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Saturday, 31 March 2012


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Intelligence as in what is measured by IQ is the "ability to solve problems". Like Rubic's cube and other pure logic problems.

Of course in life there are a few other things that matter. Like recognizing there is a problem, posessing the right data to solve it, being able to work with other people.

Since every thing has some requirement to solve problems there is loose connection between IQ and doing well in any field, stronger in some things that others but by know means the only thing, and in most areas not the most important thing.

Your example of a Royal Navy officer. He decided the problem was to how to get commissioned in the Royal Navy. he solved it. If he had realized there was another problem of what to do if he gets bounced in a budget cut he would have developed a good solution for it, but not realizing there was problem until to late. . .

Or your some Trotlot friends. They follow a theory that is about as connected to the real world as a Rubic's cube, make brilliant deductions based on it which are of no value in the real world, and look down on those who have solved real problems in the School of Hard Knocks.

I would say that intelligence is, in essence, the ability to discern patterns in one's experience. This covers the "I.Q. test" questions about "Which number is next in the series?", etc., but also covers qualities such as far-sightedness and sagacity. Some people are good at spotting patterns right under their nose but have no general awareness; whereas others are hopeless at formal tests but spot the general drift of things, and so keep themselves afloat on the sea of life. It is all about where you focus, and what rewards happen to be associated with that type of focus.

I think it is probably more useful to think about what fools we all are. Even the super-bright ones, who make masses of money and have all the trappings of success. They are all laughing-stocks if you dig deep enough, aren't they?

Give me character and goodness over intelligence, every time.

By the way, DD, did you mean George, or Gordon Brown? The former's inability to run a whelk stall was due to his fondness for liquid refreshment. The latter (bless him) was not the towering economic genius that Blair painted him as. His doctorate was in Labour Party history, and his knowledge of economics seems to have been piss-poor in all respects.

Duh! I meant Gordon not George! I don't know why I keep mixing them up. The latter was an even bigger 'fruit 'n' nut' case than the former!

I will return to your substantive points later.

Hank, yes, life can sometimes throw up problems which need to be solved but where does 'intelligence' come into it? You might just use tradition as a solution - or your dad's advice! Given (and I'm deeply grateful to Mr. Romney for his golden phrase) the very many 'known unknowns' (or whatever), who is to say what is the 'intelligent' solution to any problem and on what grounds? Only the ultimate result will tell us but that, of course, might be due more to unknown circumstances at the time of which we knew nothing - so we weren't that intelligent after all!

'W', yes, you make a cogent point concerning the ability to spot patterns although I wouldn't overstate it. After all, one thinks of the mythical(?) coach-maker who invested his life savings into new barns and carpenters to make even more coaches just as the horseless carriage was invented!

That coach-maker was intelligent with regard to his contemporary conditions of investment, and unintelligent with regard to socio-economic change. Knowing what inventions are likely to impact on the market is understanding patterns. The dreamer who discerns the mass arrival of the motor-car but lacks the practical intelligence to raise capital and convince others is equally limited.

My dad had a friend who, in the 1950s, invested everything he had in ladders, tools, and the kit needed to fit TV aerials. He saw the developing pattern. And did very well for himself. Other than that, you would say he was as thick as shit....

Hmm, not asking much are you?

The problem with IQ tests, as I understand it and having taken a few (Forces, jobs and even for fun), is that it sets problems in mathematics, language, logic, 'spatial ability' and memory. What's the problem? Well, does it test for intelligence or, as has been found, 'people like those who set the test'?

The ability to do mathematical problems is a sign of intelligence but is the inability a sign of its lack (not to mention the education to be able to understand how to do so, shall we ask Gorgon?)? Language is again linked to both culture, nationality, education and experience (is recognition of correct sentence structure and word meaning an indicator? - if so there aren't many intelligent Americans then ;-p ). Logic? Whilst logic per se isn't a problem, the problems are in fact more of a test to see if you can figure out the logic as seen by the test setter (I feel quite put out when I construct an entirely logical argument for a certain answer only to be told it's wrong, ie. not the same as the setters). And just how the ability to visualise a shape in different orientations equates to more than imagination is yet to be demonstrated.

The 'great intellects' of the past would have, I'm sure, struggled with modern IQ test. However. and this equates with my own experience of dismal failure at the first test taken and subsequent brilliant showing (if I do say so myself) at the following, they would have learned to produce a better result.

My take on intelligence is that it is the ability to learn (from personal and others experience) in the specific and apply it, intellectually, in the general nothing more nor less. Notice I don't include the ability to apply that learning in the real world as that is merely the demonstration of intelligence, not it's exclusion (I know, intellectually how to solve a Rubik's Cube but have never done so - it's a conspiracy, I say, they always sell me defective ones!).

Why learning ability? Think of the constant descriptions of indicators of animal intelligence (rats and mazes, birds and feed-hoppers filled when buttons pressed, apes and block-building to get a banana) all are instances where they have demonstrated the ability to learn in the abstract to obtain some 'rewarding' outcome. Are humans any different except in that our 'rewards' may be more insubstantial than a banana?

Why not applied? Because the numbers of intelligent failures (including, I like to think, myself) is legion. Whilst success may be an indicator of intelligence I think it is, reliably, more an indicator of luck (whilst intelligence may increase a persons ability to recognise when a set of circumstances are in their best interests, it isn't exclusive either way).


Have your spies out and about David? This post seems curiously timed.


A good point to remeber when discussing this subject is one Dr. Murray from the previous post makes amny times in many ways.

Average is the 50% point.

"Stupid" is about the 2 or 3% point. Which is to say 97 or 98& of the population are intelligent enough to live reasonably happy and prosperous lives without special help.

What annoys him to no end is the many people who think below average means they are to stupid to be useful.>Hank’s Eclectic Meanderings

The other point worth consideration is that the very worst sort of error occurs when you make a really well thought-out, 'intelligent' mistake. History is littered with examples! The Schlieffen plan being the one that leaps instantly to my mind.

Also, and my last example prompts this further thought, it is absolutely essential to apply one's intelligence to deciding if there is a real problem in the first place, never mind solving it!

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