February 6, 2009

Bill Gates vs. Bill Gates

Bill Gates, who supposedly scored 1590 on the SAT (which is equivalent now that the maximum has been raised to 2400 and scoring made easier, to about, oh, roughly, a million today), is, notoriously, the World's Biggest IQ Snob in his personal business (at which he's been rather successful). And yet, the Gates Foundation, the chief meddler in American public schools, is as allergic to thinking about the impact of IQ variations on education as every other spouter of the Conventional Wisdom. Not surprisingly, the Gates Foundation has been rather unsuccessful at improving public schools, according to Bill Gates.

Gates's IQ elitism in his personal life is evident even in his writing for the Gates Foundation. Here are excerpts from the first page of his 2009 Annual Letter on the work of the Gates Foundation, where he discusses his transition from Microsoft to fulltime work at the Gates Foundation:

My job at Microsoft had three magical things. ... Finally, the work let me engage with people who were smart and knew things I didn’t....

I love the work at the foundation. Although there are many differences, it also has the three magical elements. ... Second, I feel like my experience in building teams of smart people with different skill sets focused on tough long-term problems can be a real contribution. ... However, I am equally confident that our maniacal focus on drawing in the best talent and measuring results will make a difference. Finally, I find the intelligence and dedication of the people involved in these issues to be just as impressive as what I have seen before. Whether they are scientists at a university or people who have worked in the field in Africa most of their lives, they have critical knowledge and want to help make the breakthroughs. The opportunity to gather smart, creative people into teams and give them resources and guidance as they tackle the challenges is very fulfilling. [Emphasis mine]

In contrast, as the boss of the Gates Foundation, Gates argues that everybody must complete a post-secondary degree or certification. Of course, Bill Gates, himself, is a Harvard dropout.

That Gates is a dropout is not a secret, but it's just the kind of fact that's not considered relevant in thinking about school policy.

Look, lecturing kids who are struggling to graduate from high school that getting a high school degree is useless except as preparation for getting a postsecondary degree is a catastrophic strategy. It's the old Yale or Jail syndrome, which encourages a lot of youths to believe that an honest life of reasonably compensated work is hopeless for them, so they might as well drop out of high school now and start dealing drugs.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

17 comments:

Anonymous said...

Serious question Steve: if "Yale or Jail" so concerns you, and you think it's destructive for low-IQ youths to have well-meaning liberals telling them they should go to college: why do you think those same low-IQ youths wouldn't be at least as discouraged by public acknowledgment of genetic IQ differences and their relationship to life outcomes? Particularly if they are openly correlated to racial differences?

testing99 said...

Anon -- I'm not Steve, but he and I both agree that traditional social structures offer people who are not the top of the IQ heap a way to provide for themselves, their families, in a productive and cooperative manner. Not everyone has to win the lottery and a society based on winner take all, losers get nothing will produce mostly violent losers.

But I take issue with Steve's characterization of Gates as wanting smart people around. Mostly, that has not been the case at Microsoft.

First, when Microsoft got started, Gates raided the best, completed ideas of others, including essentially DOS (which was a thinly disguised port of CP/M) and did little original work. Ideas that were presented in Microsoft as new and cutting edge were tossed out, and often went to other companies. Unlike Apple, where "insanely great" was the rule, or Sun, or other technology companies focused on putting out technically superior products through enabling small teams of really smart guys to do things, Microsoft has been since the beginning a gigantic leviathan bound down by bureaucracy.

During it's initial growth period, up to say 1997 or so, Microsoft relied on a constantly rising stock price to hire on the cheap, lots of smart but not the smartest technical guys, who worked in a huge team on a very small piece of a giant project. Microsoft was based on the model of mobilizing vast teams of programmers on the cheap, through stock options, as the main deferred compensation, to beat the other model which was small teams of the smartest guys, well paid.

As we know, all sorts of monopolistic stuff got Microsoft a temporary advantage in this game. Then the stock price declined, even before Sarbanes-Oxley. So Gates switched to H1-B Visa holders, who were even cheaper.

What happened was at Microsoft, where Indian or Chinese project managers or team leads landed, quickly all non-ethnic-similar workers were moved out and the usual ethnic nepotism, i.e. Indian team leads hire only Indian programmers, took hold. This was increased by Microsoft's habit of outsourcing greater and greater parts of it's programming to India and China.

