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Intelligence

How do you decide how intelligent a person is? Are there different kinds of intelligence, and is it domain-specific?
Are you intelligent, and if yes why do you think so?
What kind of intelligence is most relevent for progamming and is it different from other kinds?
Are the external signs of intelligence usually a good indicator of the person's actual intelligence? Are people often smarter or less smart than they seem?
Does intelligence correlate with amount of knowledge, or are intelligence and amount of knowledge separable?
How important are: the ability to think fast, to remember, to concentrate?
What is the relationship, if any, between intelligence and wisdom?
Are IQ or SAT scores a reliable sign of intelligence? Are school grades?
Is there any correlation between intelligence and creativity?

PC
Thursday, December 05, 2002

I'm not sure who said this (I'd like to know if anybody knows):

"data is not information, information is not knowledge, knowledge is not wisdom."

To me, intelligence is the same as data. It has to be applied properly in order to achieve any benefit from it, I think people who have the 'application' skills are more useful on development tasks.

Of course if you can combine the two then full strength to you.

Tony
Thursday, December 05, 2002

Henry Ford: "Whether you think you can or think you can't, your right."

I'm really smart because I say so and when I feel stupid I learn whatever better. People that say "I'm too stupid to learn that" really are, because they always give up too damned early.

The biggest thing I think is previous knowledge: Not that you are not capable of doing XYZ, but that you simply do not have the background and just don't know how.

Of course, the side effect of this is common: If you ask someone how smart they are, they're always wrong: Usually their arrogant (like me, here,... not good) or modest (not usually as bad as the previous, but too easy to shortchange yourself)... Either way, you shouldn't take their word for it.

I don't know what the answer is, aside from the fact that persistence and balls are much more important generally: persistance to learn how to do it, and the balls to attempt it, no matter how impossible.

w00+ darwin awards.

There's always exceptions, of course.

Mike Swieton
Thursday, December 05, 2002

I think Aristotle was correct when he identified two distinct parts of intellectual virtue, or intelligence: philosophic wisdom and practical wisdom.  Philosophic wisdom is the ability to deliberate well about theoretical matters; practical wisdom is the "ability to deliberate well about the things that are conducive to the good life in general."

Someone who is very smart, but who seems unable to apply their intelligence, could be said to have philosophic wisdom without practical wisdom.  Someone who doesn't seem quite as smart as their peers, but nonetheless acts with discipline and uses what intelligence they have to its best advantage in doing good work, is blessed with practical wisdom that complements their smaller share of philosophic wisdom.

programmer
Thursday, December 05, 2002

Stephen Jay Gould's <i>The Mismeasure of Man</i> is an excellent book about attempts, often misguided, to measure intelligence.
http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0393314251/qid=1039149589/sr=1-1/ref=sr_1_1/103-0253590-0086227?v=glance&s=books

You can't rate a person's intelligence on a linear scale. Each person has their own intellectual strengths and weaknesses, depending on the situation that they're in. For example, there's a weak correlation between test scores and how successful people are in life.

Julian
Thursday, December 05, 2002

I think the concept of intelligence is in need of a major review.

In the past, the ability to play good chess, solve hard sums and quote verbatim from Shakespeare were considered signs of intelligence.

Now, however, these are all activities that computers can do with ease, and everybody knows that computers are not intelligent.
    
Things that any idiot could do, like drive a car, are still way out of reach for the machines.

Ged Byrne
Friday, December 06, 2002

Someone much smarter than me once said "Intelligence is seeing differences where others only see sameness, and seeing sameness where others only see differences."

Yves
Friday, December 06, 2002

the delphi oracle said of all the greeks, I was the wisest, for I alone know that I know nothing.
    - socrates.


That sums it up.

Intelligence is one of the more abused words in the English language, right there behind love.

No one quite knows what it is, but we all purport to be able to identify it when we see it.

I am more inclined to agree with socrates.... An intelligent man is one who knows the limits of his knowledge and abilities.

There is a passage in Meno, by plato, where socrates has basically proved that this oy does not know something (I think it is the area of a square).  He argues that despite still not knowing what the correct answer is, this lad is a better man because at least now he knows that he does not know. Previously, he did not know, but neither did he know that he did not know.

