This article was originally posted on the 29th July 2019
Just the other week I participated in the podcast “Broken Silicon” discussing future trends in microprocessors, among other topics. Seeing as the recording was done very late at night in my local time, I was half-awake during the discussion which led to some poor reasoning and poor communication on my part. Even so, a listener had this to say about my interventions (or about me in general I guess):
People often make these types of comments on my videos also, and in my day-to-day life I’ve often heard people compliment me in a similar fashion [weird flex]. In addition to an ego boost, this comment led me to write this article on the fallacy of IQ results, the topic of Intelligence, and the fabric of Reality itself!
When people don’t fully understand a field they have a tendency to simplify that field down to their level rather than elevating themselves to the level of the field. This happens when people discuss AI, for instance, but don’t understand how microprocessors work. They worry that AI might become sentient and kill us all, or come up with even more idiotic theories like the one where we are living in a simulation.
The same happens on a political level where a commentator with an agenda will hijack a flawed system that he thinks he understands to justify his beliefs, ultimately making a fool of himself by those who do understand said system. This is often the case with the notion of IQ, where it’s assumed that IQ tests are a measure of intelligence, and dangerous assumptions are made about those with low IQ results. Ironically, if you are highly intelligent – and I will explain what that means in a second – then you will instantly recognize the IQ test as a fraud, and you will understand how dangerous it is to make social/political assumptions based on IQ results.
Now before I continue I need to add a short disclaimer, as it’s necessary for your own well-being. Before you get inflamed, resentful or even angry with the rest of this article (aka triggered), please note that none of what I’m about to say has any political or religious leanings or subversive undertones. Unfortunately we live in a world where you can’t google “what is 1+1” without getting as a search result neo-nazis saying it’s 3, and neo-marxists saying it’s 10, and an ensuing discussion with 100k retweets and 2 billion reddit comments from both sides claiming to be right on the matter. I classify being political as the same as being incredibly dull, boring, and insipid. So I want to make it clear that I don’t subscribe to ideas on the left or on the right exclusively, rather I use an old fashion system for decision making in my life called “Thinking”. If you are enslaved by leftist or rightist ideologies, then you are not less valid or more valid than myself, but there’s a good chance that you will see shadows in my words where there are none. There are no second meanings to what I am about to discuss, there are no hidden agendas, political, religious or otherwise, and there are definitely no ideologies. Your hunger for emotional stimulation will most definitely be better addressed in whatever circle you get your confirmation bias from. This is a place of Reason.
\\ Disclaimer over
The brain – and therefore intelligence – is not comparable in any shape or form to a microprocessor for instance. When you devise a test like the common IQ test to measure intelligence, you are making the assumption that the brain is a logic system, when in reality the brain is a network of systems that influence each other. From the moment you discard something like Intuition from an IQ test, you are immediately identifying yourself as having limited intelligence. No wonder an IQ test suits your narrative then: you are an intuitiveless idiot. [I’m not calling you an idiot mind you. We classify “idiots” as someone who lacks a particular brain system, i.e. the Village Idiot, so if you discard Intuition from the brain system then you are saying that you yourself don’t have it, and are therefore classifying yourself as an idiot]
There is also the problem that an IQ test measures the aptitude for tasks that are similar to the ones in the test. You cannot benchmark the brain, that is the inherent problem with the common IQ test. Intelligence is not synthetic, it’s real – as far as Reality is real. In other words, a measure of intelligence (or mental aptitude) for a particular task can only be measured by performing that exact task, and an individual who is good at Chess might be terrible at Tennis, or at communicating a complicated concept in simple terms, or at making cheese. How foolish it would be to say that Chess players have a greater chance of being great cheese makers simply because they are good at Chess! This is the main problem with the IQ test.
A secondary problem with the IQ test is that there are greater correlations with performance at the low-end of the IQ scale (this is because the IQ test was originally designed to detect learning disabilities), which can lead to assumptions that the same is true at the high-end of the scale. This is incorrect because if I were to remove 30% of your brain you would perform poorly in an IQ test, as well as at any task you were given – at least until neuroplasticity made new brain connections, if at all. But there is no way for me to add 30% more capacity to your brain! Therefore how can a correlation be valid at the higher end of the scale?! It can’t, and this is one of the great mistakes that the “medical” community in this area makes, with dangerous consequences. Using the Chess player analogy again, it’s easy to make the mistake that because someone who can’t learn how to play Chess has a low IQ [in reality this individual will have a hard time learning anything] therefore someone who has a high-IQ will be a Grand Chess Master. The correlation will almost always be there for low-IQ, but not necessarily there for high-IQ, because not everyone with a high IQ can become a Grand Chess Master. Can you see how flawed the IQ test is then for measuring performance or aptitude in generalities? This important for what we will be discussing next.
