Possible, compared to journalists

A nine-year-old boy will become the youngest ever graduate at the end of this year, sparking a competition among the world’s top universities to sign up the boy genius.

OK. There is variance among humans after all.

Laurent Simons has an IQ of at least 145

There never was a golden age of newspapers but there’s at least a thought that there was a time when an IQ of 145 would have been thought to be, by the Telegraph, evidence of being a bit bright rather than actually a genius.

245 would be a more likely number for young Laurent, don’t you think?

But then perhaps among modern journalists that first number is right?

31 thoughts on “Possible, compared to journalists”

  1. 145 compared with his peers, or the general population? Neither is very impressive, but it seems anyone can get a degree nowadays.

  2. This is genuinely sad tho:

    sparking a competition among the world’s top universities to sign up the boy genius.

    Let him enjoy being a boy while he can, then enjoy university when he’s old enough to get drunk and shag freshers.

    Nothing good ever comes from this pushy parents + child prodigy stuff. Lot of former Mensa kids are burnt out and have crippling social problems in adulthood.

  3. I did an IQ test at primary school (administered by the head, nothing official) and scored 140-something but no-one suggested I ought to be heading to Cambridge.

    Young Laurent must be much brighter.

    Anyway, I’m with Steve. If getting laid at university involves someone committing a felony then you’re too young.

  4. Steve,

    Sure. There’s that girl from the early 80s, who was all over Blue Peter for passing Maths O level aged 9 and hothoused by her father. Not sure what the current situation is, but she didn’t speak to him for over a decade.

    That said, there’s kids (and Maths particularly with this), where this is play. They would rather be the next Andrew Wiles than Raheem Sterling.

    The documentary Spellbound is good, about US spelling bees. Some of the kids clearly have some pushy parents, but a lot of them are self-motivated.

  5. “His grandparents also inspired Laurent to want to revolutionise heart surgery
    because they have cardiac problems.”

    pushing it grandparents.

  6. In the UK nowadays young students cause all kinds of extra hassle – safeguarding issues. Not to mention it’s bad for the kid. Ruth Lawrence finished her undergrad at 13.


    As for the 145 – I’d guess that the test is not able to finely sort above that level. Finishing at age 9 would suggest a very high IQ.

  7. IQ is calculated by age for under18s so a nine year old with an IQ of 145 is very bright compared with his peer group but not with a bunch of eighteen year olds. Seeing the incidence spread across the population there are lots of IQ145s but very few over 180. (Sorry I’m too lazy to look up the standard deviations but they’re out there)

  8. The key words are *at least*.

    If the IQ test was aimed at average-to-above-average kids then someone with an IQ of 145 could get 100% on all papers so the tester cannot tell whether the boy has an IQ of 145 or 155 or 245.

    There is also the minor point that there are several different scales for IQ so 145 can either mean the top 2.1% or the top 0.1% depending on the scale. My reported IQ score is a higher number than my son’s (although he is quite a lot brighter than I) because the scales (technically the “standard deviation”) are different.

  9. MC, BoM4 – Yarp.

    If it’s a naturally gifted child genius (a Wolfgang Amadeus, Isaac Newton, or Kanye West, say) they definitely should be encouraged to explore their talent. Pushed is a different kettle of cod.

    Otoh a lot of smart people, particularly the ones who were annoyingly precocious, base their entire identity around being the smarterest boy in the room. Which is a shoogly peg to hold up one’s personality, and explains why a lot of clever guys will never know the touch of a woman.

    Taleb touches on this problem with his IYI (intellectual yet idiot) meme. The volume of mongoloidism that emanates from intellectual ivory towers swamps any amount of stupidity proles generate. A lot of smarty-pantses don’t know how to make friends or avoid being mugged, but they do “know” that all the world’s problems can be solved if only the clever clogs were in charge.

    Being bright isn’t an achievement, or even necer-celery a blessing, and children cursed with abnormally high IQ probably need greater help to round out their sense of self and grow into well-adjusted adults.

  10. IIRC, the official (Mensa) genius level is somewhere just over 150. I had a friend at school (same junior school, same grammar school, same Cambridge college) who hit it and is now a philosophy don.

    Also at my former grammar school, but many years after me, there was a maths genius who did his A-Levels at around 14 and went to Oxford underage, where he was sexually molested by women and promptly dropped out.

  11. Mensa is pretty low grade given that they aim to allow in the top 2% of the population – which means that in the UK alone more than a million people qualify. Globally 140 million. Amusingly the top society in terms of target group is Mega, which aims for the top 0.0001% (one in a million), which cannot actually be measured… One imagines that the people who join are probably not in the group of well adjusted according to the Steve criteria.

    Mega would have 7,000 potential global members.

  12. Steve,

    It’s not just that. People who are a bit of a way up the autistic spectrum just love doing this sort of stuff. I didn’t do much showing off of my Yahtzee game written in BASIC, or Fibonacci calculator. Just figuring out how to get a machine to do a thing and seeing the results was exciting. And exciting as in, why the hell are you wasting your time watching 22 men kicking a ball at each other, again?

