What is Elon Musk’s IQ?

Humans as a group are very good at guessing things they can’t know, by collecting all the guesses then taking the average.

Francis Galton found that crowds came within 1% of guessing the number of beans in a jar at a fair, by taking the average of the guess number.

My estimate is 155, based primarily on his earlier aptitude tests, his ability to read and apply technical information, and his ability to use numbers to make process changes unique in the history of a complicated industry.

I think I am more qualified to make this estimate than average because I studied Elon Musk specifically to guess his IQ and have successfully guessed how he would think in some areas.

In NLP terms, this is called modeling his strategies. It’s something like that, honed by guessing IQs of people who had documentation, then seeing the actual numbers. I’ve gotten reasonably good at these guesses and I am typically within 2-5%, for what it’s worth.

My estimate of his IQ would be higher, but I spoke to Elon face to face about some things that were very crucial to the achievement of his larger goals and was stunned to see he had not considered the implications.

Some of these were bullets dodged, things that authentic journalists should have asked and, if Musk’s answers had been printed, would have led to scientific criticism.

155 is still high, and I imagine it’s far higher than the IQ of most billionaires. I know 18 billionaires, and Musk gets a higher estimated IQ than any of them.

Edit: After over 32,000 views, I have not had a single person give me a different number. (That will likely change now that I posted that sentence, of course.)

If I were a data scientist (yes, they exist, and they’re in high demand), I’d consider that 32,000 without a different number a pretty interesting result, and just as relevant as someone’s claim about their IQ presented without evidence.

What is Elon Musk’s IQ?

Seriously – have you ever in your life seen someone claim an IQ, then offer to take a test and prove it?

I didn’t think so. Even if someone claiming to be Elon Musk came onto Quora and posted, “My IQ is 200”, who would argue that that would settle the issue any more than my answer?

Elon Musk IQ
Elon Musk’s IQ

When you are skeptical, you can always argue, or ask one more question. And what would be the payoff for Elon to say this?

What is Elon Musk’s IQ

Whatever his IQ is, if it’s 160 and above – genius level, according to popular acclaim that has no scientific basic – there would be a backlash against saying this, and thus no incentive to go to this point. If it’s lower, why not just let my number stand?

I mention this because several times a week, someone freaks out about this answer. It’s fascinating how many people get upset by either this question, or my answer, or both.

I have something like 300 questions and answers on Quora, but this one tweaks people like no other.

People like to post on Quora’s words to the effect that IQ is irrelevant. What the experience of this Elon Musk IQ question has taught me is that some people get emotional about discussions of someone’s IQ, and anything that gets people emotional is the opposite of irrelevant.

To put it another way, what you think of people who guess IQs says more about you than the person guessing.

If a person offering an opinion upsets you, perhaps you should bring that up in your next therapy session.

Above average, perhaps even genius, but nowhere near as high as people think—he is no Nikola Tesla or Isaac Newton.

What is this based on?

Remember, Elon is working on rockets, trains, solar, and electric cars, all ideas that are over a hundred years old. Basically, nothing Elon is creating is new (he does things cheaper).

Much of the technology is resting on decades-old tech (like lithium batteries in electric cars and crystalline silicon in solar panels). As an example of age-old ideas, Edison had an electric car in 1910 that participated in a 1000 mile endurance run.

Elon’s high school and college grades weren’t all A’s, not that this always matters. But, graduating summa cum laude can prove mastery in the academic world.

His “mad” skills are often solely based on the work of other engineers—engineers that have said Elon’s math, science, and programming skills are far below their own (that would be the case unless you’re exercising those skills regularly).

Time and time again, Elon has taken credit, as most visionaries do, for the work of his employees. Hey, nothing wrong with that…just realize he isn’t doing all these things himself. He’s the idea guy, driving innovation—not the engineer.

People claim Elon has a photographic memory; he does not. Hundreds of people are supporting Elon throughout his journey in this life.

He is heavily dependent on people remembering things for him. His long-serving secretary of 12 years, who he eventually fired, said she managed most of Elon’s life.

For as many accomplishments Elon has managed to glean, he has failed equally as much. Hey, nothing wrong with this either. It just shows he is human.

Elon has inspired hope in fields that we’re dying, or almost dead. That doesn’t require a high IQ, nor should it.

Elon has never taken an official IQ test—I doubt he ever will—but if I had to guess, I’d say his IQ is in the range of 145–155, not 200–250, like some claim.

Possibly the number one attribute driving down Elon’s [publicly perceived] IQ score…is money.

Lavish lifestyles have never cultivated extreme genius (only full immersion in the subject matter can do that). The more wealth Elon accumulates, the further he will drift from the genius of the likes of Edward Witten, Hawking, Einstein, Tesla, Faraday, Leonardo da Vinci, etc., etc., etc.

There is something special that transpires when genius is forged in the fires of academic or professional adversity.

A larger concern of mine…is how Elon treats employees, which is abysmal. He has a South African temperament, meaning explosive.

The reputation he is gaining in the engineering community is dreadful, bordering on psychotic.

Read the book on Elon, by Ashlee Vance. You’ll witness Elon’s genius, as well as his handicaps. Online reviews are further examples of where Elon needs improvement.

In the end, I think it will be Elon’s emotional IQ that matters most—which is something he needs to work on.

Editorial Reviews

“Along with views of youth and early geekdom…[Vance] relates suspenseful accounts of technical and financial crises, conducts tours of Musk’s factories…and brings his story up to early 2016.

Overall, the author offers a picture of a brilliant, driven man…A modern American success story, neither overly earnest nor unreservedly adulatory.” (Kirkus Reviews)

“An informative and easy-to-follow biography of one of today’s top innovators for young readers.” (Booklist)

“Vance maintains a lively pace and explains the groundbreaking technology in a way that is accessible and exciting…Highly recommended for high school and ambitious middle school readers for its insights into Musk, technology, and venture capitalism.” (School Library Journal)

“Musk may not be as instantly recognizable to teens as Zuckerberg or Jobs, but given his work with PayPal, Tesla, and SpaceX, he should be. Vance delves into all of his work with detailed passion. (Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books)

“A valuable addition to STEM-themed collections.” (Voice of Youth Advocates (VOYA))

About the Author

Ashlee Vance is one of the most prominent writers on technology today. After spending several years reporting on Silicon Valley and technology for the New York Times, Vance went to Bloomberg Businessweek, where he has written dozens of cover and feature stories for the magazine on topics ranging from cyber espionage to DNA sequencing and space exploration.

Product details

Age Range: 8 and up
Grade Level: 3 – 6
Paperback: 288 pages
Publisher: HarperCollins; Young Readers’ ed. edition (January 24, 2017)
Language: English
Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.6 x 7.6 inches

What is Elon Musk’s IQ

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