Friday 2 May 2014

LCI14 Consumer research on intelligence


The London Conference on Intelligence generated lots of ideas about how knowledge about intelligence could be disseminated. Books seem to be passé, because they take forever to write and publish, and come all in one lump, and are immediately out of date. However, policy makers read them on holiday. Interesting, if calculation be made, how much damage is caused by government ministers reading popular books on holiday.

Blogs can claim to be at the front line at the moment. Short, sweet (or sour), extremely up to date and perhaps immediately out of date, but good grazing for the curious.

Emil Kirkegaard says that blogs themselves are passé. To explain concepts to a contemporary audience you need a new website like the one he created on another topic, the merits of thorium as a nuclear fuel.

In contrast, here is his homepage on intelligence research, in the old format

Leaving aside the different subject matters, and concentrating on the format, which do you prefer? In giving your answer, please give your age or, if that is too intrusive, the date at which you did your first computer-based data analysis.


  1. I am 58. I prefer the old format. The information in it seems to be more granular and simpler to cross-reference than the new format. In addition, I don'n need or want someone els's visualizations; I am perfectly capable of providing my own.

  2. I am in my 40s and also much prefer the second site, for the same reasons as the other poster.

  3. 54, liked 'em both! ...if the thorium one had had videos i would've HATED it. i would rather read (i suspect most people - especially younger - are the opposite!:) i get info more quickly from reading. younger folks would like the thorium site. both sites are written for triple digit IQs. the whole field of science education (& public health education) thinks people can learn science if it's made fun - but no, it depends on their IQ. double digit folks are not going to learn evolution no matter what the website looks like or how fun it's presented. nor will they find it interesting. those are both nice websites for smart people:) might try 'em out on an average (100) person. or make 2 thorium websites - one old style, one new action packed comic book full color style -
    IQ's say 90 & below it won't matter, young people 90 to 125 will prefer the new style, 130 & above will probably like the old way - but the new way appeals to more people.

  4. I am 37. Number crunched on mainframes originally in a dos interface. I don't think it's a case of 'which one is better'. It's more to do with which format is appropriate in which forum. I like both. The thorium page because I don't know much about it and frankly I don't have much to spare reading reams on it. So, the page as is, does the job for me. The psychometrics page is preferable to me because I am interested in the nitty-gritty. Psychologists have an unfortunate tendency to view many things in life as simple dichotomies. Life, as we know, is rarely made manifest in this manner. I guess my 'thorium IQ' is lower than my psychometrics one. Bit silly really.

  5. I am 58. I think it's partly a false dichotomy, since a blog can display infographics as part of the content. Although I must say that infographics such as the thorium example do often veer very close to the USA Today style of presentation (this is not a compliment.) As a general interface and container-type presentation object the blog format is superior.

    I started off doing statistical computing for biomedical research in 1979. I have been on the internet since Usenet was first getting started.

  6. I guess I have to give my age here. OK I'm 71. Make of that what you will.

    I'm interested also in new communication paradigms. I made my first web ecommerce site in the early nineties. It was using Microsoft technology but before ASP. Also before VBScript. I was a pioneer. That allowed me to go broke before everyone else.

    Last year I tried video as an alternative to blogging. I set up a video studio in my den. I have a lot of light stands and a big green screen. But almost no one has ever watched any of my videos,

    I doubt if anyone would watch the first Thorium presentation either. But I am toying with another format. I'll link back if I have any success.

    1. recall that the iq jive turkeys claimed "fuid" iq (there's no such thing btw) declined with age.

      then it was found this was 100% the result of the flynn effect.

      between senile and just old there's a huge difference.

  7. Thank you very much for your comments. I have asked Emil to take a look at your comments, and to get some of his colleagues to comment as well

  8. I'm 27, and I prefer the second link. However, the first's style is a great entry-point to any subject. The first is likely to attract someone to a subject through a share on Facebook or Reddit, and the second is likely to appease anyone who stuck around, looking for more.

    What's popular these days are short YouTube videos presenting abstract ideas and findings in a short amount of time: Sixty Symbols, Numberphile, SciShow, VlogBrothers, The Verge, etc. These may be the gateway that lead [some] younger people to sites like the second. :)

  9. 47, prefer the first - it makes it easer to dig deeper, and, choose what to focus on. Though, it is less visually appealing.

  10. I am 72. I have to admit that the Thorium poster was a very efficient, persuasive way to make the case for thorium reactors. I would regard it as a form of propaganda, if that word can be used in a non-negative sense: their are no arguments, just a series of statements and simple logical conclusions. Who knows if all the statements are true. Just my reaction.

    1. Yes, it came across as a one-way argument, and I say that as a supporter of thorium on the basis of a long conversation year ago with the Senior Research Physicist at CERN Dr Alan Wetherall. Alan's main claim to fame was that he let one of his researchers take time off to do a project on communication between scientists. Tim Berners-Lee came up with an idea which caught on.

  11. Some comments.

    I don't think blogs are passé at all. I think scientists should blog more. However, blogs are not for everyone. They are too academic. Most people are either too lazy, too unintelligent or too uninterested or a combination to read books on intelligence. The same applies to blogs just to a lessor degree. Let's call this properly weighted combination for intelligence research learning potential (IRLP). Most or all commentators here are high IRLP. panjoomby was onto this as well.

    If one wants to really teach intelligence, one has to reach out to the rest of the population. This can be done via infographfs for instance, which present complex information in a neat and short way. Another good way is videos, but they need to be well-made for it to work. Someone standing and lecturing at a blackboard will not work. Animations are very good, see e.g.:

    The problem with animated vidoes is that they take lots of time+talent or money to make. I don't have the talent to do these or the money. Probably not the time either. I settled for what I could do: infographs. Mine are not particularly good, but at least they are useful summaries of the literature and have been of great use to me. Andrew Selvarasa was onto this as well.

    Another idea is to make a website dedicated to teaching intelligence. One could upload all the good introductory readings there, embed chosen videos, present infographs, have literature lists, researchers to contact if one has questions.

    Basically, what one wants to do is to make Khan Academy for intelligence/human cognitive abilities. This requires recording some vidoes explaining stuff and setting up a website.

    As for the thorium infograph, I did not make it. I chose it merely as an example of what many people like.

    Many of the commenters here are old or middle age. Young people are the primary target group. They are the ones who can still be convinced (no long entreched beliefs), and who is going to end up in powerful positions, or just as teachers etc. One should focus on them.

    The good thing about websites, is that one can have multiple channels. There is a popular debunking site for climate change denialism that does this. It has tiered presentation. One can choose "Basic" for the simple down to Earth version suitable for people with low IRLP. The intermediate version is for those with mediocre IRLP and above. The high IRLP will of course consult the primary literature and read that IF it is made available. The current academic practice of paywalls is hindering widespread learning. I have set up an open access journal for differential psychology to improve things in this area.

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