    And yeah, it took me a long time to train myself to be a real boy. I’m the guy who would ask the question you weren’t supposed to ask, or point to the elephant in the room. I wasn’t trying to be horrible. I just didn’t have the filters. I take risks with my reputation in this area all the time. Partly because the stupidity makes me mad, but it’s also a very good way of finding good friends. The people who just want to take the orthodox side for the sake of supporting the group tenets are phonys and I’d rather not have them in my life.

  13. Saw something several years ago that suggested the higher the recorded IQ the more error prone the test becomes.
    Anything above 100 is good.

  14. “IIRC, the official (Mensa) genius level is somewhere just over 150. I had a friend at school … who hit it and is now a philosophy don.”

    Being a genius is being Hume or Kant. Being a philosophy don is not being Hume or Kant.

  15. @Ken

    Ruth Lawrence turned out okay it seems.

    Sufiah Yusof on the other hand…


    One of the most extraordinarily crass fundraising appeals I’ve ever seen: https://www.thestar.com.my/news/nation/2008/08/08/more-funds-needed-for-save-sufiah-campaign/ (she was headline news in Malaysia where devout Muslims campaigned to “save” her from prostitution and irreligion, but she actually had no interest in being “saved” in that way)

  16. To be fair it’s hard to know how much damage was done by her family, how much by the UK press and how much was the actual “prodigy” pressure itself, but it’s all a cautionary tale. And she’s still being chased around by journalists and religious fanatics. https://inquiringfeminist.com/2017/10/23/here-we-bloody-go-again-with-the-aggression-and-the-slut-shaming-keith-gladdis-now-of-mhp-communications-is-still-trying-to-control-and-ruin-me/

    On an even bigger level of messed up, there’s Jake Barnett, teen physics prodigy, and the criminal case surrounding this adopted Ukrainian sister, who his parents claim was a dwarf adult plotting to kill them all and they therefore changed the official age of before abandoning… https://www.elle.com/culture/celebrities/a29205646/kristine-barnett-natalia-grace-adoption/

  17. Bloke in North Dorset

    No long after we met I discovered Mrs BiND was (and still is) a member of Mensa. I was quite impressed until I started reading their newsletter/magazine.

    In the Q&A page some wrote in to ask how the ancient Chinese made compasses that pointed south. At that point my impressed decreased significantly. Then we attended a couple of weekends in London and was even less impressed. That was in the ’80s. Since moving here we’ve attended a few lunches and I’ve been even less impressed with the members who seem quite credulous when it comes to all sorts of woo, but I have met a couple of their spouses who have been quite good company.

  18. “Being a genius is being Hume or Kant. Being a philosophy don is not being Hume or Kant.”

    Well said. Personally I don’t see what the rush is. Very few child prodigies, if any, seem to create groundbreaking new discoveries in their late teens/early twenties before receding back to being merely quite clever. If there were such a race against time to “use your genius before you lose it” then I’d understand the point of cramming so fast. But generally “prodigy” refers to the fact these people are extremely good at learning academic material, rather than that they reach an unusually high level within the field. What would they lose by taking A levels at the same time as everyone else?

    If they find A level boringly easy (like many smart non prodigies do) there’s always a whole heap of alternative activities available – read the great works of literature (that’ll keep you busy for a few years), learn to paint or draw or play a musical instrument, go out chasing wildlife, take up a sport, start computer programming (and maybe earn some dosh), competitive maths challenges like the Olympiad for those who are that way inclined.

    I knew a chap at Cambridge with thirteen grade As at A level. Not a genius. Just very fast at learning and wanted to fill his time getting new information (he genuinely loved learning). No doubt he could have passed three A levels at the age of fifteen. Doing thirteen took him longer. He was an interesting and well-adjusted chap and would have been very handy on your pub quiz team!

  19. ‘sparking a competition among the world’s top universities to sign up the boy genius’

    Why? Why would they want him?

    Money making potential. So their interest in equality goes only so far. “Don’t mess with our endowments!”

    If you believe in equality, why not make him a sanitation worker til his peers catch up? The kid needs to learn not to excel. He makes the other kids feel bad about themselves.

    [1/2 sarc]

  20. AIUI initially IQ tests were developed for children, so if you were aged 10 and scored the same as the average 15yo, you had an IQ of 150 (arbitrarily assigned ‘genius’ level). Modern IQ tests for adults are standardised so that the mean score is given the value of 100 and a standard deviation is =15 points (with the intention of approximating the age-based definition). Hence an IQ of 145 means you’re in the top 1/740th of the population (3σ). An IQ of 175 (5σ) should* be achievable by 1 in 3,500,000 – there ought to be ~2,000 such individuals alive today.

    * IQ tests aren’t particularly meaningful** at this level, because there aren’t enough people scoring this high to give statistical reliability.

