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Sunday, May 21, 2006

Intelligence and Cruelty

____________________________________

(Posted by Again on 5/22/06)

After having tried to answer on different places, I decided to go on top of Green September with this item. I guess it's worth discussion.

Some days ago, I claimed, that true intelligence can't be cruel. I claimed that to imagine suffering, you would try to avoid it because sooner or later it might be you who had to suffer. I really said:

"If you try to imagine how pain feels, I can't believe that common people can do it unto others..."

First, B couldn't believe that. Then JMF told me that his observations of daily life wouldn't bolster that: "I also find little to inversely correlate intelligence with cruelty." On the other side, Robert supported me with his words: "It's as if the floodgates of my emotions have been opened and flowing from me is not a tide of anger or bitter opposition, but hope. Compassion. Understanding. Great sadness at what I see." Robert talks about emotions, but emotions are part of our information processing system (a very important part). Robert tells you what the ancient people thought about "ratio", the ability to understand: the core of this ability is warmth. That's why the ancient philosophies are often so hard to understand for us, because they respected power as defender of justice, strength as defender of independence, and ratio as a basically "warm, heartful" ability to understand the "motherly" reality and the humans around us. But that's just an aside.

To B I replied, that the "great imagination" of the cruelest people she had known wasn't surely "great" enough to make them imagine that they themselves could be the victims of pain. They simply think they are too strong forever to need help against cruelty.

Yesterday I found a link, supporting my argument: the ads of Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) which are aimed at the American masses to convince them that Global Warming is not a danger, but something "useful".

We call it Life

(Interestingly, the link "Find out more about CEI's work on global warming." doesn't work)


Actually it is so brutally stupid, that for educated people those ads looks like "sailing close to the wind of brainwashing of people"

I guess there are many "intelligent" people working at CEI, with high IQ's and salaries, knowing exactly how to manipulate the stupid masses. But do you really think that those "high intelligent" people are intelligent enough to understand that Global Warming will not only kill the poor, the others far away, that Global Warming will reach each and every point and person on this (formerly beautiful, blue) Earth - even themselves?

Can you call suicide based on greed "intelligence"?

So the main question seems to be: What is intelligence? Do I employ an atypically specialized understanding of intelligence - or am I just more precise? And consequently, as the majority, am I only following Mark Twain's advice: "Whenever you find that you are on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect"?

So first "enable the interface" of communication by precise definitions of terms: Intelligence is the whole system of information processing. The whole system of detecting, evaluating, storing and retrieving information - considering that, every cruelty bases on intelligence, that's perfectly right. But considering that, each plant is intelligent, each fly and fish, because they also do information processing using the knowledge stored in the engine of their cells and their DNA

And - just as an aside - on that level, brute force, war and violence are usual strategies of those "intelligences" - mothers eat their husbands and children eat their mothers (spider), tribes make slaves (ants). Because brute force is a very "easy and direct" way to get what you want. But force is just a "differential" way, a simple step-by-step forwarding of action without knowing the direction where it will lead to. You can change your situation for the special moment according to your wishes, but you can't foresee where all the energy of your used force will spread and how and when it will come back to you - you change the moment, but you don't know what will come back to you the day after: sowing the wind without considering the storm.

"Force is all-conquering, but its victories are short-lived." - Abraham Lincoln

The passive information processing system of those low-level intelligence uses a simply strategy to survive the lack of ability to foresee the consequences: masses. It creates masses of individuals, so that the lethal mistakes which inevitably results from low intelligence doesn't kill the whole species.

And it works fine. Because intelligence is, as everything in physics of conservation of energy and momentum, a question of "earn and burn": The gain/cost function of intelligence tells you, that you have to invest something to develop more intelligence and that this investment has to be awarded by better decisions, which can be easily experienced by the success of your decisions.

Success.

The next important term. Actually the real important term.

Because the first goal of any intelligence (information processing system) is success, not high intelligence. That's the reason why flies exist until today, despite the fact, that human intelligence is high enough to fly to the moon, while they only can fly to the next pile of shit.

Since success is not only a question of intelligence, but also of the environment, there really exist environments where passive information processing, faster and more specialized, works better than intelligence - where stupidity wins.

In stable environments, passive information processing systems are often more successful than active systems, because the former are faster, more specialized, while on the other hand in quickly changing environments, active information processing, more flexible, able to handle new situations, is more successful.

Actually, as B and JMF had observed, there are often situations when the slow but flexible active information processing, able to develop "high intelligence" on an individual level, is beaten by the fast passive information processing type "don't think, just act":

Don't Call Me Clever
"a limited intellect is usually beneficial; and creativity is often the last resort for losers."

So how can it be, that you, B and JMF, talk about very successful people, being cruel while behaving according to sophisticated plans?

Even that's not what I call "true intelligence". True intelligence is the highest developed ability to process enough information to foresee not just the next step, not just the next day or week or year:

Apes can plan ahead

I talk about the last progress of development: only to be found in humans - the ability to foresee the next decades.

And the next link to support the difference between those degrees of high intelligence:

Altruistic Helping in Human Infants and Young Chimpanzees
"Human beings routinely help others to achieve their goals, even when the helper receives no immediate benefit and the person helped is a stranger. Such altruistic behaviors (toward non-kin) are extremely rare evolutionarily."

But to be honest - not even the modern theories of Evolutionary Anthropology could convince me, many years ago, that the "self-evidence" of the almighty power of the law of the strongest (we all believe so uncritically in) is just...

a cultural lie.

Why?

Because the first cultures of humankind were egalitarian. Not primitive, but egalitarian and able to develop Stonehenge and most of the inventions, we so often think to be invented in the last centuries. And because egalitarian cultures support free communication, they support science.

Science supports change, creates environments needing more and more intelligence, soon needing more intelligence than the average IQ 100 offers. Therefore the reaction of humankind was to regress. Everytime civilization starts to conquer the stars, dark ages follow.

Because progress means change, most people try to avoid it - preferring the stability of dark ages to the unsecure flexibility of freedom of thoughts.

Problem is, that won't work one more time - humankind has reached a point where it changed the whole Earth, not just the environment of a city as in former times. Humankind changed everything on our wonderful blue planet in a speed never imagined before.

As in the birthtime of humankind, climate will change so rapidly, that only "the weapon of the losers" is able to protect a species.

As it has done 5 million years ago, when the smallest, weakest hominid species had survived - the one using tools and developing a social consciousness to protect the group: Together we succeed where one alone must fail.

Just a last word to my claim, that common people can't stand the suffering of other humans - which seems to be, as B rightly stated, pure nonsense when you consider the cruelty of the Nazi-Regime...

But there is this little condition I talked about: Those people were allowed to look away. They could escape the suffering.

As the American people did with the suffering of the Vietnamese.

Until they had to look at the picture of a crying little girl.

Then they stopped the war.

12 Comments:

  • At 6:37 PM, Blogger JasonJ said…

    Wow Robert, you have really said a mouthful here. I would, for the most part echo what you have written here with a few minor exceptions and/or alterations to your line of reasoning. In fact, it brings me to the reason for my recent silence whether it was a welcomed one from everyone on your blog or not. I've been doing a LOT of reading on the very subject of the problems and implications that are associated with the intelligence/consciousness issue in recent months. There are so many questions, so many issues at hand, that it is difficult to know where to begin coherently.

    Let us begin with cruelty. You are absolutely correct to assume that an intelligent individual is capable of abject cruelty. Nietzche focused on this very notion in his "Geneology of Morals". It was his assertion that what we consider in modern times as the normative morality is a reversal of morality under the feudal system and gives numerous examples to prop up his argument. I fear that in this forum I could not even begin to back up my assertion. I would therefore encourage a thoughtful reading of this book to anyone who is curious enough to trouble themselves. In support of this argument I would also add that altuism, whether reciprocal or genuine, is a fairly recent development which is definitely a sign of highly elevated reasoning even if not confined to the species homo sapiens. I started a post on my blog months ago to describe the phenomenon of altruism in the context of game theory and how in conjunction with these ideas we can grow into the modern society we find ourselves, but I always seem to find myself sidetracked before finishing the piece. I do find that you have given me renewed interest in finishing now however.

    Moving on to egalitarianism, I think the jury is still out on that subject. I would agree with you to a degree simply because I subscribe to the 'out of Africa' theory of human ancestry and I am incorporating this theory into the thesis I am posting. But having said that, there are flaws with such a notion as we might imagine it in our current sense. We have to understand that early hominids such as 'Lucy' circa 3.5 million years ago most likely lived in familial units and as I have aluded to previously, I believe that the family unit is the basis for atruistic behavior. I believe we, as a species, developed an interest in caring for our offspring because we came from ancestors who were successful because they vested interest in seeing their offspring through to the reporductive years, not in a species selection sort of way but because they were just genetically wired that way. This of course, is another subject for another book, so I will spare the details. In contrast to altruism, however, I would like to offer another delightful read. This one is "The Red Queen" by Matt Ridley. I find it a must read in this area. Ridley's contention is that human intellect developed very rapidly by the use of language; and not for the purpose of enlightening ones' conspecifics, but in an effort to fool the opposite sex into procreating one's offspring for males, and cuckolding unsuspecting males to raise one's offspring from a genetically superior male in the female's instance. Basically, he equates intellect with any other evolutionary arms race among and between species.

