A New Taxonomy of Intelligence and How It Applies to Our Lives
I've talked about intelligence before, from a public speech I gave in London a few years back, to articles I've written here and there (mostly there), to intriguing conversations I've had around a table where everyone is treated as equal (don't worry if you don't get this reference). Recently I've been pondering on the topic from a different perspective, perhaps a more practical one. I'm aware of Dr. H. Gardner's work (even read one of his books, where he introduces the idea of multiple intelligences), as well as all the fuss the Emotional Intelligence (EQ) idea has generated. I'm also aware of the Spiritual Intelligence (SQ) notion and its value in today's world. This taxonomy I'll talk about in this article is different from all of these though.
Why bother with this?
Well, intelligence has been misunderstood and misplaced as a concept more than most notions in psychology. Even in the tech world, people talk about intelligence, usually with the word “artificial” prefacing it, as it’s an important component of many computer systems today (as well as apps on your phone). So, even if this topic has been studied to death, there is merit in exploring it further and making it your own. By the latter, I mean knowing it well enough that you don't need an authority figure to tell you what it is and why individual X is intelligent. You can be the judge of all that. After all, intelligence is an innate characteristic of every sentient being, especially those more evolved, a large number of whom are in the human species.
How does this work?
The new taxonomy I propose works by analyzing things in a three-fold manner. For each part of that, investigation and pondering take place, while after you do this to a sufficient level, execution of actions may ensue. You can think of this paradigm as a computer program: you design the algorithm, you implement it in a programming language of your choice (e.g., Julia, Python, or Rust), and then you run it. The latter may involve compiling it, which is essentially translating it into a set of instructions your computer (or mobile device) can understand and follow.
What exactly is this taxonomy?
Alright, so what is this taxonomy I've been talking about, much like Jorge Luis Borges talked about that game of marbles in that book of his, without ever actually defining it? Well, it's a hierarchy comprising of three intelligences: philosophical, mechanical, and theoretical/mathematical, attempting to answer the questions why, how, and what, respectively. Ideally, you would apply them in that order, honoring Simon Sinek's view of the optimal function of an organization ("Start with Why").
Philosophical intelligence is something philosophers and thinkers, in general, have developed, and although it is theoretical, it's also practical and linked to some fundamental principles or axioms/beliefs. It's related to designing something and making sure it answers some basic questions stemming from the requirements of the people this design aims to serve. The more evolved philosophical intelligence is, the slicker the design and the easier it is to be accepted by the public and implemented by those in charge of this task.
Mechanical intelligence is the intelligence of the engineer (this term covers various professionals, not only those directly involved with machines since even a data engineer is a kind of engineer). It's as practical as can be and deals with the intricacies of implementing an idea or design. It's not easier per se, but it's doable given enough know-how and resources. Naturally, the more evolved this intelligence is, the more efficient and optimized the work related to it.
Theoretical/Mathematical intelligence is all about defining the end-product and working out the specifications of it, as well as any other relevant parameters (e.g., metadata). It involves a mathematical way of thinking, but it may not necessarily entail formulas and all that stuff you'd find in a math course. Often statistics and plots may facilitate the work of this intelligence, but the specifics tools depend on the project at hand. Some people may prefer to start from this intelligence and the corresponding work since it's easier for them. However, it may require some back-tracking on the design stage, as it's not easy to develop a design for something after someone has developed the back-end independently.
This three-fold taxonomy of intelligence aims to shed some light on the topic, from a different angle. Note that the why of it all (philosophical intelligence) is closely linked to morality and ethics since even the most brilliant work in terms of the other two intelligences is utterly useless if it doesn't have a strong enough rationale behind it. Think of all the products that were elegant and functional yet never made it to our present (aka, fads and gizmos). Also, ideally, these three intelligences work in tandem and even simultaneously in some cases (e.g., in the case of a team of professionals), with sufficient communication among them. But that's enough for now. What are your thoughts on this topic? Does it make sense to you? How do you apply these intelligences in your life?
If you enjoy articles like this but have a penchant for the technical side of things, you are probably going to like my technical blog, where I write about artificial intelligence and other data-related topics. Cheers!