Stupid Like A Fox

While rando websurfing today I came across the following:

In 1964, [Muhammad Ali] was reclassified as 1-Y (fit for service only in times of national emergency) after two mental tests found his IQ was 78 (16th percentile), well below the armed force’s 30th-percentile threshold. (He was quoted as saying, “I said I was the greatest, not the smartest!”)

….which is a reminder of how ridiculous it is that people actually believe IQ is a useful gauge of mental ability.

Ali was a brilliant man, a master of psychology, who in the ring thought many moves ahead like a grandmaster of chess; he had a quick and clever wit, could string together battle raps and wrestling-style insults completely impromptu, all while in front of cameras and people and tremendous distraction. Yet according to his IQ score, he was of less than average intelligence, a result so absurd given his obvious real-world smarts that some people thought he’d intentionally botched the test to rope-a-dope the draft board. He’s asked as much in the following video; his reply is denial, then a joke.

The whole video is instructional on the topic of Ali’s (largely untutored, he explains) intelligence. In it, as in so many of his appearances before disease transformed him, he is funny, cautious, charming, clever, a talented politician, a star, a hero, one of those rare wonderful people who doesn’t even have to perform – just rather merely and observably, be – to make the observer feel good to be alive.