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    Why Aren't We Smarter?
    By Gerhard Adam | December 9th 2011 04:25 PM | 29 comments | Print | E-mail | Track Comments
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    A recent article titled "Our Brains Can't Evolve Any Further" drew my attention which ultimately lead me to the paper "Why Aren’t We Smarter Already: Evolutionary Trade-Offs and Cognitive Enhancements" (Thomas Hills and Ralph Hertwig; University of Basel).

    Fortunately, this offered some interesting insights into the assumptions and conditions surrounding human intellect and its evolutionary implications.  

    In effect, we have seen various pharmacological enhancements of the cognitive process promoting improved school performance, reduction in age-related cognitive declines, etc.  Therefore it is reasonable to pose the question of why these pharmacological enhancements don't seem to display similar improvements in "normal" individuals.  In addition, there has always existed a presumption that cognitive improvement was largely a linear process, with the implicit assumption that "more is better".
    More memory is better; more focus is better; more self-control and willpower are better; and so on. Just as we cherish faster processing speed and larger memory in our digital electronics, we may assume that boosting a particular cognitive trait will bring better mental performance and affective well-being. (1)
    The question is posed that if these improvements can occur through drugs and if the relationship of improvements is largely a linear process, then why have we not evolved in that direction?  It would seem that the benefit of such traits would have been an ideal candidate for natural selection to have operated on almost indefinitely.  However, as pointed out by the authors, "all known evolutionary trajectories inevitably run up against constraints that prevent such runaway selection".  

    In addition to breaking down nebulous concepts like "intelligence" into more specific traits, such as memory, focus, self-control, etc. it becomes easier to see the influence of these various domains on each other as well as their collective effect on the cognitive system.  Memory is good until we lose the ability to generalize.  Focus is good until we lose the ability to switch frameworks quickly.  

    Specifically the point is made that cognition must deal with all manner of attention-switching problems for which there are often poorly defined criteria for indicating the completion of a task or objective.  As a result, the success of the system is achieved through balancing various aspects of cognitive performance by ensuring that no specific trait dominates to the exclusion of others.

    While this doesn't suggest that cognitive processes cannot be improved, it clearly indicates that one must be careful in assessing what constitutes improvement so that declines in abilities elsewhere are not masked or ignored.  It also suggests that the simple "more is better" perspective doesn't hold over the cognitive system.

    This gives rise to a performance curve that will peak and then begin to decline, suggesting that there are upper bounds to the improvement of any particular cognitive trait, before it begins to impact other traits.  A balance must be maintained so that subgoal achievement can be maximized.  

    The paper proceeds in giving several examples of pharmaceuticals being used and how the results are more pronounced in those below certain thresholds, rather than those with normal cognitive abilities.
    However, individuals of normal or above average cognitive ability often show negligible improvements or even decrements in performance following drug treatment (for details, see de Jongh, Bolt, Schermer,&Olivier, 2008).  For instance, Randall, Shneerson, and File (2005) found that modafinil improved performance only among individuals with lower IQ, not among those with higher IQ. Farah, Haimm,Sankoorikal, and Chatterjee (2009) found a similar nonlinear relationship of dose to response for amphetamines in a remote associates task, with low-performing individuals showing enhanced performance but high-performing individuals showing reduced performance. (2)
    Additional discussion introduces the idea that there will be trade-offs between various cognitive domains when any particular trait experiences enhancement gains.  In effect, it becomes "too much of a good thing" and the overall abilities begin to suffer.

    In conclusion, there is nothing to specifically prohibit enhancements to human cognitive processes, although current evidence suggests that it is extremely unlikely as things currently stand and would require significantly novel approaches.  One major consideration should be the need to ensure that a sufficiently wide search for side-effects is conducted before drawing conclusions on the efficacy of any particular enhancement.
      In effect, it may be that our brain doesn't "need" to get any better.  Much like computers, where speed limitations have been reduced by increased parallel processing, it may be that whatever limits exist in our minds, are also reduced by our specialized division of labor (a social form of parallel processing) which allows significant collective technological progress.  If this is true, it would suggest that, evolutionarily, we have already embarked on natural selection's path for human cognitive improvements by promoting a more eusocial adaptation rather than an individual one.




    (1)  (2)  (Fig. 2)  "Why Aren’t We Smarter Already: Evolutionary Trade-Offs and Cognitive Enhancements" (Thomas Hills and Ralph Hertwig; University of Basel).

    http://cdp.sagepub.com/content/20/6/373
    CITATION:  Thomas Hills and Ralph Hertwig; University of Basel
    "Why Aren’t We Smarter Already: Evolutionary Trade-Offs and Cognitive Enhancements"
    doi: 10.1177/0963721411418300 Current Directions in Psychological Science December 2011 vol. 20 no. 6 373-377

    Comments

    Stellare
    I wonder where this self control comes in as sign of intelligence.

    If you take the control of speech - or ability to talk for instance - depending upon the culture you speak in, it will be regarded as intelligent or stupid.

    In Italy your ability to speak and express your opinions orally are being seen as a sign of intelligence, but if you move up north to Finland, the exact opposite is true. In Finland an Italian will be seen as out of control of his mouth! :-) (also by Norwegians, but Finns are more extreme in this respect).

    I am however amazed how little we humans seem to have evolved as species though....

    And the approach you refer to is as good as any I guess. :-)
    Bente Lilja Bye is the author of Lilja - A bouquet of stories about the Earth
    Gerhard Adam
    I consider the self-control to be more of an act of self-discipline as well as being capable of directing one's focus.  Managing concentration, but knowing when to break-away. 

    Basically, a function of intelligence is the ability of the individual to apply their brainpower to a variety of conditions, so "self-control" in that sense is the ability to direct oneself to the problem at hand.  The alternative is to simply operate in "react" mode where we lack the ability to prioritize our thoughts or efforts and a perpetually faced with simply responding to the latest event that has drawn our attention.

    Anyway ... I'm responding rather quickly because I'm spending a few hours between traveling, so I might not be making much sense right now.
    Mundus vult decipi
    vongehr
    You are mixing up cognitive enhancement via drugs and evolution in a very confusing way. These need to be held far apart. The first often improves one trait (say focus) to the detriment of another. Evolution does not work that way. It is limited by other trade-offs, say energy consumption, but those limits can be overcome by animals that are not bound to hunt around in the wilderness.

    IQ is determined via the time needed to accomplish a work. Just increasing signal speed (say via increased nerve myelination) would already increase IQ.

    Brain based IQ does not evolve faster today because the fastest evolutionary substrate is now technological (in silico). Adaptation is much faster by adding technology to brain than improving brain. This is a general feature of evolution (emergence of faster strata that enslave lower strata). Think single cells versus animals. The cells inside animals almost stopped evolving - it is the animals that evolve. Equally, human brains stop evolving - it is technology that from now on evolves, and it seems to evolve so fast that humans will soon become superfluous.
    Gerhard Adam
    I'm not suggesting that cognitive enhancement via drugs is synonymous with evolution.  Instead, the point of the paper is to argue that perhaps the reason why we don't see improvements in "normal" individuals, is that there are evolutionary barriers that preclude general enhancement. 
    Adaptation is much faster by adding technology to brain than improving brain.
    While I understand what you're saying, I don't think it addresses any issues.  Just like adding disk storage doesn't make a computer more effective, it is simply an adjunct to the fundamental limits that are already intrinsic in the system.  In most of the ideas I've heard proposed regarding the wilder transhumanist claims, they always seem to overlook the fact that storage is probably not the primary problem towards enhancing intelligence.  They talk of chips creating "instantaneous" access to new knowledge, but this is incorrect.  Knowledge isn't acquired that way.  Knowledge must be integrated, otherwise it is little more than having access to a fast library.  That isn't knowledge, that's simply information.

    This is precisely why I made my point at the end, that (in my view) the evolutionary trajectory for humans is in the direction of eusocial organization which achieves a level of parallel processing using the human mind, because of our extreme division of labor.  This isn't really different from what you're saying since it is the higher substrate that is evolving.  Instead my point is that such a higher substrate won't consist of technology as much as it will exist of an increased level of collaboration and collectivism.  In short, it's the ant hill scenario that we've mentioned in the past.
    Mundus vult decipi
    Lex Anderson
    This isn't really different from what you're saying since it is the higher substrate that is evolving.  Instead my point is that such a higher substrate won't consist of technology as much as it will exist of an increased level of collaboration and collectivism.  In short, it's the ant hill scenario that we've mentioned in the past. 
    This is a fascinating point. The properties of emergence are derived not only from our biology but from technology and eusociality; and perhaps many other factors. As with emergent evolution, the "whole" offers a different trajectory; but not necessarily faster or better as evidenced by prokaryotes and eukaryotes, for example.  

    If we imagine the evolutionary yardstick for "quality" as any less crass than survival or extinction, we might be tempted to embellish the notion with other ideas: such as reproductive success, efficiency, sustainability. Unfortunately on all such measures prokaryotes have us beat. Only on measures in our substrate could we possibly claim any kind of shallow victory against our evolutionary counterparts: How many bacteria possess an IQ over 100? How many operas have bacteria composed? These are obviously ridiculous inquiries. So as to not confuse apples with atoms we must therefore remain constrained by complexity.

    In this example, the only intra-substrate measure remotely close to being quantitative is that eukaryotes represent an increase in complexity. This small factor enabled the emergence of multicellular life, which in turn enabled the emergence of consciousness and later intelligence. It must be reasonable to conclude therefore that our measures of the individual "parts" -- such as IQ, Moore's law, Kevin Bacon numbers, or whatever we perceive to be important and quantitative -- may likely be irrelevant to the measures of the higher order substrate, or "whole".

    Like our unicellular siblings, we may appear to ourselves to have reached an evolutionary plateau; and may never comprehend that evolution continues to progress in dimensions of complexity that we cannot hope to measure. We may however just possess enough complexity to actually participate in this emergence; to change it and perhaps be changed by it. Let's hope so.




















    Gerhard Adam
    You bring up an interesting point with your question, "How many operas have bacteria composed?", which exemplifies part of the problem in this discussion.

    Realistically how many operas have humans composed considering all the humans that have ever lived?  It illustrates the point that our human advantage derives from the fact that only ONE of us has to have a great idea for seven billion others to potentially benefit because of our eusocial organization.

    It may not happen immediately, but given our ability to maintain a collective social memory and an extreme division of labor, such processes produce benefits that no other organism is capable of matching.
    We may however just possess enough complexity to actually participate in this emergence; to change it and perhaps be changed by it. Let's hope so.
    Oh, I think we'll participate, but we can't possibly direct or control it, since we are the passengers.  We got where we are today, precisely because we didn't know what we were doing, and there's no reason to believe that it will be different in the future.  In fact, I think a good argument can be made that if we did try to take control, we'd screw it up because we can't see all the variables or the unintended consequences of any choices.

