Saturday, April 22, 2017

- Are Academics Just Stupid?

While I've been focusing on other knitting, one of my all time favorite Youtube personalities Janice Fiomengo of the University of Ottawa, has been getting back to hers. She's got a first rate talk posted which takes a look at whether Academics and Intellectuals are simply dumber now than they were in the past. As you can imagine, she takes an extremely anti-Feminist spin on this, and uses a second rate academic from a third rate University as example.

I've posted the video below, but it got me to thinking about her broader question. I wonder if the changing world hasn't caused some selection bias so that yes, Academics really are simply stupider than they used to be. Which is to say that Academics of the past were sampled from a more intelligent subsection of the population than they are now.

I don't think anyone can dispute that Academic thinking is far more subjective than it used to be. That statement is so obviously true that in many cases, Academics now endorse the value of subjectivity and subjective experience over objective reason. From a certain perspective, that's about 50% of what Janice so eloquently rails against. But is it possible that the greater need for intelligence in the private sector has drained Academia of the cream of society it used to attract, and left only skim milk?

Truthfully I have no idea. I'd love to see research on it. But it does fit my general appreciation of some of our cultural changes in the information age. There is a far larger need for Database Administrators (for example) in the modern world than there ever was for structural engineers. Every single company uses technology and once they reach a certain size, a DBA is an integral part of that, but only bridge building companies ever needed engineers who know bridge building.

Women's participation in the workplace too has probably also had some effect on things. Women tend to gravitate to lower risk careers than men. And few careers could be described as lower risk as a tenured teaching position at a University, where there is quite literally no penalty whatsoever for being wrong. Women too, tend to be more subjective in their reasoning, which is why the Women's Studies departments seem to be the consistent launching point for so much of the radical social engineering that comes from Academia.

But while they may, as a rule, be more subjective than men (Janice herself is a notable exception), women are not empirically stupider except at the tails of the distribution. And not every private sector position in the information age requires a fields medal winner. though if you were that kind of person, that's certainly the place to get the greatest reward for your intelligence. I'd put the staff at Bridgewater associates up against any group of academics in a test of pure intelligence.

With that said though, the fact that one now succeeds in Academia by endorsing the subjective dogma of leftist resentment, it might be just as true that the real thinkers weren't drawn away from academia by the private sector but pushed away from the sloppy thinking required for success there. If that's the case, than women in Academia surely must take some of the blame.

So I don't think it's totally unreasonable to believe it's possible that a greater need for intelligence in the private sector has left academia wanting when compared to past eras. That's not Janice's point at all, but I think she'd be as curious about it as I am. Here's her take on it:

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