Increasing IQ is trivial

Link post

TL;DR—It took me about 14 days to increase my IQ by 13 points, in a controlled experiment that involved no learning, it was a relatively pleasant process, more people should be doing this.

A common cliche in many circles is that you can’t increase IQ.

This is obviously false, the largest well-documented increase in IQ using nothing but training is one of 23 points.

A Standard Deviation of IQ

Alas it is a myth that persists, and when pushed on it people will say something like:

You can’t easily increase IQ in a smart and perfectly healthy adult permanently.

FINE — I’m a smart and perfectly healthy adult, I tested my IQ with 4 different tests: FSIQ, the public MENSA test, Raven’s progressive matrices, and Raven’s advanced progressive matrices.

Then I threw the kitchen sink at the problem, and went through every intervention I could find to increase IQ over the course of 14 days (this took ~3 hours per day).

This included no “learning”, or memory games, nor did it include any stimulants. It was all focused on increasing cerebral vascularization and broadening my proprioception.

I got a mean increase of 8.5 points in IQ (my control got 2), and if I only take into account the non-verbal components that increase is 12.6 (3.2 for my control). In other words, I became about a 1-standard deviation better shape rotator.

I observed an increase of > 4 points on all of the tests (and, sigh, if you must know: p=0.00008 on MWU for me, 0.95 for my control)

I used a control who was my age, about as smart as me, shared a lot of my activities, and many of my meals, and lived in the same house as me, in order to avoid any confounding. Also, to account for any “motivation bias” I offered to pay my control a large amount for every point of IQ they “gained” while retaking the tests.

Here is the raw data.

The Flowers for Algernon

The common myths around IQ and its “immutability” are best summarized here by Gwern.

“Given that intelligence is so valuable, if it was easy to get more of it, we would be more intelligent” -for one this argument is confusing IQ for intelligence, but, more importantly, it’s ignoring reality.

Many things are “valuable” yet we don’t have them because our evolutionary environment places constraints on us that are no longer present in our current environment. Nor is it obvious that many of the traits we value were useful for the human species to propagate, or had an easy way of being selected in our short evolutionary history.

Here, let me try:

In the mid-20th century: Your average human has about 50kg of muscles, and the most muscular functional human has about 100 kg of muscles. A human with 200kgs of muscles would be stronger than a grizzly bear, an obviously desirable trait, but our genetics just don’t go there, and you can only take training and steroids that far.

2021: We found a bunch of really fun compounds that’ll get a strongman to over 200 kgs, I’m not sure how much of the 210 kgs are muscle… but probably much, much more than any human had in a per-exogenous-hormones age.

In the mid-19th century: Fat storage is useful, if we could store as much fat as a bear we could do things like hibernate. Alas, the fatest humans go to about 200kgs, and people try to eat a lot, there’s probably a genetic limit on how fat you can get.

In the mid-20th century: Here’s a guy that weighs 635kg, putting an adult polar bear to shame.

And fine you say, becoming stronger and/​or fatter than a bear requires tradeoffs, you won’t live past 50 or so and you will sacrifice other areas. But then let’s look at other things that are genetically determined, evolutionarily selected for (heavily), but where with modern tools we can break past imposed boundaries:

Thymic involution

Skin aging

Bone and cartilage repair


One reason why this point of view is so popular is because it commits one of the critical sins of our modern a-scientific world, it confuses the mean for the individual.

Study anything at the mean and the results are boring. We can get humans to become much stronger using training and drugs:

Try it in one very motivated guy and you get the mountain doubling his muscle mass and learning to lift cars in under 5 years.

Try it on a group of 20 somewhat motivated humans with highly skilled scientists and doctors, you get elite athletic teams.

Try it on a group of 10,000 people spread out across 100 hospitals in a study done by underpaid and overworked residents based on a 1 pager where the subjects are motivated to get 100$ and go home and you get… well, you get the point

More so than anything intelligence is under our control, the experience that is currently imparting upon itself these words is the thing that controls itself and the brain (the substrate upon which it will run anew every single moment).