    Of course, this whole notion is rather tightly based on the idea of 'memes' as a revolutionary new phenotype of replicator as is suggested by Richard Dawkins and Daniel Dennett. For the uninitiated in this argument, this is the reason for all the recent attacks by the right wingers on these two men. While very little of this material is what most would call light reading, it is fascinating and informative. If you Google both authors you will find extensive writing by both online as well.

    It would be nice to carry on this conversation further, but I hate to be so intrusive without the invitation.

     
  • At 6:37 PM, Blogger JasonJ said…

    Wow Robert, you have really said a mouthful here. I would, for the most part echo what you have written here with a few minor exceptions and/or alterations to your line of reasoning. In fact, it brings me to the reason for my recent silence whether it was a welcomed one from everyone on your blog or not. I've been doing a LOT of reading on the very subject of the problems and implications that are associated with the intelligence/consciousness issue in recent months. There are so many questions, so many issues at hand, that it is difficult to know where to begin coherently.

    Let us begin with cruelty. You are absolutely correct to assume that an intelligent individual is capable of abject cruelty. Nietzche focused on this very notion in his "Geneology of Morals". It was his assertion that what we consider in modern times as the normative morality is a reversal of morality under the feudal system and gives numerous examples to prop up his argument. I fear that in this forum I could not even begin to back up my assertion. I would therefore encourage a thoughtful reading of this book to anyone who is curious enough to trouble themselves. In support of this argument I would also add that altuism, whether reciprocal or genuine, is a fairly recent development which is definitely a sign of highly elevated reasoning even if not confined to the species homo sapiens. I started a post on my blog months ago to describe the phenomenon of altruism in the context of game theory and how in conjunction with these ideas we can grow into the modern society we find ourselves, but I always seem to find myself sidetracked before finishing the piece. I do find that you have given me renewed interest in finishing now however.

    Moving on to egalitarianism, I think the jury is still out on that subject. I would agree with you to a degree simply because I subscribe to the 'out of Africa' theory of human ancestry and I am incorporating this theory into the thesis I am posting. But having said that, there are flaws with such a notion as we might imagine it in our current sense. We have to understand that early hominids such as 'Lucy' circa 3.5 million years ago most likely lived in familial units and as I have aluded to previously, I believe that the family unit is the basis for atruistic behavior. I believe we, as a species, developed an interest in caring for our offspring because we came from ancestors who were successful because they vested interest in seeing their offspring through to the reporductive years, not in a species selection sort of way but because they were just genetically wired that way. This of course, is another subject for another book, so I will spare the details. In contrast to altruism, however, I would like to offer another delightful read. This one is "The Red Queen" by Matt Ridley. I find it a must read in this area. Ridley's contention is that human intellect developed very rapidly by the use of language; and not for the purpose of enlightening ones' conspecifics, but in an effort to fool the opposite sex into procreating one's offspring for males, and cuckolding unsuspecting males to raise one's offspring from a genetically superior male in the female's instance. Basically, he equates intellect with any other evolutionary arms race among and between species.

    Of course, this whole notion is rather tightly based on the idea of 'memes' as a revolutionary new phenotype of replicator as is suggested by Richard Dawkins and Daniel Dennett. For the uninitiated in this argument, this is the reason for all the recent attacks by the right wingers on these two men. While very little of this material is what most would call light reading, it is fascinating and informative. If you Google both authors you will find extensive writing by both online as well.

    It would be nice to carry on this conversation further, but I hate to be so intrusive without the invitation.

     
  • At 6:42 PM, Blogger Robert said…

    No no! I didn't write this brilliant post. It was guest blogger Again. Sorry for the misunderstanding.

     
  • At 12:47 AM, Anonymous b said…

    sigh....

