On Intelligence

See the happy idiot.
He doesn't give a damn.
I wish I were an idiot.
My God! Perhaps I am.
(this poem was not written by me, as I am too much of an idiot to think of such things)

As an engineer (I think) I have a tendency to try and find the "best" way to make things work, or the "best" way to define things. The only problem is that sometimes what I call "best" is actually a relational property. Like for instance, "intelligent" which many have called me, and some of whom I have believed at certain times.

I am not intelligent; even given the term's standard meaning as being associated with scholastic prowess. I have always struggled with school, and with learning things in general, especially socially which has been the main reason I have had so much free time to learn things: there's no other idiots distracting me. But I have stuck with learning (albeit inconsistently) like a stubborn blood sucking tick, and on top of that I've been rather lucky. I just happen to have a propensity to solve problems that happen to be economically valuable Some may argue that because of this I am still technically intelligent. But I would point out to them that if I lived in a society where the majority of people dug in the mud and ate bugs for a living I would be considered a moron. (I would know all the wrong info)

There you have it. In fact I think even worrying (like I do) about whether you are intelligent is a sign that you haven't thought about the word's groundings in objective reality. Anytime you measure intelligence you have to have some sort of goal it is meant to help you accomplish, or some kind of problem it is supposed to solve. Well what kinds of problems should intelligence be good at solving? The most basic that everyone can agree on is the problem of survival. Well so much for that... One needs only to be aware of politics in conjunction with picking up a microscope to see just how much more effective our dumb and distant cousins are at solving this problem, and being extremely secure while they are at it. We fail as a species. What about being happy? Does anyone claim it solves that? I doubt so. Fools seem to me to be the happiest. (see start of post)

But all this doesn't even get at the deepest problem with our definition of intelligence; if you want to define intelligence you have to base it on something (I'm assuming it is not an axiom) and if you base it on something it is going to have to be on something someone thought of. The logic, as I hinted at before, if not circular, at least resembles an oblate spheroid.

No comments: