Rethinking Intelligence

Rethinking Intelligence

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Rethinking Intelligence

When we see displays of non-human intelligence in nature, the instinctive response is awe. These glimpses of the beauty and diversity of Earthly intelligence help us know in a most visceral way that intelligence is much bigger than humanity.

I believe that one of the most important lessons we will learn through machine intelligence is that intelligence is larger than any human categories of artificial or natural. As a species, we are about to broaden our understanding of intelligence through the novelty, surprise, and wonder that systems like AlphaGo generate from our seeds of thought.


  1. Adding a reference from Teodora Petkova in her share of this article, so that I can find this later.

    The verb “cull” in the last verse is a translation of the Latin verb “intellegere”. This Latin word literally means “to choose from”, it is formed from inter ‘between’ and legere ‘choose’. With time intellegere came to denote “understand” and to further grow more elaborate meanings. its present participle (intelligens, i.e. discerning) is the origin of the word intelligent.

    I think it gets to the notion that Earthly Intelligence is tied to the duality of the material plane. We literally “choose between.” – Semantic Search: The Paradigm Shift from Results to Relationships |

  2. Gideon Rosenblatt the physicality of the roots of many of the words associated with information and thought: to inform (literally, impress upon), to grasp an idea, to hold in ones mind, to reveal or enlighten. To manipulate a concept. To discern (again: cut). The ideas of trust and fidelity. Truth.

    Spending a few hours chasing these roots through a good etymological dictionary is, er, illuminating. – Online Etymology Dictionary

  3. Excellent, Edward Morbius. Yes, the ephemeral emerging from the physical. It is, in many ways, the story of human consciousness.

  4. Gideon Rosenblatt I’m reminded of a Krugman column which criticised critics of capitalism for their use of metaphor … in a column which literally opened with a metaphor.

    I’m pretty sure that virtually all thought is analogue. Our minds are analogues of the Universe (small, simple, poor ones, but that’s what they’re trying to do). And we understand things through varying levels of analogisation, or as that term’s literary analogue is: metaphor.

    Another thought is that it is behaviour that defines a thing.

    Light is not either a wave or a particle.

    It is the analogue of “wave” or “particle” which is useful, in various contexts, to describe what we call “light”.

    And those analogues fit because the behaviour of light, in those circumstances, is analogous to that of a wave, or a particle. Or in rare instances, both.

  5. Beautifully stated, Edward Morbius. One of the things that I took away from Antonio Damasio’s book A Self Comes to Mind is that our minds really do create a electrically simulated map of reality in our brains. And from others, I would add that it’s been tuned (or selected to go back the the “intellegere” idea) specifically to bring about survival. Adaptation in other words.

    I realize that this will be the third of my own articles that I am pointing to here, which may be a bit gauche, but it’s so related to your point that I can’t resist: – Language as Bridge Between a Digital and Analog Reality

  6. Gideon Rosenblatt See also Donald Hoffman: evolution doesn’t select for perceptual reality but perceptual survival. – The Evolutionary Argument Against Reality | Quanta Magazine

  7. He was exactly who I was thinking of, Edward Morbius. He was at the Science and Nonduality Conference in the Bay Area last fall and gave a great talk. – The Death of SpaceTime & Birth of Conscious Agents, Donald Hoffman | Science and Nonduality

  8. Gideon Rosenblatt and Edward Morbius thank you for an illuminating dialogue 🙂 Adding a book here: The Metaphors We Live By: –

  9. Gideon Rosenblatt thank you for adding the excerpt here. Can you please elaborate on that one: “the duality of the material plane. We literally “choose between.”” I feel it is important, but can only understand it non-verbally. Please, translate for my mind to grasp it. Thank you 🙂

  10. Well, Teodora Petkova, there’s this view that the physical plane of reality is conceived by humans in a dualistic way. Some of it has to do with the fundamental split between our subjective experience and those objects we believe to be outside that subjectivity – the “objective” reality. So that’s a big part of the split: the divide and the choosing between I and Other.

    Then, I suppose, there’s the whole notion of Yin and Yang and the idea that the physical plane is fundamentally made up of a dynamic this/that, black/white, wave/particle, and other contrasts.

  11. Gideon Rosenblatt My reasons for being an unqualified cat are revealed.

  12. Gideon Rosenblatt I don’t agree, I think the opposite of your quote is true. People are more skeptical of animal (and especially plant) intelligence while being happy to call similar or vastly more limited computations in machines AI.

    All of these things and more (such as the evolutionary process) are intelligent.

  13. A common example is intelligence in insects is called “just” instinct. While Alpha Go, which also cannot learn, is called intelligent.

  14. Deen Abiola, but you are essentially agreeing with me. You call them intelligent and I call them intelligent. Yes, it is true that many humans do not see them that way, preferring instead to see humans as the only souls on the planet and the only true intelligence. That is hubris.

    Are you saying that AlphaGo doesn’t learn? What do you mean?

  15. T vv Vvbb5;;:8

  16. Hi Gideon Rosenblatt We agree in that those things should be considered intelligent. We disagree in that I don’t think the average person gives much consideration to the intelligence of animals. Otherwise why factory farms and whale hunting…?

  17. AlphaGo doesn’t learn once it is deployed. Unlike its human adversaries, it can’t update its beliefs, adapt to the player or gain new knowledge as it plays (the neural networks are fixed).

  18. Agreed on both points, Deen Abiola​.

  19. I just read it. Thanks.

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