People tend to view the subject of intelligence somewhat myopically. That is, it tends to be equated with capacities such as the knowledge that one has at one’s fingertips, the ability to think rationally at a level that transcends the level of what other people can, or in a more limited way through empirical measures such as an IQ score or what one has scored on his or her bar exam. In other words, it is often viewed largely through a cognitive lens, rather than through the lens of a much broader perspective.
However, there are any number of other qualities which might define what the world intelligence really means. Things such as the capacity for direct insight into the nature of situations or other people; the ability to think creatively by fusing elements of different areas into one; the capacity for developing a clear internal picture of one’s world; the ability to explore what exactly the boundaries of thought and memory are; the capacity for achieving a mental “flow” state that is creative; or the capacity to examine one’s own conditioning by the world through self-reflection.
Unfortunately, however, a number of these qualities may be under assault in our current digital age. For instance the sort of direct insight and creative absorption that is representative of the classic “aha” moment of recognition is being often diminished by the sort of distracted awareness that is being engendered in people as they jump relentlessly between bits of information on the Internet. Or the fact the neuroscientists, psychologists, and others are increasingly finding that the amount of multitasking in which people are now engaged on their digital devices is leaving them less able to transfer learning from one context to another.
Or as people’s short-term memories are often bombarded with the amount of information on the Web that becomes increasingly difficult to absorb, they can no longer convert those memories as effectively into the sort of long-term ones that give them a clear internalized picture of their world. In addition, the high-powered interruption machine of the Internet, one that often breaks our concentration into isolated pieces of knowledge, is making it increasingly difficult to follow one’s stream of consciousness toward a self-absorbed flow state. And as our own neural pathways of our brains are fusing more and more with the digital pathways inside our PCs and phones, it is becoming ever more difficult to step back and effectively examine our conditioning by both the world and the Internet.
It would seem to be important that we begin to look at intelligence through a much broader lens, and to give the qualities alluded to above even more credence than we have before so that they don’t begin to be decimated by our current digital age to the point where they actually disappear simply because we are not paying enough attention to what is occurring. Unfortunately, our current cyber age tends to place way too much emphasis on the more cerebral aspects of intelligence simply because those aspects fit so well with the algorithms inside our PCs and phones. But real intelligence is often more intuitive, subjective, and emotive than that. Let’s hope that we keep that firmly in mind as we move increasingly forward in this new age.