- by Gitabushi
If you think about the spread of intelligence in society, or among your classmates/co-workers, you probably imagine something like this:
And I suppose that’s okay.
But lately, it seems like everyone has gotten stupid.
In high school, I don’t remember being all that much smarter than everyone around me. We had great talks, stimulating ideas, everything. I was smart, of course, but I could converse easily with everyone around me.
But now, it seems like finding people that can keep up is difficult. I eat lunch every day with a bunch of Chinese linguists, and it is wonderful! It seems like almost everyone is capable of quirky, weird, funny, and insightful contributions.
But then there is my friend from high school. He was 88th percentile in the nation on standardized testing, so he wasn’t stupid by any means. But now, 30 years later, his ideas are adolescent, he speaks in slogans, he can’t seem to think things through.
Now, everyone slows down eventually. My dad was brilliant, but at age 84, he needs more time to figure things out, and isn’t quite as sharp as he used to be.
But it didn’t happen to him until he was in his 80s, whereas my mom’s mental functioning and practical intelligence started noticeably dropping in her late 60s.
So I’d like to propose a new way of visualizing intelligence. The ballistic vector:
In this model, you can see that early in the flight path (early in life), you are all on virtually the same path. People of all intelligences are roughly equal, because education gives us all pretty much the same information mass to assimilate, and all ideas are new. Sure, the intelligent might learn it a little quicker, but you are all working with pretty much the same material.
But as you get older, the intelligent people continue to learn, continue to seek out new mental challenges, continue to synthesize existing information into new understandings. And as such, the more intelligent people fly higher, see further due to their higher reach, and retain that knowledge height for a much longer time.
Side note that sort of supports this paradigm, but also muddies it:
About 10 years ago, a researcher nearly bankrupted the tofu industry in Hawaii by saying that soy products aged the brain. He later pointed out the difference was small, less than that of the difference between a high school-educated brain and a college-educated brain.
Now, does that mean that what I’m really noticing isn’t an intelligence disparity, but a self-education, continual-learning disparity? Or is it just that the individuals with high intelligence find it easier to continue learning because they have the higher intelligence capacity to assimilate knew knowledge?
Or is my line of thinking wrong to begin with?
What are your thoughts?