Thursday, January 05, 2006

The changing nature of human intelligence...

One way the definition of an intelligent human is subtly shifting is from one who knows information (not data (facts) but information (knowledge derived from study, experience, or instruction)) to one who can access information (knowledge derived by others). As the profusion of data has led to directories, search and ratings as tools to manage the data deluge, people are serving as meta-tools for interpreting and synthesizing information. Accessing information is more important than knowing it directly. Evolutionarily, the fittest are already demonstrating superior capabilities in accessing information and the nature of job requirements is changing to reflect this as well.

Previously information was not available (and not all information is yet or may ever be available) and so there was value in knowing/storing directly-derived information in the brain, but the way humans interact with information is changing. We no longer need to know many things, just how to access that information, for example how to spell (a ubiquitous low level utility function) or how to remember facts (a fairly easy online search).

The question is whether anything is lost in the higher levels of human cognition when the data and information levels are externalized? Is thought processing more limited with fewer facts on board? Probably not in the direct functional sense because important data and information related to our core thoughts of the moment are likely stored automatically just as a function of thought processing, but in the possibility sense, other potentially related areas cannot be easily drawn upon or pattern-recognized without a greater interconnection to data and information.

This fact and information storage issue is presumably only an interim problem before there are direct interfaces from data and information stores to the brain (the seamless in-brain InfoChip or other prosthesis) and the assumption is that higher level human processing can then be more efficient. Better (e.g.; more rational and fact-supported) arguments could then be created more efficiently. The human thought process doesn't necessarily change, it is just improved by having fact-injected thought and the real benefit is in the expansion possibility - to automatically sift through vast additional information reserves to pattern match and learn.

For example, now when considering a problem, we often ask, to what other situations is this similar? We generally only have the capability to look very narrowly in our own experience, some limited experience of others in the same field and maybe talk to a few people who understand the situation. In the future, being able to search across the whole possibility space of human thought and experience to find similar situations and generate universal laws and meta-insights could provide some of the multi-disciplinary energy that has been lacking in our approach to siloed science area problems in almost every field, particularly in Artificial Intelligence and computing, physics and biotech.