Wednesday, 1 May 2013

What does Intelligence give us?

Does increased intelligence result in more “mind”? Aside from being contentious, the point I am trying to illustrate and question here is whether people who are smarter qualify as human minds more than those of lower intelligence.  Would you be a different person if you were more intelligent? Would you have the same opinions and personality traits? It goes without saying that an increase in IQ does cause a change in brain morphology as does simply getting older.  However could this trait be a scalable measure of our ability to experience and to have qualia?

I was reading an article recently which postulated what life might be like if everyone were twice as intelligent. For this purpose we shall take that to mean scoring twice as high on an IQ test. One of the resulting benefits they discussed might be a greater appreciation for art, science, music etc.  This seems to hint explicitly that appreciation is linked to understanding.  Intelligence by that fact must equate to more than just computing ability.

Let us ponder what being twice as smart might actually mean.  We would have an improved ability to assimilate information and learn quicker. People could learn complex skills like languages and instruments easily and create smarter solutions to everyday problems. The article suggested that being very intelligent would result in people living longer. People would have a greater understanding of what constitutes a healthy lifestyle and be able to look after themselves more efficiently. However knowledge doesn't always lead to action as can be seen by people who smoke and take drugs while perfectly aware of their health risks.

The authors also seem to believe that behaviour may become more self-serving too. Society wouldn't necessarily become a glittering utopia run by benevolent geniuses. Crime would become more advanced with higher stakes and less petty felonies. Religion might also suffer a blow. “God of the gaps” may disappear completely as we find scientific explanations for phenomena.
If primitive desires like greed and anger were still present and powerful in people with sky-high IQ s then it could be said that emotion and mental processing power are not connected. At least not beyond a certain level of base-line cognition. Otherwise people who were more intelligent might develop new emotions.  This doesn't seem to be the case. We all have the same bag of emotions with which to experience life. And when asking ‘if qualia is a quantifiable trait?’ we still have no yardstick with which to answer . The most we could say is that “Red” is still “Red” but a smarter person just gets there faster.

A major problem with this supposition that the writers of the article have neglected to consider is that difficult as it may be to  imagine “what's it like to be a bat”, imagining what it is like to be twice as intelligent should also be beyond the realms of our comprehension.  When imagining what increased brain power feels like we do it through the scope of our much more limited processing abilities. Perhaps time could be spent trying to imagine what it is like to be a computer..

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