     
  • At 1:23 AM, Blogger Again said…

    robert:
    I didn't write this brilliant post

    don't call me clever (or brilliant)! - you know that's the best way to detect "losers" <grin>

    jasonj
    whether it was a welcomed one from everyone on your blog or not

    why do you think that? I can't remember angry replies to your post - is it just because mostly no one replies (but mostly no posts are replied anyway)? I - personally - like your posts (and your blog) but as i've told you, philosophics as theme are difficult enough in the own mother tongue, so silence simply happens because sometimes it's hard to find the right words in another language

    but I hate to be so intrusive without the invitation.

    isn't it a true invitation, that you don't have to log-in here on Roberts blog? You can post anything you want, he will not destroy your words (except for spam)

    We have to understand that early hominids such as 'Lucy' circa 3.5 million years ago most likely lived in familial units and as I have aluded to previously, I believe that the family unit is the basis for atruistic behavior. I believe we, as a species, developed an interest in caring for our offspring because we came from ancestors who were successful because they vested interest in seeing their offspring through to the reporductive years, not in a species selection sort of way but because they were just genetically wired that way

    to care for your offspring works (at least) since the dinosaurs and the usefulness of the herd/group is even older, well-known in biology since the first cell, which is itself just a "group" of more primitive older cells to construct a DNA/RNA-controlled biochemical engine - since the beginning of life the group was more powerful than the "lone ranger"-kind of life. The interesting thing about the humans seems to be that they start to be aware of, that they are able to realize, that each human being (even "non-kin") is part of their "group" - and that (in other studies) it seems, that simple help between individuals (without the "genetically wired" pressure to help babies or to cleanse the pelt) doesn't happen

    "The main result across all studies was that chimpanzees made their choices based solely on personal gain, with no regard for the outcomes of a conspecific. These results raise questions about the origins of human cooperative behaviour." - What's in it for me? Self-regard precludes altruism and spite in chimpanzees (alas that link is hard to find, because the Royal Acadamy has to earn some money, but you should be able to find it - maybe by using the authors: Keith Jensen, Brian Hare, Josep Call, Michael Tomasello)

    but the proofs (or better hints because of the age) for egalitarian cultures are much "younger" - even the memes, you talked about, show, that there are great differences in thinking between the ancient people and us (I have a really great example for that claim, but it's hard to use it without risking to be called "crazy" <grin>). The cave paintings are not the only hint from that time.

    Remember the little fact, that each early invention spread through the whole (known) world at that time and region (Middle East, Egypt, India, Europe about 10-7,000 BC) with a speed of 1000km per 30 generations? Agriculture, astronomy, tools, measurements, medicine - there were no borders at that time, at least not that kind of stable nation-like, disturbing borders. Otherwise the knowledge (you know, the consequence of intelligence as the "weapon of the losers") couldn't have been shared. Or the trading routes of the ancient cultures: from Stonehenge to China, from Sweden to Egypt

    both, spread of knowledge and organized trade, wouldn't be possible in non-egalitarian cultures, in not-peaceful cultures - because only such cultures allow free communication. Think of all the "Great Warriors" afterwards: first thing they do? They control, control, control: knowledge, trade, and to protect their control they create borders where you can find death or at least a penalty (tolls) if you want to cross - actually, both (speed and amount of spread of information and peaceful trade) can be called a "proof" in their strong supporting nature of egalitarian cultures

    Ridley's contention is that human intellect developed very rapidly by the use of language; and not for the purpose of enlightening ones' conspecifics, but in an effort to fool the opposite sex into procreating one's offspring for males, and cuckolding unsuspecting males to raise one's offspring from a genetically superior male in the female's instance.

    you say, that males invented language because of male needs of reproduction?

    you know, i'm a strong defender of physical processes, of cause and effect, so for me, Darwin is not something to "believe", but something without competition. And once i've heard two questions, which made me really sceptic about the "male-invented-language"-theory, you always hear as in "they needed language to communicate in hunting" (by loud crying "Resistance is Futile"???)

    the first question was: if reproduction and hunting forces language, why do lions or wolves not speak? Lions eat the children of their predecessors and wolves hunt together, so why don't they use communication by sounds? (Btw: the next interesting question here is: why are humans the only mammals - except for the ones living in water - who use sounds to communicate? But that's just an aside)

    and the next question simply was: when males invented language, why aren't they the "genetically preferred" gender? Why are girls measurably more competent for language than boys? Yes, afterwards, after long times of education, while girls are not that supported, men are usually more competent of rhetorics than women, but in the beginning there is this open difference - how could that be? The more capable gender will wait until the other invented their skills again?

