Nugget #3 – Augmenting Human Intellect

“Actually, each of the social, life, or physical phenomena we observe about us would seem to derive from a supporting hierarchy of organized functions (or processes), in which the synergistic principle gives increased phenomenological sophistication to each succeedingly higher level of organization. In particular, the intelligence of a human being, derived ultimately from the characteristics of individual nerve cells, undoubtedly results from synergism.” – Engelbart

We like to think about hierarchies, which is understandable because they are very neat and organized a sensible. For instance, one of the most well known hierarchy’s (and one you learn about in any introductory psychology class) is Maslow’s Hierarchy.

The problem I see with trying to organize things hierarchically is that it is far too simplistic. And I don’t actually think that human intelligence can be organized into levels-because most of the connections in the brain look something like this:

Theoretically you could say first we have the brain cells and their connections, then we have the electric pulses, then we have where the pulses go and what they do, and that’s where things get fuzzy-there are so many things going on the brain, so many connected parts, so many unknowns about what affects what. And at some point, the parts do not necessarily equal the whole, the idea of emergence. A simple hierarchy form may not cover the complexity of the brain.

And there are massive, ongoing studies about intelligence. What goes on in the brain to form intelligent thought? Why are some people more intelligent that others?

But there is no doubt that intelligence-wherever it comes from-has to come from synergism.

Because I am currently doing research on eyes, they will be a great example. Right now as you read this you’re eyes are truly seeing about 5 degrees of a focused, color picture. However outside of that you still perceive lines and edges and colors, when your eyes don’t truly see it! Your eyes by themselves are not all that great, they are like looking through a really small tube of rice paper. But with your brain in the mix, you continue to perceptive your environment. Any minor traumatic brain injury, anywhere on the head, messes up that system. Your brain is injured, and you actually lose some part of your control of the eyes.

So my final questions are: Is it possible to find/define specifically intelligence? And do we need to find the source of intelligence to optimally augment the human brain? Or further, would investigating augmentation, without really knowing where intelligence comes from, as Dr. Engelbart suggests, actually give us more insight into our own intelligence? Is it possible to program a effective neural network?

Maybe society is too focused on finding definite solutions,  if we just began trying to do things we might end up with more knowledge: Try->Learn->Improve

11 thoughts on “Nugget #3 – Augmenting Human Intellect”

  1. Pingback: willthesullivan
  2. Fascinating post and a great lead-up to the conceptual network post. A question occurs to me: if we get the accelerating augmentation / bootstrapping process going, will we be able to bootstrap ourselves into being able to understand our own brain’s ability to understand our brain?

    Actually, it seems to me that something like this is happening as humanity progresses in its knowledge–at least on the scientific front.

    Your post makes me think of a TED Talk on the connectome. It’s a fascinating concept and a very good talk. I think you’d find it very interesting.

    Dr. C.

    P.S. Impressive pingback count!

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