I found this interesting but I'd like to dissect a few things about it.

1) It's really only assessing one type of knowledge -- brute memory. How many facts have you learned about a thing? How many of them can you recall and how accurate is that recall? (Actually, I'm not convinced it was even that complex.) The term used by the study author (Matthew Fisher) is "metacognitive awareness, or people’s ability to assess how well they can explain things around them."

2) This is where my analysis falls to pieces. What other kinds of intelligence are there? The dark humor of my life is that I ended up with pretty great verbal intelligence, but slim-to-no education, so I am really good at hiding how little I know behind a well-built sentence. Emotional intelligence is a thing, I hear. Physical and mechanical intelligence are also different things -- the ability to dance or paint or puzzle out the function of an engine without necessarily relying on a base of facts about them. (I guess you'd need to define terms -- is muscle memory from practicing a dance segment a "fact"?) This study doesn't seem to examine any of those (but it also doesn't pretend to).

2b) I guess the point I'm really trying to get to is this: I don't think it's particularly important to remember facts, particularly when you have unlimited access to them, but even when you don't. I think a far more important component of a remarkable mind is processing intelligence -- like mechanical intelligence above, the ability to look at a set of objects, concepts, or data and extrapolate function from them, rearrange them, interact with them. (I remember reading a story about Feynman where he was flown out to a nuclear power plant under construction, and he didn't really understand the diagram symbols on the blueprints, so he stared at them until he figured out this one meant "valve", pointed to it, and said "what if this fails?" The construction team hailed him as a genius and he left. Yes, this relies on facts, knowing what a valve is and having a fairly clear understanding of nuclear reaction -- but this story seems to me to be more about processing intelligence than memoric recall. Yeah? No?)

3) I'm going to go ahead and assume I know how glass is made. You melt sand, right? Yeah, ok, that might be the approximate extent of my knowledge. Moon phases? Fuck if I know. I've been trying to visualize how eclipses work for ages and I've gotten basically nowhere. What other questions did they ask?

4) Ryan Trecartin: "I think technology is us, not something we invented. I think we are more psychic now because we have cell phones and you can look and see who's calling you. When people start seeing technology as us, as humanity, our whole idea of what existence is, is going to shift." -- This article necessarily assumes a distinction between human and machine, which it obviously must, as anything else sounds a bit wild. But this idea of technology-as-us has been really persuasive to me lately. Why should relying on the cloud for data be considered "outsourcing"? Because... who put it there?

I don't know. This is way more than I thought I had to say.



posted by setfox: 1197 days ago