What Is Intelligence?

We should take care not to make the intellect our god; it has, of course, powerful muscles, but no personality.

- Albert Einstein, "The Goal of Human Existence", Out of My Later Years

Podcast of the Day

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss a question that has stalked the twentieth century: Intelligence. Since the first IQ tests were invented in 1905, the question of what makes Homo Sapiens stupid and what makes him clever has involved human kind in sterilisation, racism and misery. How do we define intelligence, how do we measure it; what are its origins and how do we uncover it? But are we any closer to understanding what this elusive quality of intelligence is? The debate still rages as to whether we are born with it or whether intelligence is something we develop as we grow, and evidence for either camp seems to pile up almost daily.

Listen to the In Our Time episode on Intelligence

Video of the Day

Short Article of the Day

...The idea that intelligence could be quantified, like blood pressure or shoe size, was barely a century old when I took the test that would decide my place in the world. But the notion that intelligence could determine one’s station in life was already much older. It runs like a red thread through Western thought, from the philosophy of Plato to the policies of UK prime minister Theresa May. To say that someone is or is not intelligent has never been merely a comment on their mental faculties. It is always also a judgment on what they are permitted to do. Intelligence, in other words, is political.

Sometimes, this sort of ranking is sensible: we want doctors, engineers and rulers who are not stupid. But it has a dark side. As well as determining what a person can do, their intelligence – or putative lack of it – has been used to decide what others can do to them. Throughout Western history, those deemed less intelligent have, as a consequence of that judgment, been colonised, enslaved, sterilised and murdered (and indeed eaten, if we include non-human animals in our reckoning)...

Continue reading Stephen Cave's article: Intelligence: A History

Further Reading

Intelligence has been defined in many different ways including as one's capacity for logic, understanding, self-awareness, learning, emotional knowledge, planning, creativity, and problem solving. It can be more generally described as the ability or inclination to perceive or deduce information, and to retain it as knowledge to be applied towards adaptive behaviors within an environment or context.

Intelligence is most widely studied in humans, but has also been observed in non-human animals and in plants. Artificial intelligence is intelligence in machines. It is commonly implemented in computer systems using program software.

Within the discipline of psychology, various approaches to human intelligence have been adopted. The psychometric approach is especially familiar to the general public, as well as being the most researched and by far the most widely used in practical settings...

Continue reading the Wikipedia article on Intelligence

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