What makes someone intelligent? What makes someone not intelligent? What would make someone hyper-intelligent? Since my thoughts are not conducive to snippets or comment boxes here is what I think may be true.
Let’s hypothesize that some trickster alien abducts an average human and besides the usual probing and cavity violations, they bestow to them an IQ of 1000. I’m curious about what plausible mental abilities such a being would have.
One of my favorite authors stated what he thought made us human: “The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents. We live on a placid island of ignorance in the midst of black seas of infinity, and it was not meant that we should voyage far. The sciences, each straining in its own direction, have hitherto harmed us little; but someday the piecing together of dissociated knowledge will open up such terrifying vistas of reality, and of our frightful position therein, that we shall either go mad from the revelation or flee from the light into the peace and safety of a new dark age.” ~ H. P. Lovecraft
What I am pondering is someone that had mercilessness thrust upon them.
To borrow from the science fiction writings of the incomparable Bruce Sterling, for the purposes of this question I’ll refer to a person possessing an intelligence quotient of 1,000 as having a “super bright” mind.
Assuming that such a thing could occur in a human being, a superbright’s mind would be the result of unprecedented wiring of her or his brain’s neurons into a structure similar to, but more capable than, a typical human brain. In other words, no alien cybernetic implants would be required. Is such a purely organic superbright mind physically possible? Undoubtedly.
We know from numerous examples that human brains recovering from temporal lobe epilepsy, head trauma, stroke or brain tumors can undergo significant transformations. Sometimes this results in interconnecting neurons between portions of the brain that normally are not connected. The result is a spectrum of conditions calledwhich results in a variety of mental abilities that can only be described as extraordinary.
Some of those different forms of synesthesia which might feature prominently in a super bright mind include:
a) Grapheme-color where people see numbers shaded or tinted with colors.
b) Chromesthesia where people, such as the composers Franz Liszt and Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, interpret sounds with colors resulting in the rare ability to achieve “perfect pitch”.
c) Spatial sequence synesthesia where people see numerical sequences as points in space, leading to the ability to recall past events with far greater accuracy and detail.
d) Number form where people generate mental maps of numbers or the ability to think in numbers.
e) Mirror-touch synesthesia where people “feel” what they observe happening to others and as a result develop greater levels of empathy than the general population. This is important! Because as I will argue, the development of extraordinary empathy would be crucial to the healthy superbright existence and social engagement.
The combined effects of these forms of synesthesia, and possibly others yet to be discovered in a super bright mind, could be expected to result in an intellect capable of achieving insights or “hunches” and generating a more profound level of inspiration and creation.
However, it would be incumbent upon a super bright mind to also logically process the tremendous cascade of sensory information resulting from such extraordinary ‘synesthetic’ perceptions into more commonly understood forms. To accomplish that it seems apparent that the super bright mind would need the ability to do (at least) two things simultaneously:
a) Operate multiple ‘processing centers’ for the various streams of data arriving by sight, sound, touch, smell and taste, while
b) Synthesizing those disparate data streams into a coherent mental construct that can be understood and expressed through some medium (e.g., words, music, computer code, art, mathematical equations).
At this point, let’s take a side excursion to consider Sherlock Holmes’ smarter brother. Wait, what? Had Sherlock Holmes a smarter brother? Yes, he did. His name was Mycroft. I found this out while reading Arthur Conan Doyle’s collected Sherlock Holmes stories.
While Sherlock was the man about town, frenetically running around collecting field data, he and numerous others were feeding data streams to the smarter Mycroft. He would sit comfortably ensconced at his massive desk sifting through mountains of data and using his superior intellect to form mental constructs and identify potential solutions to problems.
“The conclusions of every department are passed to him, and he is the central exchange, the clearinghouse, which makes out the balance. All other men are specialists, but his specialism is omniscience.” — Arthur Conan Doyle: The Bruce-Partington Plans
The manner in which Mycroft spent his time suggests one potential method in which a super bright intellect might realize the full range of her or his extraordinary capabilities: first develop the world’s most extensive organic repository of information, then investigate and process that data to determine interrelationships and build mental constructs from which new ideas and discoveries can flow.
