Every character we see whether Starfleet or civilian seems to have the ability to perform amazing feats of intelligence and knowledge. They seem have a near perfect recall and understanding of everything they're exposed to. They can reprogram or reconfigure computers, know how to repair and operate any alien or foreign spaceships they encounter, etc.

As a recognized unit of measure, the average IQ for a 21st century human is approximately 100.
Examples of special circumstances of exceptional IQ in the Star Trek universe include; Q's claims to an IQ of 2,005 and Barclay's IQ rose to somewhere between 1,200 and 1,450 (TNG:4x19, 'The Nth degree').

Beyond the examples above, has there been any in-universe comments or correlations as to an expected or claimed intelligence level contrast between a 23rd-24th century individual or group and a 21st century individual or group? One quantifiable reference we have is that 8-9 year old children in the Star Trek universe are taught calculus whereas today it's not taught until age 13-14 for the 'smart kids'.

They seem generally much smarter as a group; has there been any quantifiable comparison by how much?

  • What is your source for the claim that a 21st century human has on average an IQ of 92, considering the 21st century is only 13.38 years in so far?
    – Xantec
    May 22, 2014 at 21:02
  • @Xantec -I could jump around more and get different median number but this number was sufficient as a comparison for the purpose of the question. Some scales like to use 100 as a mean for various reasons. iqtestforfree.net/average-IQ-by-country.html
    – Morgan
    May 22, 2014 at 21:10
  • 9
    IQ is normalized so that 100 is average.
    – Oldcat
    May 22, 2014 at 21:14
  • 1
    Ironically, that also answers your question. In the 23rd Century the average IQ is 100, no matter how smart they are relative to us.
    – Oldcat
    May 22, 2014 at 21:35
  • 2
    @Morgan Well, that's just plain wrong. The normalization is supposed to happen across a large sample of the population and be kept for a period, not be used to normalize a certain group of test-takers (and only be done when a new test/new version of the IQ test is created, IIRC). However, because of the Flynn effect, there are periods where the average is higher than 100 - and thanks to the same effect, the average of modern populations on tests from decades ago is also going to be quite high.
    – Izkata
    May 23, 2014 at 0:58

5 Answers 5


I think you've confused people by your use of IQ - as they've already said, IQ is self-normalized scale (or some such) that would put the average at a mark of 100. This means that the average IQ 500 years ago was 100, and the average IQ 500 years from now will still be 100 - and very likely with a very similar distribution curve.

Now, to answer the question you're really asking:

If a typical humanoid was brought back from the 24th century, how would they score on a current standard IQ test

Setting aside that not all humanoids are humans, and IQ tests are even now notorious for relying heavily on domain knowledge (vocabulary) - I think, from what we've seen in the Star Trek Universe, we'd have to say that they would score somewhat higher than 100. Exactly how much higher is debatable.

As has been stated, what we see in Star Trek are mostly highly qualified and trained people - StarFleet would be selecting above average (by 24th century standards) candidates and educating/training them hard. We don't see many people who wouldn't have had to pass the selection.

However, we do catch a few glimpses of non-StarFleet individuals - one standout is a young boy in season 1 (I think the episode was "When the bough breaks") who is running away from school because he didn't want to study calculus. We don't get his exact age, but I'd say he isn't much older than 8 or 9. Calculus is not taught in general education in the UK until about 5 years later. Also, the three kids in season 5 episode "Disaster" are all science wizzes and seem to be between 8 and 12.

  • Confusing people? That could be but it's a unit of measure that's familiar to most, though I wasn't expecting people to try to parse and split hairs it to such a degree.
    – Morgan
    May 23, 2014 at 4:26
  • 3
    It's a unit of measure that is consistently misapplied - just as you have misapplied it in your question
    – HorusKol
    May 23, 2014 at 7:48
  • You know best right?
    – Morgan
    May 23, 2014 at 7:55
  • Calculus is taught in the UK around age 13-14? Wow. It's not taught in the US until around age 17. At 13-14, most of us are just getting into Algebra.
    – Izkata
    May 23, 2014 at 11:35
  • The kids in "disaster" are the children of the most intelligent members of Starfleet and are further selected by their winning a science prize. Hardly representative of 'average'...
    – Valorum
    May 24, 2014 at 21:17

Ignoring the fact that IQ is a relative rather than absolute measure of intelligence (e.g. the average is always 100), then the best yardstick we have is the experience of Jules Bashir.

In the DS9 episode "Doctor Bashir, I Presume" we learn that Doctor Bashir was transformed from a lacklustre student into one of the most intellectually gifted individuals in Starfleet.

Before his operation we have no canon confirmation of his IQ but we do know that he was:

"not smart"

and destined for a life of

"remedial education and underachievement"

After his operation, his IQ jumped approximately "five points a day for over two weeks", e.g. around 70 points.

Assuming his IQ was an unimpressive 80 to begin with, a truly exceptional human therefore has an IQ of around 150.

We can reasonably infer that most humans from the 2400s have an IQ somewhere between 100 and 149.

  • How did you deduce that 80 would be an unimpressive IQ relating to "not smart" and "underachievement"? For all we know an individual with an IQ of 130 would be considered an imbecile in that time. (Assuming the currently used IQ normalisation)
    – bitmask
    May 23, 2014 at 8:11
  • @bitmask - That's what I'm saying, if someone was perceived as educationally subnormal, their IQ would need to be well below the average. Don't forget that where IQ is concerned, the normalised level is always 100
    – Valorum
    May 23, 2014 at 8:20
  • Sure, but I think the IQ normalisation of the 23rd/24th century doesn't help us a bit, since the question is trying to understand the difference. So I took it that the IQ of 80 was supposed to relate to our current normalisation, not the one of the future. In a sense, we need the future scale translated to our current one in order for it to help us. So in terms of today's IQ scale how much IQ points would the 80 future-IQ points be?
    – bitmask
    May 23, 2014 at 8:50
  • 1
    Your statistical knowledge as evidenced is vastly underwhelming.
    – aramis
    May 24, 2014 at 18:48
  • @bitmask - 400 years is a very short amount of time. How much smarter do you think the average person is today, compared to the average person from the 17th century. Education aside, I'd be willing to guess it's basically zero.
    – Valorum
    May 24, 2014 at 18:59

Given that (1) IQ is defined as an age normed measure with mean=100 and standard deviation σ=15, (2) IQ being determined by taking the age for which their performance would be average and expressing it as a fraction of their physical age, and (3) IQ tests are notoriously culturally biased...

... the average person in the Star Trek universe is probably going to test in the high 90's on today's tests, simply because of the altered cultural idiom, but the standard deviation should be slightly long tailed to the right.

Note that, due to lack of people to normalize against, IQ scores of 190+ are considered to be generally unreliable.

Some statistical breakpoints of note:
Given mean=100 σ=15...
66.6% of people fall in the range 85-115
16.7% are below 85
16.7% are above 115; roughly 11% are in the range 115-130
about 5% are above 130; about 4.5% are in the range 130-145
about 0.5% are above 145; about 0.45% are in the range 145-160
about 0.05% are above 160; about 0.045% are in the range 160-175
about 0.005% are above 175.
About 0.0005% are above 190; that's 1 in 200,000.
about 0.00005% are above 205; that's 1 in 2 million

Note that real world performance is not quite to the mathematical standard; Being long tailed to the right, it's actually more like 10% are below IQ 90.

Keep in mind also: Elite professions tend to attract higher than average IQ individuals. The qualities which make one prone to testing high on IQ also tend to lead to academic performance and to intellectually stimulating professions. And Starfleet is probably no more than 1 million persons strong, out of at least 100 billion Federation citizens. They can afford to be picky, and to seek the bright & capable.

Moreover, we see the most exceptional on film, because they are, as a rule, the ones most interesting to tell and hear stories about.

  • The last two paragraphs are key for me, and what my answer would have used, had I been inclined to do so. Playing D&D, a newcomer might ask "how can everyone be a hero?". It's easy, first no one will play Joe Average, second you aren't going to go out and adventure if you are a Joe Average (most would not, I believe.) Within the Trek universe, the best and brightest would be accepted into the Fleet. Now, from that point, what groups have we (mostly) seen (on TV/movies)? A ship full of the best and brightest of the best and brightest. These were the crews ...
    – CGCampbell
    May 24, 2014 at 20:07
  • who were heading out to the fringes, to the trouble spots, "to go where no man has gone before" etc. So, in the crews we followed, were we expecting to see the ones who could take some pieces and parts and make a dog house? Nope. We were watching the story of the heroes. The ones who could take pieces and parts and build a new starship. Any crew member aboard the Enterprise, ANY Enterprise throughout history btw, who was simply average, would be grounded, replaced with the extraordinary. (Doesn't answer the question, so is a comment.)
    – CGCampbell
    May 24, 2014 at 20:11

Intelligence isn't all about IQ. IQ is a measure of your ability to learn and solve new problems. Due to accelerated learning and access to advanced knowledge, people are able to learn and become smarter than average. As a man in the 21st century I know more about the universe than Leonardo da Vinci does. I know how to work a microwave. He doesn't . His IQ is higher but I've had exposure to more advanced technology and learning. da vinci would meet me and think I was a god. So are people in the 24th century.

  • You make a couple of good and relevant points. Not only is it about what you know but what is indicated about an individuals capacity to learn, obviously modified by what you're exposed to.
    – Morgan
    May 25, 2014 at 20:48

Well consider this, in StarTrek we are often watching the command crew of a federation starship. People that starfleet thinks can lead, and overcome any problem that are federtion starship might encounter in deep space. Hence, these people represent the best that Star Fleet can offer, in turn via selection in Star fleet academy, star fleet officers represent some of the best people that a federation world can produce.

and in TNG...the Enterprise under Picard, we are watching the command crew of the flagship of the Federation. The best of the best.

We are looking at a very biased group of people.

  • This is a good point, but does it answer the question asked?
    – Rand al'Thor
    Oct 17, 2016 at 22:03
  • Well it points out that, we cannot determine the relative intelligence of a federation citizen vs that of a 21st century human by observing the command crew of Star Fleet's flagship.
    – jayckat
    Oct 18, 2016 at 16:36

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