I was thinking about what intelligence is. We all know there are different kinds of intelligence, like people who are smart at math or vocabulary or have practical intelligence or social intelligence, etc. The word can have a very broad number of uses. Specifically, though, when I meet someone and I get the sense that they are very intelligent, what makes me think so?

In pondering this one thing that came to mind is: intelligent people get more information out of less data. They realize the implications of things and can “read between the lines”. Another way to think of this is that they “get it”. This implies there is a certain aspect of awareness to this sort of intelligence. Intelligent people are ultra-aware. In fact, when people are unaware it generally makes me think they are unintelligent. Even simple examples — when someone is standing talking in a hallway in a place where they are an obstacle and people are having to jostle around them. Or when people are talking on the phone and are walking or driving inattentively. I always think “wake up, stupid!”. You can’t be intelligent if you are unaware.

So what impresses me about intelligent people is they are very aware of what is going on, they are getting as much information as is possible out of the amount of data they have, and they put it all together quickly and in a way that emphasizes what is important. Some people are smart but they get caught up in the unimportant details of things.

As someone who is a great admirer of intelligence, the thing that scares me most is a culture that does not embrace it. Like, in school when being considered “a brain” was a bad thing. Or people who scoff at intellectuals. Or the “tall poppy” syndrome where being smart makes you get cut down. I hate the very thought of these things. I’m not some elitist who thinks that smart people are somehow “better” than less smart people. I am an elitist, though, who thinks that people who do not strive to be as smart and as educated as possible are missing out. I can’t think of anything dumber than embracing dumbness.

Human beings are marvelous creatures and 99.99% of what makes us different from the other animals on this planet are our brains. You are reading these words over a global public network using technology created by people who were smart and put that intelligence to use. We are surrounded by the fruits of the labor of centuries of smart people. Be one of them. Use your head. Think. It’s why you are here.


One thought on “Intelligence

  1. chad says:

    I’ve spent some time thinking about this. There are definately people who get things faster. The question becomes–and I think this is hard to answer–is it because they are “intelligent” or are they an “intellectual”? Intelligence is something that people are born with; intellectuals can be made.

    People who are (properly) educated can often appraise situations because they have learned some sort of “critical thinking” skills. These are things learned in “libreal arts” which are slowly drifting out of our list of important things-to-learn as our society becomes more specialized.

    On a somewhat related note, you have the question of originality vs perfection. This is most often seen in art or music. I think two types of intelligence emerge here–especially in music. You have the guys who came up with the licks, and then there’s the guys who can play all of them pitch perfect without everyone hitting a bad note, but they couldn’t write a decent song if they spent their life on it.

    Back to how society values intelligence… It is interesting that a much larger percent of our population probably pushes their children to be great atheletes than the percentage that pushes their children to be really educated. As a result, I think, we really value sports figures and we want winners. Winning is good in sports.

    Winning is not quite as good in the classroom. Sure, everyone is suppose to “study” so they can “get a job”, but I think a lot of people stop it at that. Perhaps the problem is that they think some people are “smart” and some are not–“I’m just not a math person” or something like that. I think that this is a terrible attitude to have because, as I said, intellectuals can be made. Anyone can be educated if they try. I know a lot of educated people really look down on people who focus on sports. I am not one of them. It requires an incredible amount of discipline to become a good athlete. It is much the same mentally as focusing academically. If people would just want to “win” in learning like they do in sports, then we’d have a much different society.


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