Intuition greatly affects logic and decision making, and just because we can’t open the brain up and point to a part and say “that’s intuition right there” doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. Claiming Intuition doesn’t exist (or even worse ignoring its power) is as foolish as denying the existence of God, or claiming that God exists, as factual notions. Why? If the existence or nonexistence of God is subject to what we perceive to be Reality, and if Reality is created inside our brains using 5 senses, when you say that God doesn’t exist then you are saying that only the 5 senses that govern our Reality-making exist. Imagine how ridiculous it would be for an individual who does not have a sense of hearing to say that sound doesn’t exist. Most of you, who are equipped with hearing, would call this person a fool. Of course sound exists, you can hear it. In the same manner, a being with a higher degree of consciousness can look at you and think “What a fool this person is for claiming that God does not exist!”. Such claims are always constrained by your tools to produce Reality (commonly referred to as your “5 senses”).
Similarly, be careful if you are tempted to claim that Intuition doesn’t exist because it can’t be measured or because you can’t sense it. If you do, you will inevitably be classifying yourself as an idiot with limited brain capacity (you really need to stop doing that). It’s the same as saying that Reason doesn’t exist: you will inevitably be defining yourself as lacking the capacity for reasoning.
So if we assume that intuition can exist (spoiler: it does), how can an IQ test that doesn’t account for intuition be a measure for intelligence?! It can’t. But can it be a measure for logic alone? No, because again logic is part of a complex system that is influenced by both Intuition and Primal Instincts. Even if we ignore Intuition, what are your IQ results going to be after 2 days without eating compared to just having eaten the best meal of your life? What are your IQ results going to be after 10 years living on the streets not knowing if you will be alive tomorrow, compared to having lived all your life in the most luxurious of comforts? Your primal brain will greatly influence your ability to reason, both in such extreme circumstances, but also in more nuanced levels [being nervous about scoring low in an IQ test will trigger some of your primal instincts for instance, therefore impacting the result].
So what IS intelligence, and can it be measured?
There are many examples of what’s known as neuroplasticity, which is the brain’s ability to use different parts to perform the same tasks, even when the original parts are damaged (for instance in an accident). An example of this would be someone who lost their motor functions because of brain damage, but “re-learns” to walk through physiotherapy. The brain will create new connections in other regions of the brain, using new brain cells, that perform the same tasks as the original region of the brain that was lost (the primary motor cortex is the system originally responsible for motor function).
Neuroplasticity proves that the brain is not a static system (if any proof was needed), and that intelligence is therefore flexible and itself plastic. Some will claim that you are doomed to remain at your level of intelligence all your life because your IQ stays static or declines as you age, but never increases. This is why I started this article by debunking the notion of IQ as a measure of intelligence. Intelligence has plasticity because the brain has plasticity. And I don’t even have to tell you that, because your intuition has always told you that (see, I told you Intuition existed).
A problem that will chase you throughout your entire life is the issue of energy management, or calorie usage, which aims to maintain a functioning body and prolong your life through minimizing how many calories you use. Your brain has evolved (both in your lifetime and in your ancestors lifetime) to make the most out of the food you consume. There’s a reason why we get fat, the brain is telling the body to store calories because we might need them to survive at a later point. The brain’s self-preservation mechanism is at odds with its own capacity for development. What this means is that this system will constantly work to sabotage your intelligence. If you try to learn something new, your brain will need extra energy to create new connections, and this self-preservation system will find every possible way to convince you that you shouldn’t be wasting calories. This is why you procrastinate. This is why you prefer to sit on the sofa and watch a movie rather than learn how to code. Learning how to code requires a lot more calories than passively watching a movie. The vast majority of movies are formulaic in nature (aka they are all more or less predictable) and therefore your brain doesn’t have to work too hard to follow along. By the way this is why dumb-down movies are increasingly popular. Superhero movies are all essentially the same, with different coats of paint, so the brain of the mass media consumer loves them! [Disney says thanks!]