Essentially, Microsoft is a bunch of near feudal little ethnic nepotistic kingdoms, Indians only or Chinese only and the White engineers on the outs, fearful and either the lead in Office Space or Milton Waddams.

Which leads to my main point. Steve overestimates the importance of IQ as the major determinant in social success. It is not.

Cooperation among people is at least as important, and indeed slightly lower IQ groups with higher cooperation can consistently beat higher IQ but lower cooperative groups.

Gates seems to have the worst of both worlds in his company: slightly lower IQ than competitors at Apple, Sun, IBM, Oracle, and of course the Linux/Open Source guys (mostly in Europe). With much lower cooperation than even say, the Open BSD team and everyone else (the Open BSD leader is a notorious alienator of everyone else, brilliant but unable to cooperate).

It's ironic that IBM, Sun, Apple, Google and the like are beating Gates through the mobilization of even smarter people, though lesser scale, but higher cooperation through Open Source.

Eric said...

Yeah, Gates dropped out of Harvard. But his parents were rich and connected, so if the Microsoft thing didn't work out he would have had no trouble getting right back in to complete his degree on the way to law school.

PV said...

Bill Gates did not "drop out" of Harvard. His grades were fine.
It simply happens that both Gates and Harvard now prefer not to dwell on the fact that he was forced to leave before graduation.
Bill had been using Harvard mainframes (circa 1975) for commercial purposes---precursors to Microsoft.

Anonymous said...

In Canada there has been a resurgence in technical schools teaching non academic skills and trades. Our overall rate of high school graduates going to college or as we call them "universitys" hasn't changed much. What we have are so called trade schools affiliated with local colleges and they churn out well prepared plumbers, carpenters, clerks etc. It's one of the reasons that the best food in town is at the college cafeteria where the commercial cooking techs get to flaunt their talents, or the best mechanics work on your car, or dental tehcs on your teeth or... well you get the message. They are "no bullshit" courses, work you five days a week eight hours a day and you come out with proven skills with an apptitude for continually upgrading your learning. They also have low tuition and cheap text books and good student support. Oh yeah, the longest most complicated trades take two years to complete as do the less demanding courses. Finally these courses are taught by the people who actually do the jobs, welders teach welding, computer techs teach computers etc. not a PHD among them. The graduates of these tech schools are held in high regard and honestly they are the best pure education institutes in the country. A tech diploma is worth more than BA both monetarily and in prestige. I am constantly amzaed that the USA hasn`t followed suit. As a final observation, these tech shools are full of university grads who learn very quickly to keep their mouths shut.

Anonymous said...

testing99 wrote
"Essentially, Microsoft is a bunch of near feudal little ethnic nepotistic kingdoms, Indians only or Chinese only and the White engineers on the outs..."

What an idiot. I've been to Redmond repeatedly within the last year for meetings with Sr. architects and know many MSFT employees. This is completely wrong.

dearieme said...

"As a final observation, these tech shools are full of university grads who learn very quickly to keep their mouths shut." That's a rather powerful observation.

Anonymous said...

First Anonymous asks a very good question.

There already is resentment. Currently, the low IQ minorities believe there predicament is due to the malice of others. I've never seen people so "discouraged" that they stopped trying to better themselves; we all have the survival instinct. Suicides are rare.

Acknowledging individual aptitudes allows us to be more efficient and less wasteful of money in order to achieve the best career outcome for somebody.

Currently, my husband and I are trying to help a couple who are members of the underclass, beyond the scope of this post. It is hard as HELL to find better employment for the man and his fourth baby is due any day now. A shipping job came open at my husband's work and they were willing to give this man a chance. Didn't work out. Suspended license for being behind on child support. His life took a turn for the worse when, having an $11 an hour job, lost it when he cheated on his wife and she caused hell for him. The ensuing divorce and child support which he quickly got behind on plus a new baby on the way with the mistress crippled him.

It doesn't help that he tatted and pierced himself to such a degree that he obviously was trying to look scary as hell or like Satan. BTW, The shipping job ($12 an hour) went to a church going conservative black man.

I guess my point in all this is that it is very easy to underestimate how hard life is for those far less intelligent than average and policy has to be crafted to keep this in mind. Even more important is culture. I know where the black man came from that ultimately got the shipping job: he was a fellow member of the ultra-conservative church that our driver goes to, and I had recommended him for the job several years ago and he is the kind of guy I wish I could clone.

