Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Speculating about the future of intelligence research

Since this field is very near and dear to me - I will make some speculation about the future of it.

I see a future full of questions - some controversial, some not. (I will attack the controversial ones head on.) Probably the most pressing question is 'How do we get from our small list of genes that may be correlated to intelligence to a whole-brain model of intelligence?' We will probably follow the rest of consciousness research in this respect, since consciousness research is largely done in non-integrated pieces at the moment; you can't integrate it until you have enough information. (I'm curious about the work of Tristan Bekinschtein from Cambridge; apparently, he does work on patients with 'consciousness disorders' - persistent vegetative state, frontotemporal dementia, etc. - which is really fraught with ethical issues but is very interesting - about behavior such as affective decision-making and emotional processing. ) A lot of research is done - for example - on identical twins separated at birth, which - in correction from my last post - is a VITAL component of studying the neurogenetics of intelligence, and this gives a window into how much environment and genetics influence intelligence. (Genetics influences one's intelligence a LOT. ) A major concern is communicating this information to the public correctly - studies about race and intelligence have caused uproar - white supremacist groups have tried to co-opt their incorrect interpretations of some studies (for example) to further their own horribly racist aims.

One problem that, frankly, is going to have to be dealt with harshly is the field of philosophy of mind. My beef with philosophy of mind is that it approaches something that is clearly physical with the attitude that it is not; we neuroscientists stick to what we can prove with the support of observable, at least somewhat empirical, and testable evidence, whereas philosophers of mind go all over the place - my advisor, for the record, thinks philosophy of mind is an idiotic field, or at least that was his impression when I told him of some of philosophy of mind's stupidities. (If you recall my review of Jaegwon Kim's Philosophy of Mind, you recall I was not amused.) Has anyone considered the notion that the brain is more complex than we are aware of? (If we can find biological bases for several functions, we can put a whole lot of philosophers out of work. Say goodbye to your job, David Chalmers. - if you can't tell already, I think philosophy of mind is silly.) There are aspects of the brain that we haven't discovered yet, I bet, and I think there's potentially a complex multi-level integration of system, cell, molecule, and gene that may need to be completely explained before we make a model for consciousness. (Fuck, I'm sounding like a string theorist, but at least I'm not postulating the existence of anything that doesn't; I'm merely bringing a possible hypothesis and interaction and function of systems which we know exist.) I am a little afraid of what philosophers of mind might postulate about intelligence and whether it might be broadly accepted by the public.

I may be dead by the time there is a working model of intelligence. I may be decomposed. The idea is that complex and unresearched. There are hundreds of papers about it, but intelligence research isn't even in its infancy - it is embryonic .

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4 comments:

The Inoculated Mind said...

Tag you're it.
http://www.inoculatedmind.com/2008/04/07/seven-things/

kldickson said...

Ohhhhh shit!

Mike said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Genius said...

> I think there's potentially a complex multi-level integration of system, cell, molecule, and gene that may need to be completely explained before we make a model for consciousness.

I think already you could make better statements from biology than from philosophy in many areas. Where philosophy, loose psychology and other social studies really score points is their ability to say unsubstantiated things and still get it published.