Jach's personal blog

(Largely containing a mind-dump to myselves: past, present, and future)
Current favorite quote: "Supposedly smart people are weirdly ignorant of Bayes' Rule." William B Vogt, 2010

I am so smart! I am so smart!

S-M-R-T! I mean S-M-A-R-T!

I miss watching Simpsons.

Anyway, this post is kind of self-depreciating (which is not the same as self-deprecating, oh my Luna, programmers get it straight already!). Because in reality, I'm really not all that smart and I freely admit that.

But what does it mean to be smart, or intelligent? Does intelligence mean "Einstein", or does it mean "Obama"? Why do people say "It takes more than intelligence to get by in life!"?

Humans are such egocentric creatures. When we think of "intelligence", we do in fact think of "Einstein". Except when the person we're talking to is being a smart-ass. Then we say "You need more than intelligence!" But here's the problem: they typically mean things like "street smarts", "social skills", and "knowing-when-to-not-be-a-smart-ass skills". Where, I ask, are these things, if not in the brain? There are no brain-cells in your ass!

To me, smartness is differences in the very limited scale of human intelligence. I'd say IQ, but IQ isn't especially accurate. (Me_2012 disagrees.) Nevertheless, it's what helps us distinguish us from each other. So how smart am I? I consider myself to be above average, but nothing special--I'm no John von Neumann. I don't have the raw brain power to do some of the things I wish I could do. Given time I can figure stuff out, but even then many things are just beyond me. Perhaps with decades of study on some of them I would comprehend...but that's still beyond me, being theoretically possible but realistically impossible is the same as impossible. But don't let that stop anyone from trying to do the impossible!

How intelligent am I? Very. And so are you. And so is the village idiot down the street. And so was Einstein. Intelligence stretches across a range of all possible mind designs, from a rock (no intelligence) to an ant (very little intelligence) to a raven (a lot of intelligence) to a human (a helluva lot of intelligence) and beyond. But humans are egocentric creatures, and so when we think of "intelligent" we don't think of the village idiot, we think of Einstein, even though to a less-intelligent creature (like an ant) there's no discernible difference.

Humans are intelligent, period. The degrees of smartness within the human species don't matter much; our brains are still organized nearly identically with each other. If I considered myself much more intelligent than another person, I'd have to be a transhuman. I'd have to be ahead in intelligence equivalent to a jump in species-level intelligence. It would have to be that I could look down on humans and see little difference in intelligences, just as humans look down on ants, and humans would look up at me and others of my kind and see very little difference.

I'm above average on the human level, but nothing special. And a transhuman, let alone a superintelligent AI, would kick my ass.

Addendum: About my IQ: my combined ACT score was a 31 which translates to 1380/1600 on the SAT which translates to 136-138 IQ. One of the more professional-looking tests (albeit non-Raven's) I remember taking put me at 134, i.e. I have some correlation. Take that for what you will. I haven't taken a professional pay-to-test test, and over the years various tests have me ranged from 122 to 140 or so. (That 122 is from which exclusively uses Raven's Progressive Matrices which I don't think I was ever tested on before, so it may in fact be the most accurate... Though others (notably Less Wrong members) have reported similarly lower scores with that particular test.) Update on March 9, 2014: Scored a mere 125 on (another Raven's test), I think the 120s-130s range is probably most accurate.

Posted on 2009-12-14 by Jach

Tags: personal


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