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Conversation with Benjamin Li on High-IQ, the Sciences, Vancouver, and The University of British Columbia: Member, International Society for Philosophical Enquiry (ISPE) (2)

September 15, 2020

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Interviewer: Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Numbering: Issue 24.A, Idea: Outliers & Outsiders (Part Twenty)

Place of Publication: Langley, British Columbia, Canada

Title: In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal

Web Domain: http://www.in-sightjournal.com

Individual Publication Date: September 15, 2020

Issue Publication Date: January 1, 2021

Name of Publisher: In-Sight Publishing

Frequency: Three Times Per Year

Words: 3,082

ISSN 2369-6885

Abstract

Benjamin Li is a student of Mathematics, Statistics, and Philosophy at the University of British Columbia. He discusses: The University of British Columbia; some of the benefits of the higher IQ in personal life; some of the benefits of the higher IQ in professional life; statistics and mathematics; the local Vancouver culture; the campus culture; the degree in mathematics and statistics; the family background in high-level academics; this career in the sciences; and research question.

Keywords: Benjamin Li, campus culture, high-IQ, IQ, The University of British Columbia, Vancouver.

Conversation with Benjamin Li on High-IQ, the Sciences, Vancouver, and The University of British Columbia: Member, International Society for Philosophical Enquiry (ISPE) (2)

*Please see the footnotes, bibliography, and citation style listing after the interview.*

Scott Douglas Jacobsen: So, you’re studying at The University of British Columbia. You’re scoring high on alternative tests. You’re new to the community. What are some of the insights garnered through some of the mathematics and statistics education at The University of British Columbia for you?

Benjamin Li[1],[2]*: I learn most things on my own time, rather than relying on my education. Through my general education, I was quite pleased with my philosophy professor, and I even had a 3-hour conversation with him through office hours one time. He was knowledgeable on many subjects and had even let me borrow a few scholarly books and articles. I usually find it challenging to approach professors, which was the first time, but I found it quite a fantastic experience. I think some insights gained through my education thus far are how to encourage in-depth conversations about thought-provoking topics, listen carefully, consider other viewpoints, and learn voraciously. Even to hear all types of voices, such as those from peer-reviewed journal articles (holds most weight), professors, books, blogs, the internet, the general public, etc. Thanks to my current insights garnered, I think academia is a viable option for me to pursue in the future.

Jacobsen: What do you feel has been some of the benefits of the higher IQ in personal life?

Li: One benefit is self-confidence. It is important to feel satisfied in one’s ability to live life with the mindset that one can continue to grow, despite any setback. Of course, one should not go around bragging about one’s intelligence, as that will not yield any benefits socially. Even if you knew your I.Q. was much higher than someone else’s, it is not polite to show any signs of a superiority complex. Confidence and arrogance, while similar, are not the same. I think when being confident, you don’t view others as a threat, and instead, you can focus on using one’s higher I.Q. to try to benefit others. Arrogance points to low self-esteem because you feel threatened by other people and believe you must defend yourself. Confident people don’t have to repeatedly rub their achievements in people’s faces because they know their value. Knowing I have a high I.Q. made me recognize that I can probably succeed in a lot of things if the mindset and personality are at an appropriate level. Still, I should also be making positive contributions to other people’s lives at the same time.

Jacobsen: What do you feel has been some of the benefits of the higher IQ in professional life?

Li: Given that IQ tests, like standardized tests, measure fundamental life skills, there are many benefits. My intelligence has helped me out tremendously, despite figuring things out relatively late in my life. It has helped me thrive in a STEM field at a reasonably elite University (top 40) despite a very poor work ethic since high school.

An exceptionally high IQ will likely help me comprehend difficult material, perform complex actions, or learn the intricate skills necessary for demanding tasks. Examples of cognitively demanding activities include STEM careers, mental sports (Chess, eSports, mental Olympians), music composition, and the like. The correlation between IQ and occupational success is lower in occupations that are less demanding and more repetitive. Sometimes, high IQ individuals will perform exceptionally poorly on tasks that correlate weakly with general intelligence.

Jacobsen: Why did you decide to pursue statistics and mathematics?

