Re: IQ and the Flynn effect

Keith Elis (
Tue, 30 Sep 1997 13:43:07 -0400

Derek Strong wrote:

> This is unprecedented in terms of available input to the human brain. I
> don't know if this explains the Flynn Effect, but it is certainly a big
> difference. I believe that if you took, say, a Bushman from the Outback of
> Australia, and sat him down in front of a good John Woo flick (Broken Arrow
> or Face/Off, for instance), there would be many scenes he simply would not
> be able to absorb, because he has no practice taking input at that rate.


> Probably, (wild speculation here), this trend can be traced back to before
> the advent of television. Emerging forms of media have allowed us to speed
> up and vary our brain input in many ways, if you think about it. Wouldn't
> you expect this training to have some effect on our intelligence?

I am reminded of Dan's proposal for a computer-human interface that, in his
opinion, would lend much to the actualization of a singularity. His proposal,
in short (the full text can be found at ), is that the human
visual system is well-attuned to receiving data at a high bandwidth. Jumping
off from that point, if the available input to the human brain does indeed
explain the Flynn effect, then the interface Dan proposed is something that
software designers should be seriously pursuing.

First we must ask, what is intelligence? Intelligence seems different from
"smartness." Where smartness is probably a function of understanding,
inventiveness, and (as Eliezer has suggested) what you see as obvious,
intelligence seems to be more a measure of one's capacity for smartness based
upon speed of data synthesis, ability to follow a train of thought (cogitate),
and flexibility in established cognitive method (if something doesn't work, try
something else). By these definitions, I think that over time, increased input
rates will have some kind of effect on intelligence but not smartness. It makes
at least some sense to argue that a quickly-changing visual environment, and
increased input rates, will improve one's speed of synthesis and flexibility,
if not cogitation. In this sense, we can be "trained" to deal with input more
efficiently. But this does not mean we are any smarter. It means we have an
increased capacity, and may become smarter if our hardwiring allows the option.
The difference between a relatively smart AI and a relatively dumb AI is not
the speed of the platform but rather the programming. And I've yet to see how
an ability to cope with higher and higher visual input rates changes anything
other than your ability to cope with higher and higher visual input

Keith M. Elis
AKA Hagbard (to the initiated)

COMMANDMENT VII: Vestigialize thine brain.