What is Intelligence?

The general cognitive factor (g), measured by IQ tests, quantifies intelligence within the human range, but it does nothing to tell us what it is. Rather, a practical understanding of intelligence — as problem-solving ability — has to be assumed, in order to test it.

The idea of intelligence, more abstractly, applies far beyond IQ testing, to a wide variety of natural, technical, and institutional systems, from biology, through ecological and economic arrangements, to robotics. In each case, intelligence solves problems, by guiding behavior to produce local extropy. It is indicated by the avoidance of probable outcomes, which is equivalent to the construction of information.

The general science of extropy production (or entropy dissipation) is cybernetics. It follows, therefore, that intelligence always has a cybernetic infrastructure, consisting of adaptive feedback circuits that adjust motor control in response to signals extracted from the environment. Intelligence elaborates upon machinery that is intrinsically ‘realist’, because it reports the actual outcome of behavior (rather than its intended outcome), in order to correct performance.

Even rudimentary, homeostatic feedback circuits, have evolved. In other words, cybernetic machinery that seems merely to achieve the preservation of disequilibrium attests to a more general and complex cybernetic framework that has successfully enhanced disequilibrium. The basic cybernetic model, therefore, is not preservative, but productive. Organizations of conservative (negative) feedback have themselves been produced as solutions to local thermodynamic problems, by intrinsically intelligent processes of sustained extropy increase, (positive) feedback assemblage, or escalation. In nature, where nothing is simply given (so that everything must be built), the existence of self-sustaining improbability is the index of a deeper runaway departure from probability. It is this cybernetic intensification that is intelligence, abstractly conceived.

Intelligence, as we know it, built itself through cybernetic intensification, within terrestrial biological history. It is naturally apprehended as an escalating trend, sustained for over 3,000,000,000 years, to the production of ever more extreme feedback sensitivity, extropic improbability, or operationally-relevant information. Intelligence increase enables adaptive responses of superior complexity and generality, in growing part because the augmentation of intelligence itself becomes a general purpose adaptive response.

— Intelligence is a cybernetic topic.
— Intelligence increase precedes intelligence preservation.
— Evolution is intrinsically intelligent, when intelligence is comprehended at an adequate level of abstraction.
— Cybernetic degeneration and intelligence decline are factually indistinguishable, and — in principle — rigorously quantifiable (as processes of local and global entropy production).

[‘bitcoin’ tag added under comment pressure]

March 19, 2013admin 26 Comments »
FILED UNDER :Uncategorized


26 Responses to this entry

  • fotrkd Says:

    This isn’t directly on topic but is potentially pretty huge in the bitcoin universe – new fincen guidance on virtual currencies released yesterday (http://www.fincen.gov/statutes_regs/guidance/html/FIN-2013-G001.html) which, if i’m reading it correctly (hopefully someon can correct me?) makes anybody ‘selling’ bitcoin (as opposed to buying stuff with it) a money services business (msb) – specifically a money transmitter with no minimum level of activity necessary – required to register and potentially report any ‘suspicious activity’.

    In addition, failure to register as an msb has some potentially severe penalties:

    Civil and Criminal Penalties for Operating an Unregistered Money Transmitting Business

    Any person who fails to comply with any requirement of 31 U.S.C. 5330 or this section [31 CFR 103.41] shall be liable for a civil penalty of $5000 for each violation.BSA registration requirements, in an amount up to $5,000 for each day a registration violation continues.
    [31 U.S.C. § 5330(e) and 31 C.F.R. § 103.41(e)]

    Whoever knowingly conducts, controls, manages, supervises, directs, or owns all or part of an unlicensed money transmitting business, shall be fined in accordance with this title or imprisoned not more than 5 years, or both.
    [18 U.S.C § 1960(a)]

    A money transmitting business which affects interstate or foreign commerce in any manner or degree and fails to comply with the money transmitting business registration requirements under section 5330 of title 31, United States Code, or regulations prescribed under such section, shall be fined in accordance with this title or imprisoned not more than 5 years, or both.
    [18 U.S.C § 1960(b)(1)(B)]


    fotrkd Reply:

