Posts Tagged ‘intelligence’

The Logical Failure Of Science Fans

January 27, 2019

If it’s science it must be right, coz science is kool, right?

Thus in essence is the basis on which many science fans argue in internet comment threads.
A question posted on Quora involved me in a discussion with a typical member of this group, he’s besotted with science and argues from the perspective of a religious believer rather that somebody who questions things objectively. To the question:

As a scientist, is there any possibility that evolution did not give rise to mankind?

I had answered:

Ian Thorpe
Ian Thorpe, writer, poet, free thinker

Sorry I can’t answer because I’m not a scientist.
But if I was a scientist I wouldn’t be a biologists so I’d probably give the same answer as would occurs to me as a well – read retired management consultant: There are always possibilities. It’s often said that we evolved from monkeys, but more likely we and monkeys shared a common ancestor which might have been so far back it was just a blob of jelly floating in a primeval salt marsh. Nobody truly knows.
Likewise human intelligence. The theory that we developed conscious intelligence spontaneously as our brains reached a certain mass has been debunked. Homo Neanderthalis had bigger brains than Homo Sapiens and yet they became extinct.

At some stage we progressed from Homo Sapiens (man who knows) to Homo Sapiens Sapiens (Man who knows he knows) with far greater cognitive skills and the ability to handle abstract ideas than our predecessors. When and how that change occurred is a mystery and so far no evolutionary evidence has been found to explain it.

Did aliens visit us and get jiggy with girl troglodites? Was intelligence seeded in us by a perhistoric super – race that knew they were dying? Was it some form of supernatural process? Did our ancient ancestors eat magic mushrooms and experience an expansion of consciousness? All these are theories believe by some.

My advice is don’t think about these things too much, it has driven people crazy.

Other studies show that is not true. Baysean inference might have been a factor in either conclusion. That’s the trouble with scientific studies.
However Chimps and Bonobos are reckoned to have evolved from a common species about a million years ago, around the same time as homo erectus separated into neanderthalis and sapiens.
Chimps are pretty much as they were then according to naturalists and anthropoligists, we made the leap from sapiens to sapiens sapiens and now construct tower blocks almost a mile high, fly around the world in jet aircraft, and invent increasingly sophisticated ways of killing each other. Given that they have had the same amount of time to develop, I’d say chimp intelligence cannot reasonably be compared with human intelligence.

So why have chimps not evolved when we have? That’s a part of the mystery.

Other studies? Well here’s one.
Pioneering brain study reveals ‘software’ differences between humans and monkeys

Then there’s Thomas Suddendorf’s work in which he identifies what he calls episodic memory as a big part of what differentiates us from all other species.
Episodic memory versus episodic foresight: Similarities and differences

http://science.sciencemag.org/content/312/5776/1006.full
(you have to have hacking skills to open this one, but it’s not that difficult
)
It’s late now and I don’t want to sit here all night compiling a comprehensive list, so I’ll leave you to continue in your own time.

Ian Thorpe

No, it doesn’t. That’s because the research paper is about the things that make humans unique among species. And the question asked was about whether here is any possibility humans are not a product of evolution. Thus my reply concerned that mystery of how we humans developed our unique intellige…

(more)

Phil Dunlap

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Scientists Predict Robot Brains to Match Humans in 25 Years

November 11, 2014

The scientists have been wrong about robots with better-than-human intelligence before of course but this time they are sure they have it right (just as sure as they were all the other times when they got it hopelessly wrong).
Not long after the first modern computers evolved from bead boards via medieval water clocks in the 1940s, the science-is-God brigade started predicting that in just a few years / decades machines would be as smart as humans or more likely smarter than humans. Every year someone comes along and says the same but the prediction gets pushed back another year. The consensus now, according to a survey, is that it’s going to happen in … you guessed it, just a few more decades.

There may be more reason to believe the predictions today. After research that’s produced everything from self-driving cars (well not quite cars and not quite self driving) to Jeopardy!-winning supercomputers, scientists have a much better understanding of what they’re up against. And, perhaps, what we’re up against.

Nick Bostrom, director of the Future of Humanity Institute at Oxford University, laid out the best predictions of the artificial intelligence (AI) research community in his new book, “Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers, Strategies.” Here are the combined results of four surveys of AI researchers, including a poll of the most-cited scientists in the field, totalling 170 respondents who were asked:

So if Human-level machine intelligence is defined as “a machine that can carry out most human professions at least as well as a typical human,” then the only answer to the question ‘when will human level machine intelligence be availabe’ is “haven’t a clue, probably never”. Unless of course we were to redefine what we mean as intelligence, equating it to an ability to parse vast amounts of digital information amazingly quickly and match defined binary strings.

If however we were to ask “When will computers be as clever as scientists,” the answer is “In evolutionary terms, computers are already a couple of million years ahead. A computer would never committ the folly of trying to design an intelligent scientist.”

Mouse Scientists Reinvent The Wheel (Again)

January 22, 2010

Having established a reputation as the world’s foremost journal of mouse science for reporting the ingenious ways scientists find of wasting taxpayers money by doing mouse related experiments in the hope of gaining insight into human behaviour we are now expanding into the area of snack science.

In the highly specialised field of mouse science many of the experiments conducted using mice involve training the mice to earn snacks by learning to press buttons with their nose but we have now become aware this mouse snack science is a different technique with a different goal to that of, to use recent examples, feeding mice lots of fry ups in an attempt to find a way of guaranteeing Daily Mail readers offspring are all child prodigies or of giving mice mobile phones in an experiment aimed at developing a technique for slowing the progress of Alzheimer’s disease. The conclusions of these experiments are that pregnant Daily Mail readers should exist on a diet of full English breakfasts from the local Greasy Spoon and that people genetically predisposed to develop dementia should spend more time on their cellphones taking to mice.