Henry Ford, in a libel case used a similar argument. The defence was trying to prove that because he did not know all these really arcane things like "What town was Washington born in?" he was a stupid man. His rebuttal was that he did not need to know all of this. All he needed to know was someone who did, and should he ever have need for such information, he would pick up his telephone and get his answer.

tapiwa
Friday, December 06, 2002

This is a fascinating article:

"Unskilled and Unaware of It: How Difficulties in Recognizing One's Own Incompetence Lead to Inflated Self-Assessments"

http://www.apa.org/journals/psp/psp7761121.html

Essential reading for anyone who considers themself intelligent (and just because you don't doesn't mean you are :-).

Summary: everyone thinks that they're slightly above average in intelligence. So intelligent people underestimate their ability and stupid people massively over-estimate it. The way to make stupid people realise that they're stupid is to educate them.

Tom Payne
Friday, December 06, 2002

AFAIK, one of the most practical definitions for intelligence is: "Intelligence is what can be measured by an IQ-Test". So in that sense, intelligence and your IQ directly correlate. But the practical impact that this intelligence has on your everyday can differ from person to person. An IQ test can (and wants to) measure only a very limited set of abilities (solving logical puzzles mostly). While these abilities might be helpful or even neccessary in some areas (like programming for example), they alone are not enough to make you an extraordinary programmer, medical doctor, lawer or rocket scientist. It might prove impossible though, to become any of the above without an above average intelligence.

For those interested and/or highly intelligent there is the Mensa, an organisation for intelligent people (you have to score in the top 2% in an IQ test to become a member).

http://www.mensa.org

Even though you might consider the idea of Mensa arrogant or elitarian, they are an interesting, friendly and funny lot of people. And as you might have guessed: I am one of those brainies myself :-)

Have fun,

Jutta Jordans
Friday, December 06, 2002


I can see another Mensa thread coming...

Leonardo Herrera
Friday, December 06, 2002

Does is really matter how intelligence is defined?

The reason I say this is when one says he/she is intelligent, they mean it with respect to someone else.

Since , it is all realtive, does it really matter?


The other thing is the pre concived notion we have in our heads, about people being intelligent or not!

Prakash S
Friday, December 06, 2002

I don't understand the question!?!

Brad Siemens
Friday, December 06, 2002

yeehah.  Assessing another individual is one of the harder tasks for our minds, and we're to reduce it to some metric anyone can apply.

The popular book "gödel escher bach" was all about answering that question.  (well, at least the lower bound.)

Anyway, you asked how important various abilities are... well, in situations where you can play to your strengths, any strong ability can make a diff.  So if your abilities are asymmetrical, go into biased playing fields.  They generally exist..

Tj
Friday, December 06, 2002

The "Unskilled and Unaware of It" article referenced above is good, but the original paper is a bit dense and dry.  You can get the gist of it by reading this popularized account from the _New York Times_:

http://www.nytimes.com/library/national/science/health/011800hth-behavior-incompetents.html

As for intelligence, my view of the subject changed substantially after I read a book called, _Emotional Intelligence_, by Daniel Goleman:

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0553375067/

Goleman argues that I.Q. is over-rated as a predictor of success in life.  Emotional intelligence is more important.  You shouldn't hope that your children turn out to be smart -- you should hope that they turn out to be optimists.

Alex Chernavsky
Friday, December 06, 2002

I find that Godel, Escher, Bach is a good test of intelligence. If someone claims it is a coherent book, they are faking it. 

dorklas hofstader
Friday, December 06, 2002

My father always defines intelligence simply as "the ability to resolve". And I think that's a fairly good definition.

Of course that you can expand it quite a bit, and discuss it, but it all comes down to that, IMHO.

Also, a couple of days ago I listened to the first chapter of "Mozart's Brain" (audiobook). It's pretty interesting, and I listened only the first chapter because it was right before sleep, and it was starting to excite me so I wanted to listen to it carefully...