    ** and some will say they aren’t meaningful at all, being a tool of the white patriarchy.

  21. Dr James Thompson, who blogs about IQ and the like, suggests that once you reach very clever people you should stop paying attention to standard tests and just get the clever-clogs to rate each other.

    I wonder whether that idea is inspired in part by the tales of von Neumann who was so quick that he impressed all the top physicists of his day. Similarly, Bertrand Russell said something to the effect of feeling slow and dim whenever he had a conversation with Keynes.

    (Which points, I think, to one way to know that macroeconomics is bunk: if a chap as clever as Ol’ Maynard couldn’t sort it out it’s going to be far too tough for everybody else who’s tried.)

  22. @AndrewWS November 14, 2019 at 12:13 pm

    +1 beat me to it on MENSA

    @BoM4 November 14, 2019 at 12:59 pm

    You are me and I am you… more or less

    IQ? Sadly I’m a thicko as only circa 130

    However unlike Labour I don’t denigrate hairdressers, plasters and shelf-stackers or Patriotism and Trident

    @MBE November 14, 2019 at 3:06 pm

    Parents Horror as Adopted Six-Year-Old was Actually an Adult

    @BiND November 14, 2019 at 3:11 pm

    Yep, often their intelligence is focussed on one specific area – outside that they are shallow, gullible and less useful than a 10yr old

  23. @ BiND
    The people you meet at meetings of MENSA are a small self-selected group, probably not typical of the overall membership/potential membership. I swiftly abandoned attending meetings and, quite a bit later because I had hoped there would be interesting things, dropped out.

  24. @Steve
    “children cursed with abnormally high IQ ”
    Thank you for raising that, because for many of us it has been a curse. It needn’t have been, but for a school system that works on the principle that “they’re clever, they can work it out for themselves”. A common theme you hear at gatherings is one of having been failed by the school system
    Personally I wasn’t at all challenged, and found school very boring. As a result, I never learned the most important thing schools need to be teaching students – and that is “how to learn”. This only because properly apparent when I got to university and found that the subject matter was neither boring nor boringly easy – at one point in my first year, one of my tutors told me that I was heading to fail mods and be chucked out. Being undiagnosed autistic didn’t help either.
    @john77 & @BIND
    The thing about Mensa meetings is that the common factor is that the people are “bright”. This is unlike any other grouping I can think of where there is a common **interest** – so while many of us might think that (for example) collecting train numbers is boring, to train spotters it’s a common interest.
    You need to remember that just having a high IQ doesn’t automatically mean having a high (for the want of a better term) Nouseness Quotient. As already pointed out, many very intelligent people can be very “poor” once outside of their field.

    PS – I sat finals at the same time as Ruth Laurence. At the time I was seriously concerned that she was missing out of important things no child should miss out on. I had some friends at the same college as her – nothing they told me suggested that such concerns weren’t justified.

  25. I used to be in Mensa in my teens. Basically, my parents got me to do an IQ test in the paper (Daily Mail), which I did well in. This led to them sending off for a Mensa pack and then eventually I went to a test centre for an supervised test.

    I never bothered to attend any meetings, and my recollection of the magazine was that it contained nothing of interest, but at the time I was intrigued by the amount of adverts for MLM schemes (this was late 80s / early 90s).

    My other Mensa related anecdote was at an interview for a university I didn’t want to go to, the interviewer asked why I had included Mensa membership on my UCCA form. My immediate thought was “that explains why you lecture at the University of Salford”.

  26. IQ really only measures if you’re good at IQ tests. Essentially abstract problem-solving. For an IQ test to be valid, it must have a 95% or greater correlation with all other IQ tests. There shouldn’t be a big difference across ages because it is a ‘pure’ test that does not require education — over and above the ability to read/comprehend the instructions — to perform, although there is a learning effect over the first few times that an individual of any age is presented with one due to the individual learning what the typical problem types are and how to set about solving them.

    The IQ value is defined as having a mean of 100 and std dev of 15 across the population. Thus an IQ of 145 is 3 standard deviations above the mean, i.e. about 0.15% of the population will score at least that highly. There aren’t enough people in the world for values into the 200s to be possible.

    Of course, this makes the assumption that the population is homogeneous, which is patently bollocks. Both exceptionally high and exceptionally low scores are achieved disproportionately by males, for example. Scores over 160 are almost certainly not part of the normal population, you’ll find a lot of Aspergers up there whose scores correlate badly between different IQ tests (see above that they should have at least 95% correlation across a population) depending on how systemising the test is.

    But 145 ain’t exceptional, even for a 9-year-old provided they’ve had a few practice goes and had the system explained to them.

  27. IQ really only measures if you’re good at IQ tests.

    That’s what most people who aren’t good at IQ tests say.

  28. @ Matt & Chris Miller
    Whereas being good at IQ tests (and a pendant) I agree with those who say “IQ *tests* really only measure if you’re good at IQ tests”.
    IQ tests were invented because IQ was recognised as being useful to its possessors and their employers.

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