We have also covered a story about scientists who claim to have grown human sperm in mouse testicles. While the experiment might go some way towards countering the efforts of agri-business to stop human sperm growing in human bollocks we are not sure the breakthrough would have any practical value. Given the obsession of human males with size it is hard (oops, pardon) to imagine there would be many men up for having a pair of mouse bollocks in their undercrackers instead of the more usual walnut sized tackle that populates their scrotum.

The latest breakthrough for mouse science has been achieved by fusing mouse science techniques with snack science, the best know example of which is Pavlov’s Dogs. Like the mouse fry – ups experiment it promises to be of great benefit to the kind of gullible, upwardly mobile cretins who imagine they are posh because they eat mung beans.

Take up running and you will become more intelligent and do better in your chosen career, increasing your social status and earnings potential. Using a combination of mouse science and snack science researchers have shown that running round a little wheel in pursuit of a snack they can never reach makes mice more intelligent. Their little brains actually grow more tissue.

Having run the mice round little wheels for a considerable time the researchers then subjected the rodents to a classic test on mouse intelligence, that of giving them the chance to earn a snack by pushing a button with their nose. Running mice were quickly identified as better at earning snacks than couch potato mice. When our special mouse science correspondent Thom Catt put spoke to project leader Dr. Di Luzien that maybe the couch potato mice simply could not be arsed with snacks having not burned off loads of calories running round a wheel Dr. Di Luzien replied, “You’re clearly not a scientists and you don’t understand science.”

Thom was a bit miffed at this as his family understand mice better than anybody have been studying them for several hundred millennia.

The most striking part of the experiment is that while claimed to be as the cutting edge of mouse science, snack science and neuroscience it appears to confirm the work carried out by Hatha Yoga exerts five thousand years ago which proved that increasing the oxygen intake (by controlled breathing in the case of Yoga, but fair play to them, the wheel had not been invented) improves brain function and increases intelligence.

When it was put to Dr. Di Luzien that her team had at great expense simply reinvented the wheel by discovering something that was known already she replied that if it helped people become more intelligent it was worth every penny and that when people saw her intelligent mice they would understand the importance of science done scientifically by scientists and not listen to people like Boggart Blog who just try to get cheap laughs by ridiculing important research work.

To which our reporter Thom Catt, having eaten all the evidence of intelligent mice replied smugly:

“If you gaze into the abyss, the abyss gazes also into you but when the seagulls follow the trawler is it because they think little fishes will be thrown in the sea. Have you produced any mouse philosophers yet?”

Start Running And Watch Your Brain Grow

A career for tossers?

August 21, 2007

A few weeks ago I was involved in a bit of a kerfuffle with the boy scientists from The Bad Science forum. One of the more intelligent and articulate commenters eventually asked why science gets such a bad press?

Well it could be something to do with the way, when their certainties are challenged they tend to respond, You’re not a scientist, you don’t understand scientific methods.” Such a response puts “scientists” in the same category as those religionists whose response to any challenge is, “Anything is possible for God.”

Or it could be because we see so many stories like the two below.

Researchers at Herriot Watt University and Strathclyde University claim to have proved older people have difficulty using new technology because physiological deterioration in connections between cells in the frontal lobes of the brain causes them to be easily confused by unfamiliar things.

Typically the “scientists” involved in this study forgot to look at the most obvious thing. So we oldies can watch movies or play games on our mobile phones. Are we bovvered? Many of us who have been rounded out by leading full and interesting lives can think of a hundred better things to do than watch a movie on a three inch by two inch screen.

I cannot take pictures or record video clips with my mobile phone. Is my brain going or is the case simply that my excellent digital camera and state of the art camcorder perform those tasks far better than the phone ever could. So I cannot do those things simply because I am never likely to want to.

Similarly neither I nor my wife ever learned to set the VCR to record a week in advance. Are we sliding into dementia or are we simply not the type of people to get withdrawal symptoms if we miss an episode of a favourite program. They will be repeated in a few months anyway.

It is not a question of neurological degeneration because everybody is different in that respect, it is a question of how interested we are. QED. And that is how to do the science, just think things through and a lot of time, effort and expence can be saved.

The second story has slightly more sinister connotations. Scientists (again – its never philosophers or artists or historians causing trouble) at the University of Kentucky, Louisville – now keep in mind this is in Kentucky, think fried chicken, bluegrass and red necks – claim to have found a link between eye colour and intelligence.

Blue eyed people, amazingly, are found to be more intelligent, ambitious and focused. Brown eyed people can run faster.

Nobody thought to mention in the context of this study that brown eyed people tend to have darker skin and curlier hair than blue eyed people.

My entirely unscientific observations on this issue, made throughout a long career in management consultancy is that if you tell people they are intelligent, thoughtful and capable of more than they have ever given themselves credit for, they tend to aim higher and as a result grow in confidence and status. This approach works regardless of eye colour.

So let’s throw this one back at the boy scientists who have been trying to give me a hard time (and actually themselves being on the receiving end of a harder time.) What is it exactly that us alleged non scientists don’t understand? That ageism and racism are OK so long as they are backed up by properly conducted scientific studies?

I’ll bear that in mind when advising young friends on whether they should follow me into a science related career. (Clue: proper scientists tend not to refer to themselves as “scientists” but by the specific discipline. I am (was) a systems analyst, later an Information Technology Consultant. 

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