Intelligence and IQ

January 21, 2009

Been thinking more and more about artificial intelligence, and intelligence itself …

I’ve thought for a long time that your raw intelligence becomes less and less important as you age – however powerful your brain hardware is, as time goes by it’s the software you have installed that really counts … you know, if you’re a smart kid in primary school it’s obvious, cos you can read and write and do sums better than most, but then in real life it’s not really noticeable if someone is clever. People considered “brainy” in school don’t necessarily do better in their jobs, or aren’t necessarily wealthier, or more knowledgeable about anything in particular – they’re just not as noticeably smart as they were as children.

I guess because I work as a programmer I had conceptualised IQ as a measure of the hardware processing power of someone’s brain, and that’s where the “hardware becomes less important than software” idea comes from. But, really, can one brain contain more processing power than another? If it could, it’d have to be something to do with the physical structure of the brain, and that’d mean that ultimately it’d be possible to measure someone’s IQ by looking at their brain.

It seems almost equally likely, though, that “braininess” has no physical basis, and is just a set of learned behaviours (like, for example, a mixture of curiosity and self-esteem). If that was the case, it’d have implication for artificial intelligence too. And for organisations like Mensa.

I suppose it’d be possible to test both models of intelligence by doing some kind of statistical analysis untangling heredity and environment by looking at separated-at-birth twins (same DNA and womb environment, different post-womb environment) and egg-donor siblings (same DNA, different womb and post-womb environments). Hmm maybe someone has already done it, let me look it up …

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