RE: Intelligence, IE, and SI - Part 1

Billy Brown (
Thu, 28 Jan 1999 09:22:19 -0600 wrote:
> The nature of intelligence is somewhat controversial, tied in to the
> dispute over whether intelligence is heritable, and whether different
> races have differences in intelligence. As you say, there are a
> number of different skills which can be identified as part of overall
> "intelligence". One disputed point is whether there is correlation
> among these abilities. Do people who are better at memorizing lists,
> say, also tend to have better logical deduction skills? Are better
> readers also better at math?
> Apparently the statistical data is ambiguous enough that controversy
> remains, although it is possible that the high political stakes are
> enough to explain it. The hypothetical correlation factor is
> called "g", the general intelligence. My impression is that most studies
> show that
> there is such a factor, that broadly speaking people who are better at
> some mental skills tend to be better at others, but there is
> definitely considerable variation in abilities.

If "g" exists, which it probably does, I would expect it to represent some underlying factor that tends to improve performance in a wide range of problem domains - perhaps a difference in raw processing power, or memory, or some meta-skill that contributes to the process of forming new skills.

> This should be a bar (column) graph; I think the various cognitive skills
> would be discrete rather than continuous. (Although this may be in part
> an artifact of the factor analysis technique, which inherently identifies
> discrete basis vectors.)

Agreed. That's actually what I was picturing - I need to work on the description a bit.

> The difficult issue as you try to generalize this to super-intelligence
> is how to scale the Y axis. With humans, we can test people and come
> up with a range of scores which we can normalize with a desired mean and
> standard deviation. However the nature of tests is such that there may be
> no unambiguous way to extrapolate them beyond the range of abilities seen.
> As a simple example, you can't do better than 100% on a test. A test
> may not be able to produce meaningful data outside of a given range..
> Even with open-ended tests, like how quickly something can be done, or
> how many numbers you can remember, it is not clear how to measure an
> ability which is beyond the human level, in quantitative terms. How
> much better do you have to do on a test to have an IQ of 400
> rather than 350? What would such values mean?

IMO, the answer is to test each cognitive ability separately. Then you can build a customized, open-ended test for each ability. Weight each test by subjective importance, and you can combine the results to get an open-ended IQ scale.

Of course, the result really isn't meaningful for anything that doesn't have a reasonably human distribution of abilities. An enhanced human with IQ 500 and an AI with IQ 500 would not be equivalent - the AI would probably be far better at some things, and far worse at others.

> An interesting point this suggests is that a person, today, who is allowed
> to "cheat" on an IQ test by having access to computers and other helpful
> devices, could probably score very highly on some of the sub-tests..
> He could "remember" sequences of virtually any length, for example..
> (All he really needs is pencil and paper for that.) He could come
> up with synonyms, and might be able to handle geometric problems more
> easily as well. The standard formulas assemble the sub-tests into an
> overall score, and his massively increased ability in some areas would
> increase his apparent IQ, possibly significantly.

Actually, I would argue that tests of such simple abilities have little to do with intelligence. They can be useful with humans because we know that they are correlated with intelligence, but they do not themselves mean anything. A human who could memorize strings of thousands of numbers, but was not otherwise above average, would simply be considered a curiosity.

> What is an SI? A Super-Intelligence?

Exactly. Humans have measurable IQs up to something like 200 - 250. Transhuman intelligences would test higher - from the high 200s to a few thousand - with the tests becoming progressively less meaningful as they move further from the human range. An SI is something whose mind has at least thousands of times as much raw processing power as a human brain (and will soon have millions or billions of times as much power - with nanotech even that is a conservative estimate). Its hard to say what that would translate into in terms of IQ, but its obvious that the SIs mind will be very different from ours.

Billy Brown, MCSE+I