Are the Rich Geniuses, Brilliant or Even Intellectuals?

Shawn writes:

Good post. I agree that having a very high IQ is not a guarantee to riches, but I do believe that it helps and that certain jobs have a high IQ floor (an IQ one must have to be successful).

“Actually, IQ income advantage maxes out at ~125. After that, incomes start to decline with increasing IQ, probably because very high IQ’s are associated with, well, a bit of weirdness and out there-ness.”

I’m not so sure. Companies like Google, Goldman Sachs, etc. hire the cream of the Ivies, and they all have IQ’s over 125.

As far as succeeding in science, there is a very high floor if you want to be a top-notch scientist (around IQ 150).

I see many bright young men on the Internet who are convinced that a high IQ (presumably their IQ) is going to lead them to riches. This is certainly an overestimation at best and a conceit at worst.

I used to work as a security guard at a place called Three Arch Bay in Laguna Beach, California. It is one of the most exclusive (wealthiest) communities in the US. I got to know a lot of the rich people who lived there, but my general impression was that while they were pretty intelligent (average IQ at least), they were not really all that smart from my perspective (IQ 147).

They did tend to have crafty minds that worked strategically, superb street smarts, excellent social skills, psychological stability, and often very good looks. And some were simply ruthless. One thing they had in common was extroversion, a positive, optimistic personality and a love of the sensual life of experience as opposed to the life of the mind. Most of them acted like they found intellectual activities to be boring. They seemed like they preferred to be around people. A number of them made money in business and told me that they thought college was a waste of time.

My mother grew up around a lot of very rich people, and she told me much the same thing: the rich are not stupid, but most of them are not geniuses or intellectuals by any stretch of the imagination.

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Filed under Intelligence, Personality, Psychology

35 responses to “Are the Rich Geniuses, Brilliant or Even Intellectuals?

  1. Mama

    No one’s suggesting that all, or even most rich people are geniuses, but the richer the neighborhood, the more geniuses per capita, and the poorer the neighborhood, the more retardates per capitata.

  2. Mama

    As far as succeeding in science, there is a very high floor if you want to be a top-notch scientist (around IQ150).

    This is nonsense. Most elite scientists have IQ’s below 150.

    • That’s not true, at least if were are talking about the truly elite. Studies have proven it. Check out the link from the post.

      • Mama

        That link shows the floor for elite science is an IQ of 120, not 150 as originally claimed

        • Matt

          If we’re talking about Steven Hawking or even Carl Sagan, 150 may be right. If we mean the average successful, productive scientist, probably 130 or so, at least. I detect the tang of sour grapes in the comment about the repetitive nature of scientific experiments. Am I wrong?

        • Mama

          I’m not the one who made the comment about repetitive science experiments. I have no sour grapes, I respect scientists enormously. But only 1 in 2000 Americans have IQ’s above 150, so most people, no matter how accomplished or scholarly, are going to fall short of that.

  3. homer simpson

    Maybe, maybe not! That also all depends on how you get rich,depending whom you are & what you do to get there, not always legally either. The best way to get rich is to be the right place @ the right time, find a niche where you can make money, also most of all, to have enough access to other people’s money ( like an uncle), a combination that very rarely aligns themselves @ all. As a german saying goes, ‘in order to make money, you need @ least some money’, in other words, the higher income or the well-connected will always be @ an advantage over the regular folk, especially in this day & age, where it’s harder than ever for an average person to crack through than ever.

  4. homer simpson

    the sciences & the arts have always been the province of those coming from 1% backgrounds. Most scientists don’t really need to worry about money, more likely because they came from a monied background themselves.

  5. Aakash

    It depends on how they got rich and what field they got rich in. I’d say that most guys in STEM fields who are rich, such as such as these two at Google

    are definitely geniuses and brilliant. IQs of 150 + easy. They probably could also be intellectuals but I figure they are too busy developing/improving products (search and chrome in this case) rather than, say, reading Shakespeare.

    On the other hand, the wall street types such as Carl Icahn, Bill Ackman and other hedge fund guys are pure hustlers. A combination of cunning, formidable street smart and ruthlessness. Icahn, for one is a known predator of companies in trouble just to strip their assets and sell them. They probably have lower IQs than the STEM guys but are extremely ballsy.

    Would there be any type of rich other than STEM or Business guys? I know of Scions, lottery winners, gamblers (very rare). I’m excluding the “well off” guys such as doctors and lawyers. Hollywood? Bunch of ruthless businessmen.

  6. lysingur

    “They did tend to have crafty minds that worked strategically, superb street smarts, excellent social skills, psychological stability, and often very good looks.”

    I think that you pretty much described all the personal traits that are needed to find material success in our society. Getting rich has never really been about having the highest IQ in the room but rather being able to work around the rules, to get other people to do the thing that you want them to do and to not have them turning against you in the process. Just look at all the billionaires out there. Their temperaments might differ to some degree but they all possess this basic set of characteristics.

  7. Gottlieb

    Jesus, but you are so obsessed with only one abstract statistical trait that analyzes in a very superficial way the human intelligence.
    High intelligence is not only two or three digits, is a phenotype and as such should present several traits that in combination result in their manifestation.
    The vast majority of geniuses are predisposed to psychopathology because higher degrees of this trend, tend to result in creativity and heightened self awareness.
    Psychopathology relates negatively with high iq in quantitative terms. But there are phenotypes where very high SQI may be more prone to subjective personality disorders, high IQS (120-150), and lower IQS (all above average), than those that are full of subjective suffering as asperger disorders where iq score is irrelevant.
    Wealthier people tend to combine with psychopathic personality high iq.
    In summary, the main features that define the phenotypes of intelligence are the personality, the intellect itself, a secondary factor. What defines success in earning money from the rich is intelligence with psychopathic personality.

  8. BigFoot

    For a Big Foot I have an IQ of arund 90. For Big Foots its lot of IQ.

  9. Most rich are not genius type. Look at those folks from Royal families and Boston Brahmins, most of their scions cannot make it elite cognitive college, if admission is base scholastic meritocracy alone.

    Very few Windsor make it to Cambridge, and few USA aristocracies went to super IQ schools are MIT/Caltech or pass though Harvard Maths 55.

    All these rich aristocracies go for the soft course like liberal arts and play politics, managing people. In their opinion, they just need smart worker to work for them. They can make a lot of mistake, no problem, their smart worker will correct their errors.

  10. James Schipper

    Dear Robert

    About 2% of the American population has an IQ above 130. That means about 6 million Americans. Let’s subtract the youngest half, so that leaves 3 million. Are there 3 million very rich people in the US? It depends on where you draw the line, but I would say that there aren’t that many.

  11. Your third, self-composed paragraph says it all.

    I work in the entertainment industry and I suppose it applies especially there. The good-looking part is painfully true. Most of the successful people in Hollywood are queers, Jews and bitches (and mainland Chinks in recent years). Archie Bunker would have a field day.

    The harshest lesson was the realization that I was much more methodical and fastidious than most people who made 2 or 3 times my salary. Does that equal “intelligence?” I don’t know.

  12. e.paton

    Came across a ‘white paper’ study many years ago regarding wealth in the US. Who are they and how did they actually attain it. Bottom line; 80% from some form and or degree of bequeathment… 20% actually earned all of it. And of that 20%, less than half were college grads. IOW’s, they started small businesses and grew them. Look around your own lives… those with the real money got it because they were handed down something; a business, money, property, etc. With this in mind the characteristics your mother observed were the effect and not the cause. Think about it… freed of all related problems related to the lack of wealth you too would be far more like them: “extroversion, a positive, optimistic personality”.

    So, blame your parents. 🙂

    • Mama

      A homeless person who only makes a dollar a day could just as easily argue that the person making $10 an hour is stealing it.

      • lysingur

        I really hope that this is you unsuccessfully trying to be funny.

      • Mama

        I’m pointing out the utter stupidity of saying the rich stole the money they have.

      • lysingur

        You’re probably trying to say that (dis)honesty doesn’t discriminate between rich and poor and maybe you got a point there but I think it’s pretty hard to argue against the suggestion that if you’re making $100 million the probability of you making it through unethical means is very high, especially given the current economic situation in the U.S. The game is rigged and the cohort that most benefits from it is the (super) rich.

      • big g

        Right you are a the smart ones know it.

