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« Philosophers Football Match | Main | David Edmonds and Nigel Warburton discuss Philosophy Bites: the book »

May 22, 2010


Julian Gall

The discussion about the Singularity seemed hardly to touch on the most important question. David Chalmers briefly and informally defined intelligence but the assumption that intelligence can increase indefinitely was never challenged.

I can imagine memory and recall being more efficient. I can imagine thoughts being processed faster. A person with better memory and faster thinking might be perceived as more intelligent but is that all there is to intelligence?

Looked at another way, there is a great range of intelligence across people currently. Are the most intelligent ones running the world? Are they making the most money? Are they the best generals? Are they happier? Do they have more descendents?

Or look at intelligence over the centuries. Are we more intelligent now than a thousand or two thousand or five thousand years ago. If you could take a baby from the Roman empire and bring it up in the 21st century, would it struggle to cope? Presumably not as 2000 years is not enough time for intelligence to improve through evolution. Was Einstein more intelligent than Galileo or Shakespeare? How about Craig Venter or Stephen Hawking?

My point is that the above examples make me think intelligence has an upper limit. In other words, there is such a thing as 100% intelligence. Maybe the most intelligent people now alive are already close to that limit. Maybe not, but I think the answer is by no means obvious.

A topic for another Philosophy Bites, perhaps.

Carl Shulman

He does discuss diminishing returns and limits to intelligence in the paper.

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