Stephen Seminar Number 5: Modes of Mind: Does Society have an IQ?

This past Wednesday felt like an episode of Fringe playing out before my eyes with the Speaker showing similarities with Walter Bishop. The speaker (Shannon) played with the idea of a shared intellect within society.

He started of by stating that in knowing the general skill you have access to advance in that skill because the general is central to understanding the specific. He said that development should happen first and then later direction would follow. In this he pointed out a few case studies of obscure people that think extremely different and out of the norm. He talked about one person that perceives mathematics in a complete different way than the accepted norm. This person doesn’t see numbers but rather shapes where the numbers are and in solving the equation he tries to align the different shapes.

He went on to say that intelligence has two aspects. One is the ability to learn, and the other the ability to solve problems. In this he points out a hierarchy, that learning precedes over problem solving.

He also went into great detail on neuroscience that the brain is not static as was thought. In an experiment with a Chimpanzee scientist stroked the chimps fingers only repeatedly and over some time they saw that the part of the brain that is processing this touch sensation grew larger than normal because of this touch sensation.

Then he proposed that society functions like the individual in that it is extremely complex and when you change one thing allot of other factors needs to be accounted for because not just that one thing changes. The thing that changes puts into motion another set of changes, like moving the blocks of a Rubrics cube.

An interesting question that was asked by someone was: “Can the brain understand itself?”

This question, with what has been mentioned, overshadowed the whole seminar for me.