      • Mama

        Why assume most rich people are unethical? They might be but where’s the evidence? The main reason some people are so rich is technology. In the past a brilliant author could sell only one copy of her book because she wrote it by hand. Today with the printing press, the same author can sell 10 million copies. It’s technology that amplifies are productivity creating huge inequality.

      • Matt

        Not all rich people are unethical. Some become rich because they are unusually talented, or genuinely provide something that people need. I can’t really feel envious of someone like Steve Jobs or even Bill Gates. I don’t know if they deserve to be as rich as they are, but they are definitely a cut above the average schmo. The same goes for someone like J.K. Rowling. If I had the talent to write Harry Potter, I would have written Harry Potter.

        On the other hand, I think it is safe to say that most super rich people have cut many ethical corners, usually enough to merit jail time if they did not own the justice system.

      • Yes we know all you STEM HBD guys are Libertarians who worship your Billionaire Secular Gods.

      • lysingur

        Mama, here is your evidence. Google (!) these people if you have the time.
        Not many of them fit the profile that you’re proposing. Technology isn’t the real reason that they’re as rich as they are. A lot of these billionaires are either heirs or heiresses, own some sort of monopoly or work in high finance. While you’re on it, try to find out how some of these supposedly self-made men/women manage to beat their competitors and maintain their dominance (Wal-Mart & Amazon’s treatment of their packaging workers and IKEA’s shady forestry practices come immediately to mind). You’re either very naïve or just immune to facts.

      • Mama

        Lysingur, Amazon may treat its packaging workers poorly but that hardly makes Jeff Bezos unethical. Really, if people don’t like how he’s treating them, they should quit. Work somewhere better if they can find it, but the problem is most Americans are absolutely useless. Americans are such a spoiled people. Bunch of sissies. You’re just jealous because Bezos has billions and you have diddly squat. But that’s Darwinism. The strong, smart and fit survive and prosper, and the losers sit around complaining that the game’s not fair. Guess what, life’s not fair, so either learn to adapt or get left behind. Just be grateful you Americans have the luxury of a social safety net, paid for by Mr. Bezos tax dollars. In a lot of other countries you’d be starving in the streets, which is how nature intended it.

      • lysingur

        Nature doesn’t intend anything, Mama. Obviously you know very little about biology. There are a myriad of ways an organism can flourish in their particular ecological environs and it’s usually the ones that cooperate that find success. Just think of ants, bees and apes. This is the first flaw to you argument.

        Second, had people like Bezos been born in Moldova or Swaziland, his chance of having the kind of wealth that he has would be greatly diminished. He can do the thing that he does because the U.S. provides him with superior transport networks, a working legal system and skilled and educated workers. All of these things all funded by the public one way or another.

        Third, life may be unfair but it doesn’t have to be more unfair that it has to be. U.S. isn’t the only social model in the world and certainly it’s not the best. Here we can find that what you really have is a circular argument: it’s the strongest and smartest that survive and whoever survives (i.e. becomes rich) is the strongest and smartest. As I said, you’re impervious to facts. You never bother to find out the stories behind the richest 0.1% in the world but simply spewing reactionary tirades at people.

        Most billionaires are who they are largely because they’re at the right place at the right time and are endowed with some degree of intelligence and means to work the system to their advantage. They’re not necessarily smarter, more congenial or better looking. Certainly there are self-made men/women (e.g. Spanx founder Sara Blakely) but they are few and far in between.

        So to say many if not most rich people are more unethical are not wrong because the economic and social models that are in place are unfair and unjust. I have no problem with successful people. I want to find success myself but I much rather see people competing on an equal plane and at an equal start than having wealthy people staying wealthy because they happen to be born in the ‘right’ family or are able to maintain their wealth through something other than their hard work or innate abilities.

      • Matt

        Robert, you write: “Yes we know all you STEM HBD guys are Libertarians who worship your Billionaire Secular Gods.” If that’s directed at me, let’s not say things we can’t take back!:) But seriously, I’m certainly not involved in any way with STEM, unless that includes people who occasionally watch Nova. HBD is just a rehash of 19th century biological determinism, and I wouldn’t p!$$ on it if it were on fire. I’m an old fashioned Social Democrat, not a libertarian, and I think I made enough qualifications that it should be clear I don’t regard these guys as gods. Your points about Bill Gates in particular are well taken. I don’t even admire his so-called philanthropic work all that much. It’s not so much philanthropy as a hostile takeover, especially where American education is concerned.

