Re: Intelligence increase

From: Robin Hanson (
Date: Mon Oct 09 2000 - 12:42:05 MDT

Peter McCluskey wrote:
>I question the appropriateness of using Flynn effect theories to predict
>machine intelligence increases (but I suspect you are right that super-
>intelligence will result from widespread breakthroughs).

Well you obviously have a lot of company, as long threads continue on
about how AIs will explode in intelligence, and no one yet seems to think
my position plausible enough to be worth offering an argument against it.

I find it striking that people seem to think that the speed and nature of
learning is one area where AIs will be very different from humans, even
though they seem to think AIs will be similar in so many other ways,
including having consciousness, wanting to squash bugs, being unable to
clearly articulate their goals, etc. In contrast, I think that while many
other details can differ a lot, the speed and nature of learning is not
one of them. Yes, maybe AIs can redesign their hardware and low level
code, but I don't see that giving big wins after the first easy wins are

> My current hypothesis for what is causing the Flynn effect is based on
>the kind of sexual selection that is described in The Mating Mind. I
>claim that women alter the importance they attach to intelligence in
>mate selection in response to changes in the relative importance of
>intelligence as a measure of a man's ability to earn a reliable living.
>The industrial and information revolutions caused an increase in the
>importance of mental abilities (especially the ability to handle
>abstractions) and a decrease in the importance of alternative measures
>such as physical strength. We should expect this to cause an increase in
>evolutionary pressure for increased intelligence.

Most observers don't think there has been enough time for selection to
have much changed intelligence over the last century. And your hypothesis
seems to me the opposite of the Mating Mind idea as I understood it. I
thought the ability to earn a living was mainly just taken as a signal
of the fitness of your genes.

Robin Hanson
Asst. Prof. Economics, George Mason University
MSN 1D3, Carow Hall, Fairfax VA 22030-4444
703-993-2326 FAX: 703-993-2323

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