The unnamable is the eternally real
Naming is the origin
of all particular things. ' Tao Te Ching
Nature is the incarnation of a thought,
and turns to thought again'
The world is thought precipitated. ' Ralph Waldo Emerson
Despite all the technological advances, intelligence has still not been fully explained. All we know is that it is the outcome of a variety of aspects of an individual's brain organization, a combination of behavioral, neuro-physiological and evolutionary processes that operate in mere, or nano, seconds. As Bill Calvin, a theoretical neuro-physiologist, put it so aptly: 'The big issue for understanding intelligence isn't who has more, but what intelligence is, when it's needed, and how it operates. Some of what intelligence encompasses are cleverness, foresight, speed, creativity, and how many things you can juggle, at once.'
Intelligence, according to one theory, is a patchwork of know-how and know-what areas in the brain. It doesn't, for instance, visualize the formulation of extending consciousness, like plant life. For Juan Huarte, a Spanish physician, intelligence was the ability to learn, exercise judgment, and be imaginative ' a case of neural Darwinism, lyrical and evolving.
Jean Piaget, another great mind, emphasized that intelligence is what you use when you know what to do. His perception was based on insight. Insight is, after all, intelligent behavior. Piaget's observation captures the essence of what maybe called intelligent improvising ' the coping and grouping ability which is needed when there's no right answer, like the musical improvisation of a composition in a concert.
Raising a coffee cup to one's lips also requires improvisation. Writes Calvin: 'If the cup is lighter than you remembered, you can correct its trajectory before it hits your nose. Thus, a complete advance plan isn't needed: a goal and periodic piecewise elaboration will suffice.'
But, what's most important for intelligence to sprout is a base of existing knowledge. Example: if you want to be a good writer, you ought to have a good vocabulary. Of a way with words ' and, know how to spell them, or choose from among identical words with diverse meanings; how to interpose, and how to put the parts of a sentence together in a way that makes good sense.
In the middle of all these definitions, one major facet of intelligence can be summarized: that it is all about improvising, creating a wide repertoire of behaviors and good moves for a glut of situations ' despite the fact that not much emphasis is being given to language as a basis of intelligence, today, for whatever reason. But, syntax is one of the strong foundations of intelligence. It is a tree-like structure of relative relationship that goes far beyond conventional word order. It is what you use. It augments intelligence.
Intelligence is now on a race with its by-products: artificial intelligence, computer intelligence, and robotics. The peril posed by them is subtle. What is important today is foresight, which is essential for intelligent stewardship. It holds the key for our longer-term survival. As evolutionary biologist Stephen Jay Gould once explained: 'We have become, by the power of a glorious evolutionary accident called intelligence, the stewards of life's continuity on earth. We did not ask for this role, but we cannot abjure it. We may not be suited to it, but here we are.'
It gives rise to one ubiquitous thought: that, perhaps, we are doing all right ' not through Jack-of-all-trades versatility, but by evolving intelligence on a non-biological track. We are augmenting human intelligence and building intelligent machines. If this isn't a tribute to our own sense of intelligence, and everyone's intellect too, what is?