The Nature of Intelligence

iqWe 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
  • Comprehension
  • Conceptualisation
  • 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 functions.

  • 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 speech.

  • 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.