We're All Smart -- Brain Allocation Theory
Posted by bonesiii , Jan 16 2009 · 184 views
The Brain Inequality Theory (The BIT )
"I'm not very smart. Smart people. He was a genius. 'I'm pretty sure my IQ is higher than yours!' He has a low IQ. You're stupid."
Our culture is permeated with such statements. We have a basic theory that many people are much smarter than others. Some are smart, some are dumb, and this can be measured.
And that's it. It's thaaaat simple. To quote Threepio -- "We're doomed." That's the theory, if you're part of "the less-than-smart".
Worse, many people attach extreme emotional ideas to this theory. It varies a lot -- I've seen one person on BZP say he was offended that I brought out the truth of a particular debate (which even he said I had done), because "people don't want to be reminded others are smarter than them" (close paraphrase). He essentially thought only incorrect ideas should be allowed, so we don't offend dumb people. (Laugh, but he appeared to be serious. :-P) On the flip side, people who think they're dumb feel miserable about it, or people act arrogant because they think they're smart, etc..
Perhaps even worse than this, though, many people feel not that much emotion about it at all -- they just accept that they're dumb, nothin' they can do about it, so they think they aren't capable of accomplishing much in life. So they don't try.
And tons more stuff. I've only scratched the surface here of the consequences of this common theory of intelligence.
I think it's incorrect.
There might be some truth to it, but the vast majority of people, in my opinion, have the same brain capacity. When it comes to genetic definitions of intelligence, if a TRULY objective measure of intelligence could be formulated, I think everybody would measure roughly equally.
It's just that we're wired to use our intelligence in different ways.
The Brain Allocation Theory (The BAT :-P)
I've had this theory for a while, and it's based on a lot of different things. Note that I DO have an above average IQ, and people generally think of me as "smart" -- so I can "get away with" saying this. (But then, I can't for the life of me remember what my IQ is, so maybe I'm in the dumb category after all! )
Essentially, people are forgetting about a key, Key, KEY aspect of existence. That is allocation.
Allocation essentially means that different amounts of a resource are channeled into different areas.
I first learned of this term from a (demo of a) Star Trek videogame about Klingons (yes, you correctly conclude I'm a geek :-P), and I think the example is one of the best so I'll use it here. (The demo was so fun I never bothered to buy the whole thing lol.)
Your spaceship has a certain level of energy. Roughly the same as other ships. You go through various scenarios, and one of your main jobs (aside from firing weapons and steering and such) is to allocate that energy into different major aspects of your ships.
If you're in battle, you allocate more energy to weapons and shields. If shields are down, you allocate your energy to weapons, but if you're seriously damaged, allocate it to the engines and flee. If you're traveling in relative safety, allocate more energy to engines. If you're traveling through a thick atmosphere, like that of a gas giant, allocate for shields. If your ship is damaged and you've either won the battle or fled to avoid destruction, allocate towards repairs.
Certain circumstances are more common than others. So this game also had "macros." These were specific preset arrangements of energy allocation that you could select from a list, and the various levels of everything would automatically adjust for the ideal for that situation.
Another example is money. When you make budget decisions, you allocate your money into different areas. Yet another example is time. You allocoate your time into different areas, but most people have roughly the same lifespans, wake-sleep cycles, etc. so roughly the same amount of time.
Intelligence defined objectively, then, is IMO this:
Intelligence: All-inclusive capacity of the brain to process, to think, generally equal for each member of a species.
How smart you are in different areas by this theory is a matter of allocating the amount of intelligence you have as a human being into different areas. Each of us has our own "macro." And to a degree we can even choose to reallocate (we can take classes, practice, etc. new skills to become "smart" in new areas; the limit is basically our own personal taste that is more genetic).
How do we allocate our brains?
Personal taste drives most of the differences in how we use our intelligence. I am into "heady" things (as people call them, though just about everything involves the head :-P), like logic and observation and physics and suchnot, and into art and storytelling and stuff like this. Someone else might be more into mechanics -- as often comes up in Bionicle debates, heh and not be into fiction at all. Someone might be into cooking, another into psychology, etc. Whatever.
