Ali’s blog

Mostly quant stuff with occasional digressions

India and China (again)

Posted by alifinmath on February 11, 2008

I wrote a post a few weeks back contending that any comparison between the economies of China and India was daft: they’re on different trajectories. But this is not the real reason for my pessimism about India. My pessimism is based on my conviction that Indians are simply not smart enough to compete with Chinese (or with Europeans). This is something that has greatly interested me for the last five years or so and I’ve attempted to read whatever I can on the subject. Which is not an easy thing to do as discussing race differences in intelligence is politically incorrect, and academics are afraid of the thought police.

My interest in the subject was first sparked by J.P. Rushton’s Race, Evolution, and Behavior: A Life History Perspective (3rd Edition), which argued that different races have evolved according to the demands of different environments. Since then I’ve read books by, inter alia, Richard Lynn, Michael Levin, and Arthur Jensen. There are some difficulties — precise operational definitions of race or ethnicity are not at hand (and perhaps never will be). Here is Rushton talking about South Asian intelligence (or rather, the lack thereof):

Given the euphoria current about the Indian economy—the fastest growing of any large polity after China—and all the adulation for Indian high tech types, the news that, in aggregate, India is so weakly positioned is going to be difficult for some to accept.

However, as Steve Sailer noted in his April 23, 2006 VDARE.COM essay on Richard Lynn’s book, the results regarding the IQ difference between China and India are remarkably consistent across time.

I suppose the answer to the apparent anomaly of so many well-known high IQ Indians must be:

  1. 0.5% of a population of 1.1 billion is a lot;
  2. the variation in IQ scores in the Indian sub-continent may be greater than elsewhere; and
  3. a steep inflection in economic growth from a depressed level is not incompatible with an ultimate inability to match western production levels.

The finding that the North African/South Asian grouping differs in cognitive ability from Europe has important political implications. Many South Asians are Muslim and form part of what Harvard historian Samuel P. Huntington (1998) referred to as the “Clash of Civilisations.” The evidence shows that the European-South Asian IQ difference is substantially heritable, which means as a practical matter intractable. What the West can expect from these countries has to adjust to this reality.

Immigration policy too, must be adjusted. Mass immigration from the region is very likely to lower the average IQ of the receiving Western countries, and consequently be dysfunctional. (Conversely, the incentives for the relatively few high IQ people from these countries to emigrate are likely to be extremely high. Living in a low IQ milieu is not efficient for them.)

He may have a point. Many of the Indians we see here are graduates of the various Indian Institutes of Technology — which constitute the jewel in the crown of the Indian educational system. Yet as one of my professors at King’s College once told me, the IITs are roughly comparable to English provincial universities (he was a frequent visitor to the Tata Institute for Fundamental Research at the time). They have nothing comparable to Princeton or Cambridge. And probably never will (and this applies a fortiori to the other South Asian and Middle Eastern countries as well)


5 Responses to “India and China (again)”

  1. foquant said

    I find it somewhat ironic how anecdotal situations serve as the backbone of study to the same degree that they are circumstantial. Although, I suppose, many businesses face comparable problems. That said, you may find the HBS case on Siemens interesting. I don’t have a non-DRM version, so unless you have access via other means you’ll have to pay for it:

    It discusses issues faced by Siemens among three of their regional development centers; one in Germany, one in the US, and one in India. While, again, anecdotal, it may be a curious read given your stated interest.

  2. alifinmath said

    I don’t want to fork out the $7 for a hard copy (at least, not until I know what it’s about). What’s the gist of the article? Does it argue along my lines or against it?

    In adition to the problem of defining race and/or ethnicity, there is the problem of IQ not quite measuring the same thing: an IQ of 70 for a Sub-Saharan African doesn’t mean quite the same thing as IQ of 70 for a European (the former can do things the latter can’t).

  3. foquant said

    I don’t blame you for not wanting to pay.

    Essentially it highlights the situation Siemens was in concerning the development of software across the various RDCs. The highest friction, from my estimation, was between the German RDC and the Indian RDC. Symptoms of the problems included the inherent scope the developers took – for example, the Indian developers would say “everything is fine” when there were significant bugs. The reason – they were looking at their individual subsystems, and not the interaction of the whole system. Another symptom was the lack of documentation that would normally accompany the development work. The Indian RDC simply didn’t note all of their issues and fixes.

