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Some thought experiment on intelligence

  1. Sep 30, 2011 #1

    This occurred to me in a conversation with a friend, so nothing overly serious.

    Suppose that through some means, for example a surgery, we could amplify the intelligence of people without altering the memories they accumulated throughout life, including how fast things proceed, like how fast someone talks to them or how fast they go through a math textbook.

    So we administer Bob an IQ test and he scores 100
    Then we perform the surgery on Bob.
    We test Bob again and he scores 200
    We observe Bob for a year, and he seems to be learning everything faster than before. He becomes a great chess player, he learns a whole new language within months and finds college mathematics to be a joke. So, and in accordance with his last score, it's safe to assume that he's indeed more intelligent and the surgery worked.

    To the observers, he seems to be getting things done much faster.

    But what about his point of view?

    Since Bob has retained his memories before the surgery, does he feel his thought is faster than before, or does he feel the world around him going slower?

    The real question behind this thought experiment is how does our subjective perception of time correlate with intelligence and if there is any way to know that.
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 30, 2011 #2
    Speaking from experience, I can safely say he would feel the world around him going slower.
  4. Sep 30, 2011 #3


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    I would posit that you have woven in a few 'false axioms' into your opening lines, particularly; a) that if you can come up with 'intelligent answers' that you would also come up with normal answers quicker than 'average' folks, b) that intelligence and memories are not linked.

    I'd suggest that you might need to clarify, or straighten out, these sources of potential inconsistency in the scenario first. But in general, this reminds me of me at school. I was 'clever' but oh-so-unstreetwise. Looking back, I was in my own funny little world (some would likely claim I still am!). I was 'sent' to a Grammar school. I didn't really know what that was at the time, in the greater scheme of things. After a while, as lessons dragged on so slowly as the others never seemed to 'get' anything fast enough and we went over the material for the nth time, I asked why the school took in such 'slow' pupils. It was then explained to me that Grammar schools only took in the top 5% achievers.

    So as a basic opinion, I'd agree that Bob would be left wondering why everyone was so slow to figure stuff out that he could see in an instant. But I would qualify that by saying that sometimes too much intellect and analysis slows you down and others who are 'luckier' and bolder than you are get the 'prizes'. Jumping to a snap conclusion is often valued in society above making a careful and intelligent holistic response. Just look at who's in charge of politics and money, if you want evidence of that.

    I learned long ago that it's better to be lucky that clever. You'd never curse your good luck. Stupidity has saved many men from madness, a sense of failure, and/or from being political targets.
  5. Sep 30, 2011 #4
    Intelligence is a vague term, but I suppose it's partly correlated with learning speed. That being the case, if someone could enter a state of mind where they were "speeded up" relative to others then they would be able to read a book in a few minutes by other's reckoning, and end up looking more intelligent in the sense of being much faster.

    This scenario, though, ignores the matter of reading comprehension. If their reading comprehension were poor, what would it benefit them to read poorly faster? If their reading comprehension were already excellent, then doing it faster might make them seem REALLY smart, yes.

    If you entered a state of mind where your perception of the passage of time were speeded up, I think those around you would look to be moving very slowly. The speeded up person would seem to be moving very quickly to the normal people. They might even be moving so fast they were imperceptible, as per old Star trek episodes.
  6. Oct 1, 2011 #5
    a) I'm not sure I understand what you mean here and how it relates to the experiment. Perhaps you can clarify.

    b) I guess you mean here that knowledge(which translates to memories) is a part of intelligence. Ok, then let's say that Bob is a 5y.o with no significant knowledge of the world, but still remembers how fast he can read an elementary math book.

    Hmm I'm not sure of that. I view intelligence as a tool to achieve goals. No matter how intelligent one is, there is never enough time to think every detail about a political or an economical action. One has to choose how much time one will spent to think about something. That applies to anyone, even the smartest people. Also, one can't always be lucky, unless he is a statistical outlier. And boldness sometimes brings rewards, sometimes not, sometimes destruction! I can't think of how intelligence could ever hurt, unless it comes with a host of psychological problems.

    Well it certainly is the most important. Even how much intelligent you are is a matter of luck (genes, upbringing etc)
  7. Oct 1, 2011 #6
    I think so too. I imagine studying some math textbook. No matter my intelligence, It would feel the same while studying it. But when I look at the clock, more time would have passed if I was less intelligent, and vice versa.

    Another question here could be whether more intelligent people have access to thoughts that less intelligent people can never have access or everyone can have the same thoughts, but more intelligent means they have them faster. If in other words there is a qualitative difference between thoughts of people with different intelligence.
  8. Oct 1, 2011 #7
    my reading speed and comprehension go up significantly when i already know and understand the material.
  9. Oct 1, 2011 #8
    Intelligence is more of an ability to see how seemingly disjointed ideas fit together to solve a particular problem. There are questions that someone with an IQ of 100 could stare at for the rest of their life and not get to the answer someone with an IQ of 200 might knock off in a second. A person who had such an operation would feel divorced from his former self. He would remember but not be that person and would develop new paradigms of how he sees the world and his place in it. IMO
    As to perception of time, certainly he would be capable of doing far more in any alloted amount of time in comparison to his former self but the subjective perception of the passage of time would feel the same. IMO
    As we get older some of us -like me- slow down intelectually and in retrospect can remember the glory days of our youth. The perception of the passage of time is the same for both periods, it is just that not as much gets done now in the same period of time. We are different people throughout our lives. (Musically -time dependant, nothing has changed, if anything I play better now than back in my twenties- but that's just from paying yer dues.)

  10. Oct 1, 2011 #9
    What was this experience? Did you have a lobotomy and time began to feel faster?
  11. Oct 1, 2011 #10
    Can I be Bob?
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