the mid-level power elite, seemed happier and more alive.
Admittedly, Yudkowsky had experiences with a biased sample (Silicon Valley, CEOs of tech-companies, etc.) but the general point is unfortunately true.
When I was young I thought everyone in power (especially folks in the market economy and business world) was evil, of mediocre intelligence, stressed out and corrupt.
Now, of course, most business administration students are in fact stupid and selfish. But the CEOs of middle-to-big companies have presumable a mean IQ of 120. And the CEOs of really big companies are probably much smarter than average.
Obviously, most of them are ambitious and egoistic, yeah, even slightly sociopathic. But, hey, so is everyone else. If my former socialist-friends were in charge I would be dead and our civilisation collapsing.
Because the last news your readers want to hear, is that this person who is wealthier than you, is also smarter, happier, and not a bad person morally. Your reader would much rather read about how these folks are overworked to the bone or suffering from existential ennui. Failing that, your readers want to hear how the upper echelons got there by cheating, or at least smarming their way to the top. If you said anything as hideous as, “They seem more alive,” you’d get lynched.
Yeah, the “Halo-effect” isn’t even much of a fallacy. Intelligence, happiness and beauty do correlate with each other. That shouldn’t be surprising. After all, I’ve never seen a model with Down’s syndrome.
I used to think—not from experience, but from the general memetic atmosphere I grew up in—that executives were just people who, by dint of superior charisma and butt-kissing, had managed to work their way to the top positions at the corporate hog trough.
No, that was just a more comfortable meme, at least when it comes to what people put down in writing and pass around. The story of the horrible boss gets passed around more than the story of the boss who is, not just competent, but more competent than you.
…But I’m pretty sure that, statistically speaking, there’s a lot more cream at the top than most people seem willing to admit…
Hm, good comment by Vassar:
“Smart, happy, and alive? That fits my observations. Not bad morally? Only in the Bay area. Also, I think that more successful people seem smarter etc due to halo effect, and the ability to seem smart and alive and generally appealing, even moral, is called social skill or charisma and contributes a lot to a person’s rise in power. You may have noticed that these people were also much better looking than average.
At the most elite gathering I have attended, the Clinton Giving Initiative, about one person in five was really interesting and shiny.”
Actually, forget what I wrote and read this post by Steven Hsu:
Most AGI-researchers are not very intelligent and thus don’t understand that the FAI-problem is of crucial importance. Which is dangerous. OTOH, they are not intelligent enough to be really dangerous.
Just a brief aside.