Wednesday, December 13, 2006

How to build a more intelligent human

Life cannot be classified in terms of a simple neurological ladder, with human beings at the top; it is more accurate to talk of different forms of intelligence, each with its strengths and weaknesses. This point was well demonstrated in the minutes before last December's (2004) tsunami, when tourists grabbed their digital cameras and ran after the ebbing surf, and all the 'dumb' animals made for the hills.
- B.R. Myers, author (1963- )

Intelligence is traditionally measured to favour the designer of the test and those like him. The test traditionally evaluates the kinds of skills at which the designer is good. Those who do not fall into that select group are "less intelligent,"by definition.

No one knows quite what intelligence is. We can't define it well for ourselves, so it's no accident that we have trouble defining intelligence as it applies to animals and even plants. In fact, we don't usually give any thought to plants having intelligence.

Every animal is as intelligent as it needs to be to survive. Natural selection says that the fittest will escape predators and natural tragedies and will adapt to changing environment and food supplies.

If an ant had the same kind of intelligence as a human, what good would it do? The poor ant would die from rejection, from attack by a predator, from starvation, from just about any cause that humans give little attention to.

If a human had the intelligence of an ant...well, no, that's not a good example because some of us do.

Albert Einstein believed that almost every child has, at birth, equal intelligence. It's only after that where environmental factors affect intelligence to the point it is in adulthood. Not long after his death, scientists determined that only about fifteen percent of Einstein's brain had been used for thinking or other activities. (His brain is stored at Harvard as it has been almost continually since his death in 1954.) That left a great deal of possibility.

What makes one person a great physicist and another a great musician or doctor, while most of us remain relatively unknown in the middle of the pack? Einstein believed that most of us are programmed in school to be followers, not leaders and not innovators. Not different.

In order to be like so many others of our kind, we must voluntarily submit our ability to think independently to leaders who guide us where they want us to go. That is a sacrifice of intelligence.

How much we sacrifice of our intelligence determines how much we retain, thus how much we have left to develop ourselves as we learn more with age.

Science fiction writers used to speculate about what future humans would be like if they were genetically modified to be smarter than the rest of us. There is no need to speculate. All we need to do is to teach new parents how to stimulate the intelligence of their young children and teach school systems how to stimulate the minds of their young charges rather than dumbing them down to medoiocity.

Education makes the difference for children up to the age of eleven. After that all education is essentially self-education. To make smarter people, we need to begin with newborns and guide their intellectual development while supporting their social and emotional development.

Some people don't believe that is possible. Now you know why.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, striving to shine a light in the dark corners of our minds.
Learn more at

No comments: