Senate Do We Need Intelligence?

Discussion in 'Archive: The Senate Floor' started by Jabbadabbado, Jan 25, 2013.

  1. Jabbadabbado Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Mar 19, 1999
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    And I don't mean in the JC. The answer to that question is obvious.

    Dumb and Dumber: Study Says Humans Are Slowly Losing Their Smarts
    Stanford geneticist says humans evolving into dumber species

    I've held the view for many years that our technological achievements pale in comparison to those of the neolithic revolution: domesticating animals, engineering the major crop types that we still eat today.

    Compared to our ancestors, we probably aren't making nearly as many critical life-or-death decisions that impact our own survival on any given day. As soon as our smarter ancestors invented writing, we could start offloading our memories and downsizing our capacity for memory storage and retrieval. The internet is the ultimate memory storage and retrieval tool. A stupidity facilitator. We also have to do less processing of information. We have calculators and spreadsheets to do basic and more complicated math problems for us, computers to crunch data.

    Overall, it makes sense for us as a species to shed the grey matter we don't need or use any longer and start evolving smaller heads. With smaller brains, we might be able to evolve thicker skulls to protect what little intelligence we have left from brain injury. Since our long childhood is in part the result of squeezing an undeveloped brain past the pelvis, maybe we could evolve to be born with more fully developed albeit less impressive brains and reduce the time we spend as infants and children.

    As a species, we only need to stay just smart enough to keep manufacturing the things that allow us to continue to get dumber. The more we can get machines to do for us before we get too dumb to develop new technology, the lower the intelligence threshold can go.

    Many people have predicted this would happen, but now we have at least the beginnings of scientific evidence to back it up.

    So, do you

    1) believe it is possible that this is actually happening, that we are evolving toward less intelligence, and

    2) do you believe that as a species there is anything we can or should do to try to counteract our evolution toward less intelligence?
    Last edited by Jabbadabbado, Jan 25, 2013
  2. Ender Sai Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Feb 18, 2001
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    I was thinking about this the other day, actually. We're about to start allowing bonds to be traded on our platform, and part of what I was looking at was if the mechanism to calculate bond pricing would work.

    Here's the bond pricing formula in Australia:

    [IMG]

    Where:

    P = the price per $100 face value (the computed price is rounded to three decimal places in formulae (1) and (2) and is unrounded in formulae (3) and (4))
    v = [IMG]
    where 100i = the half-yearly yield (per cent) to maturity in formulae (1) and (2), or the annual yield (per cent) to maturity in formulae (3) and (4).
    f = the number of days from the date of settlement to the next interest payment date in formulae (1) and (2) or to the maturity date in formulae (3) and (4). In formulae (3) and (4), if the maturity date falls on a non-business day, the next good business day is used in the calculation of f
    d = the number of days in the half year ending on the next interest payment date.
    g = the half-yearly rate of coupon payment per $100 face value.
    n = the term in half years from the next interest-payment date to maturity.



    I used to have to do lots of bond pricing questions when studying, and I remember hating this equation. But we're building a way to price yield and coupons, and it got me thinking - Excel can and will do most equations (i.e. you can write macros for most standard equations/problems). So I thought, will we get to the point at which we no longer need to know how to work equations? Is all we need to do now to teach a machine how to do equations and we can forget the manual workaround?

    I think you're right that we're not progressing as comparatively rapidly as our ancestors and that we're making our lives easier so we have to use less brain power. My thinking though is that there's going to end up being some sort of tipping point which will generate a renaissance of thought - largely around interstellar travel or overpopulation. We need catastrophe to be truly innovative, otherwise our driving ideology is complacency.
  3. GrandAdmiralJello Moderator Communitatis Litterarumque

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    I am not sure that convenience means that we're less intelligent. I mean, who invented the first wheel? I don't know, perhaps societies came up with it independently -- but then once we did, it was just a matter of teaching other people how to make them. The invention was achieved, but that doesn't mean that people were less intelligent.

    Or to use Ender's bond pricing formula -- he didn't come up with it, he just had to apply it. Though he has to do some work to do use it, somebody's already come up with it: per Jabba's original parameters, the intellectual challenge has already been solved. People applying that formula are just using the intellectual equivalent of manual labor: they're building that wheel to someone else's specifications.

    So I guess that's two different things: are we less intellectually creative and are we less mentally proficient? The latter is more like muscle atrophy, really.

    As far as societal concerns go though, I'd say that one way to avoid some sort of abyss of lazy mediocrity is to keep learning those boring bond formulae. Yeah, maybe Excel can do it better, but Ender (and tell me if I'm wrong), you probably know more about how this stuff works than you would if you'd just been taught to plug it into a spreadsheet, right? So we're still extracting value from the exercise of teaching it, even if it's no longer used for its own sake.
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  4. SuperWatto Manager Emeritus

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    I still think - no matter how many Facebook posts I see - that we are building the world mind. For every one person that invents something great (and let's be honest here, that includes none of us), there's a million people that will apply the invention and make sure it will be embedded in society, only to be improved upon by the next one-in-a-million inventor.
    Last edited by SuperWatto, Jan 25, 2013
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  5. VadersLaMent Chosen One

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    Apr 3, 2002
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    I thought today about a character from Neuromancer who could access the web via a mech/bio form of implant throughotu her nervous system. There is a character in a later cyberpunk series where every cell in her body calculates and has a wireless connection to the web.

    Imagine the app or super quick search that allows you to go to visit Italy and have a real time translated conversation via the computer in your brain with a waiter where you order in his or her language yet the day before you never spoke even a sinlge word of Italian. You never had to learn it, you simply downlaoded and used it.

    This is sort of like when Trinity downlaods a helicopter pilot program and flies said vehicle. Does it make us better or make us lazy? Would our actual mind retain anything? Would it need to? I have not looked but I beet with a smart phone there is an app for this or that. Do I need learn a language or shall my phone do the translation for me?
  6. anakinfansince1983 Chosen One

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    Mar 4, 2011
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    This. There is exponentially more information in the world than there was even 20 years ago. I don't know that the ability to access that information via a device we can carry in our pockets, makes us less intelligent. In fact I'd argue that intelligence is more necessary now in order to sort through all the information and discern the good from the bad.

    And no matter how many "smart" devices we have, humans still have to operate them. And I'd argue that the learning apps to which my kids have access, have enabled them to learn more, and more quickly, than I could when I was in school. My kindergartner is learning to multiply, and among other devices, he uses the iPad to do it. I learned how to multiply in third grade I believe.
    Last edited by anakinfansince1983, Jan 25, 2013
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  7. DarthBoba Manager Emeritus

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    ^This. Humans aren't built for individual achievement-judged as individuals, we're not that impressive a species; lightly armed, crappy senses, not very fast, and highly susceptible to temperature changes. As societies, though, we pretty much dominate the planet-as Ender said, it's not everyone's job to invent the formula, just to be able to know how to apply it and teach it to others.
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  8. Lord Vivec Chosen One

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    Apr 17, 2006
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    I'd argue that learning to do the equations, even though a machine can do it easily, is what teaches us the true underlying concepts of quantitative subjects (finance, in your case, physics in mine). Once we get the learning done, then we can easily put it in excel/write up code/put it in wolframalpha and move on.
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  9. SuperWatto Manager Emeritus

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    Posting from phones still sucks, though. Some inventor should get on that ASAP.
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  10. GrandAdmiralJello Moderator Communitatis Litterarumque

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    I'd argue it takes significant intelligence to decipher my typo-ridden phone posts.
  11. beezel26 Force Ghost

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    May 11, 2003
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    We already are becoming dumb. One, none of us remember many numbers. We just look in our phones. 2. We don't have to learn anything, we just ask wikipedia. 2. To figure out life's answers google. Our phones remind of us of everything. We are slowly becoming dumber and dumber. Let's face it, we are amazed by a dumb cat with a frown on its face.
  12. tom Chosen One

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    Mar 14, 2004
    star 6
    you aren't kidding about not remembering many numbers. i mean you only made it to "2" before you apparently ran out.
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  13. beezel26 Force Ghost

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    May 11, 2003
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    Tom this is the Senate, not the JCC please show some respect.
  14. Arawn_Fenn Chosen One

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    Jul 2, 2004
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    That character was in the Neuromancer sequels, but not Neuromancer itself.
  15. anakinfansince1983 Chosen One

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    Mar 4, 2011
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    Ah, "we don't have to learn anything, just ask wikipedia." LOL

    In the school system where I work, wikipedia is blocked for student access. One reason is, of course, they could edit an entry on a school's computer if they have an account and it would be more difficult for wikipedia to track the IP.

    I have told the students that I work with, that wikipedia isn't inherently wrong but it should never be used as a be-all end-all source since anyone with an account can edit it--that using wikipedia is fine, but they should check the cited sources at the bottom of each entry. I encourage the use of subscription encyclopedias and databases in which the entries have actually been fact checked.

    If people actually believe that they can just check wikipedia as a be-all end-all of knowledge, that's a problem of gullibility brought about by easy publication of material on the Internet and lack of fact-checking. Not stupidity.
  16. SuperWatto Manager Emeritus

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    Sep 19, 2000
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    I remember as many phone numbers as I did before the advent of mobile phones. The only thing that's changed there is that I don't need to write down phone numbers anymore.

    Searching stuff on Wikipedia or Google makes me ponder how best to phrase the question - whereas before I would have dismissed much of that as just unknowable.

    I remember we had a science questions phone number over here, back around 1993. I called them up once with a question ("If today's the shortest day, is it also the longest night?") and I'm still waiting for the reply. I'd take Google or Wikipedia over that any day.
  17. harpua Chosen One

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    Mar 12, 2005
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    Most schools don't allow students to use wikipedia at all. My son's school doesn't allow it, and mine certainly doesn't.
  18. LostOnHoth Chosen One

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    Feb 15, 2000
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    What is intelligence anyway? Some people can't remember what they ate for breakfast yet are able to navigate through the most complex theoretical problems. I'm pretty good with some concepts but am lousy with maths. Many gifted intellectuals have little or no 'general' knowledge and so suck at trivia. I've never had an IQ test but I wouldn't necessarily want to base my own self worth on the results either.
  19. Jabbadabbado Manager Emeritus

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    Mar 19, 1999
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    So let's say intelligence is a complex of attributes with ranges on a number of scales.

    When I travel to Europe, I tend to convert everything to dollars when I shop. Many years ago, I'd look up the exchange rate in the paper, then use that number to make the conversion in my head as I shopped. Or the same converting Celsius so I'd know how hot or cold I was supposed to be feeling. That's an easy one to remember, celsius x 9/5 + 32 = fahrenheit. So that's one attribute of moderate intelligence. I'm not bad at remembering simple formulas and doing quick sums in my head on the fly. I'm sure some of that's learned and some of that's innate. Whatever.

    Now, when I fly to Europe, I whip out the iPhone, open my conversion app. Pull the dollar/Euro exchange rate directly out of the Cloud, run the celsius/fahrenheit conversion. It's fast and painless. I don't have to exercise my brain. As, @SuperWatto and @DarthBoba and @anakinfansince1983 pointed out, I'm accessing the collective knowledge and technology of the species to make the job easier. My "brain muscles" may be atrophying from inactivity, per @GrandAdmiralJello and maybe that makes me dumber over time, but even if I'm a bit dumber than I could be, the collective knowledge and technology of the human race is still going to be increasing. Also, I don't necessarily pass that diminished intelligence on to my children.

    The point of the Stanford scientist is something else.

    Let's say I was born with a genetic mutation that made me a little less capable of converting units in my head on the fly. If I had been born a thousand years ago, the ability to do those kind of calculations might have conferred a survival advantage. The environmental pressures of a difficult life might have meant that those kinds of abilities would help me attract a better mate and do a slightly better job of bringing children to adulthood. The problem with modern technology is that it compensates for any genetic mutations that might make me less intelligent. I whip out my iPhone conversion app. The environmental pressures that forced humans to breed for intelligence have eased up to the point that mutations which inhibit intelligence can build up in our genetic code. We can afford to be a lot dumber and still get by, and we have no easy mechanisms to breed out the dumb.

    Maybe we can get dumber as a species yet still keep increasing our collective knowledge. But maybe we reach a point where we lose so much intelligence that none of us can contribute meaningfully to our collective knowledge. To @Ender_Sai 's point, since evolution is part environmental pressure, it may be that at some point the environmental pressures we face shift and we have to start breeding for intelligence again.

    Or, before we get too dumb, we advance our technology far enough so that it can do all our innovating for us. That would allow us to become even dumber. I like the Neuromancer idea too per @VadersLaMent. That instead of becoming stoopider, per se, we evolve toward closer and more intimate integration with our own technology. We form a complete symbiosis with machines so that they provide us our intelligence and we provide whatever services a simple meatbag can provide. Of course, another train of sci fi thought is that we evolve our technology until technology can start evolving itself, then it out-competes us and eradicates us the way homo sapiens may have exterminated the neanderthal.
    Last edited by Jabbadabbado, Jan 25, 2013
  20. Valyn Force Ghost

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    Mar 2, 2002
    star 8
    A lot of people watch MTV programs, like Jersey Shore...does that support the argument that people are becoming dumber? I think so.
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  21. Aytee-Aytee Force Ghost

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    Next thing you know we'll be watering our lawns with Gatorade....
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  22. Ramza JC Head Admin and RPF Manager

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    Dr. Crabtree actually admits in his response to Dr. Kevin Mitchell's rebuttal to his article that, and I quote here, "Thus, it seems that reduced selection over the past 5000–10 000 years is likely to be a fact of human evolution. More extensive population studies corrected for population size are necessary to confirm these relations." Furthermore: "In summary, in light of recent data [he is here referencing a recent study of ~6600 Americans of known descent, which I can't comment on because >biology but it seems pretty sound], I believe that my hypothesis stands firmer than ever. However, it is only a hypothesis and will need much additional testing. Indeed, this is but one reason why studies of human population variation are so important." In any case, he adds, "although I agree that selection for intelligence is present in modern societies, it probably no longer has the strong effect it had on our hunter-gatherer ancestors. Neither would we want it to."

    I'm skeptical mostly because this sort of theory requires a lot of baseless speculation to get off the ground, and seems to rely on a presupposition that the defects must occur due to a lack of natural selection that, well, the biological community isn't united on, based on what I'm seeing in subsequent months of Topics in Genetics.

    So I guess my point is I hate science reporting. :p
    Last edited by Ramza, Jan 25, 2013
  23. Jabbadabbado Manager Emeritus

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    Mar 19, 1999
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    Sure, but this kind of speculation has been around for as long as I can remember. The old version of this was that humans were no longer evolving in general because of technology. The new and more interesting version is that intelligence is not necessarily something we'll be able to hang onto. It's exciting to speculate, and the responses have been really interesting. Evolving to be symbiotically interconnected with our machine intelligence. The value of individual intelligence relative to communal and aggregate intelligence, etc. This is why I asked if people thought it could be true. And if so, what would it mean.
  24. Valyn Force Ghost

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    Mar 2, 2002
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    I think Idiocracy struck a fair point.
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  25. VadersLaMent Chosen One

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    Apr 3, 2002
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    I think modern GPS in cars is a good example of what you are talking about. People have GPS disasters because they just follow it without thinking for themselves. If I go into an area, even if I had GPS, I'm breaking out a map(though I might still use technology via mapquest for this) and figure out where I am going before I get there.

    When truck drivers get dispatched to make deliveries across the country they recieve typed directions(Take I-275 North, I-94 West, Exit 190 hagerty Road North, etc) and check it against a map. I'm sure many are suing GPS, but they are not going to follow it blindly.

    Each new bit of tech must become reliable before you can be lazy about what that technology covers.
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