Tag Archives | Intelligence

Crows Are Capable Of Human-Style Reasoning

Today, this news, tomorrow, a bird parliament. Crows living in a controlled environment have shown that they possess a sophisticated form of reasoning believed to be a hallmark of humanity alone, Wired writes:

A type of sophisticated thinking known as “causal reasoning” [is] inferring that mechanisms you can’t see may be responsible for something. But humans aren’t alone in this ability: New Caledonian crows can also reason about hidden mechanisms, or “causal agents,” a team of scientists report in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. It’s the first time that this cognitive ability has been experimentally demonstrated in a species other than humans.

The tests show that the crows are “capable of causal reasoning,” Taylor says. “We expected the crows to initially be scared of the moving stick. Instead, they only became scared when they could not attribute the movement to a hidden human—which suggests the crows were reasoning that the stick’s movement was caused by that human.” The crows, he says, apparently don’t expect an inanimate object to move on its own.

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Intelligence As The Marker Of The Meritocratic Elite

Historian C.F. Goodey on the varying terms the elite have used to justify their elite status, via New Left Project:

Four hundred years ago, religious elites saw themselves as superior because they possessed “grace.” This was an inner ability that God had predetermined in a small, distinct group. It was fixed in your nature, “seminally” (i.e. before birth or even conception). “Election” to grace guaranteed your elite status in this life and salvation in the next.

Secular elites, on the other hand, were superior because they possessed “honour.” This too was a predetermined psychological ability. It was fixed not by God but by the quality of certain natural particles in your blood – with a passing nod to the idea that the odd commoner might gradually cultivate enough “virtue” to earn himself a title, as long as he topped the virtue up with services to the state, or flat cash.

Modern meritocratic elites, meanwhile, are superior because they possess “intelligence.” This again is a predetermined psychological ability.

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Harvard Study Says Fluoride Lowers Children’s IQ

But it keeps their teeth shiny white and strong for photos. Via the Harvard School of Public Health:

In a meta-analysis, researchers from Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) and China Medical University in Shenyang for the first time combined 27 studies and found strong indications that fluoride may adversely affect cognitive development in children.

The researchers conducted a systematic review of studies, almost all of which are from China where risks from fluoride are well-established. Fluoride is a naturally occurring substance in groundwater, and exposures to the chemical are increased in some parts of China. Virtually no human studies in this field have been conducted in the U.S., said lead author Anna Choi, research scientist in the Department of Environmental Health at HSPH.

They then analyzed possible associations with IQ measures in more than 8,000 children of school age; all but one study suggested that high fluoride content in water may negatively affect cognitive development.

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The Ignorance of ‘Intelligence’

Some years ago, I met a major in American intelligence, a member of the “Red Cell Unit.”

As he explained it to me, his unit was actually charged with assessing other spy shops by offering other views, critiquing intelligence estimates and perhaps even evaluating security systems like the specialists who test airport systems by probing for their soft spots and vulnerabilities, and seeing if they can beat them.

This soldier had been sent as one more gung-ho officer into the war in Iraq only to return, like many, if not disillusioned, aware that all was not working well. He was actually involved in guarding so called HVP’s (High Value Prisoners) including Saddam Hussein himself, who he came to respect for his intelligence before his untimely demise with a rope around his neck.

Saddam’s many crimes and errors were often dwarfed by our own.

The United States today has a vast intelligence apparatus, on the ground, in the sky and even in space.… Read the rest

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Why Smart People Are Stupid

Some fascinating insights into stupidity courtesy of Jonah Lehrer in the New Yorker:

Here’s a simple arithmetic question: A bat and ball cost a dollar and ten cents. The bat costs a dollar more than the ball. How much does the ball cost?

The vast majority of people respond quickly and confidently, insisting the ball costs ten cents. This answer is both obvious and wrong. (The correct answer is five cents for the ball and a dollar and five cents for the bat.)

For more than five decades, Daniel Kahneman, a Nobel Laureate and professor of psychology at Princeton, has been asking questions like this and analyzing our answers. His disarmingly simple experiments have profoundly changed the way we think about thinking. While philosophers, economists, and social scientists had assumed for centuries that human beings are rational agents—reason was our Promethean gift—Kahneman and his scientific partner, the late Amos Tversky, demonstrated that we’re not nearly as rational as we like to believe.

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Can Plants Sense Human Intentions?

Can plants, bacteria, and even yogurt identify with your pain? How wide is the gulf between man and plant, if there is a gulf at all? If you're going to have an argument with your significant other, consider avoiding doing so in front of your potted fern:
“As the races of man speak in different languages so do the varieties of plants manifest their voices in different ways. They seem to be able to hear and understand us. For the time being, however, we must listen to them through our machines. One day, those machines may be unnecessary.”
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William Gibson Answers Readers’ Questions on Intelligence Communities, Style and More

WilliamGibson

Photo: Gonzo Bonzo (CC)

Here are some notes from an older (September 2010) questions and answers session from William Gibson’s Zero History tour. Via Technoccult:

Asked about the intelligence communities in his books

I don’t want anyone to think I’ve gone “Tom Clancy” but what you find is that you have fans in every line of work. How reliable those narrators are I don’t know, but they tell a good story.

Asked about humor in his work.

Neuromancer was not without a comedic edge. My cyberpunk colleagues and I back in our cyberpunk rat hole sniggered mightily as we slapped our knees.

But writers can’t have more than two hooks. “Gritty, punky,” sure. “Gritty, punky, funny” doesn’t work.

I asked him about the slogan “Never in fashion, always in style” because I read that slogan on his blog and never found out what company that slogan actually belonged to.

Aero Leathers in Scotland.

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Does The U.S. Have A Team In Iran?

MEK IranMiddle East expert Seymour Hersh reveals the United States’ military’s ties with The People’s Mujahedin of Iran, a/k/a M.E.K., in the New Yorker:

From the air, the terrain of the Department of Energy’s Nevada National Security Site, with its arid high plains and remote mountain peaks, has the look of northwest Iran. The site, some sixty-five miles northwest of Las Vegas, was once used for nuclear testing, and now includes a counterintelligence training facility and a private airport capable of handling Boeing 737 aircraft. It’s a restricted area, and inhospitable—in certain sections, the curious are warned that the site’s security personnel are authorized to use deadly force, if necessary, against intruders.

It was here that the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) conducted training, beginning in 2005, for members of the Mujahideen-e-Khalq, a dissident Iranian opposition group known in the West as the M.E.K. The M.E.K. had its beginnings as a Marxist-Islamist student-led group and, in the nineteen-seventies, it was linked to the assassination of six American citizens.

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Internet Makes Smart People Smarter, Dumb People Dumber

Or so claims Kevin Drum, writing for Mother Jones, and using his attempt to Google the price of milk as a supporting anecdote. The theory (that the internet increases “cognitive inequality”) has yet to be tested via scientific study, but, does it ring true?

Moral of the story: the internet makes dumb people dumber and smart people smarter. If you don’t know how to use it, or don’t have the background to ask the right questions, you’ll end up with a head full of nonsense. But if you do know how to use it, it’s an endless wealth of information. Just as globalization and de-unionization have been major drivers of the growth of income inequality over the past few decades, the internet is now a major driver of the growth of cognitive inequality. Caveat emptor.

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