Intelligence is a very broad subject although it seems easily defined. A great amount of different meanings are given to intelligence as a concept from various cultures and sciences. Throughout history psychologists and sociologist have been trying to devise a way to reveal the level of intellect animals or humans possess. However this quest might not have a definitive answer. Intelligence therefore should be considered to be a broad and elusive concept with many distinct aspects to it.
Research in the field of animal intelligence is essential to understand the more complex aspects of human intelligence. Ken Richardson, an honorary senior research fellow in the center of human development and learning at the Open University, in his book The Making of Intelligence remarks: “We can examine the nature of intelligence in its simpler – and hopefully more comprehensive – form in other animals, and thus describe it, and how it has increased in humans, more clearly.”(9) Even though animals can provide us with explanations, in many cases scientists are amazed by their intellect. According to Eugene Linden’s article in the Times, dolphins can to a command such as “now let’s try a tandem creative” with amazing stunts of synchronization. Only through conscious thought can they understand the meaning of being creative. Moreover to perform such an act they must also communicate with each other in some way. This comes to show that dolphins do bear a form of intellect.(Linden 1) Another exiting animal is an African gray parrot at the University of Arizona which can announce true facts about all he sees. He will indicate that a tea mug is “Hot” to anyone who attempts to handle it. (Linden) Such amazing feats of thought are evident in other species mostly though in primates, which closely resemble humans.
The question however remains. How does intelligence evolve and why? For the past decades it was thought that humans’ mental development was due to the use of tools. Many studies have shown animals that are capable of using tools have less thinking capacity then others who don’t. Another astonishing fact is that humans had a fully developed brain before they started to consistently use tools. The explanation that scientists provide is that the development of intelligence is closely related to the social skills of every species. The ability to play social chess is what determines intelligence. Great thought is required to anticipate an enemy’s knowledge and possible intensions. As communities of individuals grows the social interactions become more and more complex. Keeping up with complex interactions requires a superior brain. This is what made humans so intelligent and resourceful.
Many concepts of intelligence exist in the human society. Through the span of many centuries intelligence was a factor of discrimination. In ancient Greece smarts was what divided each social class. Even today higher education is reserved for those who can afford it. Nevertheless, there is no specific explanation of what intelligence is and what aspects of human thoughts it composes. The majority of individuals thinks of people without intelligence as savages or mentally challenged and those who are gifted as crazed scientists. Perhaps this is one of the many faces of intellect.
Through the eons many individuals have been proclaimed geniuses. One of the most known and credited is Leonardo Da Vinci. Da Vinci has provided inspiration to almost every liberal art and science. From his famous Mona Lisa to his designs of the helicopter Da Vinci was extremely talented. Leonardo switched from painting to engineering to mathematics with incredible ease. Many scientists attribute his vast talents to the fact that he was ambidextrous and in control of his creativity and logic. Even though science has achieved so much, Leonardo Da Vinci’s works still continue to amaze researchers.
Another gifted man well known for his life’s work was Albert Einstein. Although Einstein was not an outstanding student and until his twenties had no major degree, he managed to propose a theory that would change the world of Newtonian physics. Einstein had the gift of caring out mental experiments. His imagination was governed by the laws of physics making him able to elaborate on them. What is very strange is that many believe that Einstein suffered from a slight form of Asperger Syndrome, a disorder closely related to autism. It could be that Asperger Syndrome helped him achieve all that he did.
As researchers try to grasp the characteristics of intelligence they have also tried to devise methods to measure it. Psychologists called psychometrists have developed a method to measure intelligence called the IQ (intelligence quotient) test. Although a majority of scientist do not agree with this concept psychometrists claim that they can accurately measure the intellect of any individual from just after birth to any age thereafter.
Starting from the late eighteen hundreds many scientists have contributed towards the development if the IQ tests. First was Galton, who was Darwin’s cousin. Galton had an obsession with measurement and tried to reduce the complexities of intelligence to one simple test. Through many experiments involving children Francis Binet contributed his views in the makings of intelligence. The first modern intelligence test was developed by the German psychologist William Stern. He introduced the ratio of mental age to chronological age to measure IQ. After many additions by other psychologists or sociologists the IQ tests that are known today were developed.
Simplicity however is not always beneficial. Many fallacies comprise the modern IQ tests. Because different cultures think in different ways the tests often do not do justice. Ken Richardson argues that the concept of IQ is just another way to discriminate against females and different races. All of the contributors of the IQ tests were Caucasian males. An IQ test therefore might not tell the truth of someone’s intellect. (23-49) Nevertheless, the IQ test still can offer many benefits to the psychological society.
Another important field of study is the search for the biological influences of intelligence. Even before the discovery of DNA scientist were curious about the biological aspects to intelligence. Numerous researches and studies of twins have concluded that biology does play a role in the development of smarts.
In his article Robert Plomin, points out that, identical twins which were separated at birth have almost the same intelligence. This comes to show that intelligence is heritable and relies on specific genes in the human genome. In resent research a gene that belongs to the sixth chromosome has “been shown to be especially active in brain regions most involved in learning and memory.”(Plomin 3) “
A surprising finding concerning specific cognitive abilities is that multivariate genetic analyses indicate that the same genetic factors largely influence different abilities. What this finding means concretely is that if a specific gene were found that is associated with verbal ability, the gene would also be expected to be associated with spatial ability and other specific cognitive abilities. This finding is surprising because it goes against the tide of the popular modular theory of cognitive neuroscience that assumes that cognitive processes are specific and relatively independent of one another. (Plomin 2)
As research goes on, the reliance of smarts on genetic make-up will be further determined. If the facts show that specific genes are responsible to intellect, the future might hold tremendous advantages for the human race through genetic engineering. Further studies, however, have shown that the environment also acts as a catalyst in the development of one’s intellect. Deprived of stimulation even the most intellectual minds will not prosper.
When the first computers were developed programmers started to dream about powerful machines that would be able to think for themselves. Research is still going on in the field of Artificial Intelligence with promising results. As technology advances the construction of even smarter machines will be possible. Many predictions have been made concerning machines that have a conscience some involve rebellions and machine dominance of the machines. However, with the correct precautions the human race can significantly benefit from the creation of artificial intelligence.
Jeff Hawkins believes that only through a better understanding of the clockworks of the brain can humans develop a true intelligent machine. In his book On intelligence, Hawkins argues that the current method of research will lead nowhere. He proposes that computer scientists should become more aware of the biology of the brain and try to integrate it into their work. Hawkins also notes that the creation of true artificial intelligence is not that far into the future.
Intelligence is a subject which involves many different sciences. The more human kind learns about intelligence the more we will learn about ourselves and the world surrounding us. There might come a point in the future when humans will be able to communicate with animals and machines the same as they do with each other.
Ehrenwald, Jan. Anatomy of Genius Split Brains and Global Minds. New York: Human Sciences Press, 1986.
Linden, Eugene. “Can Animals Thinks?” Time 141 1993: n12 54-62.
Hawkins, Jeff and Blakeslee Sandra. On Intelligence. New York: Times Books, 2004.
Plomin, Robert. “Genetics and Intelligence.” Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry 38 1999: i6 786-789.
Richardson, Ken. The Making of Intelligence. New York: Columbia University Press, 2000.