What is 'intelligence'?

Discussion in 'The Science Forum' started by Excognito, Feb 5, 2011.

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  1. Philosophy of mind is an interesting part of the subject and is capable of study within the sub-branch of philosophy called Science.

    One of the interesting areas of discussion is the nature of intelligence and how we can define it and recognize it. This potentially has important implications for subdivisions of science, such as computation, other branches of philosophy, such as Religion, Ethics and Mathematics.

    There has been much discussion of this subject, either directly or by implication on at least two other threads (Free Will and Are You Religious) and I thought it has sufficient merit of its own to treat it in its own right and to expand its boundaries beyond the religious.

    Let's start off with a little starter for 10 ...

    HB didn't give a reference for his quote, but it appears to be copied from this OU site, which may be based, in part, upon the section starting at the bottom of page 66 of Darwin's The Formation of Vegetable Mould, Through the Action of Worms with Observations on Their Habits.

    It is reasonable, from the context of the original thread and the highlighting of two key words, to infer that HB was using this to support a hypothesis of earthworm intelligence.

    A few interesting (to me) statements pop out of Darwin's book:
    • p93: If we consider these several cases, we can hardly escape from the conclusion that worms show some degree of intelligence in their manner of plugging up their burrows.
    • p97: Mr. Romanes, who has specially studied the minds of animals, believes that we can safely infer intelligence, only when we see an individual profiting by its own experience.
    • If worms have the power of acquiring some notion, however rude, of the shape of an object and of their burrows, as seems to be the case, they deserve to be called intelligent; for they then act in nearly the same manner as would a man under similar circumstances.
    However, my quick skimming of the Darwin's work leads to another possibility, namely worm's brains have some capability to adapt to different leaves but not due to explicit 'reasoning'. Some forms of artificial neural network exhibits this kind of behaviour and yet we would not (all things being equal) regard a 'simple' classifier as 'intelligent'. Nor would we regard it 'having some notion', instead more likely thinking of it as adaptive function.

    Intelligence is something that we appear to consider in terms of using explicit reasoning to deduce and infer. So that we might regard a 'human' as intelligent because they notice some properties of leaves that correlate with their suitability for hole plugging and develop a suitable theory, but we would not necessarily concede that an 'automatic leaf traction machine' had any such powers of reasoning, even if it had a 'learning' mechanism that allowed 'experience' to adapt its internal parameters to deal with new leaf types or limited environmental conditions.

    A computer can play chess, handle calculus or classify underwater sounds - but does it have any ''idea' of what it's doing? I suspect one of the key aspects lies in the concept of 'meaning', possibly what Darwin refers to as 'a notion'.



    Just for the record, and using an intuitive sense of what intelligence is, I don't think the earthworm is intelligent, but I do think a dog is intelligent.
  2. First it's important to draw a distinction between the concepts of simulation and duplication/replication.

    Second, the key concept in philosophy of mind which comes closest to your guiding intution about meaning is that of 'intentionality.' The problem is to explain in particular 'original' intentionality. For example a book has no original intentionality as we ascribe meaning to the symbols just as we do to the output of a computer. We need to be able to explain how we get it it without the 'Cartesian theatre' and the homunculus in the head sending us off on an infinite regress. Intentionality is a very closely related concept to 'semantics' in linguistics.

    Finally if intelligence is restricted to being a property of living things then we need to explain life and then we are into the domain of the philosophy of 'artificial life' and opening up another can of worms.

    Useful links ...

    Intentionality - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
    Turing test - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
    Chinese room - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
    Artificial life - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
  3. Yes...it's a can of worms but only if religions get involved.

    Intelligence as we know it is an evolutionary survival tool now passed down via DNA... Sadly some humans are born with defects in the brain that deprive them of such benefits. Intelligence is a physical phenomenon.

    These presentation notes provide some backgound... add your own commentary ...if you have sufficient intelligence :)

  4. quoted message posted in the 'Are You Religious' thread.
    It looks like you may have to reach a few more before you can have any claim to know what you're talking about.

    I hate to point this out to you, but homo sapiens is an animal.

    What 'true meaning'do you have in mind(!). AFAIA, The term 'think' is itself yet to be defined in an objective sense that is agreed by the philosophical communities (particularly the scientific one) and that can be tested.

