Part 1: “Technology increases mankind’s intelligence.”Posted: October 22, 2012
Although I agree with Kurzweil on some of the reasons why this statement is true, which include:
- Technology increases the amount of information we know compared to the past
- Access to information is much easier, quicker and more efficient
- Communication of our ideas on the information is more quick and easy than ever before
I feel that knowing does not mean a person is smarter and knowing does not make a person inherently more intelligent.
Let’s take a step back and understand the definition of intelligence:
The ability to learn or understand or to deal with new or trying situations: reason; also: the skilled use of reason (2): the ability to apply knowledge to manipulate one’s environment or to think abstractly as measured by objective criteria (as tests)
Technology does not make us more intelligent. That statement, “technology increases mankind’s intelligence” made by Kurzweil is like saying a person has more intelligence than a rock.
“Welllllll…” you might say, “now you’re comparing apples to oranges. And that doesn’t make sense.”
Let me explain. A rock embodies the information about earths’ natural history, it is millions of years old, the environment around them shaped it and even some rocks have long dead living things inside them! They are full of information about the earth through time and humans use them to unlock the mysteries of earths past. My point is, knowing is half the battle and it’s what you do with that knowledge that differentiates an intelligent person from one that is slightly less so. A rock provides information and one could use it to make tools etc., but a person can be armed with information and be completely useless.
There are many people who have a plethora of information at their fingertips using their smartphones and computers, but not everyone can, for their life, apply that information in a useful way and/or in a way that benefit themselves or others. In contrast, some less intelligent people might even apply their knowledge to make life more difficult for themselves and others around them.
Technology and making information accessible does not inherently make all humans more intelligent. Instead, technology is more of a vehicle or tool that assists in the advancement of human intelligence.
Technology creates more opportunities to realize our human potential. For example, I’ve been watching a whole set of TED talks delivered by young people who have been inspired by technology, science and innovation.
- Richard Turere: My invention that outsmarted lions
Turere didn’t have the best technology at hand, but proved that even with limited access to through the knowledge he gained through electrical devices he gathered, he was able to apply it to his everyday life. And the result, not only was he able to save his cattle, but also the lions who live in the national park
- Jack Andraka: A test for pancreatic cancer
Drawing inspiration from a scientific paper he read, his biology class and opportunity to work in a lab, Andraka was able to invent a low cost detection assay for pancreatic cancer.
- Tavi Gevinson: A teen just trying to figure it out
I’ve checked out Rookie a few times and this is one of my favourites from the site:Anyway, Gevinson is a great example of using technology and gaining knowledge of the pop culture around her and by doing that, she realized there was something missing, in particular, strong female characters in pop culture for teens to look up to.
- Lauren Hodge, Shree Bose and Naomi Shah: Award-winning teen-age science in action
These girls are impressive and intelligent because they used their knowledge to make the world a healthier place. It’s amazing how each of them contacted hundreds of university professors for lab time and thankfully, at least one volunteered to help them out.
- Thomas Suarez: A 12-year-old app developer
Thomas Suarez reminds me when I was discovering flash animation and flash web applications (ah, flashback to elementary school when I wanted to become an engineer just like a girl in a poster in the family studies room. A bit ironic.). He demonstrates how a young person can just play with an app-building platform and build cool games.
- Adora Svitak: What adults can learn from kids
Adora Svitak speaks about something I feel very strongly about – giving the younger generation respect for their ideas, listening to them and the need to foster their curiosity and need to find answers. Adults should not stifle young creativity because adults are pessimistic and over-calculating.
During Kurzweil’s Q&A session after his talk, a university student asked how Kurzweil distinguishes a good idea from a bad idea. This young man told a story where he had a great idea and then told his roommates and professors about it, they found a million criticisms to his idea and he became discouraged.
Kurzweil didn’t really provide a good answer to this question, but I didn’t really expect him to do so anyway. But the point of it all is that children have an unspoiled mind and are fearless. For them, all ideas are good and they’ll pursue all of them and find ways to make them work if given the opportunity. Sure, that is a sweeping generalization, but the enthusiasm and curiosity young people have shouldn’t be ignored or suppressed. They are, as we all know, the future.
These young people had access to a vast range of information, and along with their mental capabilities and ideas, they did REALLY COOL things and solved some problems in today’s society. And that’s because technology provided them with easier access to information and assisted their learning (whether practical or through literature).
Intelligence is what one does with information, not the quantity of information one has.