Immutable Intelligence

There’s a common opinion – embodied in the existence of intelligence quotients and the way our culture is impressed with geniuses – that intelligence is immutable, a thing you’re born with and can’t be changed.

This is arguably completely true: there is no way, yet, to change your “processing speed”; the hardware of your brain is fixed in stone. Memory’s the same way: there’s a limit on the number of neurons in your brain, therefore there’s a limit on how much information it can hold.

But there’s an obvious flaw in that argument, and that’s that it deals entirely with hardware. And the software – the software of our brain – is utterly atrocious. For example – our ability to recall locations and maps is better than our ability to recall random information: this is why a taxi driver can memorize the entire maze that is London and still forget his lunch money. (This is also why the memory-palace trick works: by creating a memory palace you convert the data you’re trying to remember into a location, which is stored differently.) This is stupid: there’s no particular reason that shouldn’t be the default setting for anything else you consciously want to store.

Similarly, the existence of cognitive biases. Oh, sure, some of them are legitimate approximations: peer pressure is a simple acknowledgement of the fact that it’s harder to trick a populace than a person, for example, and the ecological fallacy is a life-saver when giving someone of bad repute a chance can get you eaten by lions. But there’s just no excuse for, say, confirmation bias.

So while you can’t change your hardware, it doesn’t really matter, because our software can be changed – with great effort, mind, but I’d be shocked if we’ve found all the memory-palace-esque tricks that exist.


One thought on “Immutable Intelligence

  1. Pingback: Tips on Improving Your Memory | Life's Books

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