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Jason Silva’s Turning Into Gods


 
Dangerous Minds pal and Singularity enthusiast Jason Silva—you might know him from Al Gore’s Current TV—is working on a documentary on the next stage of human evolution, aptly titled Turning Into Gods.  Alongside the concept trailer below, you’ll also find him waxing philosophical on the “Extended Mind Thesis” put forth by cognitive philosophers David Chalmers and Andy Clark, as well as having an “ecstatic dialogue” with Transcendent Man director Barry Ptolemy. 

Jason will be joining Dangerous Minds as a contributor, writing (and ranting) about the intersection of science and art.  Jason recently completed a pilot produced by Bill Maher for HBO. He has written for Vanity Fair, Fast Company, Huffington Post, Big Think, and will have an article in the October issue of Playboy magazine.  Follow Jason on Twitter here: @jason_silva
 

 

 

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Why Intelligent People Use More Drugs

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Satoshi Kanazawa is an evolutionary psychologist at LSE and the coauthor of Why Beautiful People Have More Daughters (a book, I highly recommend, no pun intended). He also has a great blog on Psychology Today’s website.

Kanazawa has a theory, which he calls the “Savanna-IQ Interaction Hypothesis” which goes something like this: “Intelligence” evolved as a coping mechanism of sorts (maybe stress-related?) to deal with “evolutionary novelties”—that is to say, to help humankind respond to things in their environment to which they were previously, as a species, unaccustomed to. An adaptation strategy, in other words.

Translation: Smart folk are more likely to try “new” things and to seek out novel experiences. Like drugs.

How else to explain toad licking? Someone, uh, “smart” had to figure that one out, originally, right? Someone intelligent had to come up with the idea to synthesize opium into heroin, yes? Yes.

But to be clear, and not to misrepresent his theories, Kanazawa clearly states (in the subtitle) that “Intelligent people don’t always do the right thing,” either…

Consistent with the prediction of the Hypothesis, the analysis of the National Child Development Study shows that more intelligent children in the United Kingdom are more likely to grow up to consume psychoactive drugs than less intelligent children.  Net of sex, religion, religiosity, marital status, number of children, education, earnings, depression, satisfaction with life, social class at birth, mother’s education, and father’s education, British children who are more intelligent before the age of 16 are more likely to consume psychoactive drugs at age 42 than less intelligent children.

The following graph shows the association between childhood general intelligence and the latent factor for the consumption of psychoactive drugs, constructed from indicators for the consumption of 13 different types of psychoactive drugs (cannabis, ecstasy, amphetamines, LSD, amyl nitrate, magic mushrooms, cocaine, temazepan, semeron, ketamine, crack, heroin, and methadone).  As you can see, there is a clear monotonic association between childhood general intelligence and adult consumption of psychoactive drugs.  “Very bright” individuals (with IQs above 125) are roughly three-tenths of a standard deviation more likely to consume psychoactive drugs than “very dull” individuals (with IQs below 75).

 
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Shit, I must’ve been pretty smart because I purt’near crossed almost everything off this list (except for the sleeping pills) by the time I was seventeen!

Kanazawa concludes:

Consistent with the prediction of the Hypothesis, the analysis of the National Child Development Study shows that more intelligent children in the United Kingdom are more likely to grow up to consume psychoactive drugs than less intelligent children. ... “Very bright” individuals (with IQs above 125) are roughly three-tenths of a standard deviation more likely to consume psychoactive drugs than “very dull” individuals (with IQs below 75).

If that pattern holds across societies, then it runs directly counter to a lot of our preconceived notions about both intelligence and drug use:

People—scientists and civilians alike—often associate intelligence with positive life outcomes.  The fact that more intelligent individuals are more likely to consume alcohol, tobacco, and psychoactive drugs tampers this universally positive view of intelligence and intelligent individuals.  Intelligent people don’t always do the right thing, only the evolutionarily novel thing.

Speaking for myself—and I wasn’t a very innocent child by any stretch of the imagination—I was already trying to smoke banana peels (“They call it ‘Mellow Yellow’) and consuming heaping spoonfuls of freshly ground nutmeg when I was just ten-years-old. I got the banana peels idea, yes, from reading about the Donovan song and its supposed “hidden meaning.” The nutmeg idea came from the infamous appendix of William Burroughs’ Naked Lunch, which I was able to pick up at the local mall (When my aunt, visiting from Chicago, caught wind of what my 4th grade reading material was, she was shocked—and told my mother so—but little did she know that I was already at that age actively trying my damnedest to get my hands on some real drugs).

This study explains a lot, I think. An awful lot!

Why Intelligent People Use More Drugs (Psychology Today)

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
The creativity crisis in American children

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When I was a kid in the 1970s, I took the Torrance test three times, so I am well-acquainted with what it is and probably many of you reading this are as well. The idea that Torrance test scores, which measure ingenuity, problem solving and creativity, have fallen, dramatically, has very poor implications for the planet. Are we raising a generation of spectators with short attention spans, more interested in downloading Internet porn and playing video games than the arts and sciences? There’s been a lot of discussion in the culture of late, about older folks having a dim view of the “entitled” or “bratty” attitude of many of today’s twenty-somethings. Whether you buy into that or not (I can’t decide personally if this is an accurate perception/legitimate observation, but anecdotally speaking… well, maybe it is) this seems to indicate that a trend towards something not altogether positive might be accelerating, and that an evolutionary epigenetic change might be in the works. Not a good one.

High IQ parents, it’s up to you!

Like intelligence tests, Torrance’s test—a 90-minute series of discrete tasks, administered by a psychologist—has been taken by millions worldwide in 50 languages. Yet there is one crucial difference between IQ and CQ scores. With intelligence, there is a phenomenon called the Flynn effect—each generation, scores go up about 10 points. Enriched environments are making kids smarter. With creativity, a reverse trend has just been identified and is being reported for the first time here: American creativity scores are falling.

Kyung Hee Kim at the College of William & Mary discovered this in May, after analyzing almost 300,000 Torrance scores of children and adults. Kim found creativity scores had been steadily rising, just like IQ scores, until 1990. Since then, creativity scores have consistently inched downward. “It’s very clear, and the decrease is very significant,” Kim says. It is the scores of younger children in America—from kindergarten through sixth grade—for whom the decline is “most serious.”

The potential consequences are sweeping. The necessity of human ingenuity is undisputed. A recent IBM poll of 1,500 CEOs identified creativity as the No. 1 “leadership competency” of the future. Yet it’s not just about sustaining our nation’s economic growth. All around us are matters of national and international importance that are crying out for creative solutions, from saving the Gulf of Mexico to bringing peace to Afghanistan to delivering health care. Such solutions emerge from a healthy marketplace of ideas, sustained by a populace constantly contributing original ideas and receptive to the ideas of others.

It’s too early to determine conclusively why U.S. creativity scores are declining. One likely culprit is the number of hours kids now spend in front of the TV and playing videogames rather than engaging in creative activities. Another is the lack of creativity development in our schools. In effect, it’s left to the luck of the draw who becomes creative: there’s no concerted effort to nurture the creativity of all children.

Read the entire article:
The Creativity Crisis: For the first time, research shows that American creativity is declining. What went wrong—and how we can fix it. (Newsweek)

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment