Intelligence and Environment (was Re: Better People)

Stephen Adamson (
Sun, 06 Jun 1999 09:03:55 GMT

Theta 8008 wrote:
> I have read various articles about intelligence which favor genetics
>and others which favor environment as the larger cause for whether a person
>is intelligent or creative or not. Personally, I think that as long as
>genetics has provided you with a working brain, that the rest is pretty much
>up to you. A favorable, stimulating environment helps, but the lack of such
>can be made up for.
> No one in my family is anywhere near as intelligent or creative as I
>am. I am pretty sure that I was not switched at the hospital, so unless I am
>a throwback to some forgotten genius in the mists of my family's ancient
>history, I figure that I did not INHERIT my intellect. Likewise, the
>environment that I grew up in was very far from encouraging.
> As a very small child, my earliest perception about myself and others
>was of a fundamental difference. It was "intelligence" (even if I did not
>yet know the word, I had the feeling of it). I consciously took on the
>purpose and ambition of enhancing this difference. As a child, this meant
>study, greedily taking in whatever knowledge that I could get. As I got
>older, I started to think more about intelligence itself: clear and
>efficient perception, cognition and communication. So, from then to now, I
>have played around with memory improvement, semantics, creativity
>enhancement, brain nutrition and so on.

Lately my thoughts have been rotating around the positive effects that the Internet (Web, Information Superhighway, whatever form it will eventually have), in the form of what Blackmore (The Meme Machine) calls "Horizontal Memetic Evolution", will have on society in general, particularly on developing, precocious kids.

I think that one of the best memes that we can get out today is the meme that Knowledge and Information are the very best thing one can do for oneself. That meme already seems to be spreading as people realize that 1) the world is getting increasingly complicated and 2) the smart people make all the money. If people pursue knowledge, and that knowledge is everywhere, one would hope that some of the bad, wrong, or dangerous memes (such as, for instance, Violence as conflict resolution, Dependency on government, Religious dogmatism) would begin to die out.

But what will happen to the precocious kid who has the Internet at his fingertips-- the world's biggest library, the world's biggest thinktank, the world as his peer group?

	Consider: 25 years ago, a smart, aspiring young teen asks:
	"Dad, why don't satellites fall to the Earth?"
	Dad thinks for a long time and finally says: "That's a really
good question, son. I guess it must be because they go so darn fast." And that's the end of it. The young man can go to the library or a science teacher, (and probably would), considering that was feasible.

Consider that against today when the father says "Well, *I* don't know, but we can do an Internet search and find out," and the kid knows by the end of the evening.

That's possible today, but will become even more common in the Future. I would contend that in 6-10 years there will be no one who doesn't have Internet access in some way, either through Set-Top boxes, public terminals, or ubiquitous cheap PCs (which I see as most likely). I told my own Dad recently that in 15 years, take the average 11-12 year old child and ask him who his 3 best friends are (his primary peer group) and I think that it will be the odd child who *doesn't* have a best friend whom he has never met in real life. And what will that kind of kid (the young members of this group, for instance) do when his peers are everyone, and everything equally? How much would that counter early environmental factors? I think it would quite a bit.

You can visit my website, but I haven't updated in a while:
Or my online fiction which is (gasp!) not Science Fiction :)