Sunday, September 24, 2006

Book TV

Today, Sept 23 I was watching CSpan's BookTV. The show dealt with racial disparities in health care, presented by the American Enterprise Institute. One of the guests explored the effect of "g" on health care disparities, she stated that cognition is not made up of several parts, only "g" matters, which is true. In addition she stated that racial disparities in IQ are very stubborn. Yet, nowhere did she address the fact that if "g" is even partially determined by genetics, then "g" is partially an algorithm.

Most advocates of a hard "g" theory believe that "g" is genetically determined, as such they believe that the mind is in the brain, and processes in the brain constitute the mind. Yet the brain is governed by classical physical laws (quantum mechanics and general relativity have little to no effect) hence it functions like a machine. Since the brain is a machine and processes in the brain constitute the mind then guess what the mind is a machine as well. As such it is an algorithm, hence if one can perform the actions of a universal Turing machine then one can emulate the other algorithm, in principle.

Some advocates of a hard "g" theory, may state that we are more than machines. This implies our mind is not wholly material, hence part of our mind is not determined by the processes in our brains, hence part of "g" is not "in" our brains. Well then where is it? If we are not strict materialists then we must admit supernatural effects on "g", hence "g" cannot be wholly determined by genetics. This also implies that the scientific method may not answer all questions relating to "g".

Friday, September 22, 2006

How the Elite Train

Just as in sports the creme de la creme in the sciences train from childhood. One only need look at the background of any well known physicist at an elite university. Many have won physics olympiads and mastered undergraduate physics while the regular joe was a freshman in high school. Many graduated with PhD's and have done research all before the average joe has even finished college.

So the lesson here is to start young, if you want your child, or if you want to go to an top ranked university then you must start young.

I suggest we employ the youth sports model, afterschool training in physics and math will yield tremendous benefits. Also we need to build up the social support structure that values this type of training, just as in sports. Without support structures it becomes difficult for the child to continue training if he/she perceives that his/her peer group does not value what they are training for. (why do you think high school football players get so much attention)

Granted it is easier for people to appreciate sports because it functions as entertainment, is easier to understand, and constitutes healthy physical activity. Yet, if we get enough people to value mental training as well as physical training we can develop formidable minds.

John G.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006


Over and over I hear statements similar to "memorization is not a substitute for learning the material" with the implications that somehow memory is completely separated from learning. Here is my response, try learning the material without memory.

Imagine taking a test in Newtonian physics when you can't remember Newton's 2nd Law, how about taking a Calculus test where you completely forgot what an integral is, or what integration by parts is. What about trying to analyze an event in history without remembering what actually occurred, how about writing an essay where you forgot how to spell simple words. Try programming in any computer language without remembering the commands.

Now of course this doesn't mean that learning is a simple memorization of facts and problems, that is an extreme view, but on the other hand learning in and of itself does not exclude memory and memorization. Memorization provides the raw materials of what we know, but, understanding makes those raw materials become something known.

I propose a balanced view of memorization; understanding is more important than memorization yet, learning something is not simply understanding it, for without memory there is no "it" to understand.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Sports and IQ

The high IQ individual holds the same relationship with the average person as does a sports star.

The average person can do nearly everything a sports start can do, except the sports star can do it faster, stronger, or with more finesse. Some of these qualities may come about from training and some from genetics. The same holds for intelligence, the average person can do everything a high IQ individual can do except the high IQ individual can do it faster with more finesse, and just like sports some of this ability may come from training and some from genetics.

The key point here is that despite existence of gifted people, intelligence and IQ are not static.

John G.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

IQ, Training and Time

Many may state, if it is very difficult to extract the cognitive algorithm of a high-IQ individual then for all practical purposes it is not possible to emulate their thinking, hence IQ amplification or enhancement is not possible.

Though one may not be able to extract the exact cognitive algorithm of a high IQ individual, there are many properties of problem solving that are general to any cognitive algorithm. In fact an entire field of study is dedicated to this, it is called heuristics.

Others may state anecdotal evidence demostrating that such enhancement is nearly impossible. The key thing about my argument is that if one is a strict materialist, meaning that only material objects may affect other material objects, then one is forced to conclude that if the mind arises from the processes in our brains, and our brains are physical machines then our minds are machines as well, as such one may be able to emulate it in principle.

Since obtaining the algorithm is very difficult our only option is to instead learn the general problem solving techniques general to any cognitive algorithm. Therein lies the difficultly, because to master a technique requires time and the more time you spend mastering it the better you get, hence a person who has spent nearly their entire life solving problems and mastering problem solving techniques will have a tremendous lead on someone just learning problem solving techniques. As such the ability of the novice to solve problems, even after they have trained, will be much less than the ability of someone who has trained their entire life. This is why it is so easy for people to solve problems in adulthood, if they have practiced solving problems and mastered problem solving techniques in childhood.

This of course does not downplay natural ability, because not all native cognitive algorithms are equal, there are people who's native cognitive algorithm is better geared to solving problems, hence they will have an advantage, these people are known as gifted. One can close the gap with proper training and practice, in addition one can emulate the "gifted" algorithm though it might take more time to solve a problem. These advantages really only make a difference at the highest levels of a field, similar to sports.

Yet, simply because one's native cognitive algorithm is optimized to solving problems and understanding concepts within a certain paradigm, it does not necessarily follow that the algorithm is optimized to create new paradigms. This is why despite the abundance of brilliant and gifted individuals working in a field, new ideas and paradigms are rare.

John G.