Intelligence Augmentation

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Yesterday’s post argued for the moral and intellectual augmentation of human beings. I’d like to add to my thoughts on intellectual augmentation, saving the more controversial moral issues for later.

I have always argued for the urgency of increasing human intelligence. What has made the issue even more obvious are my recent experiences as a full-time researcher untethered from the demands of a large teaching load. As I’ve encountered new thoughts and thinkers, I’ve been overwhelmed by the amount of knowledge and information in the world. It isn’t possible for a single brain to assimilate it all, or to accommodate to the little that one assimilates. If you desire a comprehensive view of reality, this is depressing. Not only can’t I read all that is–I believe Milton was the last person with that goal–I can’t read everything of interest to me, or all of philosophy or a subset of philosophy. And this is to say nothing of all the fields that directly impact my work, especially the sciences. But if relevant information is out there remaining hidden or undiscovered, then one’s conclusions are incomplete.

Still more knowledge leads to better conclusions, so the more we have the better. This is probably the best we can do until we have implanted chips in our brains to increase our memory and computing capacities, our imaginative and creative capabilities, or until we experience some form of a global brain with access to all existing, and progressively evolving, knowledge, or until education itself becomes exponentially more effective. Or perhaps something as yet unimaginable will expedite our intellectual development.

For now without certain knowledge, we live not being sure. Yet the imperative to increase our knowledge is as strong as ever. As Aristotle noted more than 2,000 years ago, knowledge is an unlimited good. It is not sufficient for human flourishing, but it is necessary. After all it is truth that sets us free.

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John G. Messerly, Ph.D taught for many years in both the philosophy and computer science departments at the University of Texas at Austin. His most recent book is The Meaning of Life: Religious, Philosophical, Scientific, and Transhumanist Perspectives. He blogs daily on issues of futurism and the meaning of life at reasonandmeaning.com

2 Comments

  1. Ayn Rand has received a lot of somewhat deserved criticism over the years, but she got one really important thing right: “Man’s mind is his basic tool of survival.” The growing body of scientific research on human capital, cognitive epidemiology and human intelligence supports her basic insight. Refer to psychologist Linda Gottfredson’s papers, for example. Start with this one:

    Why g Matters: The Complexity of Everyday Life

    http://www.udel.edu/educ/gottfredson/reprints/1997whygmatters.pdf

    I think Nick Bostrom in one of his lectures says that if we could raise everyone’s IQ by ten points, that would revolutionize the world for the better, not by making the smartest people marginally smarter, but by making billions of dumbasses dramatically smarter so that they could become more educable, employable, productive, law-abiding, self-maintaining and healthier. We desperately need human intelligence augmentation, and I would put that at the top of the list of transhumanist projects.

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