Finding the Next Einstein

Why smart is relative

Was Steve Jobs Smart? Heck Yes!

Steve Jobs was not "the 99 percent" intellectually or financially.

napoleon dynamite steve jobs heck yes macs
There's been some discussion about whether or not Steve Jobs was "conventionally" smart. It all started with Walter Isaacson's statement in the New York Times:

"So was Mr. Jobs smart? Not conventionally. Instead, he was a genius."

Christopher Shea at the Wall Street Journal and Sean Carroll at Discover have brought up some interesting points about this which are definitely worth a read, but for now the question remains: Was Steve Jobs conventionally smart?

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I think what people mean when they mention conventional smarts is basically general intelligence or an IQ score. All an IQ score represents is a rough rank order of where a person falls in a general intelligence sense among the population.

As I wrote in my last article, Steve Jobs Leveraged His Intelligence To More Effectively Create:

"Steve Jobs likely had an IQ roughly 160 or above. In Walter Isaacson's biography, near the end of 4th grade Jobs was tested. Jobs said: 'I scored at the high school sophomore level.' This means he was a 4th grader performing at the 10th grade level. The average 4th grader is 9 or 10 years old and the average 10th grader is 15 or 16 years old. Using the standard mental age/chronological age x 100 = IQ formula, we can create rough boundaries. Lower bound: 15/10 x 100 = 150 IQ. Upper bound: 16/9 x 100 = 178 IQ. Average of the bounds is 164 IQ. Of course, if Jobs was a young 4th grader then his IQ would be even higher. Steve Jobs clearly had exceptional intelligence, regardless of what his exact IQ score was. This makes sense, considering that Bill Gates, the other wunderkind, said 'Software is an IQ business.'"

In 2010, the world population was roughly 6,840,507,000. An IQ of 160 places Steve Jobs in the 99.99th percentile or above as a rough lower bound. Let's do some simple math: .9999 x 6,840,507,000 = 6,839,822,949.3. This means that Steve Jobs was conventionally smarter than about 6,839,822,949 people on earth.

Steve Jobs was not "the 99 percent" intellectually or financially.

So was Steve Jobs smart? In the famous words of Napoleon Dynamite, "Heck Yes!"

© 2011 by Jonathan Wai.

You can follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or G+. For more of Finding the Next Einstein: Why Smart is Relative go here.

Note: A perceptive reader pointed out that ratio IQ scores (what I calculated above) are not the same thing as deviation IQ scores.  Hence, according to this table, a ratio IQ of 160 should actually translate into a deviation IQ of about 150.  An IQ of 150 is at about the 99.9th percentile rather than the 99.99th percentile.  .999 x 6,840,507,000 = 6,833,666,493.  So perhaps Steve Jobs was only conventionally smarter than 6,833,666,493 people on earth.

Jonathan Wai, Ph.D., is a psychologist, writer, and research scientist at Duke University.

 
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