What is intelligence?
Several methods of measuring it have been devised, though few are all-encompassing of the human mind's capabilities. We all like to think we are "smart" to some degree or another. How people base this assumption is varied. Many base it upon the grades they got or get in school. Since most people go to public schools, this is highly inaccurate. While teachers attempt to educate us with information about their assigned subjects, the fact is that public schools are a complete and utter joke. Attendance, bullying, detentions, favoritism, home life, money for tutoring, and numerous other factors contribute greatly to the grades a public school student receives. Kids of wealthier families can afford all the fees associated with band, sports, and clubs, and hence have more chances to learn as well as receive preferential treatment by the teachers. Kids who can't afford the current fad of clothes are picked on more, have trouble concentrating, and do worse on tests. Similar anecdotes abound.
Once the kids are college age, they may enter that path if they are even told of the ACT and SAT tests beforehand, (I was not), and then once enrolled take remedial courses for what they didn't learn in high school. After years of general courses and partying, they cram all they can into their heads about their chosen specialty. Most degrees are generalized and the students expect all these vague office careers out of them. The percentage of college graduates that get jobs from their degrees is laughably low. Not to mention the yoke of student loans. So much for 'higher learning'.
While book smarts are an important factor in intelligence, it is certainly not the only thing that creates it. Knowing the facts in books is a good base of information to draw from, but how we utilize that trivia is even more important. Scientists are notoriously closed-minded and will vehemently argue against any new info they hear of. Teachers aren't nearly as bad, so would you trust a mathematics professor to do your taxes? Probably, but would you trust him to spay your cat?? You must know alot of information to work as a computer programmer. You also need to know a lot of info to weld properly, or to process credit cards at a store, or to run plumbing lines effectively. All types of knowledge may vary but their commonality is that they all must be learned in depth for our assigned societal tasks to be completed successfully. So learning is required to be successful, but who is to say that the drive through girl is any less intelligent than a mechanic or a science teacher? Figuring out what you need to know and utilizing it is all-important.
Applying information is key to so many things. Learning all about the funeral practices of the Golden Horde may be fascinating, but it applies very little- if at all- in the modern world. No matter how book smart someone is, they are not necessarily smart people overall- just trivia hogs. The contestants on Jeopardy are not only good examples, but also are very similar in flavor to college professors- spouting factoids on all manner of subjects- most of which no one needs to know about for any reason- while knowing a lot about one or two subjects, the facts of which are important only in their field and not to the general populace in everyday life. A contestant today who was winning is an actuary with a mathematics degree. On the final question, he answered "50 Shades", betting 401 dollars on it. The correct answer was "Silent Spring". He clearly had to know his answer was wrong, as it asked about a non-fiction book from 1962. So why did he bet any money on his joke-answer, much less enough money to make him lose the game?? Answer: What is "no common sense"?...
Common sense is something many bookworms just do not have. The much-espoused logic that teachers claim to admire is usually lacking in their everyday thoughts. Logic permeates common-sense, which encapsulates so-called street-smarts.
More important yet is what I call awareness. Awareness is the all-encompassing logic backed by common sense and underwritten with the book smarts. It is what ties it all together. Many people feel that they have this ability but actually do not. Good examples are the conspiracy theorists. While some conspiracies are true and provable, or at least highly plausible with some significant evidence, most are utter nonsense. They rely upon rumors and circular logic combined with myths and flawed science to "prove" their claims. Then the spouting off of the complex yet hair-brained scenarios is repeated over and over again, until it becomes fact in the minds of the weak. Reading these claims may make you open-minded, which is good, but believing them hook, line, and sinker with no attempt to verify them is just stupidity. It is the farthest thing from intelligence, much less awareness in itself.