Whenever your brain is faced with a challenge you will have to defeat this self-preservation system. If you are telling yourself “I wish I could learn X but I’m just not smart enough!”, beware. This is not you talking, this is your self-preservation system. And why does this system purposefully use words instead of just using your arm to slap you in the face whenever you try to learn something new? Why do you justify yourself to your friends about your lack of personal growth with words like “If only I had more time!” or “I’d love to do that, but it goes over my head!”? Words, or rather, the Word, is the instrument that translates the fabric of Reality into something that can be understood by the mind. What that means is that Words are incredibly powerful, and can distort reality in a positive or negative way more than anything else. Without words there is no Reality. Words are Thoughts decoded. No one knows what thoughts are. Think of it this way, if I show you some binary code like 01000010 01110010 01100001 01101001 01101110 you have no idea what it means. It’s meaningless, just some zeros and ones. But a binary interpreter will tell you that it means “Brain”. Similarly, Words are Thoughts decoded so that we can understand them and transfer them to others. By the way this is why Freedom of Speech or a lack of it can have a tremendous impact on how Reality is created. [Further reading: George Orwell’s 1984]
Here’s a tip to defeating this self-preservation system: Be faster than a synapse! If you take action before your brain can convince you to stop, then you’ve already won. Don’t feel like doing the dishes? Turn the tap on and start washing them! Much to your surprise, you’ll find that you don’t even mind doing the dishes that much once you’ve started. Don’t feel like going to the gym? Before any thought forms in your brain, hurry and put your shorts and training shoes on and leave the house. The longer you let your self-preservation system act, the more challenging the task will seem, and the greater the inertia will be. The same applies to developing your intelligence. This is the only way to practice beating this system consistently. With time, this will come naturally: I’m sure you have heard the elderly people in your life refer to this as “discipline”. Your self-preservation system probably did a good job making you ignore them.
So if you have made it this far you might now have a sneaky suspicion that intelligence is actually not a measure of cognitive ability. It’s also not a measure of performance that encompasses all fields, or particularly challenging ones. It’s not even material as a concept. Turns out Intelligence is a choice.
IF you fail to understand this then you will have a hard time understanding some of the more complex questions that life will occasionally slap you in the face with. Questions like: “Why am I alive?”, “What is the purpose of life?, “What is real?”, “What is consciousness?”, “What exists after life?”, “Why am I depressed?”, “Why does Adobe keep making Premiere worse with every new release?”.
To understand the concept of Intelligence we need to talk about Consciousness and the Mind, because the three are closely linked. Your brain’s interpreter of reality is actually made up of more systems than just the 5 senses. In most cultures, we are taught that these systems are sustained by three pillars: the Philosophical, the Scientific, and the Spiritual. This is why in most cultures the first 18 years of your life are spent conditioning your brain around these pillars. Everything you learn is to standardize your Reality in line with millennia of compounded human growth and development. If we all had to start from the beginning we would still be reptiles. Great cultural shifts can have an impact in which of these pillars will have the greater influence on you as you grow, but they will all be there [i.e. The Illuminism has skewed things in favor of the Scientific and Philosophical in western cultures, while in the middle-east the Spiritual is the predominant pillar. Note that for the interest of this discussion, there is no right or wrong approach, cultural bias is a conditioning factor whatever your beliefs are – much more so than you think.]
So starting with the Mind, whether you like it or not these three pillars have molded your mind to be what it is to a great extent. In reality the Mind is simply a holistic system that encompasses your brain, your soul and your body [implicitly through its senses, and explicitly through how it functions]. We will not cover the unconscious as it doesn’t add value to this rather long article.
Because of the sheer volume of knowledge that humanity has gathered over thousands of years, it’s convenient to simplify the Mind and give meaning to your existence by filling each of these components with content related to the three great pillars of interpretation. But that doesn’t mean that your mind is actually limited to them! Whatever you’ve been told, your mind doesn’t have to be constrained and standardized. This is why questions like “Why do I exist?” are so scary for so many people, they have the potential to challenge and disrupt the internal systems that took decades to construct. There is no right mind or wrong mind. The proof of this is that we call someone “crazy” when they act outside of the standards. There could be a pathological reason why they act that way, of course, I’m not denying that, but it’s curious that we will label people as crazy or geniuses when they deviate from the norm, in what has been classified as a negative or positive fashion, yet we don’t define ourselves as not-crazy or not-geniuses, we tend to define ourselves as normal.
The notion of normalization is extremely dangerous, and is another great obstacle to intelligence development. What if I told you that you only have one life to live? Well guess what, as far as we know, you really only have one life, let that obvious statement finally sink in. So if that’s the case, why be normal? Why not be crazy? Why not be a genius? Being a genius, believe it or not, has very little to do with an innate ability (although there are exceptions). Being classified as a genius by others is a matter of choice. By the way, I’m not saying you should define yourself by what others think of you, quite the contrary. I’m talking abstractly about the general definition of “genius”.
The most important thing to understand about the Mind is that it is responsible for creating Reality, and if that’s the case and if being a genius is a choice, and if intelligence is a choice, we have to conclude that Reality is itself a choice. How do I know? I have a youtube channel with 70K subscribers. Three years ago I didn’t. How did that happen?! I chose for it to be my reality. For that reality to materialize obviously there were steps that I needed to take. But how many people out there who are just getting started on youtube wished they had 70K subscribers? How many people wished they had a million subscribers? Wishing is meaningless when it comes to Reality making, remember that when you look for excuses for why your Reality is what it is. Remember that when you blame others or a particular system for your set of circumstances. There are mechanisms for creating Reality but those go beyond the subject at hand. Suffice it to say: don’t let your conditioning dictate what your mind is capable of doing and don’t conform to whatever expectations there are of who you should be, whatever you’ve been told. IF you don’t free your Mind of all this conditioning by others and by your culture, are you really yourself?
