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.