Ever wondered what is intelligence? According to Wikipedia definition it is “The ability to perceive or infer information, and to retain it as knowledge to be applied towards adaptive behaviors within an environment or context.”
Recently, the German animation studio and popular YouTube channel, Kurzgesagt – In a Nutshell published a video exploring the issue.
Humans usually think of intelligence as a trait like height or strength,
yet, in a nutshell, intelligence is a mechanism to solve problems.
Kurzgesagt video defines it as the problem of staying alive, which involves finding food and shelter, fighting sexual competitors, or fleeing from predators.
Yet, intelligence is more complex than that, as it includes the ability to gather knowledge, to learn, be creative, form strategies, or engage in critical thinking.
It can be seen through different behaviors, from hardwired or instinct like reactions to different degrees of learning to some sort of awareness.
Kurzgesagt explains that not all scientists agree where it begins or what even should count as intelligence. Because it is also connected to consciousness since awareness is helpful for problem-solving.
“Intelligence isn’t exactly clear-cut, so maybe we can think of it as more like a flexible set of skills:
Basic tools.” the video says.
So what are the most important tools? The ability to gather information, to save it, and to use it to learn.
Such information is gathered through senses such as vision, sound, smell, touch or taste, it helps living beings navigate and react to the external world appropriately.
Yet, living beings also need to keep track of the state of their own bodies,
monitoring things like hunger and fatigue, Kurzgesagt explained.
Hence, the second tool is memory, which is the ability to save and recall information. Memories can be about events, places, and associations, but also behaviors like hunting or foraging methods.
This is what we call learning, the process of putting together a sequence of thoughts or actions.
Kurzgesagt defined learning as “A string of repeatable behaviours that can be varied and adapted. These three tools enable seemingly stupid creatures to act in surprisingly intelligent ways.
Thus, using these tools, complex animals have a wider range of problems they can solve. Kurzgesagt called this tool “The Library of Knowledge”.
The video cites a study on raccoons, in which they were given boxes secured with different kinds of locks. They needed less than 10 attempts to figure out how to open each box.
Interestingly, they managed to do that, even when different locks were put together into increasingly difficult combinations, and they remembered their experience a year later.
“Beyond our library of associations and skills, the most impressive tool in our box is creativity, a sort of mental duct tape,” Kurzgesagt said.
Creativity gives the chance of producing something new and valuable from apparently unrelated things, leading to unique solutions to problems.
Utilizing resources such as physical tools is also another facet of creativity. Also, the video indicates that collecting materials for later use is connected to planning, which is a more advanced dimension of problem-solving.
When it comes to Humans, we invested in an unusually diverse intelligence toolkit. Not only that but also we added another set of tools on top, which is culture.
“No single person could ever build a space rocket or particle accelerator.
But thanks to our ability to work together and to share knowledge across generations, we can overcome challenges beyond any single individual’s ability,” the video explained.