    1. I'd like to see proof of that.

    2. a trio of doggy stories:
    • a. Dog B is introduced into a home. Dog B demonstrates a trick she had been taught by her previous owners by fetching a pair of slippers to the kitchen table and dropping them at the feet of Human X. Dog B gets praise and a dog biscuit. Dog A looks at this, stamps her feet with 'excitement' , dashes out of kitchen and returns with one of Human X's other shoes. Dog A gets reward. After this single observation, Dog A correctly responds to subsequent requests to fetch slippers. After a few days, Human X notices that Dog A brings the slippers one at a time to get 2 biscuits; Human X doesn't give biscuit after first slipper and says "Both slippers" to Dog A, which Dog A responds to and after which Dog A always brings both slippers.
    • b. Same Dogs. Humans X and Y return home to find Dogs A and B curled up on two chairs. This behaviour ist verboten, so Human Y yells at both dogs. Dogs A and B slink off the chairs. Human X is so amused by the 'hang dog' expression on the face of Dog B, that she gives the dog a hug and says "Poor Dog. Did the nasty man shout at you?". After a few seconds more sympathy, Dog B promptly turns round, jumps back on to the chair she had vacated and looks at Human X with an expression that had much in common with that of a human child smirking and saying "Nyah!. Mummy says I can". Go and look up 'Triadic Awareness'.
    • c. Different Dogs. Dogs A and B get shut in kitchen when Human X leaves house. Human X gets annoyed by fact that on her return, Dogs A and B are always lounging around on the furniture in the lounge. Human X shuts dogs in kitchen. Observer A (yours truly, outside and looking through the kitchen window) notes dogs sit by kitchen door until they appear to hear the sound of the front door closing. Dog A then stands on rear legs and uses one front paw to pull door handle down and push the door open. Dogs reshut in kitchen, but this time kitchen table pulled in front of door frame. Dogs wait until front door closes then Dog A promptly walks under table and puts paw up into gap between table top and door to pull the handle down.. Dogs reshut in kitchen, this time with chairs pulled under the table. Dogs wait until front door closes. Dog B goes round side of table and pushes 'in front' of the chairs to get to the door handle. Meanwhile, Dog A jumps on table and pushes pawn down the table/frame gap to open the door.

    Now, you can assert what you like about animals not thinking, but IMO, based on observations like the above, and the plethora of modern studies on animal behaviour that strongly imply 'thought', I will continue to consider certain animals as both conscious and reasoning creatures until it is conclusively proved that they are not.

    Why is language necessary to think? Words appear to serve to convey 'meaning' but are not meaning in and of themselves. The word 'Смысл' has no meaning to me. Even in English, I often have to think things over several times before I understand the meaning of the words I've heard (even Marcus du Sautoy has confessed to not understanding things first time round). Moreover, we have verbal constructs (metaphors) that are not meant be understood literally. If that were not enough, as a species we rely heavily upon vision, and words are notoriously inadequate to convey the meaning of images - a picture paints a thousand words.

    Cognitive Neuroscience is a very young science and is still getting to grips with what key concepts such as consciousness and mind are. There is no a priori reason to assume that the mind and consciousness are synonymous.

    See my observations above ...

    Here's an interesting little article on REM in some mammals.

    Particularly fascinating, and perhaps no great surprise to most dog owners, is the outcome of several recent studies into dogs' intelligence - The Secret Life of the Dog; look at the second and last of the related links.
  5. So far so good Cogi... My dogs since childhood have been observable evidence that we humans are nothing special. Words when spoken are just sounds.... dogs have good hearing. The meaning of sound becomes language...like the sound of a tin opener means feeding time, the word 'walk' comes to mean walk etc..

    You said "There is no a priori reason to assume that the mind and consciousness are synonymous." ...I disagree. Both are from evolution and beyond....
  6. Fang_Farrier

    Fang_Farrier LE Book Reviewer Kit Reviewer

    For a discussion on human intelligence then there is none better than Stephen Jay Gould's book Mismeasure of Man
    The Mismeasure of Man (Penguin science): Amazon.co.uk: Stephen Jay Gould: Books
    The Mismeasure of Man - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    He discusses the use of IQ but also that through the years, various methods have been used to support theories of lesser intelligence amongst oppressed people which has led to further discrimination. Some facinating bits about America and how folks were able to justify Whites in the Southern States having lower school grades than Blacks in the North, nothing to do with the school systems but at the time put down to the oppressive heat!
  7. We are special, the evidence is all around us on that issue - you're looking at one of the pieces of that evidence. However, we are not as special as some people like to think we are.

    Without adequate definitions of 'mind' and 'consciousness', I'm not sure about that. Whilst you might believe they are synonymous, you have no logical reason to assume so as a starting point. You have to provide evidence. If an entity is merely 'conscious' (eg, perceives an image) does this imply 'mind'? Can a mind have other properties that go beyond 'mere' consciousness?

    Furthermore, whilst we may have developed both as a result of evolution, the nature of their physical existence is very unclear.
    Last edited: Sep 8, 2017
  8. Intellegence obviously has a great advantage for us in evolutuionary terms.

    For my part I think intellegence was/is an emerging property of the brain. I believe that increased tool use and the beginnings of signalling/language combined with a protein rich diet on the savanna due to more hunting and less gathering proved the key to our ancestors supremacy.

    when a hominid fossil from 3 million or so years ago is found it used to be thought of as an ancestor. Now we know it is far more likely to belong to an extinct form of hominid never destined to have a lineage survive this long. Robust austrapithicenes (spelling) are a case in point . massive jaws and flat teeth to grind seeds and roots, very small brain. I beleive the 2 are related, as no rich protein to make a brain from coupled with no requirement to develop communication/language or tool making abilities for the hunt. Maybe our ancestors ate them as well.

    I also believe we are still evolving, but that our supremacy has enabled us to have a moral sense as well. Also, the need for group co hesion led to shared values and matrial culture as a mark of self identity. Religion also provides a strong sense of group cohesion.

    The mind as an emergent phenomenon does not make it "unreal" or unimportant. Whilest I accept we came from animals and share much with them, I also think we need to act like our own species, as its what defines us.
  9. Referring to my comment on the Science Videos thread, this is a classic example of your banal assertions getting in the way of understanding or reasoned debate. The meaning of intelligence is a can of worms irrespective of religious or political philosophies.

    The same is true of legs. Intelligence may function as a survival tool and it may be that structures that allow it are encoded within DNA, but that does not define what intelligence *is*. [/quote]

    Uh huh.

    So are legs. So are rocks. So what? That statement is almost information-free - it does nothing to explain what intelligence is physically.

    Let's see:

    • [*]What is intelligence?
      [*]Propose: “The ability to model the world, including the organism itself”
      [*]Intelligence as continuum related to complexity of organism
      [*]milestone: human-level intelligence

    There are several problems here. First is definitional. What is complexity and how do we measure it? What does 'ability to model the world' mean? Ask a human and the chances are that 'modelling' would be an explicit mental activity that involves the construction of representations that explain some properties/behaviours of an object or system of objects.

    Contrary to the implications of the amoeba and paramecium slides, these creatures are unlikely to take action based upon conceptual models; their structures and responses strongly suggest that they are unthinking machines. As I remarked in the opening message, artificial neural networks demonstrate adaptive behaviour, yet most people would not classify this behaviour as intelligent, as there is no indication that simply having a feedback mechanism that alters nodal weights constitutes 'thinking'.

    Much of our brain handles vision and there is very good evidence to suggest that it forms 'models', but most of it in an unconsious 'data processing' way similar to the 'models' formed in a set of image processing algorithms running on a computer. In other words, not at a 'conceptual' level. Given this, whilst the relationship between brain and body masses is interesting, it doesn't give clear evidence that 'complexity' and relative brain mass is a true indicator of actual intelligence. For example, the additional 'hardware' necessary to add colour to our perceptions does not imply a greater ability to reason - it just adds some more data to allow further conclusions to be reached (Ah! I now see that the elephant is 'pink' rather than a funny shade of gray as I used to think it was before the visual upgrade. I deduce that the elephant is albino ... or has a mutation in the colour gene ... or else somebody has spray-painted it ... or I'm very, very drunk).

    Unfortunately, I don't have time to consider it in any more detail. However, I think it adds to the growing evidence that you don't critically analyze things that appear to agree with your viewpoint ... hence your lack of 'intelligent' comment on it?
  11. A mixed bag of probabilities... 9 out of 10. (let down by spelling) :)
  12. I'm not one to miss the chance of giving my agenda a plug Cogi... sorry.

    "but that does not define what intelligence *is*" Of course not... in such a context we can't define what anything is. It just goes to show how limited our intelligence actually is. What is gravity?...search me mate!

    If intelligence is not physical how can it exist? ( I know the answer to this but I like to tease ).... :)

    "What is complexity and how do we measure it?"...Well everything we can detect has immeasurable complexity but it appears as though through incredibly simple origins greater complexity can emerge and it has. The 'system' cannot measure itself accurately as you must know so we use probability... The 'few slides' require a script that includes evolutionary biology and physics... the completed jigsaw is not available so the gaps are closed by reasonable deductions. If these are wrong then it was god snapping his fingers... Hey presto!

    Honestly I only flicked through the slides... There are mountains of more detailed information that confirm my POV... I've tried to balance this with your obsession on colour perception. As previously stated, it just doesn't matter that much... That we do not have the ability to understand chunks of our physical existence is one thing but to imagine a shed load of junk to cover the gaps is another matter.