Exponential Human IQ Increase, Are We Living It?

March 06 2008 / by Alvis Brigis
Category: Technology   Year: General   Rating: 6

The Flynn Effect is a fascinating observation that average human IQ has been rising steadily since the invention of tests that measure it. It’s possible that it has been caused directly or indirectly by increased access to information, technology and human networks. If that’s the case, and the trend in human IQ is pegged to trends in these areas, then it’s also possible that we’re about to get a heck of a lot smarter in a very short span of time. Perhaps even exponentially smarter.

Ray Kurzweil has shown that technology is increasing at an exponential, or even double-exponential rate. A Berkeley study and a report by IDC both have confirmed that the amount of information on Earth is growing at an exponential rate. It is clear that advances in communication technology are facilitating an explosion in the rate of communication between people, thus increasing the value of the whole according to Metcalfe’s Network Law .

It’s undeniable that these accelerating trends have had a profound impact on social behavior, in particular our ability to solve ever more complex problems. If you don’t believe me, simply take a look at how quickly a person or a group can locate information, bounce it off of others and output that as a rich white paper, business strategy or more advanced technology—then imagine how difficult that same task would have been minus the internet, huge bodies of amassed knowledge and an environment chock full of complex and inspirational solutions to diverse problem sets.

Human brains are not closed systems. They are constantly learning better ways to input, sort and output information (ultimately this manifests as culture). In order to increase their intelligence, they must encounter information, technology and interact with other humans. It has been shown that children raised sans society are beyond dysfunctional, and that humans who miss critical periods for learning things as simple as counting from 1 to 10 or certain ways of looking at time cannot regain those abilities once the developmental windows close. This indicates that there is a strong relationship between access to information + technology and human intelligence.

But just how strong is the link? Will humans get smarter faster or is there a cut-off point after which technology and information systems speed off into a phase place where we cannot follow? Obviously, these are questions with far reaching consequences. The answers will determine how we evolve, the likelihood of our survival and/or expansion, whether AI or IA is the future, and if a singularity is possible, impossible or desirable.

The more critical the human-tech-info symbiosis, the more likely it is that the Flynn Effect will continue and translate into exponential growth of our own intelligence parallel to these other trends (auto-catalytically), rather than subsequently and as a by-product of them.

Many would argue that it’s really just technology pulling along a biological system, and that human intelligence is distinct from that technology. But I’m not so sure that’s a true dichotomy nor the most efficient way to characterize ourselves, our technology and our system.

Other species like dolphins and apes have employed basic tools, and it’s arguable that our current use of technology is fundamentally natural rather than an outgrowth from nature. Also, I have yet to hear a definition of human intelligence that does not require the context of our system, which as I pointed out above is responsible for catalyzing intelligence during critical periods.

All of this translates into IQ tests that do an OK job predicting general test smarts but still can’t predict how successful a person will be in the system. According to this line of reasoning, that’s due to the lack of appropriate systems context and environment in which that person operates. Because if indeed intelligence is pegged to tech and information, and we want to cultivate more meaningful IQ scoring systems, then we should allow humans access to info, tech, other people and the broader system during those tests. Newer tests might measure for the total efficiency of a given operation according to how little Matter, Energy, Space, Time and Capital was required to perform it, thus establishing a more robust estimation of problem solving ability. (Kind of like the on-the-job analysis that the more serious companies perform before hiring someone.)

Maybe humans are more distinct from our technology than I am postulating here, but if they aren’t and we’re dancing a very tight dance then just imagine how more accurate IQ scores based on broader systems performance and interaction would line up over time. The growth would be astounding, perhaps running parallel to the exponential tech and info curves that have already been plotted.

We’ll just have to live it to find out for certain.

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Comment Thread (1 Response)

  1. “Ray Kurzweil has shown that technology is increasing at an exponential, or even double-exponential rate.”

    It’s increasing logarithmically or sigmoidally, certainly NOT double-exponentially.

    Posted by: adbatstone80   June 09, 2008
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