IQ tests tend to be biased towards a particular type of this intelligence, especially spatial/mathematical/geometric/linguistic. They are written by people who think of themselves as smart, and are into written stuff and tests and whatnot. Other people who aren't into that sort of thing, naturally, aren't usually motivated to make up such tests. If they ever thought of making a test, it would come out quite differently.
Doesn't make one actually smarter or the other not. It's simply allocation.
Another factor that's often misunderstood is brain size. People think that big brain = smart. They think you can measure skulls and report on intelligence objectively (barring brain damage).
Wrong. Big brain does generally equal more memory capacity (though I have a large brain and my memory sucks, so go figure). But it also equals slower processing speed (that's me man!). A smaller brain means you can come up with smart decisions way faster.
This is why rats are smarter than donkeys. For example.
Again, it's an allocation thing. Smaller means smarter in one way, larger means smarter in another.
"WHAH? This Theory is BATty!"
"But bones, but bones," you might be thinking, "What if some people ARE smarter than others, in addition to allocating their intelligence?"
I realize that if we take the Klingon Warship analogy, it's possible that one ship will have more total energy to allocate around. If we take money, some have more, some have less. If we take time, some die early. Could it be this way with human intelligence?
Well, that very well might be true. But my observation, as a "smart guy" (:-P) and an Observer of People Because I'm A Writer (an OPBIAW....) has been that it's generally not true.
How to accurately measure this? No idea -- measurements are devised by people, and people have biases. Perhaps an IQ test that more accurately represented different types of intelligence could do this. I have heard countless news reports about other people noting the fallacies with IQ tests -- maybe reform in this area will happen soon. Maybe it's already happening and I've missed the news. :-P
My sense is that all human beings tend to have about the same, nonetheless.
Just look around, and more importantly look at yourself, when you've been told you're smart or when you've thought "I am dumb."
At least for me, people tell me I'm smarter than average all the time, and yet there are lots of very average typical things that most people are capable of that I'm simply not. Mainly, I look at how fast people around me can react to things and it's amazing to me -- I am slow. Plus with an abysmal memory. People talk about the ways they forget things as they approach/reach their elderly years, and my reaction is, "Dude, that's been me since First Grade!"
Yet other things for me are so easy it's like preschool to me that tons of grown adults can't even hope to do. Art, for instance. I just naturally know what to do when it comes to art -- barely even had any education in this area, though I must give cred to a particular genius (:-P) who used to work for Disney that wrote a book that helped me and whose name and book title I forget lol -- whereas other people say things like "I can't even draw a straight line." I remember (vaguely :-P) one time I drew a perfect circle when I was very young. A grown adult thought it was amazing. I thought that was amazing.
I also remember one time at a fair or some such event (I forget lol) there was some challenge where you look in a mirror and move your finger across a five-point star backwards. I just did it instantly and thought nothing of it, but the person running the event was astounded, though it was later in the day and apparently many people had tried it. I was the first, she said, to do it right the first time, and easily at that. I didn't even need to hesitate, which is apparently unusual. And everybody around was similarly amazed, including my family.
I was frankly astounded that everybody couldn't do it.
If we're all honest with each other, we are all at various times amazed at what others' brains allow them to do compared to us, and also at times amazed that they can't do things we consider easy.
Access your memory banks (it's probably easy for you :-P) and you'll see it's true. :-)
What about mental illness or "handicaps"?
Well, it might depend. Certainly many mental handicaps make normal living difficult. Many such people are way more dependant on normal people to survive than others.
But many are also happier people. Us "smart" people tend to have a lot worse emotional outlooks and friendliness issues, or at least that's my understanding. Yet the so-called "handicapped" often seem to naturally grasp what we cannot -- that happiness is important. In this area, IMO many "mentally ill" people are healthier mentally than the so-called normal.
It's a generalization, though, and maybe not even accurate overalll -- it's not like I've met every such person on the planet. Certainly brain damage does seem to make sense as something that would reduce overall intelligence. But I suspect it has more to do with the type of mental illness.
For example, many result in a smaller percentage of the brain being used, yet that can also result in incredible skill in a particular area. Which makes sense given allocation -- their brain becomes less able to do anything, so it specializes in something. In that smaller area, brain signals have less ground to cover, which means faster thinking. So at least with that skill, they are thus smarter than most people.
