The evidence suggests that for every gain in cognitive functions, for example better memory, increased attention or improved intelligence, there is a price to pay elsewhere – meaning a highly-evolved “supermind” is the stuff of science fiction.
University of Warwick psychology researcher Thomas Hills and Ralph Hertwig of the University of Basel looked at a range of studies, including research into the use of drugs like Ritalan which help with attention, studies of people with autism as well as a study of the Ashkenazi Jewish population.
For instance, among individuals with enhanced cognitive abilities- such as savants, people with photographic memories, and even genetically segregated populations of individuals with above average IQ, these individuals often suffer from related disorders, such as autism, debilitating synaesthesia and neural disorders linked with enhanced brain growth.
Similarly, drugs like Ritalan only help people with lower attention spans whereas people who don’t have trouble focusing can actually perform worse when they take attention-enhancing drugs.
Dr Hills said: “These kinds of studies suggest there is an upper limit to how much people can or should improve their mental functions like attention, memory or intelligence.
“Take a complex task like driving, where the mind needs to be dynamically focused, attending to the right things such as the road ahead and other road users – which are changing all the time.
“If you enhance your ability to focus too much, and end up over-focusing on specific details, like the driver trying to hide in your blind spot, then you may fail to see another driver suddenly veering into your lane from the other direction.
“Or if you drink coffee to make yourself more alert, the trade-off is that it is likely to increase your anxiety levels and lose your fine motor control. There are always trade-offs.
There is some difference of opinion among biologists, but most agree that humans are not evolving. Humans stopped being naturally selected thousands of years ago. We now culturally select for our partners. While social-Spencerism is alive and well, human do not, like chimps or giraffes strive to mate with the fastest, mates with the best camouflage and with great food finding skills – we are not in a biological contest of the fittest. It is a common mistake to look at the past and think humans are more intelligent now, than say a hundred years, because we know more – the accumulation and forwarding of knowledge is not the same as intelligence. Though there is a lot to be said for over coming one’s native intellectual gifts with study.
Let’s say the entire human race does evolve to have an average10 point higher IQ in the next hundred years. Because of the biological nature of the process we are also likely to evolve neural mechanisms that will protect us – on average – from the downside of better concentrations skills, or better memory. Currently we probably dream as a mechanism for clearing out the mental and emotional junk that accumulates in our brains during the day. Dreams as a kind of cache cleaner. An evolutionary adaption that saves us at this very moment from suffering from the kinds of consequences described by the authors. Very intelligent people are more susceptible to depression and suicide so it is not as though our intelligence does not have a price now. On the other hand for every brilliant mind that suffers from schizophrenia, there are many more that do not. I like, not being a Vulcan, to at least imagine or hope that humanity will evolve in terms of wisdom. That requires some minimum amount of intelligence plus the ability to weigh experience and evidence. Bringing all our cognitive capacities together while shedding what appears to be our base emotions would look a lot like super intelligence.
“Organisms are not billiard balls, propelled by simple and measurable external forces to predictable new positions on life’s pool table. Sufficiently complex systems have greater richness. Organisms have a history that constrains their future in myriad, subtle ways.” – Stephen Jay Gould, The Panda’s Thumb (1980)
This is today’s relatively mindless filler, Republicans vs. Democrats TV survey results: Lefties want comedy, right wingers like work
– The Daily Show With Jon Stewart and The Colbert Report (Comedy Central): As you might expect.
– 30 Rock and Parks and Recreation (NBC): Literate media-savvy comedies score high among Dems in general, notes Experian-Simmons senior marketing manager John Fetto. “Sarcastic humor is always a hook for them,” he adds.
– The View (ABC): Shows that skew female tend to do better among Dems, while male-friendly shows tend to do perform higher among Republicans.
– Glee (Fox)
– Modern Family (ABC): Last year, the progressive Glee and Modern Family scored surprisingly strong among both political leanings. Among conservatives this year, the shows still do fairly well, but have dropped out of their top ranks.
