How Can We Measure Intelligence?

In our society, some people are considered more intelligent than others. But what exactly does this mean, and how can we measure intelligence in an individual?

There are many useful — and several not so useful — skills that individuals possess. For example, one person might be very good at thinking abstractly. Another might be good at reasoning. Yet another might make connections between seemingly disparate things.

All of these things might be considered intelligence. But what of other skills? Does athletic ability make someone intelligent? Artistic creativity? What about someone with social skills who can get along with anyone? If these skills, and others like them, aren’t a sign of mental acuity, then what are they? And if they are, then how might we manage to measure that in a concrete way?

Currently, intelligence is measured primarily through the IQ test, where IQ stands for “intelligence quotient”. However, other than scoring well on a test, what does a high IQ actually enable an individual to do? As the example illustrates, if you test a fish on it’s ability to climb a tree, it will fail every time.

An interesting wrinkle in this problem comes in the form of artificial intelligence, and various efforts to rate just what makes a machine intelligent. Would you consider Watson, the computer that won at the game show Jeopardy!, to be intelligent? How is it different from human winners?

How would you define what it means to be intelligent? Can we measure intelligence? Or is it one of those things we just know when we see it? Alternately, might it be present and we simply don’t recognize it?

Related questions: How important is intuition? How do you judge yourself? What is intelligence? How do you define success?

How Are You Self-Sufficient?

This week’s question, “How are you self-sufficient?” is in contrast to last Sunday’s “How do you depend on others?” What skills, knowledge, or talent allows you to work on your own?

It’s difficult to imagine many people being entirely self-sufficient. We rely on each other for so many things, not the least of which is basic human companionship.

However, it’s also true that some people are self-starters. They naturally find a motivation to do things, without others showing them how.

Alternately, some skills or hobbies allow for self-sufficiency. If you can knit, you can make your own clothes. If you garden, you can grow your food. Musicians or writers can create their own entertainment.

In what ways are you able to stand on your own? To not depend on others?

Related questions: How do you depend on others? What makes you you? How do you judge yourself? What’s the most useful thing you’ve ever learned? How are you special?

 

Who Has Power?

In our society, it is the people who have power who manage to get things done. The type of power — financial, political, or even brute force — might change, but the use of it to accomplish goals does not.

We see examples of influence all around us. A business leader may use connections they have to make deals. Or someone who holds political office may use their position to enact legislation. Yet another example is a popular person exercising their social connections.

That power might be used for personal gain, or it might be used for societal gain. How it is used may be determined by the character of the person with the advantage. Conversely, there might be social or legislative checks on that power.

There is also a certain influence that comes from collaboration. One person may not be able to do much in isolation, but if that person can recruit a hundred others to help them, their reach can expand drastically.

Do you see power being used around you? How? Who has it? Is one kind more effective than another?

Related questions: Where does authority come from? Individual or society? What makes a good leader? How much power does an individual have?

Why Bother?

Life can be a real slog sometimes. We encounter obstacles, experience setbacks, and occasionally find ourselves over-matched. And yet, we are expected to pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and keep going. But should we bother?

A single person can change the world. There are many different examples, from Gandhi to Thoreau, from Malala to Greta Thunberg. Committed, passionate individuals can make a difference.

But the chances that you will be one of those people is exceedingly slim. There are more than seven billion people in the world, and to stand out among that large a number is difficult indeed.

In addition, there are a number of powerful forces arrayed against you. Beyond individuals who have money or power and unwilling to part with it, there are powerful corporations, brutal dictatorships, and corrupt governments. There are economic, social, and cultural pressures that control our lives.

On top of that, the natural world is at work as well. One person, or even a community of people, have little ability to control or influence the weather, for instance. The best you can due in a storm is to try and stay safe and dry and wait until it is over.

With so much beyond our control, why should we try to control it? When an individual human being is buttressed about by other people, by corporations, by nature, by luck, what is the benefit of trying to assert control where there is none?

Tomorrow, we might receive a cancer diagnosis, or be in a car accident, or have a tree fall on our house, or see a federal policy you don’t like enacted, or something else that is beyond us.

How do we soldier on in spite of that? Why bother?

Related questions: When do you need inspiration? Is it a cruel world? What gives you purpose? How do you cheer yourself up?