What is the difference then? What is true awareness; aware of what exactly? I know someone who believes everything he reads and rattles on about conspiracy theories incessantly- kinda like Mel Gibson's character did in the beginning of the movie called Conspiracy Theory. He says the internet is not real- it is a US Govt. falsification. But then he gets much of his info from websites. He says the news is not real, it is a fabrication of the govt. censors- every story, every bit of footage. And he knows it because, um, well he's just sure of it that's why. So while he thinks he is so extremely smart and self-aware that he is privy to some presumed 'special knowledge' the "sheeple" do not realize, he also has no evidence whatsoever for his claims and his sources are no more than rumors from outlets he says are lying anyway. Get the fruit loop yet? And these are the majority of the supposed aware people--conspiracy theorists and paranoid mental cases that feed into their malarkey. Awareness is not just proclaiming your views are right, but knowing on a much deeper level that you are aware of all possibilities and that your views have been filtered through the tests of open-mindedness and all other opinions. This makes you aware of the bottom line on the subjects you ponder, making you privy to numerous alternative viewpoints- some of which turn out to have merit.
Once you trust a source to fill out all sides of a subject, blindly believing its pronouncements is still not wise. Every article should be believable in itself, for its own reasons. Just because a certain site or writer says something, it shouldn't mean to you that its words are automatically true. A lot of bloggers and other web authors depend upon this to build and maintain a following. Knowing this, they tend to write what their target audience wants to hear. Right wing sites spout off scary stories about commie troop movements, left wing ones chide bush and his foibles. The fans lap it up and everyone's happy, except the free thinkers that is. People that think for themselves, instead of letting others tell them what or how to think, are free thinkers. And these are generally not the ones that lap up political scrawlings day in and day out. Indeed, most people who consider themselves to be intelligent and making up their own minds are actually entirely the opposite. They already have their minds made up, and utilize the sites or other media they know will back up their predetermined ideals. Then any new ideas that the media spouts off become their beliefs as well. Simultaneously, they dismiss out of hand anything the other side says, and use that dismissive attitude to hold up as an example of how they think they are deciding something and 'wisely' poo-poohing the alleged idiocy of them morons.
Them and they are vague concepts of whomever the bad guy is, and is one of the most common terms that conspiracists use. It is a catch-all term that means 'the scapegoat of the day'. Usually the government, frequently the left wing; always the other side. Being smarter, wiser, and better informed than the vague they/them ghosts is not very challenging, and makes the short sighted feel more powerful. Asking a conspiracist to define or name 'them' generally gets an answer of stammering, or at times a list of evildoers will be rattled off. How those tie in can lead to a fruit-loop lecture of great duration. Then blind belief is exposed quite clearly.
At the other end of the spectrum is creativity. Creative people think up ideas on their own and create ways to solve problems. Have you ever just sat there for an hour or so, and planned in your mind how to fabricate a new tool or car part, and then thrown in a wild card such as without welding apparatus? Or have you figured out how to convert a car into a camper lately? Or better yet, questioned precepts of science and thought up alternative possibilities? These are the brain-games of the creative folk. Finding unique solutions to life's dilemmas is creative. Most people are awed when such an idea is suggested; many reject it though. If they would tune in to a motivational show on their televisions once in a while, they may learn to stop rejecting new ideas.
Self-help people sometimes speak of a condition labelled "self-actualized". A self-actualized person has self acceptance and a democratic worldview; they maintain a realistic outlook; are problem-centered, as in trying to solve all things at their root causes; they maintain 'peak experiences', essentially living in the moment at all times; maintain autonomy from others, having their own unique views of what happiness and contentment are; maintain times of solitude and privacy more than others, which they enjoy; have a philosophical outlook and sense of humor; and lastly act spontaneously in all things. While these are all common traits of the intelligent, they together can be labelled as "self-actualization" but do not encompass all things attached to higher thinking.
Intelligence is a combination of all of these factors. Having just one or two is compartmentalized intelligence. Possessing all of these qualities to some degree or another makes for a smooth path to awareness, and true intelligence. Sure, some scientists and professors are truly intelligent, but most are far from it. And a few conspiracies have merit, but most do not. Every person needs to evaluate their own thought processes and determine if they are compartmentalized or not and to what degree.
To summarize, true intelligence requires all of the following at once from a person:
-common sense- includes logic and 'street smarts';
-book smarts and general knowledge;
-awareness and free thinking;
-creativity and being innovative;
-ability to learn, and the application of book smarts and logic.
No matter how little the public schools taught you, anyone can work on these factors and greatly increase their intelligence for a better day to day life.
See also older post, How to Get Smarter and Stay That Way
(C) James Platt 2014