On the Nature of Intelligence
hey, I got nothing against info download either

Diderot sez,

I try to tell my kids to differentiate between three things: 'well educated', 'intelligent', and 'smart'. Which I think is the distinction you're making here.

'Well-educated' is just a measure of attainment, codified by a piece of paper. It means the paper-holder had access to intellectual stimulation, which that person may or may not have taken advantage of.
'Intelligent', in fundamental terms, is measured by IQ. An imperfect measure, to be sure, but in broad strokes should indicate one person's ability to learn things versus another.
But 'smart' is a different animal entirely. It can be developed within an educational environment--but mostly not. It's the experience talking.

It's great if you can have all three. Very few do. And I think that's what you're talking about with LMC. He is extremely baseball smart...and also masterful at direct communication. As great as Lou is, I think he was sometimes misunderstood. LMC doesn't seem to have that issue.

- See more at: http://seattlesportsinsider.com/article/nelson-cruz-and-corey-hart#sthas...


Thanks Diderot!  And to follow up on your fine ideas:

I think of intelligence as being --- > elusive to define, and also --- > an umbrella term that captures about 20 major areas of cognitive function..

Albert Einstein was friends with Dr. Emanuel Lasker; Einstein was a terrible chess player and I don't believe he would ever have become good under any circumstances.  One person might speak 12 languages but have trouble with algebra; a great musical composer might not be able to learn the alphabet; Dr. D might enjoy verbal logic but have poor spatial visualization.  (All humble pie aside, my own spatial visualization is poor by any standard.  Probably 80% of people can visualize a flipped-out shape better than I can.)

You'll never find any one man or woman who is the best in the world at spatial visualization and also the best at languages!  Well, except Leonardo da Vinci, apparently ...

SABRMatt without a doubt could achieve more in the field of mathematics than I could, however hard I tried.  The reverse might be true at, say, chess.  


This is a critical point.  Most people run into a smart person, and they figure that smart person will be smarter than them at everything.  Nope.  A woman with an M.D. needed at least a 120 IQ to get there, but she might very easily be worse at verbal logic / arguments than the average person.

Yet human beings will defer in EVERYTHING to a person they perceive as brilliant at ANYTHING.

And it's another thing that causes bright people to overrate themselves ... and thereby leave themselves wide open to blind spots in their understandings.  Bright people usually don't realize that their awesome cognitive speciality does not imply that they're good at everything mental. 


Diderot, I like your framework of dividing the area up into 1/3's of a circle.  (Like it, as opposed to considering it optimal, LOL).

1) Education / literacy isn't something I wanted to minimize.  Pattern recognition requires info download.

2) "Ability to learn" is my single favorite out of maybe 20 definitions of "intelligence."

3) "Smart" as you're speaking of, I think of as "wisdom" -- the ability to forsee the future, the ability to predict consequences.

Wisdom, or the ability to forsee consequences, is a big part of what distinguishes a GM from a saberdude.  If A, then B.  If I hire this person, it's going to cause upheaval with those people.  If I say this, it's going to alienate that.   College kids don't value "street smart" but ... it actually is an area of cognitive function.

This is a valuable path into deeper respect for our fellow human beings.  Your non-college-educated grandma might indeed be very, very smart in areas you are not.


Very stimulating Diderot!   :: daps ::



I have learned not to trust academia with anything more dangerous than a butter knife. But the current thinking in developmental/neuroscience circles is that there are actually eight kinds of intelligence:
1) Verbal (skill using language persuasively or to establish a narrative)
2) Logical (the skill you need to be a good experimentalist - ability to reduce problems to a rational and simple core)
3) Analytical (math skillz)
4) Spatial (navigation, geometry)
5) Kinesiological (a natural ability to maximize the capabilities of the body)
6) Musical (skill with communicating using speech, sound, and verse)
7) Artistic/Creative/Interpersonal (skill communicating ideas without mere language and logic, skill inventing new ways of thinking)
8) Naturalistic (intuitive sense of the natural world and one's place in it - spiritual sense)
I would probably break it down even more than that...but I think it's not all that valuable to think along those binned terms when one could simply advise a man - figure out what you're good at and do that really well. :)


Matt, academics have earned your skepticism, but having wandered the hallowed halls of academia as a career I would emphasize that the lionization of the individual is the core weakness of academia. Successful academics can have a truly inspiring array of skills and accomplishments, but in the end the academic model romanticizes the isolated genius, but rarely if ever is a significant societal advance the product of an individual in isolation.
Before you sell academics too short, the leaders of great universities that sit on huge endowments are fearful they will fail to deliver on the great opportunity they have been afforded to make a difference if they do not get members of the university to work to together. The deck is stacked against collaboration, but if we can get the most ambitious and gifted to commit to something greater than their individual success, we have a chance for greatness.
I believe the over emphasis of the individual extends far beyond academia. The talent that has flowed through Goldman Sachs is truly inspiring, but in the end what have they achieved? I truly believe our system of reward is out of whack. Greatness is not sell aggrandizing; greatness, like the tide, lifts all boats. I fear we are losing the will to be great, and will settle for the trapping of greatness – the nation’s elite sipping Dom Perignon amid the decaying ruins of a previously vibrant middle class.
I have the privilege to work with bright and ambitious people from all over the world: China, Germany, Japan, Sweden, Switzerland, France, India, Korea, Italy, Singapore, Canada, Mexico, Cleveland, Dallas, and more. Success requires the audacity to dream with both feet firmly planted on the ground. Success requires embracing risk with your eyes fully open. I can assure you no nation has the leg up on the US when it comes to audacity, but another generation of confusing comfort and privilege for success and greatness, and I may change my mind.