Consciousness is a tougher concept to grasp, but I have a theory of what it is, or a work-in-progress-theory. I suspect that every single thing is intent on becoming conscious, but at different levels of consciousness, and that includes us. A rock is intent on becoming conscious, but not in the same way that we are conscious. What does that mean? If the Cosmos [the system that encompasses everything including the universe] is to exist, then it needs to be validated. Things only exist if their existence can be observed or validated somehow. How can the Cosmos exist then without consciousness? Why would the Cosmos exist if there was no consciousness to validate its existence? This leads us to the question of how and why was the Cosmos created. We have two choices, we either accept that the Cosmos exists randomly and for no reason; or that it was created with a purpose. Neither claim is false or true by the way. However, assuming the Cosmos is random invalidates pretty much everything that is not random, like the fact that you cannot divide something by zero. Such an operation is undefined. IF the Cosmos was random, then there was a random chance that something could be divided by zero and give you a concrete result. Alternatively, if we assume that the Cosmos was instead created, then we have to assume that there is an entity that created it. This is an ancient concept of course, and humans have written texts as old as Mankind itself that cover this topic. I could use any of them as an example, but being a westerner I will use the Bible as it’s the one that I’m familiar with [see the chapter above on cultural conditioning].
The Bible states that God created the Cosmos because God is Love. It’s a strange concept, but it makes perfect sense when you think about it. How can God exist if there is no one to validate His/Her existence? The only way that God can be validated through its own definition (love) is by creating a similar Being that can interpret and create Reality using the same mechanisms. Thus Love is a language that decodes Reality from the perspective of the creator and the created, this is true in the case of God and Creation, but also from the perspective of a father and a son, an analogy often used in religious texts. [By the way the fact that the Bible defines God as Love means that life itself, from a spiritual perspective, has to be connected to love for it to have significance.]
From this we can infer that if there is a Creator and this creator is Love, then the Cosmos exists to validate the notion of love, and Consciousness is a progressive state towards having a varying degrees of understanding of what Love means. This is why animals have a very low level of consciousness (but they do have it) but are capable of love to some extent, and why humans throughout history who achieved a greater level of consciousness invariably spoke of Love as the ultimate goal for personal significance. Figures like the Buda or Jesus Christ are good examples of beings who achieved greater consciousness, to the point of being regarded as figures worthy of praise and followship throughout the world, in different cultures – despite conditioning forces from competing interests’ best attempts to neutralize such icons.
Note that your religious beliefs are irrelevant for this discussion. The notion of a Creator is separate from religious teachings or beliefs, to the point that throughout history, in different points of the globe, and with varying degrees of conditioning, humans have always had a leaning for accepting the concept of a Creator, even in the most remote places, in the most isolated tribes. If you are an atheist remember that it’s foolish to criticize a path you haven’t walked. Like I said, there is no right or wrong answer to the questions of the existence of God, the purpose of the Cosmos, or if it’s all random. The only thing you can say is that “God exists for my reality” or “God does not exist for my reality”. Again, it’s foolish to try and prove that God doesn’t exist by saying you can’t “See Him”, “Touch Him”, “Hear Him” or based on any other sense, because like I explained earlier you will be limiting Reality to your senses, and therefore labeling yourself as an idiot (again!).
To conclude, even though I appreciate comments like the one that spurred this article, choosing to be more intelligent will ultimately lead you to personal growth in many areas, and that in turn leads to a greater understanding of some of the fundamental questions in life. Never let someone tell you that because you have a low IQ you cannot perform at a certain level at any given task (like designing microprocessors, creating a successful Youtube channel, or creating the next Facebook or iPhone), especially if that person is yourself. I’ll leave you with this thought: Have you ever seen the sun set over the ocean? Have you ever seen other people looking at the sun setting over the ocean? That look in people’s faces is not just an appreciation of nature’s beauty. That is the contemplative look of someone who looks at the horizon and sees the story of their lives. They see themselves, or rather, the very best possible version of themselves in that horizon. That’s the version of themselves that overcame great challenges, that went to the gym and got in shape, that learned how to code, that became a better father, or a better son, that learned a new language or ten, that perfected themselves at playing the guitar or the piano, that learned to control their emotions, that built a family, that built a stronger character, that built a legacy. But that perfect version of themselves that they see when they look at the horizon has a sun setting on them. That sun represents time. You have a limited amount of time to become that person. The sun is setting. All you have to do is choose if you want to stay here, looking from a distance at what you could have been, or to create your own reality. Be smart about it 😉