    A bit more clarity: http://bitcoinmagazine.com/fincen-bitcoin-users-not-regulated-exchanges-are/


    fotrkd Reply:

    And a John matonis recommended verdict:

    You are all jumping joyously in front of your executors. You all don’t even notice this is how Bitcoin dies as an anonymous currency free from control of governments
    No one here truly understands the real message in this written threat: “we are now aware of Bitcoin, we will start spying on you, and if you disobey any of our orders, we are going to put you in a cage”. Both miners and exchanges have now been fully terrorized into being snitches for the criminal enterprise of enslaving everyone with 100% end-to-end efficiency.
    Whereas before we were one community, with this act, these criminals you worship have successfully driven a wedge between bus — now it’s two group: those who obey and those of us who have been deemed “clandestine”, who shall be hated and punished. From this point on, anyone who wishes to use Bitcoin to protect themselves effectively from these organized criminals, anyone who spends, sells, buys or exchanges bitcoins outside the “approved ways” (all of which allow the government to track you), has now been designated an outlaw, and caging / ruin / death awaits those who resist.
    From this situation to total government tracking of money flows and zero possibility to escape their theft, it is but a small step. The tax farmers have co-opted all of you into even more total servitude. But you celebrate that. How servile.
    Sigh. Slave-minded idiots, nearly all of you, naively happy because the eye of Sauron has finally locked its sight on you, celebrating defeat as if it was a victory, cheering like mad cows as your farmers line all of you up at the slaughterhouse. May you get the cages you foolishly cheered for.


    spandrell Reply:

    What was everyone expecting? The USG would forsake control of the money supply? Just like that?

    Posted on March 19th, 2013 at 10:39 am Reply | Quote
  • fotrkd Says:

    @spandrell no, clearly they were going to do something, but this is the first move (combined with e.g. Mt gox linking up with coinlab)… Interesting suggestion here:

    Finally, this is a great opportunity for a country to cause Bitcoin startups to congregate in their territory. A 150 year moratorium on any law that touches anything to do with Bitcoin / Blockchain technology would create a new Hong Kong island of super prosperity, as it becomes the world’s hub for all Bitcoin business, and the trillions of dollars in Bitcoin flowing through it, leaving the pitiful democracies in the dust. http://irdial.com/blogdial/?p=3488

    But it’s a question of whether people prefer regulation? A Hong Kong super island would only work if bitcoin users want to escape US supervision… Most likely the larger group will view this as a positive.


    Posted on March 19th, 2013 at 11:21 am Reply | Quote
  • admin Says:

    I’ve got some links already lined up for a Bitcoin post tomorrow — staying resolutely mum ’til then (but I’ll absorb this information attentively).

    … except to say that it’s not really “off topic” at all, when considered intensely. The point of this (possibly rather cryptic) post was to lead into the pressing question: How do stupidity machines assemble themselves, and even achieve dominance? They obviously contravene the deep local (terrestrial) trend. On the other hand, given the length of evolutionary history on this planet, the runaway (or ‘explosive’) trend has to have been systematically dampened, long before perverse human institutions became involved.

    Macroeconomics (which is, strictly speaking, precisely neo-fascism) rips up an entire fabric of subtle monetary feedback mechanisms and replaces them with crude political mind control programs (‘demand management’). It’s blatantly and repulsively stupid. Krugman’s thuggish propaganda epitomizes it. From a naive Austrian perspective — which expects systematic intelligence-suppression to quite quickly destroy itself — the persistence of the Keynesian-flexifascist megastate is a kind of cosmic horror, hideously suggestive of the possibility that certain profound structures of reality are obscurely aligned with crushing tides of triumphant mindlessness.