Anyway, if I recall, the author discusses how you can develop your intelligence and be smarter than (apparently) 140+ IQ people. How? By having lots of different experiences, which make your brain create more links between neurons, which creates a very fast mind... Well, it's a crude explanation of my interpretation, so I recommend you to read/listen to that book if you're interested in the inner workings of the mind.

Napoleon Hill :)
Friday, December 06, 2002

Intelligence is supposedly half determined by genetics but I'm skeptical about that. I think the brain, like the voluntary muscles, responds to exercise.
If someone wanted to be an athlete they would need first of all motivation and discipline and willingness to devote time and effort. I think it's the same with the brain -- if you want to be smart you must exercise your brain. Like physical exercise, mental exercise requires discipline, and only seems fun or pleasurable once you have gotten used to it.
People who don't have good learning experiences while very young (and I doubt many of us did) do not think of themselves as smart. So they don't form a habit of studying and learning and do not develop intellectual curiosity.
In other words, if you did not figure out that intelligence can be learned, you might  never figure it out. Only a small minority figure it out by chance and they are the ones with a genius IQ. They might not grow up to be anything special, because most adults lose whatever intellectual curiosity they might have had.
I do think there is a genetic component, but maybe it can be overcome. People who are not born athletes can greatly improve their bodies and run marathons.
It's also true that brain damage lowers a person's IQ. On the other hand, the brain is very adaptable and able to compensate for damage. So a brain-damaged person might be able to recover a lot of what they lost.
I think that we know much less than we realize about intelligence, and that our society has certain unhelpful myths regarding it.

PC
Friday, December 06, 2002

A good football player completing a long-range pass to a moving teammate while avoiding the opposing team is actually performing calculations that are much more complex than a math student passing a calculus exam.  The reason the foorball player is unaware of the complexity of the task he is performing is that human brains have evolved for millennia to be very good at that kind of calculation and can handle it on an unconscious level.  Math skills have not been a major factor in human evolution so our brains aren't as good at math and we consider those skills hard.  Therefore we tend to consider the math student "smarter" than the football player. 

Even setting aside issues of actual computational complexity, there are a large number of mental attributes that would contribute to the construct of what most people would call "intelligence."  Some of these attributes statistically correlate with each other, but none correlate perfectly - it's possible to  be outstanding at one and terrible at another.  A partial list of these attributes might include :

Analytic ability
Creativity in integrating ideas
Memory
Language skills (spoken)
Language skills (written)
Math skills
Pattern finding ability
Accumulated knowledge
The ability to absorb new knowledge quickly
The drive to acquire new knowledge
The drive to question old knowledge
The ability or willingness to apply theoretical knowledge to real-world behavior
Emotional intelligence/social skills
Accumulated mental skill sets
The ability to acquire new mental skills quickly
The drive to acquire new mental skills
The drive to improve old mental skills
Visualization ability
Ability to manipulate abstractions
Ability to keep track of fine details
Multi-tasking ability
Ability to stay mentally focused
Willingness to keep working at a task which is mentally difficult
etc
etc
etc

As far as the standardized tests go, I was tested as a kid with an IQ in the 150-180 range (depending on which test you believed).  I wasn't able to get a lot a value out of that intelligence until I learned a bunch of self-discipline, focus and the willingness to endure mental discomfort & challenges.  I learned that from a physical discipline - the martial arts.

My advice is: if you want to be smart, every day try to learn something new or question something you thought you already knew.  Even if you start out with less natural mental ability than average, you'll eventually pull ahead of most people.  It's just like the skinny kid lifting weights.  He might not ever become an olympic athlete, but he can still end up a lot stronger than the average guy.

Tony Dismukes
Friday, December 06, 2002

PC - good comment!

Tony Dismukes
Friday, December 06, 2002

this was mentioned elsewhere, but malcolm gladwell has a good article about this

http://www.gladwell.com/2002/2002_07_22_a_talent.htm

slappy
Friday, December 06, 2002

Alex -

"As for intelligence, my view of the subject changed substantially after I read a book called, _Emotional Intelligence_, by Daniel Goleman:

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0553375067/

Goleman argues that I.Q. is over-rated as a predictor of success in life.  Emotional intelligence is more important. You shouldn't hope that your children turn out to be smart -- you should hope that they turn out to be optimists."