    Actually i tend to subscribe to the idea, that the most important inventions of humankind were always made by...

    children.

    They are the most open and most experimenting "kind" of humans, they try eating things adults would never touch, they try playing with "useless" stuff like round stones (as far as i know, the first wheels were toys, even the Incas knew them, but their culture wasn't "open" enough to understand the usefulness)

    this theory is supported by a little fact - that you need some biological changes to be able to speak, but there is only one "kind" of chimps who can use sounds for communication: babies. And remembering the fact, that Richard Fester said, that the first word was Ba (changes are Ma, Da...) you see that until now Mommy and Daddy are the first words of humans - like the individual, like the species

    recent attacks by the right wingers on these two men

    really? But it is not that surprising in a nation, where science starts to be an enemy again, i guess. The dark ages want to come back again and the first sign is always hate for the educated people - hunt the scientists, hunt the books, hunt the knowledge, we don't want to know!

    Btw: also an hint, that the ancient, science-loving cultures (remember all the gods of mathematics in young humankind, the math-based houses of Lepenski Vir?) couldn't be strictly hierarchical structured, because the alpha male is always something like a "daddy", someone who doesn't only command others, but is allowed (or has to) think for them. Un-egalitarian societies are in that way easier to live in for the average Joe Sixpack

    but there is this anti-intelligent trend in strictly hierarchical societies, simply because of the disturbance of communication and the eagerness of the underlings to stop using their own brains, therefore reducing the group's total intelligence to the intelligence of their leaders - and because of the buffer of people around the alpha males, which makes the "outsiders" pay the price for mistakes with the inevitable consequence, that it's really hard for alphas to learn - because you mostly learn through mistakes

    as Nietzsche (Twilight of the Idols) said so rightly: "One pays heavily for coming to power: power makes stupid"

     
  • At 1:25 AM, Blogger Again said…

    b
    sigh....

    please forgive me, but i don't understand - why do you sigh? I hope, that nothing hurted you?

     
  • At 3:30 AM, Anonymous b said…

    read the comment on the above thread...it will make sense then.

     
  • At 4:25 AM, Blogger Again said…

    b (from the other comment)
    Maybe if you wrote at a level all could understand, your points would be more clear. It's called demotic.

    ok, here i understand when you call me un-understandable - the whole stuff may be something like un-understandable and my reply to jasonj may be even worse, but that's just because we sometimes discuss like that ;-). Sorry

     
  • At 7:12 AM, Anonymous b said…

    don't be sorry, it's just very hard to follow and i'm not stupid. i'd grasp more of what you're both saying if you'd dumb it down a bit. I'm sure others have the same problem fully understanding what you're saying. ;)

     
  • At 8:14 AM, Blogger Again said…

    thanks, b, you know, i like discussions ("typical German") as you know ;-)

    but discussions need understanding, so i'm very interested in being understandable...

    my problem mostly is, that i've detected patterns beyond the mainstream, often opposite to the "self-evidences" of our current culture. Look at my statement, that high intelligence can't accept cruelty - you and jmf are totally right, that a short glance around tells you anything else than that. Or think of my aversion to leaders, while all other people tell you, how much we would need a new, better leader than Mr. Bush

    actually i guess, the common reaction to anything i say is either "crap" or "what?" - i really beg you just to ask, because sometimes it simply may be that my German-type of English confuses native speakers, so that any misunderstanding should be easily resolvable ;-)

     
  • At 2:59 AM, Blogger Again said…

    apropos intelligence of the successful...

    Australian study says global warming speeding up:
    "could now exceed previous predictions of a 1.4 to 5.8 degrees Celsius rise in temperatures by the year 2100."

    btw: Celsius, not Fahrenheit! 5,8°C means that the doors of hell will be wide open - remember methane? One of the most probable explanations of the first mass extinction (about 600 million years ago) was exactly that: a first rise in temperature of about 5°C, then the melting of the methane at the bottom of the sea - leading to the extinction of more than 90% of all species in the sea and on the Earth...

    no amount of dollars could have been able to save one single person at that time...

     
  • At 7:50 AM, Blogger Again said…

    PS:
    World to be even hotter by century's end (The report is scheduled for publication in the May 26 issue of Geophysical Research Letters.)

    The result, Harte and Torn conclude in their paper, is "that the upper value of warming that is projected for the end of the 21st century, 5.8ºC [10.4ºF], could be increased to 7.7ºC [13.9ºF], or nearly 2ºC additional warming."

     

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