    How does empowered stupidity work? The Keynesian regime, threatened to its quick by the single most brilliant innovation in monetary history, is going to show us exactly how it works. Pure anti-mind in frenzied action. The process will be extraordinarily educational.

    I think Bitcoin will win. Going further, I think this action could do the near impossible and actually ferment an anarcho-capitalist revolution. Screw laconic reactionary detachment. If this goes forward, in anything like the way Moldbug predicts, I’m running up the black flag …


    spandrell Reply:

    A couple of arrests of bitcoin traders pour encourage les autres and bitcoin is dead faster than you can say “fiat money”.

    Yet again I just met a chinese guy who’s really into bitcoin. There might be hope after all.


    Posted on March 19th, 2013 at 12:05 pm Reply | Quote
  • Nick B. Steves Says:

    Cryptic indeed!

    – Cybernetic degeneration and intelligence decline are factually indistinguishable, and — in principle — rigorously quantifiable (as processes of local and global entropy production).

    Sure, I suppose if you define intelligence broadly enough. But the symptom the people seem to see is cultural decline. And if I didn’t know better, I’d interpret you as saying wherever there is a cultural decline, what we’re really seeing is an intelligence decline… if we just measure it really, really, really carefully (uncoupling the Heisenberg Compensators, if we have to, I guess). Culture, in other words, is just group intelligence? Which is just another synonym for walking down the street, unarmed, in the middle of the night and feeling (and in fact being) safe?? Okay sure, for sufficiently expansive definitions of “intelligence”.


    admin Reply:

    Insofar as cultural ‘decline’ isn’t intelligence decline, there’s no reason to think that it can’t be indefinitely perpetuated. Of course, I agree that this argument remains germinal (consider this post the germ).

    The main driver comes the other way at this point: it’s important to be able to say that the leftist ripping apart of certain (clearly describable) socio-cultural systems is unambiguously moronizing. If we don’t understand that, our response will be misjudged, and maladaptive.

    Secondly, its helpful to be able to consider (futuristic) AI prospects — also defined “expansively” — in a way that is ultimately continuous with a variety of existing (reactionary) concerns about intelligence, economics, and culture, in order to click together a coherent global narrative that realistically integrates advance and degeneration. Specifically, moving beyond the far-right denigration of ‘modernity’ as if it were nothing more than a synonym for decay would escape a lot of silliness and futile grouching.


    Nick B. Steves Reply:

    Well, then I’m not quite sure what you’re saying in these (admittedly) cryptic notes. Intelligence put a man on the moon, but not one man’s (biological) intelligence. It took a lot of intelligent people to do it (and not a few middle brows). While it was no doubt partly biological and certainly related to intelligence, it doesn’t seem to be a synonym for it. That seems more akin to culture, which may in fact be (more or less) an “intelligent” way of ordering the intelligence of a multitude. Maybe that’s meta-intelligence, but its more like “culture” in most people’s dictionaries.

    I am quite fond of grouchily denigrating “modernity” as a synonym for decay, but I tend to define modernity as a set of demonstrably false propositions about human nature, and their principled and at once naive application to human governance. I don’t therefore tend to give “modernity” any of the credit for technological advancement. I’d say most of it was in spite of modernity.

    AI and futurism are interesting thought experiments. To the extent that such experiments inform us about our current predicament and how perhaps to escape it, they are useful. But these topics often seem to have a vague chiliastic odor to them–an odor not altogether unlike the leftist eschatologies. Even though concocted with very different ingredients.


    admin Reply:

    Modernity isn’t just “a set of demonstrably false propositions about human nature”, it’s also capitalism, including technoscience. An apprehension restricted to its (admittedly enormous) negative aspect is too one-sided to be plausible or effective.

    Cultures are products and producers of intelligence, and the most objective mode of appreciation seizes upon that as their core function — because intelligence is the ultimate weapon (in the end, it wins). The culture that put a man on the moon was obviously still compatible with technical and scientific achievement. Islamic culture since al Ghazali, not so much.

