Intelligence is the ability to acquire and apply knowledge and skills.

Most living forms display some level of intelligence. They do this once they have the ability to remember and to use their memories to change behaviour.

Humans have evolved to display high levels of intelligence.  This happened because our brains increased in size. In particular our prefrontal cortex got larger.  The prefrontal cortex is where we coordinate memories obtained from our reptilian brains. It links memories and allows us to acquire more knowledge and skills.

However, it is unlikely there will be any increase in the size of our brains.  This is because we now scale our knowledge by communicating with others.  We acquire almost all our knowledge and skills from others and from using tools. The rate at which our brains increased in size probably slowed when we learned to speak and to pass intelligence through our stories. The invention of the Internet has increased our ability to communicate through our tools.  Extensions of intelligence is accelerating through our interaction with intelligent tools. This means there is no evolutionary driver to increase the size of our brains. Our brains with 2% of our weight consume 20% of our energy.

Promise theory says that systems that have non binding promises between autonomous entities scale.  Distributed intelligence that learns to acquire knowledge through cooperation is efficient. It will scale. An intelligent system where we have binding obligations between entities will reach a limit of intelligence.

We are building Internet systems that scale intelligence. The best known is Google Search.  Google search takes the knowledge of our individual searches and combines them.  Google searches are intelligent and are becoming more so.

We can do the same with all our applications.  The way to do this is for us to build an electronic “prefrontal cortex” for our electronic memories. The electronic prefrontal cortex consists of remembered links between data in different databases.  The different databases are our electronic reptilian memories.  Our applications access our reptilian memories through our electronic prefrontal cortex. The Welcomer model is one way to build an electronic prefrontal cortex with promises – not obligations.

We can build a prefrontal cortex for any object that exists on the Internet of Things.  The Welcomer model allows these prefrontal cortices to communicate.  We as individuals can access memories of objects that we own or are given the right to access.  What this means is that intelligence of the total system will increase.

Those worried about some electronic brain taking control of humans can rest easy.  The greater intelligence comes from the promises autonomous agents make with others.  We as a group are intelligent enough not to let the group intelligence destroy us.  If that happened then the group intelligence would disappear. That would not be an intelligent outcome.

One of the things that can happen is that humans will be better able to act together to meet existential threats.  At the moment we have threats of global warming, global pollution, inadequate water etc.  We also have social disorder with a lack of trust in governments.  Working together using our group intelligence, and the intelligence of our tools, has a good chance of overcoming these problems.  Importantly it won’t be some centralised intelligence telling us what is best for it and for us.

4 thoughts on “Scaling Intelligence

  1. Kevin, interesting thoughts here, but I will pick you up on one point:

    “However, it is unlikely there will be any increase in the size of our brains. This is because we now scale our knowledge by communicating with others […]”

    Actually, the reason is because human childbirth is already painful enough for women. Not to mention, quite often deadly.

    Further increases in brain size would require a radical reshaping of the female anatomy. Along with many other undesirable consequences, this would make it nigh impossible for them to walk bipedally.

    In short, we reached an anatomical evolutionary limit – then we evolved/scaled up the other systems of communication and intelligence you’re referring to…


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