To modify intelligence is to modify experience, and to do so requires the will to do so, as well as clever researchers willing to work with the person.

It’s trivial to see why you can’t just copy-paste some educational guidelines on a teacher’s computer or tell 100 therapists to parrot a few lines and increase intelligence. It’s even trivial to see why no drug would have any effect “on average”, just look at how people chose to use amphetamines, some become Paul Erdos, others become residents of downtown SF.

Why isn’t anyone doing this?

Going back to the original topic… why isn’t anybody doing this?

The research is there, we have thousands of studies on people with disabilities or dementia. Not all of them apply to healthy people, and not all of them are doing an optimal intervention, but you can reason your way into what could work and is safe.

The protocol I came up with was rather pleasant and very safe.

It involved no “learning”, “memory training” or anything else in that realm.

It didn’t involve any stimulants during the test. And no “typical” stimulants were used during the intervention.

It didn’t even involve a harder exercise regime than what I’d usually do, on the contrary, I toned down my exercising by a bit.

I by no means used an optimized setup either, I just cobbled together the hardware and drugs I needed on a 400$ budget, and I used the equipment and people available to me in the tiny town of Christchurch, New Zealand.

So I doubt this is an information, safety, or resource problem for most people. Rather, I think the problem at stake here is that most people feel like change is “bad” at a pretty deep level.

We are usually not comfortable making our brain & mind i.e. “ourselves” the subject of cold objective critique and experimentation — even when we are, we are reluctant to sustain the effort that results in change over time, it feels “wrong” in many subtle ways.

I’ve seen people (and myself) who enjoy signaling or enacting change, but going through it just feels sucky, wasteful, and uncertain. When people are subjected to systems that will change them (prison, school, army), it’s always under huge social pressure and threats of violence, and the systems rely on the assumption that change will be slow (years) and negative (setting constraints on cognition & perception).

So, it may be that increasing IQ, while trivial, just sits at odds with “human nature”.


I have no strong conclusion here, I think my n=2 experiment and the framing in which I’m placing its results might help people detach from the mistaken conclusion that IQ is immutable.

Indeed, we should assume that among mutable things about people, IQ sits at the top.

For now, I am trying to get data from more people in a controlled setting, and will probably know how well this generalizes soon.

Edit: The method that I used consisted of targeted NIR interference therapy, short UV during the morning, a lot of inversion-based exercises where I focused on contracting/​relaxing neck and face muscles, a few customized breathing exercises (think wim hof), figuring out the correct levels for a bunch of cholinergic vaso[dilators/​modulators] (think noopept), massage therapies to reduce tension on the spine, some proprioception-heavy movement practices, a niche tibetan metta meditation series… and about 5 other things that are even harder to compress. The main point is that “the method” doesn’t matter so much, you can just google “intervention to increase IQ”, find 50 things, dig through the evidence, select 20, combine them, and assume 5 work

IQ Disclaimer: IQ is not intelligence. Intelligence is a fuzzy concept, it is subjective. Nor is it indicative of success in life more so than high school grades (and we all know the people that peaked in high school or college). I talk about IQ because it is a “hard to fake” metric with a lot of data behind it, in that sense it is useful in the same way talking about “money” is useful. I do not condone psychometric literature which tends to be of poor quality nor do I condone the pop biases people have about IQ, which are even sillier than the academic “research” around it.

Psychometry disclaimer: Essentially all well-studied IQ tests are very poorly designed, in that it’s impossible to retake the test without learning effects playing a big role. This requires controlled experiments to “prove” anything, and if we cared about increasing a meaningful fact of intelligence we ought to drop typical psychometry and instead create intelligence tests designed to be retaken. I am using “typical” IQ tests here because I am aiming to prove a point to the external world, I would not use such a thing as a “private” benchmark.