    AI and futurism are already operative as extremely powerful functional components of contemporary reality — automation, active research programs, venture capital … Modernity is intrinsically futuristic, rather than merely dreamily intrigued by future possibilities that may or may not eventuate. That’s how capitalism works, and what low time preference is really about.

    admin Reply:

    “… these topics often seem to have a vague chiliastic odor to them – an odor not altogether unlike the leftist eschatologies.” — Apocalypticism is inherent to Abrahamic religion, and things very like it apply far more widely — even universally? There’s nothing distinctively leftist about it, unless you think the left is the sole inheritor of the Abrahamic tradition. That’s not to say it isn’t a — perhaps the — problem, but it’s far more difficult to avoid than it may seem. (I just now stumbled upon this, which is relevant and interesting.)

    Posted on March 19th, 2013 at 6:31 pm Reply | Quote
  • Nick B. Steves Says:

    Bitcoin Bitcoin Bitcoin Bitcoin Bitcoin Bitcoin Bitcoin

    Dang, tripped a sale at $49.83 yesterday and $59.21 today!!!

    I’m running out of BTC to sell. Lookin’ to accumulate on the dips…


    Posted on March 19th, 2013 at 6:35 pm Reply | Quote
  • SDL Says:

    Cultures are products and producers of intelligence, and the most objective mode of appreciation seizes upon that as their core function — because intelligence is the ultimate weapon (in the end, it wins). The culture that put a man on the moon was obviously still compatible with technical and scientific achievement. Islamic culture since al Ghazali, not so much.

    The waters you waded into with this post (not too cryptic, I think) are not necessarily inviting to a certain kind of neo-traditionalist. There are reactionaries who simply want to return to some simpler time. For them, reaction is literally about ‘going back’, about ‘restoration’, rather than about finding a new stage for the future growth of human intelligence and achievement. I’m thinking of the Fred Reed, Edward Abbey types of reactionaries; I don’t think they care about building extropic systems or optimizing for intelligence because they’re perfectly happy with equilibrium–bring back the 1950s! Or better yet, the 1890s! And let’s just stay there this time around. A simpler time. Emphasis on simple.

    This desire for equilibrium does require extropic effort–but the goal of the desire is to come to rest again.

    Of course, equilibrium is impossible, which is why the traditionalist Right is always doomed to fail. I say that with a tinge of remorse, though, because clearly the 1890s and 1950s in America were more optimized for intelligence (or, at least, less entropic) than America circa 2013.


    Nick B. Steves Reply:

    But are the Amish and Hasidim, just to pull some visibly traditionalist reactionaries out of the hat, doomed? Somewhat would at least have to want them dead. If they can continue to be merely left alone, they will succeed fantastically.


    SDL Reply:

    First, I agree completely that such groups should be left alone (insofar as being ‘left alone’ doesn’t also entail special rights, e.g., Hasidim in Israel are apparently huge welfare moochers, unlike, historically, the Amish or, more historically, utopian communities such as Oneida, New York). I’m amazed by the cognitive dissonance of putatively ‘anti-colonial’ Leftists who have no problem, say, raiding fundamentalist Mormon sects in Utah. Even though many Reactionaries might share their distaste for such sects, we can at least find great value in the fact that they are doing things differently on their own and have essentially exited the building. (Hence the attempts to bring them back in . . . via prison, if necessary.)

    Now, the question is: Are they doomed? I hope not. I wish them well. However, the Amish or the Mormon Fundamentalists aren’t exactly going to launch us into the next phase of human evolution or culture. They will succeed if by ‘success’ we mean ‘continuing to be Amish’ or whatever. Don’t get me wrong: I personally find value in those traditionalist communities. Hell, I spend my vacations living out of a backpack in the mountains. However, if by ‘success’ we mean ‘continuing to be at the cutting edge of human evolution and culture and intelligence,’ then, no, those communities are not successful. (I hastily reiterate: they aren’t attempting to be successful in that way, so I’m not judging them for not having produced Nobel prize winners.)

