Monday, April 2, 2018

On What Keeps Us From Developing, If We Let It

I've just been learning about the latest revelations some researchers have claimed about the intelligence of the human mind. I am skeptical of their claim that intelligence is a singular, measurable property of conscious being. The reason I believe this is that I’ve good evidence to show that my own measured intelligence is variable and this information was gathered over a number of years during my formal education, from kindergarten through to postgraduate study.

I also noticed that the so-called intelligence scores that were presented to me, during those times, improved as my education progressed - another factor that made me skeptical of intelligence as a fixed measurable property, since this data was in conflict with what was understood to be a fixed property of the healthy thinking mind.

While my anecdotal evidence may be sidelined as irrelevant because of its uniqueness, I’m told that IQ cannot be significantly improved by any training or education or brain exercising. Yet my own IQ has soared from being way less than average (I was a dunderhead at primary school and for the first few years at high school) to near genius (I don't believe my intelligence is anything near genius) according to tests made over the years.

How do I rationalize all this? Very simply.

We are told about neuroplasticity - the ability of the brain to change throughout an individual's life. I believe that this property of mind material can be exercised (metaphorically) by proper use. The psychologists tell us about this and studies have shown that such brain degenerative diseases as Alzheimer’s can be allayed through brain exercises that are not mind-bending per se.

A person who has the proclivity to ask questions, carries the very human characteristic of curiosity. This property of human beings has evolved in our species and is part of what makes human beings the dominant species we are today. It is closely bound with the ability to think - another property of the minds of human beings.

Since childhood, I have been encouraged to ask questions - by my mother at first, by my teachers at high school and by my teachers at university. I am grateful to all of those people. But when I got eventually into the work environment, I quickly learnt that the act of asking questions was often not wanted and was certainly not fostered. In effect, curiosity is suppressed in societal groups and this suppression can hinder people during their formative education years and often does.

In my naivety and dumbness, I never learnt to stop asking questions, never learnt to stop being curious. I am now in my 71st year on this planet and I have never been curiouser than I am today. I wonder what my IQ score is going to tell me next time someone urges me to take a test.

To sum up, I believe that intelligence is not a single factor. The range of abilities totalled as intelligence is certainly not immutable in anyone. I further believe that to try to quantify intelligence according to some common scale is fallacious. It’s too anthropocentric. The complexity of the human mind in the field of problem solving alone has never been more realized than during the recent researches into artificial intelligence (AI). At just about every juncture, conservative estimates of how easy it might be to get a computer to think like a human brain have been so far short, it’s laughable.

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