Concur. Experience, both mine personally and that of family members, convinced me that the idea of pure intellectual IQ being at best only a single factor in predicting life success (leave the definition of that phrase to a separate thread) is accurate.
It's like parents used to tell their kids (me) at least as late as the 60's - that you're usually better off being a 'well rounded' individual.

And no offense to Alex re his closing comment, but I really prefer "realism" over "optimism". I've seen too many times when "optimism" is just a particular type of reality distortion field. Pessimism is one too, just bent in a different way. Both will steer you wrong - we're better off focusing on reality than false expectations of the future, either bad or good.

anonQAguy
Friday, December 06, 2002

"I find that Godel, Escher, Bach is a good test of intelligence. If someone claims it is a coherent book, they are faking it. "

But as Hofstadter himself says, any completely coherent book lacks the power to describe reality.

David Clayworth
Friday, December 06, 2002

anonQguy,

I agree that it's simplistic to say that everyone should always be optimistic.  For example, I would really not want to fly in an airplane piloted by an optimist.

Psychologist Martin Seligman argues, though, that in many respects (though not all), it's better to be an optimist than a realist.  Seligman wrote a whole book on this subject.  The book is called, _Learned Optimism_:

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0671019112/

Also, Seligman's latest book, _Authentic Happiness_, is excellent:

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0743222970/

I know all these books I'm referencing sound like the "touchy-feely" saccharine crap you find in the self-help sections of bookstores, but they're not.  Seligman's and Goleman's books contain popularized summaries of legitimate science that's being conducted at first-rate universities.  Personally, I can't stand all those "Chicken Soup" books and the like.

Alex Chernavsky
Friday, December 06, 2002

I think the question of "intelligence" is largely one of language/semantics.  It's surprising English doesn't contain more finely grained words to describe it.  Perhaps a reader with knowledge of other languages could let us know if this lack of distinction is pecuilar to English.  Ideally, we would have separate words for the following:

- Ability to solve abstract mathematical problems that have a defined solution
- Ability to solve problems involving a mix of human behavior and inanimate factors (most business problems).
- Intuition.  Someone knows they have a high probability of having a correct answer, but can't immediately explain why.
- Ability to create life success as defined by societal standards.
- Knowedge of lots of "stuff".
- Ability to solve problems quickly
- Ability to imagine, invent, and manipulate what doesn't already exist (software creation)

Discussions about what constitutes intelligence are not generally productive, because the word is applied too broadly.  It's like arguing over the meaning of being a "good person" or being "athletic".  Is a "good person" altruistic? balanced? spiritual?.  Does "athletic" mean coordinated? strong? a high leaper? a certain shape?

I'm curious whether other languages have this obvious deficiency.  Does anyone know?  Does anyone else think this lack of verbosity causes most of the hang-wringing about intelligence?

Bill Carlson
Saturday, December 07, 2002

The problem may have started with IQ tests. One number is supposed to describe a person's intellectual worth. All kinds of assumptions began when IQ testing became popular.
Since we have no tradional class system in the US, social status is often determined by wealth, because (like it or not) people need some way of judging and ranking each other.
But now that we're in the information age, intelligence is also becoming a way of judging a person's status, because higher intelligence could mean more productivity in IT work.
So IQ is sort of like income -- no one asks or tells their IQ but everyone tries to guess. It's assumed that IQ is relatively stable throughout a person's life, and depends largely on genetics. So, just like in the old days, we are born into a social class and stay in it for life.
I don't agree with any of that. My personal experience has been that I raised my IQ about 20 points (130 to 150) because I became intellectually curious and started exercising my brain.

PC
Saturday, December 07, 2002

Napoleon Hill, you are corret about the neurons.

Prakash S
Saturday, December 07, 2002

Then again, it all depends on your definition of "life success".  I'd like to hear everyone's thoughts on what it means to them....

