Now that many of us are connected to the Internet at all times, via our smartphones or computers, is it time to redefine what intelligence means?

Using the traditional measure of intelligence, two people who score the same on a standard I.Q. test are said to have the same level of intelligence, more or less. But what if one person has Internet access all the time, and the other has none? Can we truly say the person with no Internet access is just as smart?

We usually consider the question of intelligence separate from the question of Internet access. That made sense until the Internet found its way to my phone. Now the Internet and I are virtually inseparable. Ask me the capital of Moldova and I'll tell you it is Chisinau. Ask me to tell you the word for sweet potato in Vietnamese, and I'll tell you it is lang. Bam. It takes me less than ten seconds to answer most questions.

Now suppose you compare two people who have the same I.Q. scores, and both have blazing fast Internet connections, but one person is great at searching for information on the Internet, and interpreting it, and the other isn't so good. Now which of the two people is smarter? I would argue that the person who has the better Internet skills is effectively smarter, and possibly by a wide margin. Internet access means nothing if you don't know how to use it.

Consider two people with equal I.Q. scores, and equal Internet connections, but one knows about www.snopes.com and the other does not. If you're like me, you spend a fair amount of time directing your misguided friends and family members to snopes.com to squash their misconceptions. Simply knowing that snopes.com exists is the equivalent of learning an entire subject in school. The Internet is an intelligence multiplier, but only if you know how to use it.

If a typical extra-smart person twenty years ago had an I.Q. of 140, that same person connected to the Internet today has a functional I.Q. of 10,000 or more. (I realize it doesn't work that way, but you get the idea.)

I've always questioned why traditional I.Q. tests are timed, but let's assume someone has a good argument for why the person who gets the right answer in ten seconds is more intelligent than the person who takes a few seconds longer. Extending the speed-is-intelligence argument to the Internet, could you say the person who is a fast typist, and therefore can do a Google search faster is also more intelligent?

Measuring intelligence is a messy business because every form of natural talent (musical, artistic, social, etc.) can be defined as intelligence. You never get a pure apples-to-apples comparison of two people. But that said, I would argue that the Internet-connected person who knows how to search for information and interpret it is infinitely more intelligent than the person who has no Internet connection, or isn't skilled at using it.

If you have a smartphone with you at all times, and someone asks your I.Q., say it is somewhere in the 10,000 to infinity range. If you are met with skepticism, send the doubter a link to this blog entry.

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Mar 9, 2012
Intelligence isn't meant to gauge "acquired knowledge" and (hypothetically) a genius could be profoundly ignorant. Tests usually measure the number of things you can hold in memory, your ability to transform patterns mentally, your ability to recognize patterns and extrapolate sequences, your ability to organize objects and ideas, and your ability to abstract a change in one idea or object and apply it to dissimilar ideas and objects.

When internet IQ tests ask you the capital of Moldova, it's certain to be a junk test. In the end, if you're looking for a high IQ person, you seek thinking skills, rather than a lot of knowledge.
Mar 9, 2012
I think Scott knows his audience and is giving out a weekend present... a hypnotic massage to our self perception.
He is making us feel smart and leaving us with good vibes going into the weekend. We'll hang with our family, play some sports, check out facebook and drink some beer. The whole time, in the back of our minds, we're thinking we are really smart and special. Come Monday morning we'll be sure to see what Scott's thinking and writing.
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Mar 9, 2012
Even if you could tell me the capital of Moldova without reference to the internet, I wouldn't define that as intelligence. That's just knowing stuff. Memory isn't intelligence.

Intelligence is being able to understand and process information, more than simply possessing it.

So, in the statement "I would argue that the Internet-connected person who knows how to search for information and interpret it is infinitely more intelligent than the person who has no Internet connection, or isn't skilled at using it", I'd say you were half-right. Knowing how to search for information isn't intelligence. Being able to interpret it, is.
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Mar 9, 2012
A simple intelligence test for cashiers.

Put nine cans of soda pop on the counter in a square.

Cashier glances at cans and says "nine". High intelligence.
Cashier glances at cans and says "three by three is nine". Normal intelligence.
Cashier counts the cans. Low intelligence.
Cashier can tell you how many characters are printed on the cans. Idiot savant.

My IQ is less affected by my computer, which is basically just a book with a calculator built in (I have one of those), and more by my bed. If I sleep well for a couple of nights and don't stay up past 2:00 a.m., my IQ skyrockets. I have more patience, am more resourceful, and can solve problems easier and more patiently.

