The Nature of Intelligence
We began the discussion about 'Life' with the question `So what is life?` suggesting that the question was vexing because we feel we should, in some implicit way, know the answer for the simple reason that we sense that we, ourselves, are alive. In some ways, the following question can invoke a similar sort of reaction:
What is intelligence?
In the wider context of artificial life, human intelligence is discussed as a model for artificial intelligence (AI). However, let us begin in this section with some possible general observations. As we worked our way through our formative school years, we gained a relative perception of intelligence in terms of how some pupils are judged smarter than others. However, even at this level, we recognised that intelligence can be selective in the sense that pupils can be `smart` at some subjects, while `not-so-smart` at others. For example, an ability to spell does not necessarily imply an ability to write a beautiful poem or book. Later in life, we also recognise that some people, who are acknowledged to be very smart, can lack the ability to do anything of a practical nature. Even at this common-sense level, it would appear that intelligence is composed of a range of differing abilities. However, on a more formal level, a cognitive or behavioural psychologist might wish to breakdown the notion of intelligence into the following attributes, e.g.
- Perception Skills
- Problem Solving
- Memory Retention etc
In contrast, neuro-scientists might possibly prefer to describe these attributes in terms of the different areas of brain function.
- Brainstem: controls visual & audio reflexes
important to perception & coordination skills
- Frontal Lobe: The front portion is known to
handle higher cognitive functions that determine personality and
emotional traits, while the back portion controls a range of motor
- Occipital Lobe: Associated with functions that
underpin our visual recognition inclusive of shapes and colours.
- Parietal Lobe: the right lobe appears to handle
our spatial awareness, while our left lobe handles language and
- Temporal Lobe: The right lobe appears to be instrumental in visual memory, while the left lobes handles verbal memory
However, within the context of our discussion, the more salient point being raised is that while intelligence is derived from the functioning of physical areas of the brain, there appears to be another level associated with the mind, which transcends its physical description. By way of clarification, this statement is making no inference to metaphysical concepts, such as immortal souls, simply an analogous separation of `brain` and `mind` functions into 'hardware` and 'software` functions as found in today's computer systems. The reason for raising this analogy is that in the same way that the development of AI can gain perspective by comparison to human intelligence, some complementary perspective about human intelligence may also be gained by considering the developments in artificial intelligence.