The standard view is that all human populations have the same average cognitive capabilities. The world sure doesn’t look as if that’s the case, and that’s part of the reason that people insist that everyone do public obeisance to the notion: if it was obviously true, or even looked plausible, you wouldn’t need to.
But if it were true? What if it became true at midnight tonight? To be more specific, what if the IQ of every natural human population was bumped up enough to make their average IQ 100? In a group with an average IQ of 85, every individual would pick up 15 points.
I think the world would change in many ways. I don’t think that billions of people would wake up tomorrow and immediately say to themselves “I’ve been stupid.”, as people do after eating their fill of tree-of-life root and turning Pak. Inpaktification gives you a lot more than 15 points, enough to be painfully obvious. That, and your dick drops off.
I do think that a lot of people would feel that something funny was going on, even on the first day. The crossword puzzle and the Sudoku would be easier. A question or two that had bugged you for a long time would suddenly become clear – and that would continue to happen.
Kids from groups with low average IQ today would suddenly start doing better in school. They wouldn’t know any more tomorrow morning than they do today, but they would be able to do more with what they did know, and pick up new information more easily. I think they’d immediately begin to catch up academically with kids from groups that already had average IQs of 100: not that it would happen instantly, but there would be lots of convergence in just a year or two. In the US, the papers would give credit to whatever useless educational panacea was currently fashionable – quite possibly if it hadn’t even been implemented yet! But some would begin to wonder, even some of those who were formerly famously clueless. Malcolm Gladwell would suddenly find “igon values” easy to understand. He might even wonder why they hadn’t been before.
A few years after the change, the Ivy League would be utterly saturated with the currently preferred low-achieving minorities, because for a while, they’d get big advantages in admissions without getting low scores. They’d be in like Flynn! Probably this would not go on for too long, though: true liberals would soon find these people unsatisfying. Clearly, they would no longer be keeping it real.
It doesn’t mean that governments would instantly fall, or institutions crumble in a moment (although some might). If you lived in a kakistocracy, there’s no guarantee that government would instantly straighten out. Remember, the jerks at the top would have gotten smarter too. Execution would improve, though: simple things would get done more efficiently, and you wouldn’t have the feeling that life was one long visit to the DMV. Sheer friction would decrease. Planes in Africa would, after a few years, crash at rates closer to what we see in developed countries.
People would still hate each other and there would be still be wars, but they would be fought more cleverly. Fewer machetes, more Enigma decoding. Deterrence might work better..
Violent crime would decline. Birth rates would plunge, and more people would worry about low birth rates.
Right now, H1Bs work because there are some parts of the world where there are a fair number of people with high human capital and limited local opportunities. That pool would expand greatly, I think. You’d be getting lots of H1B engineers from Indian scheduled castes – from Bolivia, and Gabon. From Egypt and Indonesia. Even from PNG! For that matter, all sorts of countries that are not very competitive for factory labor today would become so, although that would also depend on the decisions of the local elites – elites that had become somewhat more prone to consider the long run.
In other words, it would in some ways be like the end of Communism in China, when a billion people stopped whopping themselves on the head with ball-peen hammers and sickles. They ended artificial stupidity, which is easier than inventing artificial intelligence.
To an extent, smart populations today make money by having something that’s not over common. As smarts became more common, the premium would go down. On the other hand, if these newly-average populations produce a proportionate number of inventions and discoveries, technological progress would be faster, benefiting everyone. Being an average country in a highly competent, rapidly advancing world might not be so bad.
Some countries that have historically been spear carriers, or used as footballs, might actually become players. Nobody thinks much about Indonesia, but if they had German levels of human potential, maybe we would. Maybe we’d have to.
Little wars against formerly dipshit countries would sometimes turn very unpleasant. I’m not saying Iraq unpleasant, more like Winter War unpleasant. Embarrassing.
The US would gain relative to Iceland, since the Icelanders don’t even have minorities with low IQs (other than trolls) , but Mozambique would gain relative to both.
Science and technology would go like blazes, but it would be harder to make a living as a scientist.
The number of people capable of coming up with plausible or attractive bullshit would increase as much as eightfold. More ideas, almost all of them wrong, would be flying around the net.
We’d live in interesting times.