Li: Going into university, I wasn’t so sure what I’d like because I never took academics seriously and had some of the poorest work ethic imaginable. I still did well in mathematics-based courses because they seemed to come naturally, perhaps because my culture had also prepared me more in mathematics. I believe aptitudes, interests, culture, and career prospects played decisive roles. My mathematical skills are currently higher than my verbal skills, so a STEM field made sense. On standardized tests, I can solve math problems considerably faster than verbal problems. However, my verbal reasoning skills have risen exceptionally quickly since university had begun. Culture has played a profound role because, like most immigrant parents (Chinese and Indian I can speak about), it does not look terrific if one decides to study a field that doesn’t lead to a secure job. Most try to look down on the arts and humanities as entirely useless. If I wasn’t worried about money, I would probably just major in Philosophy or Psychology and pursue my passions. It’s a bit late for that now since I took too many courses related to mathematics and statistics and performed well, so it would be a waste to turn away from it. I decided that I should probably try to obtain a double major in Statistics or Mathematics alongside Philosophy. I decided this was perhaps the best way to have a balance. It is hard to be very proficient in both domains, but someone of my caliber of intelligence should tackle the challenge.

Parents and peers have influenced me. I was encouraged to major in Computer Science by parents and pursue either Law or Medicine by peers. I was stuck deciding what type of career to choose, but I decided on these three fields at the start of university because I wanted to do what my friends did. However, my inner urge was telling myself to pursue the most important questions of our time. I spent more time learning about Philosophy, Psychology, and various other fields than my education, which has negatively impacted my academic performance. I made virtually my whole life based on my deepest interests instead of focusing solely on my STEM education. I don’t regret anything since it was what my inner drives told me I ought to do, rather than what my parents or peers would expect me to do instead. I hope to graduate with reasonable skills in statistics and mathematics to gain a job in case I decide to give up on research. This way, I get to study in a lucrative field and learn something I’m more interested in at the same time. My verbal reasoning abilities and vocabulary has been growing at an extraordinary rate and may even surpass my mathematical skills in time.

Life is arduous when you’re a late bloomer and giving it your all to discover what suits you. I’m gratified of myself for effectuating my interests in such a short amount of time.

Jacobsen: Do you find the local Vancouver culture conducive to the flourishing of high-IQ types?

Li: High IQ types are always more likely to flourish. However, no culture seems to be able to allow outliers and outsiders (geniuses) to succeed. People who are too different in both intelligence and personality will be way out of the norm. In today’s society, people are obsessed with STEM, whereas the genius follows their inner motivation to pursue abstract problems. Geniuses can never flourish without the right support and recognition to pursue their passions.

Jacobsen: How is the campus culture at The University of British Columbia?

Li: I don’t partake in campus culture, so I’m not totally sure. Every school I have attended has always been packed with Chinese people. Everywhere on campus, you can see Chinese students, both international and domestic, and in classes as well. I don’t care about which school I attend in Canada quite honestly; they are all the same to me. The elite universities are somehow overrepresented by East Asian’s, so Chinese culture will likely be of the most influence. UBC probably has many Chinese influences, such as in its style, food, and language. I tend to eat Chinese food quite a bit on campus, and every time I go, I see a bunch of Chinese students, whereas I tend to sit alone in my own world. Regardless, I am not the right person to ask regarding this.

Jacobsen: When you graduate with the degree in mathematics and statistics, what do you hope to pursue – more education or work relevant to the qualifications of mathematics and statistics?

Li: I might pursue a master’s in Mathematics, Statistics, or Philosophy. I had someone tell me I should aim for a Ph.D. in Cognitive Psychology. These programs can prepare me for a career in science. My STEM education will help me find a job, but it will be valuable in research additionally. Only academic research will fully employ my full capabilities, but I can do reasonably well in a standard setting, but I will likely not enjoy it. I am still early into my degree, so my aspirations may very well change in a few years, but I think at this moment, I have to do my best. I hope to graduate with ample skills to gain a job, but I will concentrate on academic research and try to reach the top of anything I wish to pursue.

Jacobsen: Do you find the family background in high-level academics an inspiration to pursue formal education more?

Li: No. Given that my family expects a lot from me, it makes me nervous and gives me tremendous pressure to perform admirably. Eternally I was not too fond of school and felt it was too dull for me. I did very well at times, but I think I didn’t feel very motivated unless I felt I could reach the top. Given that I didn’t take academics earnestly in the past, I still had a fear of failure because I was far behind everyone else in preparation and motivation. I feel that my peers influenced me a lot and made me take academics more seriously. In my senior year of high school, many of my classmates were striving for professional careers, so I just decided to follow them. I didn’t want to disappoint my parents, and I also didn’t want to be the only one among my peers to be way out of the norm. I decided I should aim to attend the best schools and the most prestigious programs and careers, although I later realized how pathetic I was to conform to such trivial matters. I discerned that I didn’t need any of this for motivation to pursue formal education more. My inspiration comes from my desire to acquire more knowledge and learn about the world, to fulfill my need for intellectual stimulation. Financial independence has never been a thing I worried about. My major worry is whether or not I will be able to reach the top of my career and solve the most challenging problems, against all odds. I am not guaranteed to become successful, but given that I have put a lot of energy into finding my academic passion, I can still reach my potential, despite being a late bloomer and gaining motivation at a very late stage of my life.