    Mundus vult decipi
    UvaE
    IQ is determined via the time needed to accomplish a work.
    That's why IQ only provides us with a partial assessment of intelligence.
    Is the fastest player necessarily the best athlete?  Is the fastest writer the best writer?
     and it (technology)seems to evolve so fast that humans will soon become superfluous.
    I doubt that humans will become superfluous. The best computer or robot in 100 years won't be worth a dog in my books.
    vongehr
    You are free to define your private Enrico-intelligence measure adding amounts of "emotional intelligence" and all that, but IQ is a well defined measure. Whether robots are more worth than dogs in your book is similarly beside the point, because your book won't be worth a byte of any robot's memory. Besides, they may well use dog brain residuals rather than human ones, because too much self-consciousness may be detrimental to whatever they are up to.
    UvaE
    Emotional intelligence was not what I had in mind. You see it in mathematical proofs--even of something simple like the Pythagorean theorem for example. Some are of the algebraic type that most with an aptitude in math could come up with independently. But a few proofs are more elegantly geometric that most mathematicians could ever dream of, even if they tried for decades. Call me when a robot comes up with a new proof.
    vongehr
    This is funny, because you probably mean the visual proofs that we like so much because our olfactory system and pretty much everything else but the visual cortex is pretty useless. I remember a computer coming up with a very nice new visual proof for I believe the Pythagorean theorem a few years back - don't ask me for the reference - your googling power is as good as mine.
    UvaE
    I hope I'm wrong for the sake of computer science progress, but what I've found so far is just computer animations of the theorem--no actual syntheses...
    ...I actually was going to reword the dog-part of my original comment because I realized during the day it was going to tick you off , but I was so busy that you beat me to it and read it. ...

    A dog's olfactory system is, by the way, a wonderful biological, analytical machine.  And the way they have evolved with humans through domestication is more than just an emotional matter.

    When our technologies become more subservient to humanity, when our social structure evolves to the point that it brings out far more intelligent behavior from the bulk of the human population, then we will have progressed.
    If greater intelligence is in any way correlated with larger brains and skulls, then the size of the pelvic birth channel may, in pre-medical times, have provided a negative selection on larger heads with both mother and offspring dying in child birth.

    blue-green
    "Adaptation is much faster by adding technology to brain than improving brain."
    At the risk of "mixing up cognitive enhancement" ..... consider the creation of new muscial scores.
    Since about the 1980's, inexpensive sequencers and writing tools have been available to musicians. These range from really cheap Casio keyboards to more sophisticated ones by the Kurzweil man himself (later sold to a Korean interest). These machines can write a score as fast as one can play it and keep multiple tracks perfectly in order and even handle the stage lighting, robotics and more ... (imagine having that advantage 300 years ago). And yet, with all of that added technology and MIDI ... are  music composition and the stage arts better today? .... Or did they peak long ago and we are barely keeping up Bach's and Beethoven's level of adaption?
    I could raise the same issues in terms of architecture.  Today we have all of these materials, cranes and technologies at our disposal that were unimaginable even a 150 years ago. Has our adaptation been accellerated by adding these technologies? 
    I speak here from personal experience in my own shortcomings in architecture and musical composition.

    http://www.youtube.com/2grandlake

    "Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically."
    Sure. How about not forcing me to manually delete all the blank space the "Cleaner" adds to each comment I try to make?

    Architectural photos to follow ... as you wish.
    vongehr
    What has your bad taste in music and architecture to do with adaption across a rapidly emerging evolutionary stratum? About as much as physicists at the LHC care about what a Chicago sewer rat finds sexy. Actually even much less, because rats and humans are in the same evolutionary stratum, namely the biological one, while we are cognitively closed to what evolves as much as a single cell is to your thoughts.
    kerrjac
    I thought that we are getting smarter. 

    At least, that's the debate about the need to raise IQ norms, ie the Flynn Effect.

    I agree most with your statement that "In effect, it may be that our brain doesn't need to get any better." - to me the answer to why we aren't smarter seems like a moot point to a, likely, misguided question. There are clearly limits for most individual traits - happiness, physical fitness, height, nutrition, health. Many of these sorts of limited traits are related to intelligence, and there comes a point I suspect where these sorts of traits have to be improved in order to make gains on intelligence.

    From a biological or an evolutionary perspective, I think that it frequently makes more sense to analyze the negative side of traits, rather than the positive side. The advantage of going from unhealthy to healthy is much greater than the advantage of going from healthy to super-healthy, whatever super-healthy means. If anything, this is probably why it's easier to improve the IQ of people with low IQ rather than people with high IQ. That is, someone has more to gain by going from dumb to smart than from smart to genius. Simply because something seems like a continual trait doesn't mean that the negative side is the opposite as the positive side. Happiness is not the opposite of depression, and intelligence is not the opposite of stupidity. In fact from a cognitive perspective, the construct of intelligence is less "intact" - or, hangs together less well - at the extreme positive end.
     Much like computers, where speed limitations have been reduced by increased parallel processing, it may be that whatever limits exist in our minds, are also reduced by our specialized division of labor (a social form of parallel processing) which allows significant collective technological progress.
    Completely, and I think that this is the more relevant issue. Insofar as intelligence is often defined by "manipulating stuff to solve problems", there are better tools to use and manipulate these days than in the past, and these tools are constantly improving and freeing up other mental resources. For instance, I'm more productive when my computer is working well. While my intelligence may be linked to my computer's speed (I do try to take care of it), it's not the main factor.

    blue-green
    Seriously, I'd like to hear from others as to why all the efficient composing tools we have for music haven't necessarily increased the quality of music or entertainment.

    Sascha's remark about taste is rather opague. What will future silica care or know or feel about taste? ... or manners ... or reading comprehension?

    Another field where our high speed computers and fancy algorithms have not caused any improvements is FINANCE. Any one care to touch that one?

    Got to run .... you know how it is with the 60 plus hour work week in our advanced society. If the over-employment of many was factored in to cancel out the unemployment of others, our "unemployment rate" would be zip.




    kerrjac
    Seriously, I'd like to hear from others as to why all the efficient composing tools we have for music haven't necessarily increased the quality of music or entertainment.
    Well we've seen huge improvements in cinema entertainment since the 1600's.

    But seriously, how do you begin to measure "quality of music", and other aesthetics, and why would you expect them to improve with technology, or what does it even mean for them to improve at all?
    Another field where our high speed computers and fancy algorithms have not caused any improvements is FINANCE. Any one care to touch that one?
    Of course computers have improved finance. Could you imagine a finance office without a computer? Sure they can't "think" for us, but they free up a tremendous amount of resources. 

    Computers have greatly benefited any field that deals with large amounts of data. It's not like the computers apply some genius algorithm, it's that they let you focus on what you want to focus on, and do the mechanical work for you. 
    Gerhard Adam
    Computers are like any tool.  They can do great things in the hands of the talented, and they can also produce garbage faster in the hands of the inept.  This says nothing about human abilities any more than arguing that the hammer transformed everyone into carpenters.  It was a vast improvement over using a rock, but it was still just a tool.
    Mundus vult decipi
    kerrjac
    Oh I completely disagree. You're completely overlooking the more mundane advantages of great tools. 
    You don't have to be a talented driver in order to reap the benefits of a car, and you don't have to be a computer programmer in order to benefit from a computer. That's precisely what makes things like these so valuable - it's that you *don't* need skills to operate them. The modern average home is filled with utilities and amenities - dish washers, clothes washers, AC, entertainment, transportation - that used to be exclusively reserved for royalty, and only with a hefty team of slaves at that. 

    These things save time: Sending an email instead of a phone call, instead of a letter, instead of a telegram, instead of a voyage across the sea. The advantage is that you don't have to be a master communicator in order to skillfully use these tools.

    For a more current example, look at the use of cell phones in the developing world for mobile banking and sharing of economic info. This has revolutionized aspects of daily life, b/c it doesn't require a strong banking infrastructure in a backwater village. For tens of millions of people in developing nations, this has let them open their first savings account, and it has given them quick access to money without worrying about being physically robbed.  

    Gerhard Adam
    We aren't talking about saving time, we're talking about human intellect being enhanced.  None of the tools you're describing do that to any appreciable degree.