Bella
Sunday, December 08, 2002

"life success" = "money in bank" :-)

Prakash S
Sunday, December 08, 2002

Many people with money in the bank are very unhappy.  (golden Handcuffs, etc.)  Do you consider this success?  Caveat: The average person does not understand this concept

Bella
Sunday, December 08, 2002

Don't consider stock as money. Money is cash, liquid, hard currency. :-) (call me a sceptic!)


Yeah, I would be damn happy.

Funny thing is neither intelligence or success is any indicator of "money in the bank".

I am thinking about that Porsche 911 now ..... :-)

Earth calling Prakash, Earth calling Prakash "You have a Data Mining exam on Tuesday" :-)

Prakash S
Sunday, December 08, 2002

Lack of money is a common cause of unhappiness. Since there are other common causes of unhappiness, having enough money does not ensure happiness.
You need enough of various things to qualify for happiness. But even if you have enough of everything you can still drive yourself crazy wondering about the meaning of life, etc.
What I personally need for happiness:
Enough of the various things I need (money, friends, free time, sleep, exercise, food, etc.), and then plans and goals, things to work towards and look forward to.
Getting enough money can be an interesting and challenging goal. So if you spend years striving for money, it can be disappointing when you have enough, if you do not have another goal to replace it.
In other words, I think having challenging goals is one requirement for a successful happy life.

PC
Sunday, December 08, 2002

Still thinking of my Porsche:-). Once I get it I will attain Nirvana :-)

Prakash S
Sunday, December 08, 2002

I recently read a report where a study was done into the nature of happiness. Basically people were asked if they were 'happy' according to a wide range of criteria, i.e wealth, health, occupation, education, friends, etc, etc. The results were that 73% of 'poor' people were 'happy' and 76% of 'wealthy' people were 'happy'. The motto being that having money can make you happier, but probably not much more.
Of course, it was far more detailed that this, but this was the gist of it.

Alberto
Sunday, December 08, 2002

Well gee whiz, Bella, guess it didn't do us much good for me to include this bit in my earlier post, now did it?

"...convinced me that the idea of pure intellectual IQ being at best only a single factor in predicting life success (leave the definition of that phrase to a separate thread) is accurate...."

<just kidding>

anonQAguy
Sunday, December 08, 2002

I am convinced that the ratio of happiness to money is not linear.  After a certain level, money can cause more stress and anxiety than good.  Understandably, people without excessive amounts of money can not understand this, and waste their lives chasing money.  Of course, when you get to Bill Gates level, I am sure the stress level returns to zero.  Then again, I do not know his problems either..  Prakash, the novelty of your new Porsche will last about 3 weeks.  Then, it will just be another car.  As an Easterner, I'd expect more profound desires from you.

Bella
Sunday, December 08, 2002

"As an Easterner, I'd expect more profound desires from you. "

Haha, yes. Us easterners are too busy staring at the wall waiting for enlightenment to care about driving a nice car, or other trivial material possessions. Does Prakash even count as an "Easterner?" I thought India was its own thing. Or maybe you meant "east coast," like someone from connecticut? Anyway, I'd post more, but I have to go finish up the dog I cooked for dinner, so I'm not late for kung fu practice.

slappy
Sunday, December 08, 2002

Bella wrote:

"As an Easterner, I'd expect more profound desires from you."

Either Bella is claiming to be an Easterner himself, or he needs to do a Google search on "dangling modifier".

The Grammer Police
Sunday, December 08, 2002

IQ test score? Unbelivable?

Once upon a time, I got 80
2 years later 130

Now +- 140 (online IQ Test)

no name
Monday, December 09, 2002

"You don't seem to realize that a poor person who is unhappy is in a better position than a rich person who is unhappy. Because the poor person has hope. He thinks money would help."
        ~~ Jean Kerr

tapiwa
Monday, December 09, 2002

"The Grammer Police"

ITYM "The grammar police". HTH.


Monday, December 09, 2002

tapiwa, GREAT quote !!  and so true.  People spend lifetimes chasing a mirage.

Bella
Monday, December 09, 2002

The more a person scores the smarter (s)he is

wise dude
Monday, December 09, 2002

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