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So you think you are so smart? I bet you are a fool!

  1. Jul 29, 2008 #1
    Newton said it, 'If I have seen further it is by standing on ye shoulders of Giants'.

    People still think humans are so clever, I don't believe it. Our brains stumbled upon the power of parallel processing, through a language interface. We can benefit from the thoughts of all the people around us and before us. Which got even more efficient through writing, then book printing and now internet.

    So we tend to think that the achievement of the whole reflects on us as an individual, like an ant looking at the hill and saying 'look what I built!'. But we ignore the fact that there isn't a single person alive that could invent a knife from scratch, let alone an Iphone.

    This overestimation of our capacity is making us think way too complicated about our own motivations. We are guided by straightforward instinctive goals just like all the other species in the animal kingdom. We just use a bigger brain to achieve them.

    Many of our behaviours are pre-programmed, some even to come out at the right time. Take teens fighting with parents. Finally some researchers found a link between the amygdala in teens and fighting with parents:
    But it doesn't occur to them that maybe the fighting is the point. Built in to get the parents to separate from the children. Why do you think a bird nudges its young out of the nest at some point? I don't think it says 'Kid, it is time for you to spread your wings and live your own life!' It probably just feels it needs some more space, or get rid of that awful mess.

    I was just wondering if anyone had some thoughts on this, let's do some parallel processing here..
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 23, 2017
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 29, 2008 #2


    Staff: Mentor

    I'm sorry, but this is a rather silly post IMO. You seem to think that it would be more clever to not learn from others. How ridiculous! :rolleyes:

    I know that it is fashionable to denigrate humanity as not being anything special, to kind of ostentatiously demonstrate that your egalitarianism extends even to other species. It is a load of crap. By any objective measure humans are superlative among species. We are the fastest, strongest, deadliest animals that exist on earth. All of this is precisely because we use our brains and the recorded thoughts of others so cleverly and effectively.
  4. Jul 29, 2008 #3


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    That's why everyone was ignoring it.

    That's what our cat overlords want us to think.
  5. Jul 29, 2008 #4


    Staff: Mentor

    Hahaha :rofl:
  6. Jul 29, 2008 #5


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    Think about it, have you ever got a cat to:
    go out to work everyday and feed you when you come home?
    run up to give you a backrub whenever you want?
    stop what it's doing to play with you?

    Perhaps this should be the new PF t-shirt http://www.choiceshirts.com/item/A11512/
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 23, 2017
  7. Jul 29, 2008 #6
    So what did you invent? What did you add to the human environment?

    What you see around you is the result of parallel processing, not individual quality. That leads people to overestimate individual intelligence.

    Never did I say there is anything bad about learning from others, or that humans are not the smartest animals. The quality of the reply is inversely related to the number of posts, but that is to be expected..
  8. Jul 29, 2008 #7


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    It's the result of the cumulative effect of not having to start from scratch everytime.
    If I want to invent a mechanical device somebody already makes the metal, the parts, the tools etc , somebody has formulated and published the laws and techniques.

    Your post didn't really make a point.
  9. Jul 29, 2008 #8
    The point I was trying to make is that there is an immense difference between the intelligence of the whole and the intelligence of the individual. If you take the individual without any outside knowledge. The difference is in 'parallel processing through language'.

    Right now it is the sum of individual decisions that is causing problems. And many of those individual decisions are based on very basic instincts. A lot of them aren't obvious at all. But they are not that hard to understand if you look at them in the context of where they evolved.

    I think it would be useful for people to realize the background of their perceived needs. But I guess the intelligence gap doesn't find much recognition here..
  10. Jul 29, 2008 #9


    Staff: Mentor

    Plenty. Several patents, dozens of scientific manuscripts, 4 great kids, and a lot of economic value. Stay tuned for more :smile: All of those achievements relied heavily on the involvement of others (especially the kids), but none of them would have been the same without me as an individual.

    I'm sorry, but your idea is nothing but a boring liberal cliche. It takes no thought today to come up with some "humans suck" garbage. Your post is bumper-sticker philosophy at best. If you want to impress someone with your genius then try to come up with something original. If you can't do original then try useful, or at a minimum entertaining.

    The idea that humans, as a species or as individuals, are somehow less because they learn from others is just plain absurd. That is like saying that a shark is somehow less of a predator because if you take it out of the water it will die. In the same way that a shark's environment is the water a human's environment includes the ideas learned from others.
  11. Jul 29, 2008 #10
    How does using the accumulated knowledge of our predecessors cheapen individual intelligence? Don't you think it more intelligent to adapt to the resources available at a given time, rather than shunning clear advantages? Is not parallel processing a product of the physiology of the individual human brain? What is it that you are trying to say? I see no sustenance to your argument as is.

    I think that you confuse technological advancement with intelligence; one distinctly precludes the other.
  12. Jul 29, 2008 #11
    Not only that, but I disagree with your basic premise that individuals alone can't make a difference.
    I would argue that many things have been done solely by individuals.
    They may not have learned /everything/ by themselves from scratch, but they took the next step and found something original, usually in solitude or in small groups.

    This only but speaks about their intelligence as an individual.
    Last edited: Jul 29, 2008
  13. Jul 29, 2008 #12
    Ayn Rand would have your head.
  14. Jul 30, 2008 #13


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    I have to both agree and disagree with your comments. People gain new independent knowledge either by serendipity or research.

    As far as Newtons quote goes, I can totally relate. I've put many a two and two together from the people before, and around me, and created many wonderful new things.