    They simply reduce the time we spend in an activity, but nothing about the quality of the activity.  That's my point.  I mentioned already that many of these technologies removed obstacles that existed previously, but that also does nothing to improve the quality of the intellect.  It simply allows more than possess such an intellect to gain recognition that otherwise might not have occurred.  For the overwhelming number of others, it is simply a faster way of producing the same crap they always have.
    Mundus vult decipi
    kerrjac
    It's not just a question of saving time, it's a question of improving quality of life, which - along with related "non-intellectual" factors like health, nutrition, fitness - does relate to intelligence and cognitive performance. Areas where these necesseties are adequaltely met tend to value education more as well than areas where they are not met.
    Gerhard Adam
    As I said elsewhere, tools do not operate in a vacuum.  It is the skilled individual that maximizes the benefits that any particular tool provides, and it is no different with computers.

    With technology we've seen individuals producing music that shouldn't have been allowed near any recording equipment, while others use it to create wonderful pieces, while still others over-use the technology until it becomes confused.   Each represents an approach to using a tool, but none of them exist solely because of the tool.  In this case, the technology becomes a point of entry which can be more generalized, creating opportunities where previously there may have been more roadblocks.

    It's like authors that can self-publish.  It can produce more books and might occasionally produce a masterpiece.  While it isn't likely, that possibility exists because of the technology, whereas previously a good agent was a pre-requisite.
    Mundus vult decipi
    UvaE
    Another field where our high speed computers and fancy algorithms have not caused any improvements is FINANCE. Any one care to touch that one?
    You're right about that one. The blind faith in algorithms coupled with greed helped bring about the 2008 meltdown, but Pink Floyd was capable of blending melody with synthesizer better than anyone, and they were as creative as Bach and Beethoven.
    blue-green
    Doesn't sound like you have any skin in the game Kerr. Wall Street used to be a reasonable place for pension funds and nest eggs. Today it is more like a rigged casino with high frequency trading beating you every time. Welcome to the debt crisis created by ten thousand algorithms working in parallel in the clouds. Last week someone claimed that he didn't know to where 1.2 billion dollars had disappeared.

    Kerr asks,  "how do you begin to measure "quality of music", and other aesthetics, and why would you expect them to improve with technology, or what does it even mean for them to improve at all?" 

    Technology helps with the manual labor of many things, from ditch digging to handwritting a musical score. That saved time could buy us time to refine our aesthetics. A simple consumer based definition of excellence would be products that perform well and last a long time, be it a furnace, the roof over your head ... or ... a cell phone.

    Am I  happy to have found an ant hill here? Ant hill .... termite mound .... is that the climax to a stable society?

    As JF Kennedy observed almost 50 years ago, "The United States has to move very fast to even stand still". China now has that curse. Speeking of cursors ... I get my kicks watching Sascha strut around like some transhuman precursor. He well exemplifies the basis of the article here.



    Cheers!

    I apologize if I say something previously discussed in other comments... but I've noticed the reason that savant skills come at the expense of other, more generalized skills (such as social skills)... seems to be due to a sensory processing disorder (where the brain can't multi-task, processing multiple sensory inputs). With a sensory processing disorder, the brain tends to specialize. The person will "prefer" processing their favorite sensory input. Perhaps some savants will be artistically inclined, because their auditory processing is weak. Or Perhaps they'll excel in musical composition because processing visual input is too uncomfortable.

    As "specialists," these people tend to shy away from time-wasters (such as socializing) and perseverate on their field/hobby of interest... and their brains develop amazing skills in those areas.

    I think that the future of humanity's intellect could learn from this and develop enhanced learning techniques that alternate between sensory specialization learning and sensory integration learning. In other words, isolate some sensory inputs to allow the brain to excel in one area, then move to another area... until savant-like skills exist in multiple disciplines... but without ignoring the ability to multi-task and let the person excel in social & political skills as well. Entirely possible.

    Gerhard Adam
    I think you need to consider that this is precisely what the brain is already doing.  In other words, you're assuming that there is some processing deficiency in the brain that would allow it to be enhanced.  Perhaps it's already as enhanced/balanced as its going to get, and any further push in any direction leads directly back to savant syndrome.
    Mundus vult decipi
    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat
    If you read Wikipedia's various rather overly convoluted articles concerning intelligence testing and the resulting intelligence quotients (IQ), you find a quagmire of correlations and contradictions. One thing is for sure though most of the IQ tests are not just measuring speed of thought, there are usually many questions in most of these tests that cannot be answered by some people, no matter how long they get to think about them. Maybe drugs could enhance these performances though?