I became bored with statistical analysis of baseball about a decade ago. This was an event of sorts for me, because I love numbers and have been a fan of Bill James since the 1980's. Don't get me wrong, I love and own both of Bill James' Historical Abstracts and cherished my Baseball Encyclopedia before the days of Baseball-Reference.com. Why I got bored had nothing to do with a loss of love for numbers, but rather the stagnation of sabrmetrics and color-by-numbers thinking that took over statistically inclined popularizers of baseball.
The beauty of athletics to my mind is that you can't privilege your way to success. Buying your education won't make you great in athletics. Your personal trainer won't make you great at athletics. Your connections won't make you great at athletics. No amount of networking will give me the hands to play third base. You can't 'game' greatness, but so much of success is obfuscated privilege that the authenticity of athletics is a pleasure. In athletics you must accept risk, accept failure will likely find you. You must puruse greatness by all means within your grasp. You want to be great, do you accept Richard Sherman's staged rants, Marshawn Lynch's agoraphobia, Gary Payton's truculence?
In the end what I dislike about 'fangraphs-thinking' is that it does not want to accept that risk is central to success and it does not want 'soft' skills to matter as much as intellectual skills. In my experience communication and hiring are the two most critical jobs in management. It is silly to think that assessing ambition, maturity, and discipline are not central to hiring, but where does that show up in the spreadsheet? I hate to be cynical about people's futures and I hate to oversell my ability to achieve important goals, but life has taught me the value of both when hiring. Is it overselling, or making a genuine commitment to greatness? Is it a dislike of arrogance or a fear of openly accepting risk that keeps me 'humble'?


...it requires no connection to reality. The academic model is basically this: you do some research - you think you have an insight - you share your insight and if lots of your peers decide that it's a good insight, you succeed. In science, it's a little less biased toward groupthink because the peer groups decide whether you have insight by checking real world data, but in the rest of academia, if your ideas are popular or sell to a particular brand of political thought, you succeed, whether your ideas would actually have a positive impact on the real world.
But even in science, I've seen peer review go horribly...horribly wrong a few too many times to take it as authoritative at this point. And I've seen far too many academics in all fields treated as experts on topics about which they know absolutely nothing just because they were good in a different, semi-related field. (for example, people trusting physicists to talk about metaphysics and spirituality or people trusting climate scientists to talk about the weather...related...but not the same).
But none of this should be read as a criticism of everyone in academia. The net product of academia is progress...it's just sloppier more prone to spectacular missteps in group-consensus than people realize. And that's not because the people in it aren't talented or don't intend to do good by their craft and learn something new and important. Nor is it because they're bad at proper research. I'm a scientist, keep in mind...it would be rather silly of me to dig a grave for my profession. :) But I see the problems on a daily basis.


(First of all, Matt and kgaffney, thank you--I could listen to you two converse all day...)
To this point: I once sat in a hot tub drinking beer (probably not a good idea) with a man who owned a company which consulted with Fortune 500 companies on hiring. Nothing more. How to select the right people for critical jobs.
His bottom line analysis was this: "hiring is just like baseball. If you hit .300, you're above average."
I thought I didn't I hear him right. So he repeated, "nobody hires more than 30% stars. Nobody."
He didn't put in in these exact terms, but his explanation related largely to two points raised here: "obfuscated privelege" (relying too much on the names of educational institutions and previous employers on the resume) and associated superiority (assuming demonstrated excellence in one area will necessarily transfer to others.)
Maybe projecting performance of an established professional athlete is easier than hiring a CEO...but it's still just as much art as science. Nobody could reasonably be expected to guarantee wither Kendrys Morales would hit or not.

tjm's picture

Matt - I spent most of two years as an outside observer in neuroscience labs and I can't emphasize enough that group think is at least as powerful within sceince as without. I've been to conferences where you'd sit there and listen to presentations all day long and almost everybody in the room would acknowledge that 90 percent of what they heard was either irrlevant or utter nonsense.
You're right about overall progress and its tendency not follow a smooth path. It's more Kuhnian (no, not Bowie) than is comfortable to know. Consensus is a beast that can't be brought to ground even when everyone acknowledges it's hugely flawed.

Brent's picture

since I suck at both spacial visualization and languages. When I took IQ tests as a younger person the spacial visualization section was my downfall.
As to "fangraphs-thinking", it seems to me as though its most ardent spokespersons are convinced it should be the ONLY method of arriving at a solution to the question of who should play and who should not in any given situation. "Fangraphs-thinking" will postulate that "protection" matters not in the lineup, or that you should use your closer in the highest leverage situation regardless of the inning in which it occurs. Every player I've ever heard interviewed on the matter disagrees with that premise. Especially the bullpen guys, who have their set routines. People being creatures of habit, disrupting that routine may very well lead to sub-par performance, losing the game rather than winning it. They will toe the line and say they are ready at any time, but push comes to shove they also admit they prefer to know their role and know when they will be used.
You still need a human being to look a player in the eye and make a decision on that day and at that time if the player is ready to go. A spreadsheet can tell you a past history, but it can't tell you who's ready for the game tonight. After all, even Spock knew that Kirk should be running the ship, not the computer. :)


"even Spock knew that Kirk should be running the ship, not the computer."
That's a terrific line. Tip o' the cap to ya.


But I only get so much Detect-O-Vision time, and am thinkin' youse guys want some fresh reads still.  Maybe even the occasional read about a Mariner player.
Don' let me stop you.  I get all the time to READ I want :- )

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