The way I see intelligence

Intelligence is the ability to find correlations.

I’m interested by the way the human mind works and how one could say human beings aren’t just animals.

As I’ve passed through exams involving mathematics and physics in both knowledge learnt by heart and hard thinking on specially designed and uncommon exercices, I’ve thought about the fact many people just rely on training and that cannot be called intelligence. So what is intelligence ?

According to me, intelligence is the ability to find correlations. I was really happy to see such an opinion discussed on :

Any biological intelligence does exactly the same as described : gather data (try to assess external universe model), find correlations (build internal universe model), act according to internal needs (act upon internal universe model) and repeat.

This chain of processing is done by all brains from the fruit fly to humans. Everything else is a consequential result from this process.

A human brain has very few hardwired constants and many of them they can be overridden.

Feedback loops are a natural result of action to fulfill internal needs according an internal model - that is always incomplete or wrong, see Goedel - upon the external universe. In the next step data is gathered, correlations found (which constitutes the feedback loop) and then acted out according to the adapted internal model.

A fruit fly has simple sensors, a very simple correlation engine and a tiny memory for its internal model. But that doesn’t mean its following a different path than a newborn Einstein. Einstein has detailed sensors (easily surpassed by those of dogs and eagles, but still ok), a yet-unmatched correlation engine and a sufficient amount of internal model memory.

All other inputs come from the external universe and while some of them are absolutely neccessary and come from other organisms (parents, teachers), they do not impose a hard limit on Einstein : with enough correlation power, he can easily discover new facts, unknown to any of his inputs (teachers, parents).

Einsteins brain was never designed to do anything else than processing input signals, detecting correlations and contacting motor neurons to act upon its internal model. How did he discover Relativity then ?

I believe there is not much difference between human beings no matter what their jobs or diplomas are.

I also believe that a scientist could be called a genius if and only if he is able to find correlations between facts or theories nobody had thought up before and which seem so evident afterwards.

Indeed, the human brain is so limited. What seems complex or hard to understand is usually so easy afterwards, our ability to correlate facts we know is so poor that we cannot consider ourselves so different from the other animals.

According to me, thinking fast is indeed a question of understanding the links between our pieces of knowledge and seeing how simple and evident they are. Learning by heart can lead to the same apparent results although there is no plain sight and real intelligence then.


August 2008