“Intelligence is somewhat more than just being intelligent”
~ DH Lawrence
I’ve noticed how some people wear smartness like a general affliction of some persistent condition, a snotty nose perhaps. Some wear it like the occasional perfume that everybody asks the name of. Some others wear the serious lack of it like dehydrated souls in the desert. But what exactly goes for critically-acclaimed smart? What is intelligence, in a revised sense and is there really enough of it around?
I used to attribute intelligence to those thousand page documents on anthropomorphology and science of the third millennium (it is a real subject at the University of the Third Age. I kid you not. You must be over 65 years to enroll, though.) One would find one’s meningeal juices flowing, reading these documents I speak of, complete with footnotes, addenda and neatly acknowledged references to directors of Institutes for Scientific Research you never knew existed until someone’s farm blew up on some remote corner of the world one sunny Monday morning due to unknown causes. Intelligent ways of thinking, including not thinking at all, often lead to these interesting theories involving butterflies fluttering to cause buildings to fall, using the power of the mind to bend spoons and such other parlor tricks we used to enjoy watching on the X-Files and talk about all day. Only, now they happen in zero gravity and you would not know that unless you can play guess games with agents carrying classified files. I digress.
Until Dan Brown and Stephen King made a killing citing these incidents in the plots of their books, you could get these substantially inventive and entertaining documents as free e-book downloads. Now it only happens if you use PayPal and you’re prepared to shell out your hair-cut money for a read through. Moan. I used to believe in their original intelligence, because it takes the reach of a graspy intellect to dig patterns in nothingness, the kind of thing I used to get into during school holidays when I was a child. I used to cherish the feeling of ‘being in the know’, one among the scientific elite, while the rest of the world glossed over Vogue and read Teen Vogue if they needed to have something to say in groups. Now, I believe more of what I see in the banality of digging for loose change from the patterns of nothingness in my pockets, evidenced by the screeching horror in my voice as I stare at my balding head. And I have no pal, paid or unpaid, to pull me out of arguments involving my position on the privatization of outer space vs. the amount of space I privatize on the queen size bed in the position I sleep.
Coming back to intelligence, artificial and real. Recently, I found myself in tears when a robot was brutally beaten and smashed to its titanium bits in the rerun of the movie Real Steel. My dear boyfriend was reeling from uncontrollable laughter between the words, ‘robot-ahha hha ha haa haah ahhha ahhha haaah- it’s a robot!!’ even as I choked on more salty tears at the sight of the young boy teaching the beaten robot to defend itself at the next round in the boxing ring. Eventually the robot even learns to dance and I let out a few giggles, relieved to have found the anti-dote to choked up moments in the screenplay. It was a strange sight, all of it. But somehow, artificial intelligence evoked the same response in me that a lone puppy left for adoption in a cage would. I know this because it was the same chord or nerve that was touched, depending on whether you associate ‘feeling’ with the heart or the brain. I have other chords for angry tears, pain tears, fake tears for mourning the death of my ex- ma-in-law and the tears that clean the dust out of my eyes; they are all under strict order closer to the duct for immediate release. This one came welling up from the deep unconscionably, or shall we say it was ‘rolling in the deep’?
So as evidenced by my compelling story, if intelligence is an emotional experience, my point is, there is no point! Only rational experiences need a point or a reason to explain why. Feelings, on the other hand, just arise, wisp about and leave when they feel like it. Intelligence then, is in the same category as cravings, addictions, compulsive needs and instinct. And if that is true, intelligence is something we are all born with and is present as inconspicuously and ubiquitously as tooth brushes and toothpaste. And that makes measuring intelligence an obsolete idea. It would be like counting the bristles on the brush to ascertain its relation to whiter teeth. A pretty unintelligent way to go about it…like most things in the study of this subject, human intelligence.
Our textbooks tell us that when our ancestral grandmother Orga decided to use two stones to create a spark, she was using intelligence for the first time. I always thought it happened when she screamed, throwing things randomly in anger, at our grandpa, poor Bugga. Which would explain why, even today, you call a girl as having some of that spark when her nostrils flare as you advance at her, never understanding what you did when you put your socks into the laundry with her whites.
In another discovery affirming my suspicions, the latest research into human intelligence shows that we are indeed becoming more stupid by the day. ‘Humans are losing intellectual and emotional capabilities because we no longer need intelligence to survive, a new study has claimed. Researchers from Stanford University claim the intricate web of genes which endows us with our brain power is particularly vulnerable to mutations – and these mutations are not being selected against our modern society because we no longer need intelligence to survive. If that is true, then we’d better store the intelligence that we evolved with. Because, in a few hundred years, we will have forgotten how we became an intelligent society that outgrew its need for intelligence, then inevitably revert to a state that requires the use of intelligence but can’t. It could be a never-ending oscillation between stupidity and boredom. Of certainties, this can be said.
When DH Lawrence said Intelligence is somewhat more than just being intelligent, I somewhat think he meant choosing the right perfume, spending more on a regular hair-cut and adopting lonely puppies in cages rather than on anything you can buy from a screen on your desk, always keeping tissues handy, especially if you are attending a technology convention and never to upset Orga, even if you need her lighter real bad!