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SmartBrains, Becoming Smarter, and Intelligence

Posted Aug 31 2007 12:00am

The MIT Technology Review September/ October edition brings an article by Daniel Dennett titled Higher Games: It’s been 10 years since IBM’s Deep Blue beat Garry Kasparov in chess. A prominent philosopher asks what the match meant (subscription required), which is creating a lot of buzz on the science blogosphere on whether humans or machines are “smarter”.  

GABA ReceptorAll this begs the question, what does “being smart” means? “Is it possible to improve intelligence and become “smarter” and what does it really mean to be “smarter?” (question asked by Patricia, one of our readers).

Today we bring you an answer to those questions provided by David Gamon, author of Building Mental Muscle: Conditioning Exercises for the Six Intelligence Zones:

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As we age, our brains accumulate an ever larger collection of patterns. This gives us a kind of mental quickness that compensates for the slowing of processing speed. Instead of having to piece together the pattern bit by bit from scratch by associating individual pieces of data, you need only a few pieces of data to make you realize that they fit a pattern you already know, much the way a few bars of melody are all you need to recognize an entire song.

The more experience we accumulate, the more of these patterns we hold in our brains, and the less effort we have to make to piece together new pieces of data in new ways. With that comes a danger. We get lazy. It’s a lot easier to

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