    Management in Germany was also suspect of the general quality of the Indian RDC work, and they were considering centralizing more of the work to the German RDC (Munich-based, I believe).

    How it relates to your interest is open to interpretation. One answer could simply be that of a language barrier. Taking engineering as a real-life example, you could describe an engineering firm to a worker in India in English – however, they may come back with info concerning mechanical and electrical engineering when you were discussing geotechnical engineering. Both contain the word engineering – is that a result of IQ or of language inefficiencies?

    Or, it could be along the lines of the IQ argument of Rushton that you quoted.

    Or, it could be a difference in processes. My exposure to the Indian learning process has been: A student has a question. They ask.
    In my opinion, often times the more appropriate approach is not to ask, but to search and read. There is so much information out there for free, why bother asking? I’m not a professor, but if I was one, I’d wonder: why are you asking me when you can find the answer so readily on your own? My belief is that the process of popping off any question that comes to mind is a hindrance in the education process. IQ or cultural processes?

    The topic of IQ is very interesting to me. The quasi-anonymity of the internet relieves my angst somewhat, but I can say that I have an IQ above 140. I sure as hell don’t feel like it though. But, as to measurement – I read a paper once that broke intelligence into two categories: memory and reasoning. Similar to a computer: hard drive and cpu. Personally, I’m horrible at data recollection. I often re-learn topics that I don’t regularly use. The reason? I’m very adept at reasoning (or so the tests say). So, its easier for me to derive already derived concepts than it is to remember them. Although, this often refers to situational and judgment based areas as my math is a little rusty (again – currently relearning many specific topics). I’m not re-inventing calculus though…

  4. alifinmath said

    The “wiring” seems to vary across ethnicities/races, but academics like Rushton, Lynn, and others use the IQ across the board — somewhat suspect, but perhaps there’s no alternative at the present time. Sort of like comparing oranges to apples. The approaches and attitudes of, say, Chinese, Indians, and Europeans are fundamentally different and using the same metric (IQ) to compare them seems a trifle simple-minded.

    I do think, however, that some comparison needs to be made. I’m originally from the Indian subcontinent (as you are, I believe). We have to ask ourselves why a subcontinent with well over one billion people cannot produce one ranking university. And why the majority of our people remain mired in ignorance and abject poverty. The weak excuse of the colonial yoke became invalid long ago. The only tenable explanation seems to be that we lack cognitive capacity.

    Like you, I have an IQ of over 140 — I easily qualify for Mensa membership. I suspect, however, that just about every reader of this blog falls into roughly the same top 1-2%. But we are anomalies. The problem is that India — with its IQ average of 85 — produces disproportionally few of the IQ 115 technicians, the IQ 135 engineers, and the IQ 160 mathematicians and theoretical physicists. Europe has divisions of such technicians, brigades of such engineers, and battalions of such scientists: this is the crucial ingredient of a technological civilisation (indeed I believe that Lynn and Vanhanen — in their “IQ and the Wealth of Nations” — argue that an average national IQ of at least 90 is required in order to have any sort of technological society). We produce one or two world-ranking scientists — a Patodi, a Ramanujan, a Bose, a Chandrasekhar, a Harish-Chandra, a Salam. The West produces such people by the truckload. Africa produces them not at all. Jews — who number perhaps 12 million — have produced more Nobel Prize winners than the whole of India and the moslem world combined (

    In my humble opinion, lack of intelligence is probably the main reason why the Third World remains mired in poverty, disease, and illiteracy. It’s not that the West is not rapacious and exploitative — it is — but that this rapacity isn’t the basic reason for backwardness.

  5. K.V.S. said

    Well to a point what you say is correct that two countries are totaly unique identities and hence can’t be compared but even then I would say comparisons can be made between the two. They are not totaly different 1st of all both of them are developing countries reforming their economies secondly both of them have huge population the only difference which makes comparisions difficult is the form of government both countries have.
    I am also not very sure about how IQ levels of two billion plus people were approximated … even if you take a large sample even then considering the huge amount of diversity in the two countries any sort of approximation is rendered worthless.

    Please see my currently two part series on Chinese and Indian economies

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