(Super) High IQ facilitates general achievement, particularly achievement that involves figuring out patterns, making connections, and performing complex work with efficiency and accuracy. Having a fast, accurate processor and spacious mental-canvas means more distant-relations and patterns among details can be noticed, multiple guesses can be kept in mind and iteratively-reevaluated, and plans of great-intricacy can be constructed, remembered and monitored.
(Super) High IQ people might ‘instantly get’ a very dense article (that many may find confusing) or find it easy to explain some complex-scenario; even with little or no prior familiarity with the topic.
(Super) High IQ people may persist in solving very-novel problems; problems many others have failed to solve or those which no one has yet tried (to solve) because the motivation to do so is not obvious. Attacking seemingly intractable-problems (and discovering brand new problems) benefits from the ability to gain deeper-mastery of the background knowledge, consider a wider range of possibilities, notice more distant-relationships, be more resistant to bias and seductive-fallacies and more readily grasp the ramifications of a solution.
(Super) High IQ people are probably much more likely to ‘change the World.’ The probability of significant personal-impact on one’s society continues to rise as one’s IQ rises.
‘Super High IQ’ = 145 to 210
Answer by Anonymous:
Interesting question. The shortest and most nearly 100% certain answer is: score 160 on a good IQ test. The field may have its detractors, but the test-retest reliability is extremely robust. If you scored 160 once on a really good IQ test, you have an excellent chance of scoring extremely well on another one. If you scored 100 on such a test, on a good day and exerting your best effort, your chances of scoring 160 on another well-designed test are astronomically small. But to be less glib, the evidence that IQ measures something real and important is really tremendous; it’s just tricky to say what practical effects differ among the very high ranges of IQ scores.
(As an aside, measuring and studying differences at this extreme high end of IQ is much harder than studying the middle-range differences. But just because a property is hard to measure doesn’t mean it’s without real effects. It’s worth pointing out, though, that many of us spend so much time dealing with self-selected circles of smarter-than-average people that we forget about the relatively vast difference between an IQ of 100 and 115–which might be approximately what is required to really understand most of the responses to this question.)
Computer hardware makes for a fairly good analogy. Cognitive processing involves storing and manipulating information in working memory, which is akin to a CPU running instructions on data stored in RAM. If you don’t have enough “RAM”, you can’t keep all the relevant details in mind at once, so you depend on slower forms of access like repeatedly looking things up or laboriously retrieving them from long term memory (which is error-prone). If you don’t have a fast enough CPU, making decisions based on the relationships among all those details will bog down your whole system. You might fail to recognize a pattern because you couldn’t churn through enough possibilities before running out of juice, or because some detail faded from your mental scratchpad before you could notice its key relationship with something else. There’s reasonably compelling evidence that individual differences in these components of the cognitive system are based in physiology–density of white matter connections, throughput of nutrient supply and metabolic waste disposal, balance and distribution of excitatory and inhibitory neurotransmitters, etc.–which might well mean no human has approached the upper limit to how much these cognitive resources could scale up.
Imagine you’re trying to assemble a jigsaw puzzle in the dark; every time you pick up a piece, you need to process the shape and match it (CPU) against as many others as you can remember and where you last set them down (RAM). If your working memory can only store a couple of pieces and locations, or it takes you a long time or you make frequent mistakes when processing whether shapes line up, then you’d only ever be able to solve a tiny puzzle, or a medium one slowly by trial and error. A whole team of such people working together wouldn’t be able to do much better. But if your processing is blazing fast and your working memory infinite, solving an enormous puzzle isn’t noticeably harder than a tiny one.
If we abstract this CPU/RAM analogy, it offers a pretty good account for how high IQ facilitates general achievement, particularly achievement that involves figuring out patterns, making connections, and performing complex work with efficiency and accuracy. Having a fast, accurate processor and spacious mental canvas means more distant relations and patterns among details can be noticed, multiple guesses can be kept in mind and iteratively reevaluated, and plans of great intricacy can be constructed, remembered, and monitored.
In this way, a very high IQ might be necessary but not sufficient for reaching certain kinds of complex insight, like realizing how two proteins might interact or how reorganizing assets would boost efficiency (or how to provide instruction such that a team of low-IQ people could cumulatively produce great work). A very high IQ might also be necessary but not sufficient simply to master the background knowledge you need to approach some problems; that knowledge then helps you select details to keep in your working memory and organize them effectively.
… Unfortunately, all this could apply equally well to your question if you had asked about an IQ of “only” 130. Scaling these effects up, I can only come up with a few educated guesses:
1) Whatever an IQ 130 person can figure out, an IQ 160 person can do faster and with less effort. One everyday example might be a very dense article or someone doing a poor job of explaining some complex scenario: the IQ 160 person is much more likely to instantly “just get it” even if they have no prior familiarity with the topic.
2) Tasks an IQ 160 person can do that an IQ 130 person simply cannot would include solving very novel problems, either problems many others have failed to solve or ones no one has yet tried because the motivation to do so is not obvious. Attacking seemingly intractable problems (and discovering brand new problems) benefits from the ability to gain deeper mastery of the background knowledge, consider a wider range of possibilities, notice more distant relationships, be more resistant to bias and seductive fallacies, and more readily grasp the ramifications of a solution.
3) For these reasons, they are probably much more likely to “change the world“. The world has mostly been changed by people with lower IQs, of course, but I’d wager the probability of significant personal impact on one’s society continues to rise as IQ approaches 160.
In closing I’d like to reference this xkcd cartoon in which Randall Munroe makes me ponder how blind we might be to however superhuman intelligence might manifest.