Friday, November 04, 2005

C|Net published a interesting article on "Intelligence in age of Internet" back in mid September and I forgot to mention it here. The article begins with the question: "It's a question older than the Parthenon: Do innovations and new technologies make us more intelligent?" and the piece discusses this issue from a historical and cross-cultural perspective. A few quotes:
Intelligence, as it impacts the economist Valderrama, is our capacity to adapt and thrive in our own environment. In a Darwinian sense, it's as true now as it was millions of years ago, when man's aptitude for hearing the way branches broke or smelling a spore affected his power to avoid predators, eat and survive.

But what makes someone smart can vary in different cultures and situations. A successful Wall Street banker who has dropped into the Australian Outback likely couldn't pull off a great Crocodile Dundee impression. A mathematical genius like Isaac Newton could be--in fact, he was--socially inept and a borderline hermit. A master painter? Probably not so good at balancing a checkbook.

Despite what I like about this piece, it has a very limited understanding of memory. For instance:
Only 600 years ago, people relied on memory as a primary means of communication and tradition. Before the printed word, memory was essential to lawyers, doctors, priests and poets, and those with particular talents for memory were revered. Seneca, a famous teacher of rhetoric around A.D. 37, was said to be able to repeat long passages of speeches he had heard years before. "Memory," said Greek playwright Aeschylus, "is the mother of all wisdom."

People feared the invention of the printing press because it would cause people to rely on books for their memory. Today, memory is more irrelevant than ever, argue some academics.

"What's important is your ability to use what you know well. There are people who are walking encyclopedias, but they make a mess of their lives. Getting a 100 percent on a written driving test doesn't mean you can drive," said Robert Sternberg, dean of Arts and Sciences at Tufts University and a professor of psychology.

As I argue when ever I get the chance, the art of memory has always been about information management, the "ability to use what you know well" whether what you know is stored in your brain, in your Palm Pilot, in the library, or on the Web. Moreover, not only does this article make the common mistake in only understanding memory from an internal-external storage perspective rather than the more important natural-artificial perspective, it only understands memory as a function of cognition. When we know how to drive we rely upon habit-memory, also known as procedural memory. While I read Robert Sternberg's quote as making a distinction between declarative memory and habit-memory/procedural memory.

Via Datacloud via Boing Boing
Cross-posted to Machina Memorialis

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