• 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?


12 thoughts on “Intelligence

  1. Interesting. I’m not sure what I think about intelligence deviations or any of that (I am terrible at statistics), but I kind of feel the opposite. I felt like before high school I was one of the smarter kids in my classes, and then I felt more average in high school and college. But I also like to hang out with smart, nerdy people, so maybe it’s relative. I do know that these days the people I try to “hang” with online often make me feel like I’m not atop the heap.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I’m also not certain there is any validity to this notion at all.
      But it is a different way to look at how human intelligence displays itself, so there’s some value right there.
      However, it does also fit some of the available evidence (of which there seems to be some correlation between learning and extending effective brain youth).

      I’m kind of (and probably inordinately) proud of thinking of this. I think this is a creative thought most people wouldn’t have come up with.
      Or maybe it is just stupid, like rice.


  2. Well, there are more people in the world now, a lot more people. Remember when 5 Billion was a lot? And now you have access to a lot more people too. Thank goodness Al Gore invented the internet, right? I just think it is the world wide nanny state keeping the stupid people from off’ing themselves and so they breed. People don’t NEED to think for themselves because they are kept from the catastrophic consequences by big brother [man, him and nanny need to get a room!].
    Once people stop needing to think, what you notice happens. I hope you’re prepared for Moronoworld, because it’s coming…

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I think you might be hitting the nail on the head when it comes to people not continuing their education in anyway after high school/college. I surround myself with friends who like to learn new things, either by taking classes on subjects they’re interested in or reading books on subjects they know nothing about in order to inform themselves.
    Also, I’m approaching 30 so a good deal of people I know have kids, I do not, but it seems to me that they rely too heavily on the schools teaching their kids everything. They have a “that’s what I send them to school for” attitude. I imagine, if I did decide to procreate, I would be supplementing their education myself outside of school. In my opinion, there is no such thing as too much knowledge.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Word.
      School is good for socialization, but that’s about it.
      First, you have to teach them *your* values. The US education system is all to willing to teach them *their* values if you ignore that vital role.
      Second, a child of above-average intelligence will only rarely be mentally challenged by school. It is really helpful to “homeschool” them during the evening and on weekends. The time spent doing that with them will also build plenty of wonderful memories, trust, and self-confidence that will make your kids’ lives better.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Is it mean to think to yourself when you look at children of lazy parents and think, “I’m sorry your future won’t be as bright as it could have been?” But then again, some kids surprise you and actively seek education despite their parents.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I think the second thought is more in line with my life philosophy.
        Parents can help, and parents can obstruct somewhat, but it still really always comes down the individual.
        My parents taught me little about life. I sorta blame them for that, because it extended my struggle and delayed my success in life, but I still got to a pretty good spot, anyway.
        Graduating from the School of Hard Knocks is the only way to make it in life; parents can pretty much only help you CLEP out of a few entry courses.

        Liked by 2 people

  4. when I was a kid, my mom told me “the day you stop learning is the day you die”. She was talking about her father, who in his old age found new hobbies and new things to learn, new books to read, new people to talk to.

    i don’t think it’s that people are less intelligent now, i think as a society we don’t encourage our populace to continue to learn new things. It’s like, now the american style is to go to high school, maybe go on to college, have a career, have a family, and that’s it. There doesn’t seem to be room in that plan for learning new things, having hobbies, getting a new hobby, etc.

    When you learn new anything (any new thing! how to make a new recipe, how to crochet, how to drive a stick shift, your way around the subway system, anything!) your brain becomes more open to learning MORE new things. and suddenly you are a much more interesting person, able to have conversations that cover a wide range of topics.

    eh, that’s my two cents at least. and i better get back to learning how to crochet.

    Liked by 3 people

  5. I’ve tested at +2 standard deviations since grade school so I’m labeled as being “intelligent”. I’m a useful person who can understand the high-level concepts and employ the complex tools created by people above me to solve problems, but I rarely have any eureka moments of insight myself. I can translate these ideas and train people at my level and below (within reason) to be useful with them. What I’ve often found limiting is my lack of sustained curiosity. I’ll pick something up, figure out the what, where and why, and then put it back down. Very little “what if”… I’m really just interested in solving the current problem,

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Interesting read. I liked it.
    I think you are close to the mark, but also feel that one’s level of curiously plays a part. Maybe someone who didn’t do well in school/younger years would eventually surpass their ‘peers’ simply because they were more curious than those who felt they had no need to learn any more. For example, my father was always a bad student, and had to work to learn, but is still curious even at 80 now, and continues learning in spite of his difficulty at absorbing new things. No way a scientific example, but is a case in point.

    Cheers from Out Yonder. Tell Kaijubushi I said Hey!

    Liked by 2 people

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