It is to be expected that a super bright mind would require extraordinary stimulation on levels exceeding anything currently imaginable in order to provide herself or himself with an environment conducive to satisfy their extraordinary intellectual curiosity. This might best be accomplished at an advanced university setting with access to cutting-edge experimental human-computer interfaces and supercomputer resources.
One could envision a workstation custom-designed by the super bright to ingest multiple independent or related data streams to build a vast storehouse of information from which to develop interrelationships and eventually useful mental constructs. A super bright would eventually devise the most efficient way to engage all of her or his available senses to optimally ingest new data. Think of anon steroids that could engage multiple parts of the body simultaneously. It might include:
a) Separate visual data streams via monocles feeding the left and right eyes (e.g., Mandarin language lessons via the left eye and mathematical equations via the right)
b) Separate audible data streams via headphones feeding the left and right ears.
c) Separate Braille-style data streams via Braille readers feeding as many of the fingers and/or toes as the superbright’s brain could process.
d) Other forms of direct data ingest to the superbright’s brain that has not yet been devised by science but might be significantly more efficient than visual, auditory or touch senses.
Naturally, it would be necessary for the super bright to have anenabling nearly flawless recall of all sensed information. Yet at the same time, for a superbright’s brain to avoid significant mental overload and potential psychiatric problems it would need to be able to selectively disengage recall of that information to avoid overwhelming stimulation and enable calm contemplation, relaxation, and sleep.
Mycroft Holmes’ example may also inspire us in a different manner. I see no reason to assume a super bright with an IQ of 1,000 would necessarily result in psychosis or anti-social behavior. Odd or mischievous like? Quite possibly. But disdainful and malevolent like Lex Luthor? Not necessarily.
Perhaps the most socially adept of the people generally regarded as among the highest IQ ever is John von Neumann. Stories of his brilliance and particularly his speed are legendary. For example, George Polya had von Neumann in an advanced seminar. He wrote a theorem on the board and said that it wasn’t proven and that the proof was likely to be hard. 5 minutes later, von Neumann raised his hand, went to the board and wrote a proof. He remembered everything he had ever read and could recite it in any of the languages he spoke. Nobel laureate Hans Bethe wondered if von Neumann might belong to a different species. Yet he was social, friendly, married, etc. He was fond of telling jokes and stories and had a good sense of humor.
There are plenty of people (e.g., special needs educators, kindergarten teachers) who spend many hours a day in a room full of people whose IQ measures a fraction of their own, and they develop wisdom, compassion and the ability to healthily interact with those people. So there’s no reason why a super bright couldn’t co-exist peacefully in a world full of us regular-IQ humans.
This leads us to the question of what a person with a super bright mind might do with her or his time. Cure every form of cancer? Develop easy to use encryption technology even the NSA couldn’t crack? Learn to speak, read and write every known human language that ever existed? Get rich quick?
Who knows? But I would hope that in the manner of, but with perhaps more ethical and moral suasion, the superbright’s mind would engage itself in solving a bewildering variety of problems in widely disparate scientific and artistic fields.
Rather than seeing the solving of previously intractable issues as an obligation or burden, it’s more likely to be exactly the kind of thing, someone, that intelligent would crave: near-constant challenges with which to engage its full range of capabilities. In doing so a super bright might satisfy itself and assist humanity in achieving solutions to problems previously believed to be intractable.
Sometimes the very best thing for a super bright with an IQ of 1,000 to do might be to spend 20 hours a day designing a biomechanical computer to redesign the human genome to remove all of the garbage and create nearly immortal beings whose self-healing bodies are essentially impervious to physical damage and whose hormonal systems enable them to live in equanimity without impulses towards hatred, intolerance and violence.
And sometimes the very best thing for a person with an IQ of 1,000 to do might be to lay back in a hammock on Waikiki beach with sand between their toes not doing a damned thing except enjoying watching the palm trees waving in the trade wind breezes.
In summary, a super bright person with an IQ of 1,000 or any other sufficiently high number would be a fascinating individual with truly extraordinary perceptions and logical analysis abilities that might enable them to make otherwise impossible breakthroughs in problems whose solutions may prove significant to all human beings. We have had very few people that were flashes of brilliance like described above. In time the flashes will turn to a slow burn and eventually to a raging flame. I just wish I would be around for this new high watermark of common intelligence.
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