    Different kinds of success, then. The problem with Left Democracy, of course, is that success is pre-defined for one-and-all in terms of the stupidest, most entropic, and least intelligence-optimizing values.


    admin Reply:

    @ SDL
    Agreed on all points (both comments), with some awe. The reflexive skew you put into the equilibrium topic is truly ingenious — to be returned to after reflection.

    The ‘neo-‘ in neo-reaction is a backdoor, letting in all kinds of things that most reactionaries would rather keep out.

    Amish, Mennonites etc. are OK, but there’s not much honor in being an ethnographic zoo-specimen, politically dependent upon a social order that one can do nothing either to advance or contest, let alone understand.

    Nick B. Steves Reply:

    However, if by ‘success’ we mean ‘continuing to be at the cutting edge of human evolution and culture and intelligence.

    Well that IS THE question: How do we define “success”? So far, in the modern experiment, cultures that have pushed the farthest hardest seem to be experiencing some unintended maladaptive consequences. Now it’s a matter of prudence and taste to determine how such pitfalls relate to various technological breakthroughs and how they might be avoided. But who’s to say that avoiding the “cutting edge”, say staying 10 meters away from it, may not be the most adaptive default disposition? By raw Darwinian metrics, those who breed best, win. By such a metric, the Amish, the Hasidim, Fundamentalist Mormons and Catholics win hands down.

    admin Reply:

    @ Nick B. Steves
    There’s a lot of truth in that, but not complete truth.

    Intelligence can be defined as the most general purpose (or abstract) adaptation. High short-term (but still multi-generational) fertility, in contrast, can reflect a merely local adaptation: the ability to game unsustainable welfare systems for instance — the case with the Hasids in Israel, among many others. In addition, r-selection strategies can easily appear differentially advantageous in the short-term, especially when environmental challenges are artificially relieved. (It’s not even clear to what extent biological replication is globally adaptive — in a world increasingly populated by robots, it certainly shouldn’t be unreflectively allowed to define ‘adaptive’.)


    Posted on March 20th, 2013 at 5:29 pm Reply | Quote
  • fotrkd Says:

    @Nick B. Steves
    I think it’s those who breed intelligence best that ‘win’ (and there’s possibly some form of hybrid speciation/synthetic mutation along the way).


    Posted on March 21st, 2013 at 7:47 pm Reply | Quote
  • fotrkd Says:

    This post reminded me of an earller one: ‘Reaction, repetition and time’, specifically:

    If the New Reaction is not to bore itself into a coma, it has to learn to run innovation and tradition together as Siamese twins, and for that it needs to think time, into distant conclusions, in its ‘own’ way. That can be done, seriously. Of course, a demonstration is called for …

    Did you provide this presentation (did I fail to see it? Is it bitcoin? Are you Satoshi? (I’ve been wanting to ask that for ages, it’s like reverse Spartacus)).


    admin Reply:

    “Did you provide this presentation …?”
    That’s a long term (one year plus) commitment designed to bind myself, Odysseus-style, to advancing in that direction, whilst warning people to expect some increasingly tough trekking. The strongest indication that the expedition is well underway will be a completed, 5-6 part Twisted Times series (posted at a a new, functional, UF site and linked to from here).


    Posted on March 21st, 2013 at 9:07 pm Reply | Quote
  • O que é Inteligência? – Outlandish Says:

    […] Original. […]

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  • NEU ROMAN X Says:

    […] out of the weakest (selection) (see Alexander’s post for more details). after every new turn, intelligence builds itself through global entropy and local extropy […]

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  • archeo-agoric apocalypse – informationaxion Says:

    […] out of the weakest (selection) (see Alexander’s post for more details). after every new turn, intelligence builds itself through global entropy and local extropy […]

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  • The Unseen – ossipago Says:

    […] to produce local extropy.  It is indicated by the avoidance of probable outcomes…” (What is Intelligence?)  In other words, intelligence generates order from […]

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