Over the past few years, there have been huge advancements in our understanding of what intelligence is.

Discoveries have happened at both the micro level – the smallest possible scale studying the individual components of a mind – and on the macro level – large scale intelligence composed of multiple living organisms.

The micro level discoveries have come primarily from the fields of Neuroscience, Cognitive science, and Artificial Intelligence.

The macro level discoveries have primarily come from the fields of Sociology and Animal Behaviourism.

I’m fascinated by the discoveries from a computer systems and technology standpoint but more by how the findings give us greater insight into every aspect of human cognition.

Micro Intelligence

One of the parallels I like to use in describing micro intelligence is in observing a colony of ants or a bee hive. We think of an individual bee as an organism. An individual worker bee can eat, breath, think, and can move and survive independent from its hive. But an individual worker bee can’t reproduce. And, as part of a hive, that individual worker bees cognitive capacity contributes to a much larger group intelligence. That individual worker bee’s senses contribute to the hives much larger knowledge about its environment. In that regard, the hive has knowledge and intelligence – the hive can think in a way much larger than any one bee can think. A hive can reproduce. The hive can be thought of as an organism in itself.

Zooming out many levels, there is a theory called the Gia hypothesis that the planet earth is itself a living organism. One animal or plant is the equivalent to a red blood cell in a human body: living and existing independent of the larger organism; unaware of the larger organism; entirely reliant on the larger organism for survival.

Crossing back to humans, the human mind has multiple parts. How many parts is a matter of debate but we have at least 3 parts of our brains that process information independently – our right brain, left brain, and imigdula. Using a bee analogy, it’s like your brain is a hive composed of 3 bees. Each of the 3 bees process information, and then some magic happens to form a greater intelligence.

Largely, it’s only your left brain that has language. Your left brain can compose well formed thoughts and articulate them. Your imigdula on the other had has no language. All it has is emotion. I’m tired. I’m grumpy. I’m afraid, angry, horny. Dealing with your imigdula is kind of like dealing with a crying baby. Baby cries- what’s the problem? You have to go through a check list. Is the baby hungry? Is he tired? Did he poop himself?

When your imigdula is upset, you don’t know why it’s upset. Often your left brain will make up a reason and articulate it – I’m angry with so and so because she did this – but in reality the left brain has no idea why the imigdula is upset. The imigdula could be upset because your blood sugar is low, or your tired, or you pooped yourself.

In this example, your may not be aware of your brains individual components, and each component isn’t necessarily aware of the other components, even thought they interact with each other.

This then explains why I can’t get my ass to the gym sometimes. My left brain wants to go to the gym. It articulates very clearly why it wants to go to the gym. But at the final hour, my left brain gets outvoted 1:2.

That final decision doesn’t actually happen as a democratic voting process. I haven’t encountered anyone who claims to explain exactly how this mechanism works in the human mind. AI researchers, with good reason, largely don’t care how this works because they can create better mechanisms.

Macro Intelligence

Whenever 2 or more humans get together to make a decision on something, they are creating a greater than one human intelligence, regardless of what that mechanism is.

When we vote on a decision, a greater than 1 human intelligence is invoked. When we buy a stock or place a bet, a greater intelligence is summoned.

That said, very intelligent people make mistakes, and have weeknesses. In the same way, wisdom of crowds forms of intelligence can do some really stupid things.