Intelligence Augmentation

(This article was republished in Humanity+ Magazine, April 30, 2014)

Yesterday’s post argued for the moral and intellectual augmentation of human beings. I’d like to add to my thoughts on intellectual augmentation, saving the more controversial moral issues for later.

I have always argued for the urgency of increasing human intelligence. What has made the issue even more obvious are my recent experiences as a full-time researcher untethered from the demands of a large teaching load. As I’ve encounter new thoughts and thinkers, I’ve been overwhelmed by the amount of knowledge and information in the world. It isn’t possible for a single brain to assimilate it all, or to accommodate to the little that one assimilates. If you desire a comprehensive view of reality, this is depressing. Not only can’t I read all that is—I believe Milton was the last person with that goal—I can’t read everything of interest to me, or all of philosophy or a subset of philosophy. And this is to say nothing of all the fields that directly impact my work, especially the sciences. But if relevant information is out there remaining hidden or undiscovered, then one’s conclusions are incomplete.

Still more knowledge leads to better conclusions, so the more we have the better. This is probably the best we can do until we have implanted chips in our brains to increase our memory and computing capacities, our imaginative and creative capabilities, or until we experience some form of a global brain with access to all existing, and progressively evolving, knowledge, or until education itself becomes exponentially more effective. Or perhaps something as yet unimaginable will expedite our intellectual development.

For now without certain knowledge, we live not being sure. Yet the imperative to increase our knowledge is as strong as ever. As Aristotle noted more than 2,000 years ago, knowledge is an unlimited good. It is not sufficient for human flourishing, but it is necessary. After all it is truth that sets us free.

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4 thoughts on “Intelligence Augmentation

  1. And at the same time, the masses panic and the pushback against increasing our knowledge is as strong as ever. Anything that threatens their fragile concepts regarding the origins of the universe or our place within it results in the intellectual equivalent of a child putting their fingers in their ears and yelling “nanananana” to block out what they are hearing.
    I get that ethics become even more important as technologies advance at such warp speed, and that it isnt always true that “we should do x because we have the ability to do x.” But it sort of scares me when ethical debate is hijacked by religious rhetoric. I see that quite frequently, and not just in the media; I have seen it in action.

  2. Imagine being able to process and weigh/value data at the same time. Where the ideal experience isn’t about volume alone, but how that knowledge can then enlighten a conscious experience.

    Bringing together intuition and knowledge seem to be the highest ideal of “experiential technologies”.

  3. I’m for anything we can do to transcend the limitations of our current conscious experiences. I am a transhumanist.

  4. “In the Dark Ages people found their surest guide in religion–just as a blind man is the best guide on a pitch-black night. He knows the way better than the seeing. But it is folly to use the blind old man as a guide after day-break.” ~ Heinrich Heine

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