PSYCHOLOGY: Increasing Intelligence

David Musick (
Tue, 14 Jan 97 21:17:53 UT

Hal Finney expressed skepticism at my claims of having significantly increased
my intelligence through the mental disciplines I've developed over the past
few years. And rightly so; how would he know how smart I was a few years ago
or how smart I am now, having only read my posts to this list? I certainly
*believe* I have increased my intelligence significantly over the past few
years, but maybe I've been smart my whole life but I just perceive myself as
smarter now because I'm so fascinated with my own intelligence that I pay more
attention to it and therefore it seems to have increased. I mean, how could
one really increase such a poorly understood and mysterious quality, such as
*intelligence*, without doing some major changes to the brain structure? How
could something like *mental disciplines* have an effect on something as basic
as intelligence?

Can we really increase our intelligence by changing the way we think? Can we
train our minds to be more intelligent? Or are we stuck at a certain level
that we can never go beyond, except through sophisticated physical
manipulation of our brains?

What do we even *mean* by "intelligence"? Is the ability to solve complex
problems an aspect of intelligence? What about the ability to see meaningful
patterns in data? What about the ability to learn new skills? Or the ability
to understand things clearly? Or the ability to perform tasks accurately and
efficiently in a complex environment? Are these abilities all aspects of
intelligence (but not necessarily the *only* aspects of intelligence)?

If those abilities are aspects of intelligence, can someone who has these
abilities improve them through practice and refinement? Can one increase
one's abilities through practice? If I am able to solve complex problems, can
I improve my abilities by solving lots of complex problems and continually
increasing the complexity and difficulty of the problems I am solving? If I
am able to learn new things, can I improve my learning skills by practicing
learning new things? Or will I always be at the same level of ability no
matter how much I practice?

Our daily experience tells us that people *do* improve their abilities through
practice. Does a concert pianist have the same musical ability they had when
they first began playing the piano? Does a skilled computer programmer have
the same programming ability as the first time they used a computer? Does a
skilled philosopher understand things in as much depth as when they first
began their inquiry?

I am profoundly fascinated with intelligence; especially my own. I always
have been. I have always been highly intelligent (although, until recently,
not very outgoing). I have watched the development of my mind with
fascination, and I have kept a fervent watch for ways to improve my
intelligence. My basic ambition is to become an incredibly brilliant genius.
I am driven quite strongly toward this goal, and I am always looking for ways
to improve my intelligence and trying out lots of different approaches.

The most reliable way I have found to increase my intelligence is to
diligently practice the area of ability I wish to improve. I wish to be an
excellent problem solver, so I am always giving myself difficult problems to
solve, and my abilities in this area have improved significantly, and I just
keep increasing the difficulty of the problems I give myself, and I keep
rising to the challenge and improving my problem solving skills. I wish to
have a clear and accurate understanding of as much as I can, so I practice
thinking about things I don't understand as well as I want to, until I
understand them more clearly and accurately, and the more I practice, the
stronger my skills at understanding things grow. I want to be a more accurate
and intense observer, so I practice paying intense attention to as many
details of my sensory experience as I can, and my environment has become
dramatically richer and more detailed for me, and I am able to pay attention
to a much greater number of things simultaneously than I ever have been.

There are many, many other abilities I am working on also, all with great
success. But all my success in improving my various abilities has come
through dilligent practice. I can understand why Hal would be skeptical, even
at this point, that practice of abilities will actually raise one's
*intelligence*. I think that is because if one works on only a few abilities
and improves them significantly, one's general intelligence isn't affected a
great deal, except in those areas. However, my approach is to practice
*every* ability I am aware I have, and this approach *does* raise my general
level of intelligence because I improve my skills in a tremendous number of

I am always working on improving *something* in my mind. There are so many
things to work on, so many areas of intelligence to improve, that in any given
moment, there is always something I am very interested in working on. It's my
extreme diligence and broad-based approach that have led to the dramatic
increases in intelligence I am experiencing.

Those reading this, such as Hal, will probably remain skeptical of my claims
of dramatically increased intelligence, and they *should* be skeptical. For
all you know, I'm making this up. But hopefully my claims seem more
*reasonable*, especially since the phenomena of practicing an ability and
consequently improving it is such a common experience. My main hope, though,
is that more people will work on improving their minds, that more people will
develop and strengthen the mental disciplines required to increase one's
intelligence. Intelligence doesn't come easy; it takes a lot of hard work,
and it must be constantly maintained so it doesn't deteriorate. But, with a
lot of practice and intense personal discipline, it is possible to improve
one's intelligence quite dramatically.

- David Musick

-- Pay close attention to everything, and improve everything you can. --