I’ve been listening to a rather interesting interview Sam Harris did with Charles Murray. Murray is, of course, famous for authoring “The Belle Curve”, a controversial book that addressed issues of race and IQ.
Part of Murray’s thesis is this: in earlier eras, having a bit more intelligence wasn’t that much of an advantage. If everybody was farming or doing manual labor you didn’t get much economic benefit from having an IQ of 120. But in the 20th century, being smart started to pay off big time. The rise of computers, complex physics, complex financial products etc. meant that having brains equalled power and money.
As a result, according to Murray, we’ve seen the rise of the intellectual class: smart people, usually coastal, who have segregated themselves off from the stinking, steaming masses (my words, not his.) You could reasonably make the case that the election of Donald Trump was the revenge of the great unwashed against the intellectual class.
So far in the interview Murray hasn’t gotten into the future but certainly one can extrapolate various scenarios. Will the intellectual class arm itself with artificial intelligence and increase the brain gap even further? Are regular folks doomed?
Corollary to all this, I start to sense a schism in the Democratic party. There’s the identity politics folks—folks who hated Murray’s book—who often are members of this intellectual class, though probably more as academics than technologists or scientists. Then there’s the economic populists, headed by Bernie Sanders, who see this brain divide leading to significant economic inequality.
You can even see this battle playing out in the liberal journal, Salon. Not long ago I came across this article, an homage to identity politics thinking.
But just today we see, this:
Personally, I’m not wild about any of these options. I think identity politics suck and are ineffective politicking, but I generally still stand behind globalization and free markets, contra Sanders and crew.