Monday, April 12, 2010

Conceptual Intelligence

In the previous posts, I have discussed what is intelligence. Intelligence is nothing more than organization. For humans, the most important organization in our body is that of the brain. The brain is where we store in its organization our memories. But more important than memories, our brains also store what I will refer to now as "conceptual intelligence". Conceptual intelligence is the understanding of concepts. Conceptual intelligence is the most advanced and important type of intelligence that we can have. Examples of conceptual intelligence are algebra, economics, human interactions and relations, philosophy, and morality. The difference between conceptual intelligence and let's say a memory is that a memory is simply a fact or an event or a trivia that is memorized. However, a conceptual intelligence is the thorough understanding of a concept. One of the best examples is from the movie "Rainman". Raymond, the autistic character had the ability to memorize facts and statistics better than most people, however, Raymond could not understand many concepts such as human interactions as evidenced by his inability to empathize with others. Raymond knew the history of all airplane crashes BUT did not understand the concept of probabilities, evidenced by his extreme fear of flying. Raymond knew all the stats regarding the car's engine, but did not understand how an engine works. It is said that "knowledge is power". But it would be more correct to say that "Conceptual Intelligence together with knowledge is power". What good is knowledge if you do not know how to apply it? And that is the role of Conceptual intelligence... the understanding that allows for the application of knowledge.
I find that in my life, if I can gain some conceptual intelligence, it allows me to forgo memorizing facts. For example, I understand conceptually the interrelation between the physics of distance, speed, and acceleration and the math behind it. Because of this conceptual knowledge, I have never memorized the formulas for calculating speed or distance when the acceleration is known. With the conceptual intelligence I have, I can simply derive these formulas on the fly whenever I need to. Another example of conceptual intelligence is the ability to determine one's position or location within an area such as a city without the use of a map. When a person has this conceptual intelligence, it lessons the need for the person to use a map. People with this type of intelligence have the traits of being able to look at a map once and then quickly find their way around a city they have never been to before. With conceptual intelligence, there is less dependency on memorization. Another corollary is the difference between "book smarts" and "street smarts". The person with book smarts may understand something superficially. But the person with street smarts is someone with experience that understands something in depth. Street smarts is akin to conceptual intelligence.
Our personalities, our habits, our strengths and weaknesses are all outward manifestations of our conceptual intelligence. A person who has learned to overcome a bad habit or a bad personality trait has gained conceptual intelligence related to the habit or trait.
Now is the time when we shall define "PROGRESS". Progress is defined as the learning or growing of conceptual intelligence. If a person is simply memorizing facts and trivia, this is not progress. However, if a person is learning how things work, how things operate, or how to manipulate other people or things in order to achieve their goals, then they are learning conceptual intelligence and this is PROGRESS. Another word I like to use synonymously with Progress is Evolution. As we learn new concepts as a person, we evolve. As a society learns new concepts, society progresses, society evolves. One example of a societal evolution many of us have witnessed is the concept of treating all people of all races, genders, religions, nationalities equally. This is a concept that was not part of most societies 200 + years ago. But slowly and steadily, most societies are evolving in their understanding and application of this concept.
The BEST way to progress as a person is learn these concepts through direct experience. For example, the best way to understand the concept of better interpersonal relationship through honesty is to first live a dishonest life and then change to an honest life and compare the results. People that experience this in the flesh are better suited to understand this concept than those that were always honest. HOWEVER, there are very destructive consequences for learning all concepts through direct experience. We can be injured or worse, we can injure others. Thus learning concepts through either the study of books or from observations of others is more efficient. I honestly believe that a repentant murderer evolves more with respect to understanding the concept of the value of life, than a person who has never murdered. However, it is more efficient and less destructive to learn that concept through books or stories of others than to experience it in the flesh.
Another belief that I have is that conceptual knowledge is over generations, recorded in our genetic code. For example, a baby is born and immediately has the urge to suck. Without this conceptual intelligence of sucking for food and nourishment, children would die. But through the genetic transference of this concept to each and every baby that is born, children survive. Another example is that of a sheepdog. Sheepdogs have the uncanny ability to herd sheep without ever being taught how to do it. Through thousands of generations of training and breeding, the concept of herding sheep has transferred from neural understanding to genetic code. I am sure in time, we will find the genes in sheepdogs that are responsible for setting up the neural networks in the brains of puppy sheepdogs the concept of herding sheep. Because this is now genetic, sheepdogs do not need to learn this concept. They are born with it. I believe the same thing has happened to humans in their evolution. Many of the more complicated concepts such as economics, physics, and mathematics have transferred to the genetics and children are more and more being born with neural networks that were pre-wired through genetics to understand these complex concepts. I probably have too quickly jumped to the conclusion that the pre-wiring of the brain in infants of conceptual intelligence is through genetics. As I am thinking about this right now, another idea came to me that possibly this pre-wiring occurs through the transference of this intelligence from the mother directly to the child during the time of gestation. Perhaps, one day we will be able to measure the amount of conceptual intelligence that is pre-wired in an infant and then experiment with children that went through a full gestation period versus those that were premature or maybe even grown outside the womb to see how much of this transference occurs. A statistical study of this would be very interesting!
So what is the application of what I have revealed here about conceptual intelligence??? One important application of this understanding is in how we teach our children. It is said... "Give a man a fish and he eats for a day. Teach a man to fish and he eats for a lifetime!". I love this phrase... but let me change it just a little... "Teach a child that fish come from the ocean and the child can hungrily pass a test. Teach a child to fish in the ocean and the child may never go hungry." What I am saying is that we should strive to teach our children CONCEPTUAL INTELLIGENCE and not facts and trivia only. And the best way to teach conceptual intelligence is through actual experience in the flesh!
And here is another paradigm shift... We, as parents, should passively encourage our children to learn how to misbehave, lie, cheat, and steal in order to create learning situations. I say "passively encourage", meaning we should not actively encourage or tell our children to be dishonest, but we should look for situations which would give our children the temptation and model for being dishonest and then HOPE they fall into the trap. By doing this in a controlled environment, a good parent creates a situation by which he can teach honesty to his child with the application of real-life consequences. Like I said, the best way to learn these concepts is through experience in the flesh. Thus a wise parent looks for situations for his child to learn these concepts in the flesh as early in their development as possible. It is better for a child to learn the concepts of honesty through real-life experiences as a child than grow up not understanding the concept and then as an adult experimenting with dishonesty in order to learn it then. The consequences of an adult being dishonest are much greater than they are for a child in a controlled environment.
Another application of this in our own lives. We should always seek out opportunities where we can learn important new concepts. This is best done through schooling or through work or through personal study. Simply watching TV is better than sleeping. But actually doing the work or living the experience is MUCH better than watching it on TV! As a teenager, my favorite pastime was skateboarding. I dedicated at least one to two hours everyday from 13 years old to 17 years old skating in the streets and parks and learning new tricks. My kids never learned how to skateboard on the street, but they were very good at the skateboard video games and could do tricks on the video games I never learned in real life... Who progressed more in the area of actual skateboarding? I or my kids?... Of course, I did. Because I had real life experience. My kids only had virtual life experience. What we as adults should strive for are real life experiences that will give us the conceptual intelligence that we want to have.
We should also learn to VALUE our own conceptual intelligence! The more we value the conceptual intelligence we already have, the more we will strive to increase it.

Now, I will make a statement that will be a lead in to another post in the future... Whatever conceptual intelligence we acquire in this life will persist with us in the life after this life! And this is a primary reason why we should be constantly working on progressing ourselves through the acquisition of conceptual intelligence.


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