[ ]…CONSERVATIVE-REPUBLICAN FAVORITES:
– Swamp Loggers (Discovery) and Top Shot (History): Gritty documentary-style work-related reality shows on cable index really strongly with conservative Republicans. Swamp Loggers is particularly polarizing.
– The Bachelor (ABC): They also tend to gravitate toward broadcast reality competition shows.
– Castle (ABC): Ranks fairly high among Dems, too.
– Mythbusters (Discovery)
– Only in America With Larry the Cable Guy, American Pickers, Pawn Stars, Swamp People (History): If you’re a Republican candidate looking to raise money, put ads on History.
– The Middle (ABC): Does well among libs, too.
– The Tonight Show With Jay Leno (NBC): “Did you hear about this? Yeah, this is true: Jay Leno is the late-night choice among conservatives… “
The only reason conservatives probably like Leno is the impression he gave the public when, whether he intended to or not, helped get Arnold Schwarzenegger elected governor. Leno’s wife is not just a Democrat, she is a Democratic activist/organizer. During the Bush administration she reached out to Laura Bush through some contacts. In a meeting with Bush, Mrs. Leno convinced him or tried to anyway, to be more proactive about women’s rights in Afghanistan.
If there is a major distinction in tastes it is likely due to the foundations of drama ( in the classical sense would include comedy and satire). The dramatist and the interpretation of the director and actors create an imaginative rendering of reality. Thus it makes sense that those with rigid world views would have a lower appreciation of the format in general. I’ve watched some of those programs such as the one about commercial fishermen. I like them, but I’ve been there ( on the east coast) and done some of that. Thus to me it is not new or fascinating the way it might be for some conservative living in Kansas. Liberals generally do not see the world in rigid shades of black and white. They see the pathos, the comedy in the tragedy, the tragedy in the humor – the latter is one of the elements that makes Jon Stewart so popular. Even conservatives who write or produce media – say David Mamet and Jerry Bruckheimer respectively, when they create dramas or comedies they are forced to use the basic structure and narrative devices of drama, which is inherently liberal, to make a product most people can relate to.
I’m writing far more seriously about this liberal versus conservative rift then it deserves. The very far Right conservatives who regularly visit Big Government are taking it very seriously. This one comment stuck me because people are not completely passive about the entertainment they consume. Whatever bias might be there, imagined or not, blown out of proportion or not – individuals will process the content through their own filter. Case in point this comment from BG,
JamieKage – December 6th, 2011 at 8:43 pm
Oh, another show that I’d throw on the conservative/republican side would be “Justified” (added quotes). If you’re not watching this, you should be…come on people, the third season starts in Jan…plenty of time to catch up.
Elmore Leonard is not a conservative. While the show’s writer’s and producers control much of the content, they have all said they read the stories featuring Raylan and other Leonard works to be true to the general message. First there is the name of the show, “Justified”. Conservatives audiences just weeks ago cheered at a the idea of simply letting someone die because they did not have health insurance. Raylan does not take life unless he has a good moral reason to – like to prevent his own death. In the first season Rylan had justification and opportunity to kill Boyd Crowder (Walter Goggins), but aimed so as to miss his heart. There was imminent danger combined with this morally gray area where Raylan let his humanity, his past friendship with Boyd when they worked the mines together influence him. Rather than pass an instance death sentence or cheer on a death sentence Raylan had mercy. Raylan is at the very least more New than Old Testament. In another episode that season Raylan, being an expert marksman could have killed a murderer who had taken a deputy hostage, but instead talked him out of it with fried chicken and a shot of whiskey. The humor, the tension and Beckett-like absurdity of that situation was pure liberalism. If JamieKage wants to churn all that around in his mind and spit out some rationale that makes him fell better for liking a liberal program there is nothing more human than that. When people like things, they don’t have to wait for the next great evolutionary leap of human neurons, we’re already masters of rationalizing. Sometimes it doesn’t even cause a headache.
old electric typewriter – the text is from Dickens Tale of Two Cities.