Jacobsen: If you pursue this career in the sciences, what sciences will most interest you? Why those?

Li: Given that the subject of intelligence has had a profound impact on my life, I would choose to become an intelligence researcher. There are too many important topics and creative ideas I have in store. I consider this field a domain of importance, given its complexity and social value.

The International Society for Intelligence Research (ISIR) may be an organization I am interested in. Intelligence researchers are, without a doubt, the brightest in the broad field of psychology, and many individuals come from a variety of areas aside from psychology. Many intelligence researchers are self-taught statisticians. It is also a secret, but many intelligence researchers were once members of the most elite IQ societies (above Mensa with strict requirements) such as the Triple Nine Society (TNS), International Society for Philosophical Enquiry (ISPE), and the Prometheus society.

Intelligence is a bit of a taboo subject, and the topic is not given the undivided attention in university as it deserves. Most of the general public is not well educated on this subject, so I believe I can help fill in those gaps in all those myths that pervade our culture. It also seems like I may be destined to be the one to do this. I have had amazing conversations with the general public who are entirely clueless, and many times people tell me how grateful they are for sharing. They find the things I have to say to be very interesting, but they may not have the same level of intellectual curiosity I do.

My philosophical interests are related to the philosophy of science, philosophy of biology, philosophy of race, philosophy of genius, epistemology, and rationality.

To briefly discuss genius once again, some philosophers touch on this subject. Genius is vital to me because I realized that there is a high probability that I could be a genius. I have always had trouble understanding myself, but somehow this one label related to me more than anything else. Giftedness and Prodigiousness also influenced me and are likely what I am interested in as well.

I have not found much interest in mathematics or statistics research, but the skills acquired from my education will be invaluable to a career in research.

Jacobsen: What research question would most interest you?

Li: The research question that has interested me ever since I graduated high school was the controversial subject about the causes of group differences in IQ test scores within and between nations.

I want to pursue something useful to society and is complicated enough to feel intellectually satisfied. I am not here to solve social problems, but the truth may likely assist that indirectly. Finding all the environmental causes of group differences is an abstract problem.

The race and IQ subject has been in my head for over a year now, and it is a fascinating debate, despite its turbulent history. Intelligence isn’t taught seriously in university because different ethnic groups score differently, on average, on IQ tests. Solving this problem entirely would likely put an end to the taboo.

There are many different perspectives on this taboo subject, but it is my best opinion that the totality of evidence points to a solely environmental cause for group differences.

It just seems like I should be the one to solve this problem since I have developed the skills to rationally and honestly solve this problem, without racism/prejudice or political/personal bias. James Flynn was one of my favorite academics, and he had unfortunately passed away recently. It seems like the individual most likely to succeed him may very possibly be me. I understand his views the most and have conversed with him as well. His interest in race and IQ was due to his political opinions (he has publicly stated). However, he has been sincere and respectable, in addition to having profoundly contributed to the subject of intelligence.

Many people who believe there may be some genetic basis for the gaps (yet they can’t provide a percentage), but who are also afraid of how the research will be used, will likely ask the questions “Give me one reason this research benefits the world” or “What’s the point?” Some will go into flames and tell me whatever the answer may be; the consequences are too destructive. This implies that they believe in what they do not want. These people wish this subject to somehow be ignored for thousands of years. This is a fallacy. These individuals never provide any evidence for their assertions and always rely on fallacious arguments. The statement that IQ is mostly based on genetics is entirely worthless. Any reasonable person should not be afraid of tackling this problem honestly. These people cannot see that their opinions are not based on rational scientific reasoning. I see the differences as likely to be minor and of unknown direction.

I am not very political, but I have given enough thought to why solving this problem will benefit the world. Aside from ending the taboo on IQ, I have realized that there is no rational reason to delay the inevitable. The causes of group differences are of crucial scientific interest, and if done fairly and honestly, can benefit the world. Many people tell me that the differences cannot be entirely environmental and say that I should ignore this subject altogether. These individuals never provide any evidence for their assertions and, when confronted, merely say that genetics influence intelligence, and thus group average differences must have some genetic component. This statement is ignorant and irrelevant to the subject at hand. Even if this is true, it is better to find all the environmental factors that handicap specific groups in society rather than ignore them. With that said, any argument that relies on trying to delay the inevitable can be very easily refuted. An appeal to consequences is just another fallacy I have no time for.

