Like love and lost items, people often seem to look for “intelligence” in the “wrong” places. “Intelligence” is also sometimes sought and/or used for the “wrong” reasons. There seems to be quite a bit of confusion about what signals intelligence.
First of all, there seem to be many kinds of intelligence. In recent years, mainly due to advocacy by Daniel Goleman, our “Emotional Intelligence” (quotient) has become considered as important and desirable to develop as our cognitive intelligence (quotient). Yet, as Howard Gardner pointed out years before, humans have Multiple Intelligences – and it may not be as important how smart we ARE, but HOW we are smart. There are at least 8 major “intelligences” – and potentially many more (not yet identified or agreed upon).
Our intelligence, like almost everything else about us, if allowed to, tends to “evolve” over time – and circumstance(s). We do not exist in a vacuum. Our physical and social environment has a strong influence on our evolutionary (potential for) development and expression – including of our (various) intelligence(s).
Big Head, Little Head
There are many ways to think – and not all of it even is done in the brain. Many aspects of the “mind” and one’s memory have been discovered to exist independently of the brain. It has been found to be possible to “lose’ one’s mind or even much of one’s physical brain and not only function but remember and do things that would seem should not be possible. Complete (functional) recovery from traumatic brain injuries, massive (cerebrovascular) “strokes”, and prolonged comas is far less surprising than it once was.
The penis is not the only human “organ” with a “mind” of its own. Every cell of the body “knows” far more about the rest of the body than most people realize. In addition to just organs, recipients tend to discover and acquire all sorts memories, knowledge, preferences of the donor(s). Even without someone else’s organs, many of our thoughts are not our own. Thoughts are in many ways like viruses. They are contagious and can spread quickly (person to person and through the “morphogenetic field”). Once “infected” with a particular thought or idea, (“good” or “bad”), an individual or society may find that “memes”, like “genes” are often forever changed by viruses (of the mind) – and that while they may often lay dormant, they seldom completely disappear and more often integrate and replicate within the genetic structure.
Neither Ayawaska nor Singularity will save us
Although much of what we think, say, and do on a daily basis tends to be almost completely automatic, outside our awareness, and thus outside our conscious control, we are not (yet) just machines with simple computer processors running our robotic existence. While we don’t usually think of ourselves as such, humans are simply evolved (spiritual) “chimpanzees”. Drug use, implanted microchips, and other artificial “enhancements” may allow us to think in new ways but will NOT increase our “intelligence”.
Tony Robbins defines intelligence as the ability to make distinctions. This seems like a good place to make a distinction between data, information, knowledge, understanding, and wisdom. All are different and may exist independently of the others. For some reason, wisdom does not seem to be as highly valued in our society as “intelligence”. Many people consider sarcasm as a desirable expression of their wit, rather than an all too often cruel remark at someone else’s expense. Being “quick” and “clever” is not the same as being “intelligent”, let alone being “bright” – in the sense of increasing the amount of “light” on the planet (or in anyone else’s life). People are sometimes said to think too much. We are a society that applauds and rewards action. Actions often create unintended consequences. More often than not, people do not think enough – especially in advance. Perhaps one sign of “intelligence” might be NOT doing something we know we could.
Is there anybody out there (listening)?
The Search for ExtraTerrestrial Intelligence (SETI) presupposed that we will recognize it – if it differs from our own. The primary means of “searching” right now is still by radio signals. There are also private and government agencies seeking, listening to, monitoring, and tracking “intelligence” ON this planet (and in almost every aspect of YOUR life).
Years ago, I was assigned to a United States Marine Corps “Signals Intelligence” Radio Battalion. Within the military, “intelligence” tends to be predominantly information gathering (by various means): Human Intelligence (HUMINT), Electronic Intelligence (ELINT), and Signals Intelligence (SIGINT).
As a “crytpologic linguist”, I was assumed to be an expert on signals (intelligence) – including (coded) messages in foreign languages. While I did learn a little about radio communication interception, isolation, identification, interruption/interference, and impersonation, I would not consider myself an authority on “intelligence” of any kind. Today, I’m probably not much better at detecting, translating, analyzing, or “jamming” (any frequency) than anyone else. It can be really challenging to remain open, receptive, attentive, and perceptive of the communication in general, let alone signals of intelligence (intended or not). Sometimes it can be overwhelming. Like Bob Marley, “I hope you like jamming, too.” I find it interesting that we experience the blockage of dynamic wave amplification as “static”.
While the media (itself) is sometimes the message, the messenger usually is not. A distinction between the two is often needed – for any (real) intelligence to be received from the transmitter. Context is usually more important than content (alone). This is true not only of communication, but intelligence, relationships, behavior, beliefs, and just about anything else.
Does Size Matter?
“Aliens” from “space” are often depicted with overly large heads – as if that indicated “higher” intelligence. A big head does not always have a big brain – and a bigger brain does not mean higher intelligence. In fact, autopsies revealed that many humans revered for their wisdom and intelligence actually had smaller brains than average. Whales have much larger brains (weighing over 20 pounds with more than 200 billion nerve cells) than humans (whose weigh only around 3 pounds with about 85 billion nerve cells). The now extinct Neanderthals had larger brains than currently dominant primate on this planet: Homo Sapiens. Brains are one more example where bigger is not always better.
A bigger brain does not signal more, greater, or higher intelligence. Despite their tiny brain sizes, insects are now believed to be as intelligent as many much larger animals. A honey bee’s brain only weighs 0.000035 ounces with fewer than a millions nerve cells – yet can count, categorize similar objects, differentiate between symmetrical and asymmetrical shapes, and think and communicate in many other ways that were previously thought to require more brain than they have. But then again, people once thought that bees “shouldn’t” be able to fly, either.
Only a few hundred nerve cells are required to count and a creature can generate consciousness with only a few thousand. Research has suggested that bigger animals may need bigger brains only because the brains need to control more (with finer resolution, higher sensitivity, or greater precision). The actual complexity of the brain is about the same. A bigger hard drive is not the same as a better processor.
Humans do not even really have one brain as much as three – with a lot of “scaffolding” present in an attempt at “adding on”. The “triune” (3-in-one) brain structure explains much of the “disconnect” people often have between different thoughts, feelings, and motivations. We are usually in far more need of “parts integration” than we realize. Our (“reptile”) brain stem is often far more dominant and in control than our emotional (“mammal”) and intellectual (“human”) areas of the brain (ever) are.
FEAR: Forget Everything And Run!
It is sometimes noted that as emotions increase “intelligence” decreases. This is particularly true for emotional perceptions and interpretations of pain: anger (from the past), sadness (in the present), and fear (of the future). There seems to be a LOT of FEAR in our world today – which tend to keep many people in an almost permanent fight, flight, or freeze state of mind.
Form and function are interrelated. Each affects and is dependent upon the offer. A change in one transforms the other. People may think differently not only because they have different experiences but also because of structural as well as biochemically differences. As out physiology changes, so does our thinking – and thus our “potential” in many other areas as well.
Humans evolve both individually and in groups. “Tribal” interaction of one kind or another seems both fundamental and probably required for healthy human growth. “Independence” is in most ways a myth. So might be “intelligence”. It obviously encompasses more than just goal-directed problem-solving, reasoning, or information processing ability.
What do YOU think signals intelligence (from your current world view and perspective)?
© 2009 – 2014, Oren Pardes. All rights reserved.