Albert Einstein

Be wiser 

Words: Werner Jessner and Arek Piatek
Illustrations: Alex Williamson

 …than Albert Einstein. ever since we began measuring intelligence, our knowledge has increased. but are we really getting smarter?

The Red Bulletin takes a look at mankind’s current records – and how far we are from our absolute peak. Part 2 - intelligence. 

Modern IQ tests for adults are set with 100 as the average score. Anything above this indicates higher than average intelligence; scores that are lower show below average intelligence. (Scores outside this scale are possible in the case of children and adolescents, however, where the age is extrapolated.) 

In a normal distribution, scores for intelligence, and a lack of it, very rarely deviate from 100 by more than 60 points in either direction. The probability of an IQ above 170 is 1:653,000. At the outer ends of this bell curve, the lines taper off toward infinity. The chances of an IQ of 200 are 1:76 billion, and the world population is roughly 7.35 billion.

What would a person have to do to hit the magic score of 200 and thus have a level of super-intelligence that can still be measured? According to a model by psychologist Raymond Bernard Cattell, they would have to possess extraordinary (innate) fluid intelligence – a heightened ability to think logically and to learn quickly in new situations. 

Intelligence quotient

Highest IQ: 198 (Abdesselam Jelloul, 2013)
Predicted highest IQ: 200

 Genetics research centre BGI in Shenzhen, China, is currently sequencing the genomes (an organism’s complete set of DNA) of 2,000 super-brains. Once we have determined which area of the brain houses fluid intelligence, prospective parents will be able to select the most intelligent zygotes (fertilised eggs) to create a super-baby during – and this will no doubt become an everyday phrase – pre-implantation genetic diagnosis, and give the baby its first present.


But there is also crystallised intelligence to consider. This, according to Cattell, is what allows us to acquire new skills, link up our acquired knowledge and store it all correctly. A working memory is fundamental and, luckily, studies by universities in New York and Hangzhou have proved that we can exercise ours like a muscle.

The tighter that fluid and crystallised intelligence are interwoven, the higher the IQ. And the good news is that, unlike fluid intelligence, crystallised intelligence increases with age. Mankind is becoming cleverer by the day, not least because, in an ever-changing world, we are forced to make new associations, thus gaining in crystallised intelligence. This is known as the Flynn Effect.

So, what do researchers do to ensure the zero meridian stays where they want it to, in the middle at 100? They make IQ tests progressively more difficult, thereby forever pushing that magic score of 200 a little further into the distance.


The Upshot

An IQ of 200? No problem, as long as a bright mind is quicker than the people who amend the tests. In any case, intelligence is relative; Albert Einstein’s IQ is thought to have been somewhere between 160 and 190, which puts the value of IQ scores into clear  perspective.

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08 2015 The Red Bulletin

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