Varieties of intelligence (long) *Aaron Sloman* aarons at /Sun Jun 23 16:13:31 EDT 1991/ * Previous message: Distributed vs Localist Representations <013409.html> * Next message: Distributed Representations <013411.html> * *Messages sorted by:* [ date ] [ thread ] [ subject ] [ author ] ------------------------------------------------------------------------ A friend, Gerry Martin, is interested in "achievers", how they differ and the conditions that create them or enable them to achieve. I offered to try to find out if anyone knew of relevant work on different kinds of (human) intelligence, how they develop, what they are, and what (social) mechanisms if any enable them to be matched with opportunities for development or fulfilment. There's a collection of related questions. 1. To what extent does evolution produce variation in intellectual capabilities, motivations, etc.? How far is the observable variation due to environmental factors? This is an old question, of course, and very ill-defined (e.g. there is probably no meaningful metric for the contributions of genetic and environmental factors to individual development). It is clear that physical variability is inherent in evolutionary mechanisms: without this there could not be (Darwinian) evolution. The same must presumably be true for "mental" variability. Do genetic factors produce different kinds of differences: in intellectual capabilities, motivational patterns, perceptual abilities, memory abilities, problem solving abilities, etc. I think it was Waddington who offered the metaphor of the "epigenetic landscape" genetically determining the opportunities for development of an individual. The route actually taken through the landscape would depend on the individual's environment. So our question is how different are the landscapes (the sets of possible developmental routes) with which each human child is born, and to what extent do they determine different opportunities for mental, as well as physical development? (Obviously the two are linked: a blind child won't as easily become a great painter.) (Piaget suggested that all the human landscapes have a common structure, with well defined stages. I suspect this view will not survive close analysis.) For intelligent social animals, mental variability is more important than physical variability: a social system has more diversity of intellectual and motivational requirements in its "jobs" than diversity of physical requirements. (Perhaps not if you include the "jobs" done for us by other animals, plants, microorganisms, machines, etc., without which our society could not survive.) Anyhow, without variation in mental properties (whether produced genetically or not) it could be hard to achieve the division of labour that enables a complex social system to work. Aldous Huxley's book "Brave New World" takes this idea towards an unpalatable conclusion. The need for mental variability goes beyond infrastructure: without such variability all artists would be painters, or all would be composers, or all would be poets, and all scientists would be physicists, or biologists... Division of labour is required not only for the enabling mechanisms of society, but also for cultural richness. 2. What is the form of this variability? Folk psychology has it that there are different kinds of genius - musical geniuses, mathematical geniuses, geniuses in biology, great actors and actresses, etc. Could any of these have excelled in any other field? Would the right education have turned Mozart into a great mathematicion, or would his particular "gifts" never have engaged with advanced mathematics? Could a suitable background have made Newton a great composer? Does anyone have any insight into the genetic requirements for different kinds of creative excellence? We can distinguish two broad questions: (a) is there wide variability in DEGREE in innate capabilities (b) is there also wide variability in KIND (domain, field of application, or whatever)? In either case it would be interesting to know what kinds of mechanisms account for the differences? Could they be quantitative (as many naive scientists have supposed -- e.g. number of brain cells, number of connections, speed of transmission of signals, etc.) or are the relevant differences more likely to be structural -- i.e. differences in hardware or software organisation? It looks as if many ordinary human learning capabilities need specific pre-determined structures, providing the basis for learning abilities: e.g. learning languages with complex syntax, learning music, learning to control limbs, learning to see structured objects, learning to play games, learning mathematics, and so on. (Some of the structures creating these capabilities might be shared between different kinds of potential.) If these enabling structures are not "all-or-nothing" systems there could sometimes be partial structures at birth, giving some individuals subsets of "normal" capabilities. Are these all a result of pre-natal damage, or might the gene pool INHERENTLY generate such variety? (An unpalatable truth?) Does the gene pool also produce some individuals with powerful supersets of what is relatively common? Are there importantly different supersets, corresponding to distinct "gifts"? (E.g. Mozart, Newton, Shakespeare.) What are the additional mechanisms these individuals have? Can those born without be given them artificially? (E.g. through special training, hormone treatment, etc..) 3. To what extent do different approaches to AI (I include connectionism as a sub-field of AI) provide tools to model different sorts of mentalities? As far as I know, although there has been much empirical research (e.g. on twins) to find out what is and what is not determined genetically, there there has been very little discussion of mechanisms that might be related to such variability. >/From an AI standpoint it is easy to speculate about ways in which /learning systems could be designed that are initially highly sensitive to minor and subtle environmental differences and which, through various kinds of positive feedback, amplify differences so that even individuals that start off very similar could, in a rich and varied environment, end up very different. This sort of thing could be a consequence of multi-layered self-modifying architectures with thresholds of various kinds that get modified by "experience" and which thereby change the behaviour of systems which cause other thresholds to be modified. Even without thresholds, hierarchies of condition-action rules, where some of the actions create or alter other rules, would also provide for enormous variability. (As could hierarchies of pdp networks, some of which change the topology of others.) Cascades of such changes could produce huge qualitative variation in various kinds of intellectual capabilities as well as variation in motivational, emotional and personality traits, aesthetic tastes, etc. Such architectures might allow relatively small genetic differences as well as small environmental differences to produce vast differences in adult capabilities. Variation in tastes in food, or preferences for mates, despite common biological needs, seem to be partly a result of cultural feedback through such developmental mechanisms. But is it all environmental? I gather there are genetic factors that stop some people liking the tastes of certain foods. What about a taste for mathematics, or a general taste for intellectual achievement? 4. Does anyone have any notion of the kinds of differences in implementation that could account for differences in tastes, capabilities, etc. Would it require: (a) differences in underlying physical architectures (e.g. different divisions of brains into cooperative sub-nets, or different connection topologies among neurones?), (b) differences in the contents of "knowledge bases", "plan databases", skill databases, etc. (By "database" I include what can be stored in a trainable network.) (c) differences in numerical parameters. or something quite different? I suspect there's a huge variety of distinct ways in which qualitative differences in capability can emerge: some closer to hardware differences, some closer to software differences. The latter might in principle be easier to change, but not in practice, if for example, it requires de-compiling a huge and messy system. The only AI-related work that I know of that explicitly deals not only with the design or development of a single agent, but with variable populations, is work on genetic algorithms, which can produce a family of slightly different design solutions. Of course, it is premature for anyone to consider modelling evolutionary processes that would produce collections of "complete" intelligent agents (as opposed to collections of solutions to simple problems like planning problems, recognition problems, or whatever). But has anyone investigated general principles involved in mechanisms that could produce populations of agents with important MENTAL differences? Are there any general principles? (Are the mental epigenetic landscapes for a species importantly different in structure from the physical ones? Perhaps for some organisms, e.g. ants, there's a lot less difference than for others, e.g. chimpanzees?) 5. There are related questions about the need for or possibility of social engineering. (The questions are fraught with political and ethical problems.) In particular, if truly gifted individuals have narrowly targetted potential, are there mechanims that enable such potential to be matched with appropriate opportunities for development and application? Do rare needs have a way of "attracting" those with the rare ability to tackle them? What mechanisms can help to match individuals with unusual combinations of motives and capabilities, with tasks or roles that require those combinations? In a crude and only partly successful way the educational system and career advisory services attempt to do this. Special schools or special lessons for gifted children attempt to enhance the match-making. However, these formal institutions work only insofar as there are fairly broad and widely-recognized categories of individuals and of tasks. They don't address the problem of matching the potentially very high achievers to very specific opportunities and tasks that need them. Some job advertisements and recruitment services attempt to do this but there's no guarantee that they make contact with really suitable candidates, and we all know how difficult selection is. Also these mechanisms assume that the need has been identified. There was no institution that identified the need for a theory of gravity and recruited Newton, provided him with opportunties, etc. Was it pure chance then that he was "found"? Or were there many others who might have achieved what he did? Or were there unrecognized social mechanisms that "arranged" the match? If so, how far afield could he have been born without defeating the match-making? If the potentially very high acheivers only have very small areas in which their potential can be realized, and if each type is very rare, there may be no general way to set up conditions that bring them into the appropriate circumstances. An important example might turn out to be the problem of matching the particular collection of talents, knowledge, and opportunity that would enable a cure for AIDS to be found. In a homogenous global culture with richly integrated (electronic?) information systems it might be possible to reduce the risks of such lost opportunities, but only if there are ways of recognizing in advance that a particular individual is likely to be well suited to a particular task. The more narrowly defined and rare the task and the capabilities, the less likely it is that the match can be recognized in advance. Is the idea that there are important but extremely difficult tasks and challenges that only a very few individuals have the potential to cope with just a romantic myth? Or is every solvable problem, every achievable goal, solvable by a large subset of humanity, given the right training and opportunity? (Will we ever know whether nobody but Fermat had what it takes to prove his "last" theorem?) Even if the "romantic myth" is close to the truth, there may be no way of setting up social mechanisms with a good chance of bringing important opportunities and appropriately gifted individuals together: social systems are so complex that all attempts to control them, however well-meaning, invariably have a host of unintended, often undesirable, consequences, some of them long term and far less obvious than missiles that hit the wrong target. Could some variant of AI help here? It seems unlikely that connectionist pattern recognition techniques could work. (E.g. where would training sets come from?) Could some more abstract sort of expert system help? Neither could inform us that the person capable of solving a particular problem is an unknown child in a remote underdeveloped community. Perhaps there is nothing for it, but to rely on chance, co-incidence, or whatever combination of ill-understood biological and social processes have worked up to now in enabling humankind to achieve what distinguishes us from ants and apes) including our extremes of ecological vandalism). ----------------------------------------------------------------------- I don't know if I have captured Gerry's questions well: he hasn't seen this message. But if you have any relevant comments including pointers to literature, information about work in progress, criticisms of the presuppositions of the questions, conjectures about the answers, etc. I'll be interested to receive them and to pass them on. I'll post this to connectionists and the newsgroup. (Should it go to others?) Apologies for length. Aaron Sloman, School of Cognitive and Computing Sciences, Univ of Sussex, Brighton, BN1 9QH, England EMAIL aarons at After 18th July 1991: School of Computer Science. The University of Birmingham, UK. Email: A.Sloman at ------------------------------------------------------------------------ * Previous message: Distributed vs Localist Representations <013409.html> * Next message: Distributed Representations <013411.html> * *Messages sorted by:* [ date ] [ thread ] [ subject ] [ author ] ------------------------------------------------------------------------ More information about the Connectionists mailing list