Anonymous said...

These kids should just learn to become good artisans. In Germany kids are placed on an artisanship trajectory at age 16. No more boring school and all that shit for them They can work with their hands and only op the min. learning for their work. It gets a lot of otherwise problematic kids out of school. I think before the war artisan kids even started at age 14.

Bill Gates has been a disaster for IT technology. A lot of the problems we have in the modern corporate IT world are a direct result of his lust for monopoly, and selling us junk for high rates. When he talks about intelligence I am really wary. His products sure don't reflect that.

clem said...

Gates seems to have the worst of both worlds in his company: slightly lower IQ than competitors at Apple, Sun, IBM, Oracle, and of course the Linux/Open Source guys (mostly in Europe).

For anyone who's interested in the (proxy-for-IQ) test which Microsoft gives to potential new employees, you can see examples here.

While it's only a sample size of one, I've worked with a world-class cracker (i.e., malicious hacker) who wrote at least one of the drivers for the Red Hat distribution of Linux (and was part of a group that hacked EverQuest). He was smart, but hardly stratospherically so--i.e., when he'd get stuck on a programming problem he'd come to me, not vice versa.

...or Sun, or other technology companies focused on putting out technically superior products through enabling small teams of really smart guys to do things....

Like creating The Java Problem, you mean? Heh.

I take issue with Steve's characterization of Gates as wanting smart people around. Mostly, that has not been the case at Microsoft.

"The real trouble with using a lot of mediocre programmers instead of a couple of good ones is that no matter how long they work, they never produce something as good as what the great programmers can produce."--Joel Spolsky, project manager for MS Excel, 1991-94

"The top software developers are more productive than average software developers not by a factor of 10X or 100X or even 1000X but by 10,000X."--Nathan Myhrvold, former CTO of Microsoft

Those are not the attitudes of a company and corporate culture that believes in hiring less than "really smart guys."

During it's [sic] initial growth period, up to say 1997 or so, Microsoft relied on a constantly rising stock price to hire on the cheap, lots of smart but not the smartest technical guys, who worked in a huge team on a very small piece of a giant project. Microsoft was based on the model of mobilizing vast teams of programmers on the cheap, through stock options, as the main deferred compensation, to beat the other model which was small teams of the smartest guys, well paid.

And Gates' approach has produced 12,000 millionaires. Not a bad deal for those who were hired "on the cheap," eh?

And as far as the notion of "huge" teams of programmers goes, Steve McConnell has this to say, in his Rapid Development (p. 207):

"Word for Windows [first released in 1989], aka 'WinWord,' spent 5 years in development, consumed 660 man-months [i.e., 55 man-years] of developer effort, and produced a system of 249,000 lines of code."

Fifty-five man-years worked over five real years means an average team of eleven people (including the project manager). Is that what you mean by "huge"? (Forty-five percent of software projects are done by teams of eleven or more people; only 15% of programmers work in teams of ten or fewer people. Source: McConnell, Code Complete, p. 651.)

And by the way, how huge do you think the team of developers working on Linux (8000+ man-years since 1991; 30 million lines of code) might be? Hint: 8000/18 = ~450, and multiply that by, say, 2 or 3, to account for the fact that nearly all of the people involved with that project have only worked part-time on it ... for far less than stock options ... while undermining the jobs and wages in their own industry on top of all that. (Linux alone is the equivalent of a billion-dollar project.) "Smart," indeed.

When you're working on projects of that size--even Win NT had 11 million lines of code--you're inherently working "in a huge team on a very small piece of a giant project." That has nothing to do with your creative reading of Microsoft's corporate philosophy.

Essentially, Microsoft is a bunch of near feudal little ethnic nepotistic kingdoms, Indians only or Chinese only and the White engineers on the outs...

For my own part, I get approached every couple of months by a "preferred recruiter" for Microsoft, for software-development positions there (esp. in data warehousing). It's obvious from my real name that I'm white as the Canadian snow ... just as it's obvious from the company's and recruiter's personal names that they're ethnically East Indian.

So if they're really trying to remove all traces of whitey from Microsoft, they've got an interesting way of going about it, eh? (I realize full-well that Gates has been a primary agitator for letting more H-1Bs into the USA, on the false pretense of there being a "skills shortage" in the I.T. industry. That, again, is a different issue.)

