[extropy-chat] 12,000 IQ and nothing on?

Anders Sandberg asa at nada.kth.se
Wed Apr 11 10:01:51 UTC 2007

Stathis Papaioannou wrote:
> You could consider human civilization as a whole as a black box which
> considers problems and comes up with solutions. Would it make sense to
> talk
> about a collective IQ for this black box? If so, what might this IQ be?

I think we can certainly talk about the collective intelligence of
mankind. Suppose a killer asteroid was detectedl; the resulting hunt for a
solution and implementation of it could be regarded as a kind of
collective intelligence. A space mission to emplace a mass driver on the
asteroid to deflect it would represent a fantastically complex "answer" to
the question posed by the asteroid.

But IQ is less useful. It is just a measure of how well you do relative to
your population. Ideally it should be correlated to general cognitive
ability, but we do not have any *absolute* measures of that. So unless we
have a way of measuring how well humanity solves problems compared to
other species IQ doesn't make much sense.

In principle we could make a species IQ by listing a large number of
problems, test how a population of species solves them and then rank them
in difficulty to make a rough measurement scale. But just as ordinary IQ
tests have problems with some cultural differences and assumptions (how
important is context? is time going from left to right?) we should expect
real problems in making a species independent IQ test.

Still, some people are trying to test primates for general intelligence,
so maybe it is possible: http://www.epjournal.net/filestore/ep04149196.pdf

It might also be possible to look at human societies or nations and see
how well they can solve posed problems. Is the US smarter in the sense
that it can find solutions to problems than (say) the UK? It would be
interesting to see if one could find some good quasiexperiments for this.

Anders Sandberg,
Oxford Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics
Philosophy Faculty of Oxford University

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