      • Hi Matt, comment directed at Mama, who is now banned. I know your politics pretty well, and thanks for laying it out further for me. I would never say something like that about you.

  13. Matt

    Another thing I’d like to see discussed: Are people whom one could consider intellectual necessarily very “bright” as measured by IQ? I consider intellectuality to be an approach to the world, one characterized by curiosity (intellectual curiosity; there you are) and a will to know and understand. It seems to me that one could conceivably have this quality and yet not score very high on an IQ test.

    Conversely, I know many people who are very intelligent as measured by scholastic achievement–and probably testing, although I am not privy to their scores–yet show no curiosity about the world. And yes, many of them are financially well off. Perhaps the key is to be able to screen out the “distractions” that obsess those with a more intellectual temperament.

    Is this possible?

    • You are absolutely correct. Two of my most brilliant commenters had IQ’s of 106 and 117. At a certain point, those ARE just numbers. And some very bright folks have stick in the mud minds.

  14. Danny Haddad

    Interesting discusson,I had to jump in and state my views.
    As far as the rich being unethical. It may appear this to someone looking in from the outside. But consider this, becoming successful becomes a addiction(very addictive). The business animal inside you comes out, otherwise you would not survive ,you become more aware of the situation, your business days are no longer about meetings, it’s about games.a battle if you like “a battle of wits” .Who has the bigger dick! Kind of thing,ego kicks in and you are consumed in that mind set. So you start to view everyone and everything as you would in business. Now take into the account the sacrifices made to get to where you are,the sleepless nights, away from family, not watching your children grow. Losing contacts with long time friends and on on.. Is that unethical person ? Or someone that understands all this, and doesn’t want his/hers family to do the same or even need to, and said Fuck try take me down.
    Unfortunately sometimes people like this produce shithead off springs! That’s life but.
    last thing, we are not in 1990 where a degree means the difference between rich or poor or success . Anyone one can be rich these days. There are two tyres of being, someone who is book smart, and then the are type of smart. World smart As described by Matt.
    And I am sure any most business/ company’s will go with world smart over book smart any day. Unless your science I guess.

    • Matt

      Danny: I just want to clarify that I’m not putting down book smarts. Any true intellectual (IMO) is going to want to increase his/her world smarts by reading, unless he/she is blind or dyslexic. Even then… I’m just saying that I’m skeptical that high IQ is identical with intellectuality, and that there are probably many instances where people with middling IQs display the kind of curiosity and desire to understand that makes an intellectual. Conversely, many people with high IQs display a complete lack of interest in–even contempt for–the whole intellectual project. I’ve especially noticed this among bright, well educated conservatives who never miss an opportunity to belittle higher education, educational broadcasting, public libraries, etc.

  15. nick

    I am extremely introverted and have an IQ of about 130. I think at least. I got 133 on the WAIS – IV recently but it’s a decade old now. Unfortunately I seem to hit all of the “negative” character traits (pessimism, introversion), and lack all of the positives (diligence, ability to focus, passion/drive), which I believe is far more telling of a person’s ability to succeed in being happy or leading a life they want to live than IQ.

    The more important issue for me is the disconnect and detachment I feel towards this world, as If I am not truly a part of it like most seem to be. I am 19, and grew up in a time full of electronic gadgets to occupy your mind at any given moment. I was only a few years old when I first started playing games online, and I have legitimately spent the majority of the day every day since then just fucking about online playing flash games or watching videos on youtube.

    During school, I never did anything, just kind of sat in the back of class reading. I didn’t talk to anybody, and in fact never even realized that was something I could do. Obviously it was, but I never consciously considered the fact. I was unaware that “social skills” or the “social world” even existed back then. That people had relationships with others, and that it spun out into extended webs of relations within relations, it is an incredibly fascinating concept though I still don’t understand it much. Beyond an intellectual understanding of what a “friend” or “acquaintance” is. The finer points and the greater meaning beyond each individual relationship still puzzles me.