    And as to anyone being a fool, I would say that you should stop projecting your own introspections onto others. People don't like that.
  15. Jul 30, 2008 #14
    What I am getting at is the enormous gap between the intelligence of the whole, and the intelligence of the individual.

    We tend to credit the individual mind with the achievements of the whole. But there isn't anyone alive that could invent a knife from scratch, without any previous knowledge or help from others. I am not saying individuals are unintelligent, but they are very far from the intelligence of the whole.

    Even when you look at your behaviour. You were taught from an early age to put your head in books. You know what happens when you drop people in a 'dumb' environment where they are taught the thing to do is to kill the neighbours from a slightly different tribe, or spend years memorizing the koran, or devote all your resources to building Mo'ai statues. They excel at it. And those are people of your IQ. You can say they are brainwashed. But so are you, only in a different direction (but no less unsustainable).

    Much of your 'intelligent' behaviour is learned and socialized. So that intelligence you should accredit to the whole, rather than to you as an individual. If you invented something, not only did you need the knowledge of others to get to it, you also needed others to let you know it was something worthwhile to do. And only then did you get to add your bit (which no doubt was a tremendous find).

    Look at what motivates a Nobel prize winning scientist. They are not just trying to further the cause of humanity, as much as that is the effect. Scientists, being normal, are a very status conscious bunch. They want to be the best among their peers. The only reason humans evolved the pursuit of status is because that is what gets you in the next generation through 'more food' and 'more sex'. Now there we have Nobel prize winning scientists, motivated ultimately by a mechanism that was meant to get you food and sex. And you don't think there is anything odd about that..

    Again, what I am getting at is the gap between the intelligence of the whole, and the intelligence of the individual before exposing it to the whole. The difference lies in the power of parallel processing through language.

    Putting the individual in its place is relevant because it is the sum of individual silliness that is causing problems.
    Last edited: Jul 30, 2008
  16. Jul 30, 2008 #15


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    I think what every one is objecting to is your assertion that anyone who does NOT invent or "add to the human environment" is a fool! I don't claim to be a genius but that does not make me a fool. Do you not see any room between the two?
  17. Jul 30, 2008 #16
    I dont agree with most of your theory about intelligence. First of all lots of people could invent a knife from scratch. Anyone with a knowledge of metals, metal working and where to find said material can make a knife. The ipod is a different story because it is made with various electronics.

    But in general you seem to have an odd idea about what constitutes intelligence. Just because not everyone is briliiant or a genius does not mean that the standard of intelligence has not gone up in the last few thousand years. I would bet IQ scores today ar egenerally higher than they were 500 years ago, even if one had the iq test back then which I'm not sure was yet present.

    If your point is that most people are not as intelligent as they think they are then thats probbaly true, but the same can be said about anything in respect to human's self-regard. Most people usually have a higher regard for their own virtues or achievements than is merited, but that dosnt mean everyone is as dumb as you think they are.
  18. Jul 30, 2008 #17
    im questioning your intelligence. it sounds like youre just ranting about yourself.
  19. Jul 30, 2008 #18
    More misanthropic ********. Why do people hate their own species so much? It's quite saddening. :cry:
  20. Jul 30, 2008 #19
    for sure.
  21. Jul 31, 2008 #20
    As I said before, you seem to be mistaking technological advancement with intelligence.

    I would disagree with your knife example. Necessity is the mother of invention. I think a cutting implement would be one of the first and easiest tools to be invented by a human with no previous knowledge.

    There is no 'intelligence of the whole'. I would challenge you to define what you mean.

    How is this relevant to your original post? This seems to refute, rather than support your quite unclear points.

    Would an individual living completely outside of any human society devote their time to building monuments or worship? Or would they attempt to make life easier for themselves by trying to understand their natural environment?

    Learning, inventing, creating, pondering; all these are inherent to the individual human physiology, frivolous endeavours arise only through group interactions and social psychology.

    What " 'intelligent' " behaviour are you referring to? People are often vague when no substantive argument exists.

    I have spent many many days, weeks even, completely alone in one of the largest wild areas left in the U.S. Mostly when I was quite young (<17). I can assure you that you will come up with some completely original devices inventions ect. if you where to ever experience a situation such as that.

    Can you provide evidence for your claims on the motives of Nobel prize winning scientist? That, I am afraid, is another tactic one must resort to when a position is lacking.

    Evolutionary psychology is a fairly new and rapidly 'evolving' field. Your appraisal of human behaviour seems quite uninformed, and frankly sounds as if you are assuming your points.

    Again, there is no "intelligence of the whole". I think that you should read up a bit on what intelligence actually is.

    Where did the ability to parallel process arise? Where did language arise? In a big glob of collective brains? Or do you think maybe, in the brains of many separate individuals?

    Now we come to the ugly conclusion of what you are actually attempting to say.

    "Putting the individual in its place" is exactly how one goes about indoctrinating and brainwashing and suppressing.

    "the sum of individual silliness" hmmmmm... that sounds like a valid definition of a familiar word... SOCIETY. Problems arises when individuals attempt to through off any personal identity and define themselves solely as one piece of a collective whole.

    You are defeating yourself. Please stop assuming so so very much and look objectively at what you are saying. I think you will find many holes in your logic. Well I guess you would expect that of yourself though, after all, you are just a lousy individual.

    You really are lucky Ayn Rand isn't here to see this.

    Do not mistake my motives. This is a harsh critique of your procession of logic and is not meant as a thoughtless derision. Please take the points I have addressed seriously.
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