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2013-08-28

We need intelligence, not intellect

Quoting “Why Are Some People So Smart?” by MG Siegler:
If parents use IVF to conceive, then a genetic test—an extension of the screening tests for genetic diseases that are already routinely done on embryos—could let them pick the smartest genome from a batch of, say, 20 embryos.
Smartest as in “results in the highest IQ”. We need to distinguish between intellect and intelligence. An intellect enables you to solve problems, intelligence additionally enables you to pick the right ones. For example: building an atom bomb requires intellect, but is it also an intelligent thing to do?

The above approach may not only be ethically questionable, it may also not be an intelligent thing to do. To truly fix the messes that we are currently in (environmentally, socially, economically), we need intelligent people, not people with a great intellect. My impression is that the project tries to produce the latter, not the former (which should be even harder to do, because there are even more factors involved).

Alas, we are way too impressed by intellect. I’d love us to be more impressed by intelligence and wisdom.

(Apart from Gattaca, these ideas also remind me of the Observers in the TV show Fringe. One of the main points of that show is that brains alone don’t cut it, you also need to develop your emotions.)

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