And look, it's 2:02 a.m. Time to go back to bed for another three or four hours of sleep already.
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Mar 9, 2012
I think Scott is attempting to broach the subject of cybernetic intelligence. However, in my experience the internet does not make stupid people smart. It deepens their ignorance and incompetence. They can get everything wrong faster. The cellphone actually decreases intelligence, as you can see every day on the streets.

Mind you, if you are reasonably adept, you can sound intelligent on any subject with nothing more than Wikipedia, and certain aspects of real intelligence may be amplified. However, stupid, lazy people will ask you how to spell a word while they are sitting in front of a web browser, which is essentially the biggest dictionary and encylopedia in the history of the world. What am I? Google? Why, yes, yes, I am. But you can do your own work, thank you.
Mar 8, 2012
A person with access to the internet has access to a better 'Library' than a person with no access to the internet.

This has little to do with the generally accepted definition of Intelligence (a high mental capacity; the capacity of reasoning or understanding) per se.

Yes, Intelligence has been defined in some places as the ability to gather and distribute information also - but by that definition a gossiping housewife would be more intelligent than Einstein.

The distinction between intelligence and mere access to information can be nicely understood by the Warren Buffet quote, "If past history was all there was to the game, the richest people would be librarians."

Semantics aside, you make a good point in your post though.
Mar 8, 2012
If you care about the IQ number and how it compares to others, you must have a standardized reliable and valid assessment tool, in a standard setting (without calculators, phone a friend, crib notes, or a wifi connection).

Just like they don't let you wear a jet pack in the high jump at the Olympics, they don't let you take a Wechsler Intelligence Test with a smart phone. It's called a smart phone, because it is the PHONE that is smart, rather than the goofball using it (instead of making eye contact with his dinner date).
Mar 8, 2012
Fast tools, including the internet, just give a person the capacity to do the wrong thing that much faster.
Mar 8, 2012
LThe internet is a tool, how people utilize that tool can be a indicator of intelligence...

Lets say I give a monkey a hammer.
And I also give a master carpenter the same hammer.

Now I give both the monkey and master carpenter the task to build a chair from a stack of lumber.

Which species of animal will most likely produce the better results in regards to the utilization of the hammer for building a chair from the stack of lumber?

Its the same logic with the internet.

The quality of utilization of the tool is determined by the quality of intellect and learned skill of the user.

A good intellect will understand the power and also the limitations of the tool their using.

The carpenter will know that he or she can not build a quality chair with quality results, with just using the hammer.

The intelligent animal knows the limitations of the tool their using, " the hammer" and so utilizes other tools to perform the given task. Such as a saw.

The monkey on the other hand will likely bash the hammer against a rock. And thus get poor results on the task of building the chair.

Of coarse if the carpenter can build a good chair with just the hammer. Their super smart and should get a prize for their ingenuity...

The internet is a wonderful tool if used correctly. But it also has uncountable limitations.

I disagree with the infinite description to the internet. The Internet is very very finite in regards to information. Every bit of information on a computer drive,server, "The internet" is a representation of a mass/energy being reorganized, changed to represent a bit of information in another form. Example of another form of information would be the score of a basket ball game.

In order for the internet to be infinite, it would require a infinite mass/energy.

So obviously the internet is finite. The exact shape and number of fungus on my toe is not part of the internet, the exact number of stars, atoms in the universe is not part of the internet.

Statistics and probability is all it is...

Any how...
Mar 8, 2012
I always enjoy when you attempt to redefine a word, or use the old debater's trick of trying to get others to agree to a definition so you can then win the debate. That's a really fun thing to do. I guess your new definition of intelligence is, "people who can do research quickly using Internet tools." Boy is MENSA going to have a tough time with THAT one!

As I have a high pre-Internet intelligence, I think I'll try redefining some words:

1. Cat: a mammal with four legs and a tail, that makes a distinctive barking sound.

2. White: the absence of light and color.

3. Earth: large, gaseous fireball generating heat through fusion, around which planets and other stuff revolves.

4. Free thinker: one who agrees with a cartoonist (see below) completely on all topics.

5. Cartoonist: a person who has a more in-depth knowledge on all topics than any other person on Earth, and whose opinions are actually facts.

4. Idiot: anyone who disagrees with a cartoonist.

5. Small-minded weasely chicken: a person who scams the scoring system to rack up a lot of thumbs-down scores on "certain" posts on the Dilbert Blog a couple of days after the post is made when he sees a bunch of thumbs-up on said post.