    I didn’t put much thought into relationships, and had none aside from individual interactions that never evolved beyond that initial encounter. Though even those were always instigated by the other person, and I never reciprocated positively. My reaction back then was simply to respond and then get to the end of the conversation and go back to my own world again. I didn’t actually think about what the other person was saying. Not a single time. I hold no presence in this real world – I have no doubt that not a single teacher or classmate has thought about me since I graduated well over a year ago now, and I haven’t any of them either. In fact, even during my senior year of high school, I could have named maybe 1/10 of my class of 600 students, let alone described known any of them. I couldn’t have named most of my teachers, even several months into taking their classes. I was so oblivious to it all. I just read or thought about whatever I was doing in fantasy worlds online all day, and once school ended for the day, I went home and put no thought into school or other humans at all until the next morning. Most days at least that’s what it was like at least.

    I never realized that this was abnormal any, and thought I was pretty much an average guy though I never really compared myself to my peers past school grades (which I did well in though not fantastic). In hindsight I was probably kind of weird, sometimes I wouldn’t even respond when people talked to me. I didn’t even really view others as individuals back then to nearly the extent most do. I wouldn’t treat a person different based on the individual nuance of the circumstances surrounding the encounter. I would react the same way when talking to a teacher as to a student more or less, and it wouldn’t feel different like I believe it typically does for people. The subconscious portion of it was likely stunted, the conscious thinking of these nuances was absent entirely. I didn’t realize people thought about their peers or their authority figures or cared about their thoughts.

    I didn’t really realize that relationships were dynamic and required effort by either party back then. Outside of my immediate family, I have never had friends or acquaintances. I have absolutely no experience holding a dynamic relationship with another person, which is especially obvious in my never having actively formed a relationship with another, my family members were simply always there. So I am utterly clueless as to how to go about changing this, or even if it’s something I want to change. I am very schizoid like personality wise, and I never cared about not having relations in the past, but I finally realized when I went to college that It was not possible to get anywhere in this world completely disconnected from others.

    I have found myself caught in the grip of overwhelming anxiety and depression at the realization of just how abnormal I am, and how detrimental my personality and limited understanding of “playing the game of life” are to my future success in achieving anything in the real world. As of now, I sit at home reading strange things online, moping about, cursing the existence of both myself and the human species as a whole what with its (to me at least) innumerable problems and primarily negative state of being.

    I have immense difficulty maintaining presence in the human world, as I am not used to even being a part of it (I don’t think I’ve ever considered myself part of a group of people before, at least not one that required active participation). I have tried going out and doing stuff with some family members, for instance I went weekly with my cousin to play Dungeons and Dragons with 2 of his friends, but it just ends up with me sitting their awkwardly, not really saying anything most of the time (though I try to speak more, I’m just not used to it at all). I don’t really follow their conversations, I can’t get into the game, and I just move a piece or roll a dice ever once in a while. After a few sessions, It doesn’t improve, though I try to get into it or speak more, it just doesn’t work. I just go back to sitting at home all day, brooding in my bed about how rotten both my own existence and that of the human species is.

    Admittedly I probably contributed to this a lot. Since I went to college last year and took an introductory course on philosophy, which frankly disturbed me a lot, and left me hesitant to further look into philosophy because it makes me feel awful about humanity. It just seems like a miserable bunch of organisms to me, stuck in a primarily negative state. I used to watch videos online of people dying in graphic ways for hours a day because I didn’t want to pretend like the world was a good place, read about suicide and depression as written by people with clear negative views on life, analyze the life of school shooters and similar types and how similar I am to them, and spend a lot of time reading about mental illness or blogs about deterministic models of categorizing humans, which typically had groups whose lives would be shit no matter what they did and whose descriptions I related to most. Absolutely everything I see now seems terrible. When I watch a TV shows, the characters and what they are doing are awful, when I read a novel, when I see any human in any situation, doing anything, I almost find a way to take it as a personal offense. And as a terrible act.

    I am not not suicidal and I don’t think I could gather the energy for the act anyway (otherwise I might be able to more elsewhere too) but I have a lot of issues, and I worry they will never improve. I don’t want to just peak inside a crevice and never go beyond that shitty isolated underground existence, cut off from the world at large. Even though this post might not be too related to the blog I am glad I wrote it, usually I can’t get anything down when I try, so I figured because I was really feeling it now I had to do it. So at least I have it now for future reference.

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