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I'm not infrequently surprised how people don't spot that something is orders of magnitude slower than it should be or pick the wrong architecture because they can't or won't do simple mental math to work out very roughly how long it should take to move some data around in memory, ssd or over the network or perform some simple computation on it.

I'm having trouble believing that people who think a CPU can do thousands of instructions per second will do well at this (or reasoning about the memory hierarchy).

I don't think there's much predictive power there. The people who are answering thousands clearly just haven't though about it before and are on the spot. Humans are just terrible with big numbers, and thousands sounds like a lot already.

You may as well ask any other sort of technical trivia question and figure the people that happen to carry around more random facts about tech are more likely to understand the bigger things that do matter. It isn't necessarily wrong it's a pretty obtuse way to make a judgment. Why not just ask them about the memory hierarchy or network delays or whatever directly?

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