Saturday, March 15, 2014

A Personal Theory of Intelligence

Repeat after me:  “I can learn anything with enough time and effort.”
This is the core of my theory of intelligence.  The theory comes from my studies of cognitive science, neuroscience, and philosophy, as well as my personal experience.  Let’s work through this in more detail.
The brain is broken into regions that roughly correspond to various cognitive and behavioral functions. Some people may have a region larger than average or smaller than average.  Einstein had a smaller than average brain, but the region associated with visualization was larger than average.  He was well known for visualizing his theories, such as when he asked, “What is it like to ride a beam of light?”  Part of this is from genetics while the rest if from his environment. 
Genetics tells the body how to develop in general.  But that’s not where things end.  Studies have shown that cab drivers have a larger special recognition region of the brain, but only after years of driving.  Before the experience, their brains were back toward the average.  Their brains changed over time through experience.  They were not stuck with what their genetics gave them.
I will say that genetics can give someone a leg up, a head start.  A child who is a virtuoso on the violin at age five likely had a genetic disposition toward musical patterns and fine motor skills. Someone who has an easy time with math and science is predisposed toward mathematical (abstract) patterns.  This doesn’t mean that if you aren’t predisposed you can’t learn it.  It just means that you’ll have to work longer and harder to keep up. 
How do we measure, generally speaking, how much time and effort?  There is definitely no specific way to do this, as there are far too many factors, but there is something we can look at:  IQ.  Yes, there is an actual use for IQ.  If you have an IQ of 100, you would generally take an average amount of time and effort to learn something.  If your IQ is lower, it’ll take longer.  If it’s higher, it takes less time, so you can learn more things and be ‘smarter’.  

As a quick aside, some studies have shown that the average IQ is actually higher than it was 50 years ago; we just keep the average at 100 to make things easier.  What does this mean for my theory?  I would think that people are getting better at learning while there are more and more things to learn every day.  If a person's ability to learn didn't increase over generations, then humanity wouldn't be able to keep up with technological advances.  People who can keep up, learn the new things to be learn, and are typically more successful, would be more successful in romance.  Evolution is allowing us to keep up.
Just to make clear, someone with a lower than average IQ (I'll arbitrarily choose 85) could still learn something along the lines of quantum physics, but the amount of time and effort would be more than available in a lifetime.  At the same time, someone with a very high IQ (we’ll use 160, just to throw out a number) could spend longer than a lifetime trying to create a mathematical theory of language by themselves.  This would tell us that human life expectancy is a factor.  Other factors would include availability of learning material, enough time to spend at all (if you live in a war zone, staying alive is much more important), and the choice to spend the time and effort.
Person choice is a major factor.  I have a lot of personal interests, as anyone who has read my blog could tell you.  I would need multiple lifetimes to learn everything that I want.  As such, I need to choose what to put my time and effort into.  This is why I donated my piano to a good cause recently.  It was an investment that did not pay off for me, as I choose to spend my time and effort elsewhere, but will hopefully pay off for someone else.  My choices are also why I choose to spend more time and effort in learning Japanese (I’ll talk about this in a future post). 
Let’s look back over my theory and try to summarize it.  Anyone can learn anything, if they choose to and are able to spend the time and effort to do so.  Ok, I was able to summarize it all in a single line.  That’s works for me. 

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Polymath Redux

I've previously discussed being a polymath here and here.  I talked about the definition of being a polymath, the difficulties, and my thoughts on the requirements.  In the second article, I talked about walking away from becoming a polymath to look into space exploration. Well, it seems that this topic has struck a nerve, not just with you, but in my life as well.

My thoughts keep going from topic to topic.  I'm not giving up on Japanese, space exploration, or anything else I've talked about.  I want to find a way to learn as much as I can about as much as I can.  I want to get a solid framework of how both the universe, in general, and humanity, specifically, work. 

This is the kind of education you would think you'd receive during public schooling, but it's not even close.  The main issue is the severe interdependency that each topic has with every other topic.  Physics can teach us more about philosophy, computer science can teach us more about chemistry, and anthropology can teach us more about mythology.  This is why I'm a big fan of taking unrelated minors alongside a major (or two) at college.

The interconnecting material seems to be language/linguistics and mathematics.  In addition, higher level knowledge seems to be based on lower level knowledge.  For example, physics builds on math, chemistry builds in physics, biology builds on chemistry, and anthropology, sociology, and psychology all build on biology.  Granted, I'm sure you knew most of that, but it all seems to go back to math.  When you get into the humanities, you seem literature building on linguistics, history building on all sorts of fields, art building on perception (psychology), and much more.  I'm not quite sure how mathematics and linguistics connect, but I bet it would be interesting to find out.

I've very interested in figuring out the physics of how the universe interacts with itself, using chemistry to understand what the universe is made of, and using biology, psychology, and philosophy to understand humanity's place in the universe.

Am I crazy?  Probably, but in a fun/good way.  I like to think of myself as a eclectic eccentric cogniphile these days.  For those who don't know what those mean (and are unwilling to Google them), eclectic means I don't have specific preferences (in learning, music, books, TV, movies, etc); eccentric means odd, quirky, or a 'little bit different than the rest'; and a cogniphile is someone who loves learning, knowledge, and understanding.  I'd like to add bibliophile in there as well, but it doesn't seem to flow as well. 

Crazy person signing off!

Thursday, October 24, 2013

What's Life Without Adventure?

[Sorry for the long hiatus.  I'm not sure if I'll be posting regularly, but I have a few posts in mind for over the next few weeks.]

Life is a complex subject, though people have tried to tackle it many, many times over the years.  Most try to simplify it.  "Life is like a box of chocolates."  Others try to systematize it.  "Have a successful life in 12 easy steps!"  I've tried a combination of describing my past or planning for my future.

I think we can all agree that no one has all the answers, if only because everyone's life is different. My life is not your life.  It can't be.  My DNA is not your DNA.  My childhood is not your childhood.

As always, I've been fairly introspective lately.  I don't know if it's my new role at work, my new apartment, or my new friends.  Many new questions have been popping up.  What's life without adventure?  What's life without risk?  What's life without someone to share it with?

But before I go on, watch this two minute video.

I try not to ask for much, but the video is worth watching. Did you watch it, yet?  Good. 

Who would you say that you were most like in the video?  The woman living her life?  The iPhone zombies?  Somewhere in between?  I'm guessing you'll say that you fit in that last one. 

I'm not trying to pick on the iPhone, or the iPhone generation, but people need to go out and live life.  Have an adventure.  Do something different.  Go somewhere different.  Meet someone new.  See a play, visit the beach, buy a homeless guy lunch, walk through a park and greet those you pass, give someone you care about a hug...  The list goes on. 

Go live your life.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Space Rescue Corp

At this time, any astronauts or cosmonauts who run into trouble while in space are largely on their own.  If the ISS suffers from a failure that prevents the inhabitants from evacuating, or someone gets sufficiently injured while on a mission, or anything else that puts the crew at risk without the ability to deal with it themselves, people may die and the future of space exploration will be in jeopardy.  That's where a Space Rescue Corp comes in.

The Space Rescue Corp (SRC), as I imagine it, would have a team of three, at least one of which would be an MD.  These three would be ready to go within 24 hours of an emergency being declared.  As the cost of placing people into orbit declines and the reliability of the equipment being used increases, the SRC makes more and more sense, though a few details immediately stand out.

Training.  The Corp would need to be trained in both medical and engineering matter in order to effect a rescue.  As mentioned, at least one of the crew would need to be an MD, preferably one who can do surgery.  The other two would need to have detailed medical training, mostly to assist the doctor, but also to still be able to help if the doctor is incapacitated.  The entire crew would need to know how to handle the equipment required to be able to get to those who require help.  This could be a malfunctioning airlock, suit, or any other type of equipment.  I believe that much of this training is already used.

Equipment.  Every vehicle or station that goes up would need to be accessible from the outside, in case none of those inside were able to assist.  Any airlock would have to be controllable from outside.  The SRC would need to be able to quickly get medical and other rescue equipment into the vehicle/station.  I also believe that a lot of this technology is already being used or is at least available for use.

Response.  This is the tricky one.  There would need to be multiple launch sites to negate the effect of weather on a launch.  High winds?  Go to a different launch site.  Each site would need to have the SRC vehicle ready to go at a moment's notice.  This is obviously the sticking point.  As we have never truly needed such a group in the past, and considering the high costs of maintaining such the SRC, is it truly worth it?  Maybe not now, but I predict that, eventually, we will.  It will likely take a few tragic accidents (nobody likes to spend money they don't think they need to), but it will be done.  And, eventually, I can easily foresee a permanent location in space itself from which to base such a group.  That's likely a hundred years in the future, especially considering the glacial pace of current space exploration, but it will happen.

Off mission duties.  Between emergencies, the Corp would need to keep busy and useful.  As such, their first and foremost duty would be to expand their training.  All Corp members would continually push their medical and engineering knowledge as far as they could.  At the same time, they would train other astronauts and cosmonauts to be able to either prevent such emergencies, or to be able to handle them themselves, much as they do now.  It would only be during times when, as I said, a crew could not save themselves would the SRC be called in.

I expect to not see such a group in my lifetime.  The only way it could exist in the next fifty years is if humanity picked up the slack and took space exploration more seriously.  If it does exist, I'll probably be too old to care at that point.  I'll be too busy looking for my walker and my teeth.

Friday, May 17, 2013


No, not the evil IRS kind.  (Just kidding, IRS.  Please don't audit me!).

I've been looking over the courses and, while far cheaper than any other option, it will still cost me a bit more than I care to spend to earn the degrees.  My solution?  Ignore the degree and audit all of the classes.  The only negative that I see is that I won't have a piece of paper at the end saying I know what it says I know.  Ok, a second negative is that dropping a course I registered to audit does not give me a refund.

There are plenty of good point about this plan.  Like I've already mentioned, it's cheaper at $100 per credit, undergrad or graduate.  That's less than a third of the cost.  I can also now drop all of the general education courses that don't teach me what I need to know, like the world history courses.  I'll still learn a lot about the history of astronomy and space exploration, but I don't really care the cause of the decline of the Roman Empire.  Sorry, Romans. 

Another benefit is that I won't be grade focused, but learning focused, which is how it should be.  I would rather get everything I need out of a course and earn a B than spend even more time learning things that won't help just to earn an A.  I'll have to be very focused, as all of my motivation will need to be internal (wanting to learn the course material) rather than external (wanting to earn an A, as defined by the instructor).  I've had trouble with that in the past, as evidenced by all of my dropped projects.

I just signed up for the first class (for the third time).  Can't drop it this time, but I'm not sure what else could pop up to stop me.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

When It Rains...

It's been an interesting month.  After dealing with a family emergency, I returned home (drove 1300 miles solo, hitting a badger on the way) to find myself in a new office that added 30 minutes to my commute.  Two weeks in, and I found myself soft of joining a new team, meaning I got to work with some new people, but still a lot of the same ones as well.

So far, not too bad.  I even got the heat working in my car, just in time for 70+ degree weather.  Also just in time for my engine to develop a fatal issue (I blame the badger).  So, my first week with my new team sees me not being able to drive to work with that team in person.  And they're a great team, too.

The solution to my current troubles?  Get my car towed 100 miles, learn how to drive a stick in one weekend, drive that manual transmission around until I get a new engine in my car, and hope that I don't eat all of my savings doing it.  Did I mention that the car I'll be driving is only a year younger than I am?