Hey, this is fun. All I have to do is decide what I want a word to mean, and Bob's your uncle! Who needs a dictionary when I have me, or Scott?
Mar 8, 2012
I read a lovely definition of intelligence:

"that which is measured by an intelligence test"
Mar 8, 2012
one could take it a step further & ask in the wireless/internet hyper-collaborative era whether the intelligence of an individual is even relevant anymore. and no, I'm not talking about "E.Q." (though that does matter), I'm saying that pretty much any complex problem requires a team these days so having an off the chart I.Q. (w/ or w/o google) seems analogous to being the best player in the NFL or NBA - being Calvin Johnson is great for Calvin Johnson but would you rather own (and/or play for) the Lions or the Giants?
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Mar 8, 2012
I followed your suggestion, although I had to declare my IQ was "somewhere in the 10,000 to infinity range" to someone. I waited about 10 minutes for him to ask, as per your instructions, but it quickly became evident that he wasn't going to inquire.

Anyhow, he responded to this link with, "Well if you're so smart, what is the capital of Elbonia?"

I've found a few different answers on the internet, ranging from Bornyasherk to Dogbert City, but am not satisfied that any of them are correct.

Any idea who I could ask to get the right answer?
Mar 8, 2012
Scott: If you can claim that the internet makes you smarter because you know how to separate fact from fiction, is it then fair to say that the internet actually make people who don't dumber?
Mar 8, 2012
I always wrestle with the decision to point a colleague or friend to Snopes.com after they blast email some conspiracy theory or errant factoid. You can either:

a) Tell them to go to Snopes.com, which is effectively the same as calling them an idiot

b) Say nothing, and let untold numbers of other people quietly think that the person is an idiot

I can never figure out which is the truly "nicer" thing to do.
Mar 8, 2012
I certainly feel a lot smarter with my smartphone. The Siri-type app is cool. But now if someone asks you a question like "If the iron core of the Earth was actually nougat, how many calories are we talking about?", you have to do extra steps. You have to pick up your phone, repeat the question to Siri, then wait for her answer.

Why can't Siri be continually monitoring your conversations? Then she could speak the answer immediately. At first her constant interruptions might seem annoying, but you'd get used to it.

In the future an option will be available for Siri to mimic the sound of your own voice -- then you'll be able to lip-synch answers. Or little flesh-colored electrodes could be mounted at the corners of your mouth to automatically synch it with her answers. Head and eye movement could also be automated. It's possible that Mitt Romney is using a beta version of this system right now.

But not everyone would want to be Mr. Know-it-all. Some might prefer a "Good Ole Boy" version. For example, if your buddy asks who's gonna be the Colts quarterback next year, the app would reply "Your Mom", not "There is a 90% probability it will be Andrew Luck".

+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Mar 8, 2012
I think Scott' Meta-plan was just to get his own Snopes.com entry.

Internet makes you between 10,000 and infinite times smarter- Hoax.

I will go with 10,000 to infinite more times knowledgeable assuming you have a well developed BS filter. I think you could go with an intelligence multiplier if you had a stack of internet tablets and enough square footage to lay them out on the floor and related them together to make new knowledge. That is how I had to write my thesis and it would have been a lot easier with net connected computers than photocopied journals. I think true genius is having enough working memory and spatial skill that you can in your head what took me papering the entire floor of my apartment. IQ tests are just are best but weak attempt to measure that capacity.
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Mar 8, 2012
I find the discussion fun. However, I'm one of those that stumbles across items on the web and forwards them far and wide. Some like to receive and the others now just hit 'delete' because I failed to properly verify the sources and/or 'vet' the information before forwarding. I see the web as a communication site for wit and imagination, but don't really expect 'information' or 'truth'. Apparently, there is a group of people that see it as the Greek Oracle of knowledge. I also find it interesting that lots of people simply think that because the 'snoped' it, it must be true.
Fascinating, eh?
Mar 8, 2012
I measure the intelligence of others as some function of the number of times I have to explain something to someone and the complexity of the subject.

If I can explain nuclear physics to you and your eyes don't glaze over in the first 30 seconds then you're probably fairly intelligent. At the other end of the spectrum, if you're having trouble understanding the difference between a square and a circle then a monkey could probably do your job better than you.
Mar 8, 2012
There are two misconceptions in your post.

#1-Perception of intelligence is different from intelligence itself.
People may think you have an IQ of 10000 just because you know how to use wikipedia, but you're still the same 140 guy,

#2-Knowledge has nothing to do with intelligence.
You can have dumb people that read the whole newspaper every day and can also have intelligent hillbillies that never went to school.
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