It is better for the answer to come out as soon as possible. I can not wait 500 years for this question to be settled because I will not be alive. Is it better for the truth to be known now, in 100 years, 500 years, or in 50,000 years? Any honest and reasonable person will immediately answer now. Anyone who says that we should never look for the truth exposes themselves as not believing that significant environmental factors influence these outcomes. If we never study the subject honestly, how can we find the environmental factors that can help certain groups advance in society? Also, note that no one will say any of these things in public, but only privately express their concerns. The wide range of viewpoints from the general public needs unpacking, and understanding the social experiences of different ethnic groups requires a candid examination. After this is settled, the IQ taboo should disappear. If we can not talk about this, then society has failed. No knowledge is dangerous by itself, only how we use it.

If we can give everyone a decent life, we wouldn’t need to worry about superficial things like race or IQ. At the moment, however, these things are not insignificant because they impact outcomes and overall life experience. If we ever reach that point for everyone in the world, where we wouldn’t need to care too much about IQ or race, life will be more pleasant for everyone worldwide. When I look at people, I try not to see color. I understand individuals for who they are. If everyone can live a satisfactory life, maybe if we glanced at one another, perhaps we would still detect color, but hopefully, we will notice something else standing behind it.

Appendix I: Footnotes

[1] Member, International Society for Philosophical Enquiry (ISPE).

[2] Individual Publication Date: September 15, 2020: http://www.in-sightjournal.com/li-2; Full Issue Publication Date: January 1, 2021: https://in-sightjournal.com/insight-issues/.

Appendix II: Citation Style Listing

American Medical Association (AMA): Jacobsen S. Conversation with Benjamin Li on High-IQ, the Sciences, and The University of British Columbia: Member, International Society for Philosophical Enquiry (ISPE) (2) [Online].September 2020; 24(A). Available from: http://www.in-sightjournal.com/li-2.

American Psychological Association (APA, 6th Edition, 2010): Jacobsen, S.D. (2020, September 15). Conversation with Benjamin Li on High-IQ, the Sciences, and The University of British Columbia: Member, International Society for Philosophical Enquiry (ISPE) (2). Retrieved from http://www.in-sightjournal.com/li-2.

Brazilian National Standards (ABNT): JACOBSEN, S. Conversation with Benjamin Li on High-IQ, the Sciences, and The University of British Columbia: Member, International Society for Philosophical Enquiry (ISPE) (2). In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal. 24.A, September. 2020. <http://www.in-sightjournal.com/li-2>.

Chicago/Turabian, Author-Date (16th Edition): Jacobsen, Scott. 2020. “Conversation with Benjamin Li on High-IQ, the Sciences, and The University of British Columbia: Member, International Society for Philosophical Enquiry (ISPE) (2).” In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal. 24.A. http://www.in-sightjournal.com/li-2.

Chicago/Turabian, Humanities (16th Edition): Jacobsen, Scott “Conversation with Benjamin Li on High-IQ, the Sciences, and The University of British Columbia: Member, International Society for Philosophical Enquiry (ISPE) (2).” In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal. 24.A (September 2020). http://www.in-sightjournal.com/li-2.

Harvard: Jacobsen, S. 2020, ‘Conversation with Benjamin Li on High-IQ, the Sciences, and The University of British Columbia: Member, International Society for Philosophical Enquiry (ISPE) (2)‘In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal, vol. 24.A. Available from: <http://www.in-sightjournal.com/li-2>.

Harvard, Australian: Jacobsen, S. 2020, ‘Conversation with Benjamin Li on High-IQ, the Sciences, and The University of British Columbia: Member, International Society for Philosophical Enquiry (ISPE) (2)‘In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal, vol. 24.A., http://www.in-sightjournal.com/li-2.

Modern Language Association (MLA, 7th Edition, 2009): Scott D. Jacobsen. “Conversation with Benjamin Li on High-IQ, the Sciences, and The University of British Columbia: Member, International Society for Philosophical Enquiry (ISPE) (2).” In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal 24.A (2020):September. 2020. Web. <http://www.in-sightjournal.com/li-2>.

Vancouver/ICMJE: Jacobsen S. Conversation with Benjamin Li on High-IQ, the Sciences, and The University of British Columbia: Member, International Society for Philosophical Enquiry (ISPE) (2) [Internet]. (2020, September 24(A). Available from: http://www.in-sightjournal.com/li-2.

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