Intelligence I

The true sign of intelligence is not knowledge but imagination.
Albert Einstein


A quick search through the Internet yields a million definitions and meanings ascribed to this remarkable word: Intelligence. Most of these are just different versions and restatements of the same idea. A person is intelligent if they can get, understand, remember, and apply knowledge. The easier a man can do any or all of these, the more intelligent he is; the harder it is for him, the less intelligent he is. But surely, intelligence is so much more complicated than this, is it not? Given the incomprehensible amount of philosophy, study, and research available to enlighten the world about what intelligence is, what causes it, and how to increase it, it is modest to say that I am not the first to write about it.

Perhaps the most accepted fact about how intelligence manifests in a person is their ability to comprehend and use logic. Logic seems to be a purely human capacity that enables us to control the world, or at least to understand it. To a great extent, the physical laws of the universe, mathematics, biological and chemical processes, matters of law and politics, even social relationships, all seem to predicate on logic: Observing events and determining the condition or set of conditions that makes said event true or probable; discovering scientific proofs for the behaviour of matter and developing mathematical relationships between them; theorizing outcomes of experiments and using them to explain the real world; classifying and describing human behaviour through observation, and finding ways to unlock human potential and control deviants; manipulating currency; settling disputes; and so on, are examples of the potency of logic at work.

However, to employ logic, there must be facts, for without accurate and thorough examination of facts, application of logic is moot. Knowledge is therefore a collection of verifiable and related facts. Every field of study has knowledge that is useful in that field. Doctors have very little use for the Theory of Relativity. A magistrate does not care at all whether the courtroom where he judges cases has been optimally designed to account for acoustics to efficiently carry the sound of his voice and gavel to the audience. Nobody expects accountants to know the atomic numbers of all three radioisotopes of naturally occurring Uranium. On the other hand, one can imagine that both the physicist and the civil engineer will benefit greatly from an aptitude for mathematics. Whatever the area of specialty, an individual is required to wield a significant amount of information, if he or her is to be considered adept in that area. Moreover, he or she must be able to identify, refute, and disregard misinformation and lies. Hence, the ability to acquire and apply a vast amount of useful knowledge in a certain field is indicative of intelligence.

Even an average, healthy, and mindful human should be capable of logical reasoning, studying, and making educated deductions about things that interests him or her. However, certain individuals seem to possess brainpower in a high degree such that it allows them to see new patterns in the universe, discover new knowledge, and create things that are original and revolutionary. We tend to call such individuals geniuses. Likewise, there are others who have a flippant attitude towards education and ineptness in logical thinking. One might conclude that such people were born with little or no measure of intelligence at all. Brainpower differs from one person to another. Hence the term Intelligence Quotient, or I.Q. I.Q. is the world’s unit of measurement for quantifying intelligence and classifying people based on how bright they are. I.Q. tests have become the order of the day. In fact, in some spheres, every factor that can account for a person’s performance, especially school children, college students, and workers, have been neglected in favour of the almighty I.Q. Undoubtedly, I.Q. has its usefulness in establishing the baseline of person’s capacity to reason, recognise patterns, and memorise. But there are detriments of using I.Q. scores as a basis for one’s life choices (more on this later).

No doubt, the mind of a genius is impressive in every imaginable way. Of course, not every instance of human achievement comes from complex thinking, logic, and years of study. According to Howard Gardner, there are seven forms of intelligences – well, eight, actually. He came up with this theory three decades ago. Gardner’s theory of intelligence or intelligences is more appealing than I.Q. because it insinuates that everyone can be intelligent in one way or another. Actually, I.Q. is said to be a measure of the g factor, or general intelligence. I don’t totally get that…what the heck does that even mean? Well, that makes two of us. But I have had some time to sift through a lot of it. So, allow me to simplify as best as I have learned.

The current, de facto list of the types of intelligence is as follows: Musical, Visual, Linguistic, Logical, Bodily, Interpersonal, Intrapersonal, and Naturalist. Each of these aspects or learning paths is concerned with a particular set of skills or outcomes.

Musical intelligence is the ability to appreciate tones, rhythm, and harmony; to hear and think in sounds and beats, even without any physical sounds, voices, or instruments; and to create exceptional pieces of music that are worth consuming. Visual intelligence is the ability to visualise images and three dimensional space and objects; to be able to imagine or mentally construct (see with the mind) how things are or would look like from real clues like a description, blueprint or map, or purely from imagination. Linguistic intelligence is concerned with the comprehension and use of language – reading, writing, and speaking; to understand the subtleties of literal and figurative uses of language. Logical intelligence is concerned with logic, equations, codes, theories, analysis, experimentation, classification, and philosophy; creating order from chaos, gleaning information from observation and deduction, and solving complex problems. Bodily intelligence is the capacity to move the body, parts of the body, or an object with purpose, absolute control, and perfect timing; the possession of excellent hand-eye coordination, reflexes, and agility; it often materialises as excellence in sports, grace in dancing, competence in physical combat, and dexterity in using tools and equipment.

Interpersonal intelligence may also be called social skills – the ability to know, relate to, and understand people. It includes considering people’s opinions, perceiving feelings, discerning facial expressions and other non-verbal communication cues, bonding and teamwork, building relationships, and so on. Intrapersonal intelligence is essentially the capacity for self-awareness and introspection, the drive to determine one’s place in the order of things; and to analyse, alter, and learn from one’s own behaviour, motivations, plans, and experiences.

Naturalist intelligence is concerned with the natural world, not in the sense that the spatial learner visualises objects and space, or the logical learner gains knowledge by observation, analysis, and experimentation. Naturalists possess a kind of sensitivity to nature, a liking for being outdoors, and an affinity for plants, animals, rocks, water bodies, and landscape. They may be interested in studying the weather, natural phenomena, and the cosmos.

Obviously, the theory of eight intelligences makes sense, given the diversity and combinations of abilities that human beings everywhere exhibit. There is also the concept of general intelligence, or g factor, which can be measured by I.Q. tests. The psychometric studies and theories behind general intelligence is quite extensive. But the premise is that a person’s g factor, or I.Q. for that matter, is useful in determining his or her level of intelligence and mental energy, and can in fact predict success in his or her life. I.Q. tests today usually assess an individual’s linguistic, logical, and spatial intelligences: their capacity to read and write, recognise shapes and patterns, describe objects, analyse events or problems and come up with explanations or solutions, manipulate numbers, and solve equations.

I shall discuss the theory of eight intelligences and g factor in subsequent posts. Before then, I must say this: anyone who is old and smart enough to apply any amount of introspection to themselves is intelligent. Humans are capable of planning and action because we are driven to move forward. It is the default setting of all living things: to find purpose and responsibility. And so that is how you must live everyday. At the end of the day, intelligence is power, but it is foolish to assume that little effort is needed to express intelligence and reap the benefits. Laziness is the death of intelligence. If one does not deliberately and incessantly apply the mental faculties, they will wither away.