So on this issue, my conclusion is, I'm really not sure. But at the very least, us 'smart people' exaggerate how much smarter we are than the mentally handicapped.
There is also the matter of mental laziness. I DO think we can do a wrong by choosing NOT to think. Your genetic intelligence might just be fine, but you choose instead not even to use that brain you've got. Mental excercise, vitamins, and various such things also, of course, matter. These are choices that each individual makes -- something they have control over.
Ultimately, our goals in terms of opinions and thought and such should always be to try to find the truth. If a person actually isn't wired to understand how to find a particular truth, fine -- but there's no excuse in my view for those who act offended that someone else has done a better job at finding the truth because they don't want to be reminded other people are "smarter." Trying to find the truth is something anyone can do, even if they ARE "dumb", and being willing to appreciate the mental work others have done and learn from them is important too.
That's a pride issue, not an intelligence issue.
On the other hand, there's also education to consider. If someone is never TOLD that they can think, they often actually believe it. And of course, if they are not given at least a basic logical education they're gonna have a harder time at life *ahem, folks who are in charge of education, ahem*.
So in other words, even mental laziness might not be entirely the fault of the person.
In general I advise a respectful, helpful attitude towards people you think aren't thinking as much as they should (and you might not know all their circumstances or time issues either). Condescension, I have concluded, almost never works anyways. I think this is a big part of why. (And I can say that from personal experience -- I've had a condescension problem for a long time and still something I struggle with. I can't think of a single time when it actually helped rather than hurt. Could be my memory.)
Making Fun of the Dumb
Alright, we all do it. Let's just get that admission out of the way. Hard not to sometimes. XD
Personally, my rule of thumb is, if it's a true mental handicap, or even what I believe to be an allocation issue, it's really NOT funny.
If it's mental laziness... well, on some levels it's sad, and maybe not their fault. On another level, sometimes you just have to laugh to keep your sanity, though. :-P
But mean-spirited approaches to intelligence... against either dumb OR smart... even if we assume the BIT theory is right and my BAT theory is wrong for the most part... What's the point?
I've always wondered this, you know, you see the typical teen of my generation make fun of someone they think is [insert intelligence-related insult here] in terms of genetic intelligence, insult them. Seriously, what the heck is the point of that? If it's genetic, why is smarter necessarily better and dumb necessarily worse? At least in any sense that it makes sense to make fun of them?
I think that has more to do with maturity than intelligence -- frankly, it's stupid. :-P If the BIT theory is right, everybody's intelligence is different anyways, so the chances are, you're not all that bright yourself brainy. (Is my general reaction, heh.)
AND! If human beings in general are concerned with finding the truth -- the ways of living that lead to peace and pleasurably lives for as many people as possible if not everyone -- then isn't the DUTY of the "smart" to use their intelligence to help the "less smart"? At least in my way of thinking, that is the case.
For a "smart" person to make fun of the dumb is to proclaim "I don't want the help of others smart than ME, and I accept that they're allowed to make fun of me."
For example, Einstein is credited with so much in science that has improved our understanding of the world -- his brilliance helped the rest of us. (Note that he's another key evidence of BAT -- he actually had a rare mental illness that made him strangely deficient in many normal areas. He had weaknesses that made even him equal to the rest of us (IMO), it's just that he allocated a lot into the areas of thinking that led to his original discoveries in science.)
Genius inventors HELP the rest of us.
Making Fun of the Allocated Different
If my BAT theory is right, making fun of or looking down on others for being what we deem "dumb" makes even less sense. Our own allocation of our intelligence is basically arbitrary and beyond our control -- ruled by our genes for the most part and also often by our life situation, culture, etc.
So if we are smart in a particular area, who are we to say that's the "right" area? What about the areas we're dumb in? Are we to be chided for being dumb in those areas? We usually reject those areas simply because they're "not me" -- but that's just how you happened to come out.
What's more, society as a whole is most likely benefitted by variety, not hurt.
Think about it -- if we were all clones of each other whose brains were all allocated into the same areas, then we would all have the exact same strengths and weaknesses.
Strengths? Fine and dandy, we'd all have to compete for the same sorts of jobs (:-P) but as a society we'd be unshakable....
In those areas.