I also previously mentioned that I'll be taking classes again.  Well, that first class starts next week.  With everything going on, though, I had to drop out of it, for the second time.  Now I'll be starting the class next month.  Right now, I need the money and don't need the stress.  But I will be taking these classes; there isn't much that will stop my from that.

Monday, April 22, 2013

What To Accomplish?

In my last post, I talked about the usefulness of dedicating one's life toward a goal.  I then intentionally left my answer somewhat ambiguous.  Do I dedicate my life toward my goals or not?  Is it worth it?  Do I risk losing out on what other things life has to offer?  Maybe, maybe not.  First, let's discuss what the goals are.  For that, I'm going to take a strategic business approach; I find it a useful way to organize my thoughts on this matter.

All of the successful business have an overall vision statement.  This vision statement is the ideal world the business, or person, wants to operate in.  It's the way they want the world to be.  It's what they want to work toward.  Over a month ago, I crafted a person vision statement.

Forever upward and onward, for all humanity.

I want to see humanity reach for the stars, both figuratively and literally.  I don't want humanity to be a one planet wonder, just to be wiped out by a rogue asteroid.  As Neil deGrasse Tyson once said, "Dinosaurs are extinct today because they lacked opposable thumbs and the brainpower to build a space program".  We have both of those things, yet we are very much in danger of getting wiped out.  "The number of people in the world engaged in this search [for catastrophic impactors] totals one or two dozen. How long into the future are you willing to protect Homo sapiens on Earth? Before you answer that question, take a detour to Arizona's Meteor Crater during your next vacation."

After creating a vision statement, one needs a mission statement on how they are going to work toward that vision.  Remember that you not have to reach that vision; perhaps it's a vision that will be reach by future generation or, in the case of a business, a future CEO, if ever.  I have recently created a mission statement, though I may still tweek it a bit. 

Be part in establishing a permanent presence on the moon as a stepping stone to further exploration.

Note that it does not say which role I should play.  That is very much up for debate.  Believe it or not, I thought about trying to become an astronaut for a time.  I even made plans on how to achieve that.  But I've always been best in a support role rather than a leading role.  For now, I'm leading my exact role open while I work toward my degrees.

After creating a basic mission statement, I set up several mutually supportive goals, in no particular order.

Goal 1:  Turn public opinion in favor of space exploration in general, and lunar development in particular.
Goal 2:  Turn corporate opinion in favor of space exploration in general, and lunar development in particular.
Goal 3:  Become the most knowledgeable authority on the moon, from every angle. (history, geology, geography, chemically)
Goal 4:  Become one of the most knowledgeable authorities on space exploration. (top 10%)
Goal 5:  Create a series of missions to develop, maintain, and expand a lunar base; use ISS as example.
Goal 6:  Maintain physical ability, mental ability, and skill set to be capable of being an astronaut.
The first goal aims to get the average person interested enough in space exploration and lunar development in order to catch the notice of the politicians.  The second is for increasing corporate investments in the space industry.  The third is a more personal one that grants me a currently undefined role in future lunar development.  The fourth grants me an also undefined role in space exploration in general.  Number five gives me a very concrete knowledge base about what it will take to develop, maintain, and expand a lunar base.  The last goal makes it possible for me to become a payload specialist (a non-astronaut selected to go into space for a special purpose) in the off chance they need an expert to go there.  

Throughout it all, I'm leaving my options very much open.  The space degrees I've been looking at, both the Bachelors and the Mastery, will give me a great foundation.  Beyond that, it'll be up to me.  I'm looking at supplementary classes, certificates, and degrees that will help as well, but the cornerstone will be these two degrees.  Once these are complete, I'll begin moving toward my new industry.  I may work for NASA (which has some useful programs), a private corporation, or do something else.  Right now, I want to get moving in these degrees.  My first class starts two weeks from today, and I've very excited to get started.