    Whether people like it or not there is definitely 'scientific' evidence of correlations between IQ and abilities and traits, abstract thought, communication, creativity, emotional intelligence, knowledge, learning, memory, problem solving, reaction time, reasoning, understanding, visual processing, school performance, job performance, income, crime and real-life accomplishments.

    Wikipedia describes how :-
    IQ reference charts are tables suggested by IQ test publishers to designate IQ score ranges as various categories. As reference charts, they are not to be taken as absolute or precise. All IQ tests show variance in scores even for the same test-taker retested on the same test, and also variance in scores among IQ tests from different publishers. Category labels for IQ score ranges are specific to each brand of test and are arbitrary.
    Lewis Terman, developer of the Stanford-Binet intelligence test, chose the category ranges for score levels on that test using a standard deviation of 16.
    Terman's Stanford-Binet Fourth Revision classification 
    152 and over    = Genius and near genius
    148 - 151 = Very superior intelligence
    132 - 148 = Superior intelligence
    116 - 132 = Above average intelligence
    84 - 116 = Normal or average intelligence
    68 - 84 = Dullness
    52 - 68 = Borderline deficiency
    Below 52 = Mental Deficiency
    The Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale uses the following category labels, the scores are scaled with a standard deviation of 15.
    >= 130 = Very superior
    120 - 130 = Superior
    110 - 120 = Bright normal
    90 - 110 = Normal
    80 - 90 = Dull normal
    70 - 79 = Borderline
    50-55 to ~70    = Mild Mental Retardation (MR)
    35-40 to 50-55    = Moderate MR
    20-25 to 35-40    = Severe MR
    <= 20-25 = Profound MR
    Just from reading the comments on this blog, it is easy to see that IQ is a concept that is not easily accepted by a lot of people as being a useful measure of intelligence, however I do think it is a very useful tool. Many children with very high and low IQs suffer a great deal in the education system and in society in general, simply because they are not 'normal' and find it difficult to fit in for a variety of reasons that are very related to their level of intelligence and their resultant 'unusual' perspective on things in general. 

    I believe that psychologists and educators in this day and age, should be able to better use IQ testing and the results of their scientific and sociological research to help these high and low IQ kids to develop the necessary skills to help them live and cope better in our societies.

    Unfortunately, from my own observations, it seems that it is usually mainly the kids with low IQs and those with the more common learning disorders and DSM IV categorised mental disorders such as Asperger's, autism and ADHD for example, who may have quite high IQs who qualify for this special attention. Many of the latter then go on to rule the world or at least Science20, whilst unsurprisingly those with high IQs who don't have 'mental disorders' and are not so well-equipped to 'fit in' are often not coping nearly so well. Maybe that's why we aren't getting smarter because often higher intelligence is a societal disadvantage?
    My article about researchers identifying a potential blue green algae cause & L-Serine treatment for Lou Gehrig's ALS, MND, Parkinsons & Alzheimers is at http://www.science20.com/forums/medicine
    Gerhard, what I'm suggesting is what I've learned from autistics, including that of my daughter. While she has no savant skills (very low functioning), I still see that she has major sensory integration processing issues and when overwhelmed will isolate one sense in order to process the other. I think that ALL SAVANTS have sensory integration disorder, which forces the brain to specialize where it is strongest... overdeveloping certain areas of the brain relevant to the senses they best process.

    I think everybody develops their best skills via specialization of some type... but in savants... it HAS TO BE caused by a disorder in their sensory integration processing.

    We're not smarter because men are not trained to follow directions, but to give them, regardless of whether they know the logistics of any given activity or situation. Power is irrelevant to intelligence, and a coercive effect in most societies. It has nothing to do with logistics.