I blogged yesterday in response to an essay by one Doc Searls. First, he runs an online journal, Linux Journal, and therefore is more expert than I about the open-source movement. So, I'll concede he's on better ground than I when he argues, in response to one of my claims: [T]he open source movement doesn't advocate ending corporate hierarchies. It advocates good code. The Cluetrain Manifesto (specifically, Dr. Weinberger) says hyperlinks subvert hierarchy. Which is true. But subversion is not elimination. Nor is observation the same as advocacy. Second, I don't, contrary to his assertion, offer a "full-on disagreement" with his original argument. I merely think his argument, while good, is a utopian one. He argues, essentially, that academic pedigree and degrees should not matter to corporations. What matters, at heart, is that a potential employee can do the job well. Academic distinction should be, for most jobs (but certainly not all), incidental. Degrees are nice to have, but not necessary. I couldn't agree more. However, the trick is this: in the absence of another filtering method by which companies hire people, academic pedigrees are a useful criteria to use. Perhaps some companies are more enlightened than others, and realize that intelligence and capability can be measured in a manner other than the ranking of the academic institution from which one graduated. But most companies are conservative, not enlightened, and are more concerned about protecting themselves. Companies exist, in part, to manage risk, and hiring managers perceive risk when confronted with the prospect of hiring a candidate who does not fit the "normal profile" of what the hiring manager is looking for. I don't advocate this approach; I am merely saying it exists. To deny it exists, or to consider it irrelevant is to miss the point. In the absence of another, better way to screen job applicants, such is what we have to contend with. Finally, Searls disagrees with this statement: IQ distributions are a bell curve: there are very few people at the low (retarded) end of intelligence, and there are very few at the high (genius) end of intelligence. Most of us are bunched in the middle. The distribution is much the same as a distribution of humans' heights: Tom Cruise is below average in height and Yao Ming is above average. (But Tom Cruise is closer to the average than Ming.) He refutes my argument with an irrelevant personal anecdote, and a condemnation of IQ scoring: Wrong. I've been 5'9 the whole time my IQ has been measured everywhere from very smart to very dumb. Intelligence is complicated, conditional and hard to measure. The belief that people have "an IQ," however, comes easy. Too easy. A friend of mine, a Ph.D. with specialties in psychology and statistics, once sat on a plane next to an older woman who had achieved a great deal — and spoke proudly of her five grown children, who were all achievers on their own, holding advanced degrees and honored positions in their professions. The woman credited their success to home schooling. My friend challenged her on that, saying that heredity must also have something to do with their success. "Yes," the woman replied. "It would if they hadn't all been adopted." Whether you buy into the IQ concept or not (I think it has many flaws) is beside the point: IQs are still distributed along a bell curve. What you think of their validity or utility is irrelevant to the consideration that, in fact, their distribution is a bell curve, just like human height. Searls anecdotal observation about a friend's plane trip, while interesting, and perhaps indicative of some of the criticisms leveled at IQ scoring is also merely anecdotal, and therefore conclusive of nothing but interest. But all of this is irrelevant. As I said, and as I thought I made clear, I agree with much of Searls argument. However, in the absence of any better filtering criteria by which companies make hiring decisions, I don't see how academic pedigree will disapear as a proxy for intelligence and capability.