Still, "good try and all that," '99.

Vernunft said...

"Bill Gates did not 'drop out' of Harvard. His grades were fine."

That's a massive non sequitur right there.

gordon-bennett said...

I did a lot of development work using the Visual Basic for Applications facility inside MS Excel some years ago.

I admire the professionalism and rigour of the implementation of that facility and the interface giving you the ability to call in most other MS applications - for example, if you want to do mailshot letters from within your Excel application then just call in the relevant Word routines.

I know it's nerdy fashionable to exhibit contempt for MS and Gates but having seen their work from the inside, so to speak, I have never indulged myself that way.

Anyway, BG is laughing all the way to the bank (still) so why should he care about his screeching critics.

triodeman said...

Linux was started as an academic project and was pursued so that people who could not afford them could have the functional equivalent of a Sun workstation at home. Linux and Open Source in general had as its goal to produce first rate software as an intellectual exercise: many open source coders are employed in non-programming fields. It did snowball and now Linux unquestionably works better than Windows.

Microsoft software isn't very good technically, but it doesn't have to be. No one cares. It has only to work tolerably well and to be the only softwaare considered by the majority of business customers.

American business loves standards and will stick with one forever because the standard is always the most profitable for the next quarter, no matter how much productivity is lost, and also because they like to reduce specialization of employees, amking them more fungible.

Did Open Source damage the pay and status of programmers? It's a hard call to make, because many Open Source programmers went to work for commercial users at high pay, people like Torvalds who never would have commanded those salaries as rank and file IT people.

The superproductivity of the few really brilliant programmers is a double edged sword, because they tend to be difficult to manage. Richard Stallman, the inventor of "open source" and his epic battle with Symbolics ( a now-forgotten superelite engineering workstation and AI company which evolved from the MIT LISP Machine project) is a famous example.

Microsoft was started by two people, Paul Allen, a moderately good programmer, and Bill Gates, whose core competency was cornering monopolies and who had a certain moderate level of programming skill.

Anonymous said...

"Anyway, BG is laughing all the way to the bank (still) so why should he care about his screeching critics."

Which not the point in criticizing Microsoft. He's apparently happy and pleased with himself. Good for him.

But, speaking as a consumer of MS products, MS right now creates products that have all the finesse, true value, usability, efficiency, necessity that GM and Ford had in their products, oh, still do. Yes, there are innovations in cars, like the $500 satellite navigation system. Which is certainly more helpful than a $5.00 map, but is it really that much more helpful?

The same bloatedness, pointless "upgrades", and you get a sense of a company that mostly benefits from software obsolescence, not true added value.

MS Word is a great case in point.
{Others include- MS Operating systems (a travesty), the freeze prone X-Box and X-Box 2, Outlook, MSN.COM, MS's tech support, MS's inexcusably buggy online games.}

Through 3 decades the best word-processing program I've personally used is Clarisworks over 20 years ago. MS Word in that time has become nearly an obscene mess to work with.

From my intimate and sorry experiences with all things, and I mean ALL THINGS Microsoft, there is no defense for this company. And you could make a great argument that Gates and MS are also main reasons for the current economic crisis.

Jim Bowery said...

As I asserted in another forum:

Understand that philanthropy is about little more than social status and social status is pretty much limited to that which appeals to young women as morally superior.

If you could get Hollywood to make a lot more movies like Tucker, you might get somewhere. As it stands, however, Gates and the like will do little of real value to help humanity.

josh said...

Re triodeman:Bill Gates had a "moderate level of programming skill." Sir,Bill Gates had 10,000 HOURS of programming at his old high school! Acc. to Gladwell,that makes him a Beatles-level GENIUS!! No soup for you!!

Anonymous said...

The graduates of these tech schools are held in high regard and honestly they are the best pure education institutes in the country. A tech diploma is worth more than BA both monetarily and in prestige.

I hope that's true about the prestige.

As a young man, I once quit university in a huff of rebellion. Realizing my folly, I applied the following year to a technical institute. I though the teaching there was streets ahead of the pretentious crap the university doled out. But in my mind it was only a lowly technical institute.

Bah, that's nuts. Universities, at least as far as it concerns the bulk of undergraduate studies, are just IQ filters. But realistic employers should understand they can't reliably secure the pick of the IQ litter every time. If I were an employer, I'd opt the product of the hands-on rigors of a technical institute almost every time.