But if a society's weaknesses are not balanced by variety -- if everybody in a society cannot meet a particular challenge -- then that makes each member of that society extremely vulnerable.
For example, if everybody was a farmer only, great, we'd have plenty of food. But what about times of draught? What about war? Where are your planners that stockpile food in case of shortage? Where are your strategists, those who can defend the farmers?
We could propose that all humans would be farmers. So no wars -- at least not wars of any noticeable success. :-P Okay, wunderbar. But farming in ancient times before modern equipment was challenging, and the slightest weather or pest challenge could risk your very livelihood. In some areas farming is nigh-impossible.
Engineers, inventors, chemists, traders, etc. all make life better for different people the globe over, taking food to those who cannot farm it, making equipment, pesticides, and crop additives that increase yield and thus improve security against disaster, and all manner of things. Farmers get intellectual and imaginative stiumulation from producers of art, fiction, TV, whatnot.
We could even propose that everybody being farmers would NOT mean less war, but more -- when nature-caused disaster strikes, many might raid other farms. No food-allocation planners exist to provide food for those stricken with such luck, so the temptation to do that might be higher.
With no philosophers to figure out that war is generally harmful to both sides more than helpful, with nobody to stem the need for war in the first place, with no variety, war just might be more rampant, more painful, thus deadlier, and to add insult to injury, with no historians or teachers to tell the farmers that such wars don't often have success, constant even when they fail all the time.
In the real world, nobody's tastes are that narrowly defined, and overlaps occur often. In the areas of self-expression, you might think we wouldn't tolerate other people's tastes at all, but the human brain also tends to get bored with the same old, same old. We often WANT to see expressions of tastes totally different from our own, at least when we are honest about it, and we don't want to have to make it ourselves usually. It's more fun when you don't see it coming, when its source is beyond you.
In other words, different people make the world a safer and more interesting place.
I suggest gratitude towards those who are different from you.
Benefits of BAT
IF I'm right (and the truth matters, certainly), then the benefits are multifold. I doubt I'm thinking of all of them. :-P
For one, we can get off this ridiculous "you stupid person hahaha!" train. At least for genetic intelligence. And even in the other cases, it's really hard to instantly know whether someone actually is dumber than you objectively. You might think so at first, but what if YOU'RE the one allocated poorly for the subject in question -- what if the other person is the wise and you the fool? Does making fun of the 'dumb' really make sense, given this?
As a result, we could have a much more peaceful world where we see a simple and very important reason to respect others. Most of us claim we want peace -- this is a HUGE way we could make it.
(If we all believe it and practice it. Which, I know *sigh* is unlikely. But each of us can take up this standard for ourselves, and set an example for others. :-))
Self-esteem makes a heck of a lot more sense under the BAT theory. You might not seem as smart as other people... but you ARE! You just might not have yet found out in which way you are.
Don't let people tell you you're dumb. Don't believe it. Don't tell yourself you're dumb. You are smart. :-)
It becomes easier to not just tolerate but respect and appreciate different people's preferences and tastes. You see something you don't like, and instead of writing it off as dumb and whining about how miserable you are, it can actually be interesting to you on some level. You can learn to appreciate and even be fascinated by other people's differences.
It becomes easier to have an open mind. When someone says something you disagree with, it's harder to justify writing it off as "dumb." It gives you pause.
Forces you to think.
"What if they're right? What are the reasons they are this way? Is this just a taste difference and it's subjective? Or are they better able to understand something objective that I'm missing? Can I learn from them?"
Debate becomes a lot more respectful and useful. Debate is no longer about showing off who's smart and who's dumb for pride reasons. It's just about who's correct and who's not. (And IMO even that isn't right -- it's about WHAT is true and WHAT is false, not about the "who" at all -- but that's another issue.)
Most people think there are "smart" people, "dumb" people, and a range in between. They believe in "I have a higher IQ so I'm smarter" kinds of thinking.
Methinks that's false.
I think everybody has roughly the same amount of intelligence, but we allocate it into different areas. We channel it in different ways.
Some are artists, some are engineers, some are tacticians, others are one thing, still others another, and everybody has so many different tastes and strengths and weaknesses in so many different combinations...
But objectively, all are (roughly) the same level of intelligence.
And IQ tests are biased.
End summary. 'Sthat short enough?