Friday, March 21, 2014

Intelligence as skill vs innate quality (only loosely statistically-related)

Sparse updates the last couple of weeks. I've been busy at work and enjoying the (slow) return of spring here in the DC area in my time off. Hasn't left much time for blogging.

As I said in my last post, I've been reading The Second Machine Age. Stories about IBM's Watson and other learning machines got me thinking about how we view intelligence as a society. These days, I think, we tend to view intelligence as an innate quality, albeit one that's shaped by education.

I read an article (that I desperately tried to find so I could link to it here, sorry) stating that in ancient Greece, intelligence was viewed as a skill. One could look at the habits and practices of an intelligent person and emulate them to boost one's own intelligence.

Flash forward: I've met some really smart people over the years. They might wax poetic about intelligence in the abstract. However, if one was to ask them something concrete like, "how should I study for the upcoming midterm?" You'd get a pretty concrete answer about organizing information, tips and tricks for memorizing theorems, what to do the day of the test, etc. They'd be unlikely to say, "if you're smart, you'll do well." 

I'd also add that when I was in the Marines, they had a similar view of preparation for battle. We called it the 7 P's. Prior Planning and Preparation Prevent Piss Poor Performance. Not much in there about being born a certain way.

The debate over intelligence being innate versus a skill rages on. I wonder what our journey to create "smart" machines will ultimately tell us about ourselves?

(For the record: when the singularity looks like it's getting close, I'm going to start carrying around a pocket full of magnets just in case...)

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