Exploring Intelligence

Cognition in people, machines, and the future

If Everyone Gets Smarter

What would happen if everyone became smarter? Some things would be better, others would remain much the same. Read More

"Of course, this means that

"Of course, this means that the advertising profession would have a challenge, but I cannot see that as undesirable." - I agree with this, and I wonder if we stopped all advertising now, would this make society smarter?

But how would you know?

The land of the smartypants red queen is a bit like the expanding universe: if everything is expanding, where is the non-expanding ruler with which to measure the expansion?

IOW 'smart' relative to what?

One could easily argue that culture+technology allows people to survive easier while growing progessively dumb and dumber -- the Idiocracy scenario. It is entirely consistent that people would eventually reach the epitome of stupidity and be convinced they were actually getting smarter!

Interesting and could be true, but

Martian Bachelor makes an interesting point. Intelligence is often defined relatively. MENSA's fascination with 3 sigma and 4 sigma is an example, the terms refer to the tail end of a particular distribution, i.e. the smartest 1 in one thousand or 1 in ten thousand. How smart this is in absolute terms depends on which thousand you are talking about! This sort of reasoning was the basis of Jim Flynn's perceptive observation that, because intelligence increased in the absolute sense during the 20th century, a person who had the cognitive power to have an IQ of 100 in 1910 would not have the cognitive power of a person with an IQ of 100 in 1990. To take a more homey example, when I was actively teaching, each Fall I would ask the incoming graduate students to raise their hand if they had been in the top 50% if their undergraduate class. Of course, they all put their hand up. I then warned that half of them were about to have a new experience.

But, in my defense on the post, I was not making any prediction about whether or not I think intelligence will increase in the future. I was just exploring some consequences if it did. The prediction will have to wait another post.

Smart Cogs In the Wheel

I could be dissuaded, but it seems to me that since there are so few orthodox religious in the National Academy of Sciences and the Royal Society, that’s a very strong indicator that the smartest people are not religious. I admit to what you call “myside bias” on this issue, but even so...

If I’m right, there are significant associated considerations: An irreligious society would not object to electing atheists to public office, so could get smarter people elected both because they wouldn’t recoil from them in disgust, and, being a smarter electorate, they would have high social intelligence – which would enable them to spot the buffoons.

And think of Israel foreign policy if the protestant fundamentalists didn’t feel obligated to help their inept deity snatch all of Palestine because he promised; we wouldn’t have the religious surrealists interfering with any domestic or foreign policy.

I was raised a Baptist, saw clearly how totally deluded they were, and resolved to never trick myself again. Three years ago, at the age of 71, I surrendered my central personal myth which was constructed from truth (parents’ insanity, orphanage, pedophiles, house burning, etc.) I had to admit to myself that I only overcame that stuff because I could – so no virtue, no courage, no heroicism. I’m just very smart(!) and simply lucky to be so. I imbibed the right genes from the gene pool. I would claim that smart people have a higher hope, at least, of objectivity.

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Earl Hunt, Ph.D., is Professor Emeritus in psychology at the University of Washington.

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