Are You Ready for ‘Smart Chips’?

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No, boys ‘n’ girls, it’s not a new breakfast cereal–although maybe someday it could be. We’re talking about hi-tech “brain chips” that’ll make their lucky owners superintelligent (

A Northwestern scientist is currently researching the project, which he expects will lead to some people having IQs of around 200. To hear him tell it, it’ll be easy: the chip gives your brain an Internet connection, it goes to Wikipedia, “and when I think this particular thought, it gives me the answer.” That is, it gives you the ability to spit out whatever is on Wikipedia. If you don’t understand what you’re parroting, so what? Wikipedia is never wrong!

The scientist, says the CBS nooze article, is “collaborating with Silicon Valley bigwigs he’d rather not name.” Is that supposed to reassure us? Silicon Valley bigwigs are never wrong, either! They’d never, never, never do anything but what was really, truly good for us. And did I mention that I am the Sultan of Swat?

He’s being cagey about potential societal prombles cropping up if the few people who can afford it get brain chips and become superintelligent while the rest of us are left behind. But the price would be bound to come down if they figured out how to serve them up as breakfast cereal.

From “Cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs!” to “Brain Chips for Genius!” doesn’t seem like that big a jump.

15 comments on “Are You Ready for ‘Smart Chips’?

  1. Looking up information isn’t the same as intelligence. Intelligence is the ability to analyze and synthesize, to extrapolate and interpolate. Besides, looking things up on Wikipedia shows a definite lack of intelligence, since the material there is so unreliable. Another mark of intelligence is the ability to assess and evaluate sources, and even to spot things we weren’t looking for.

    One of my jobs as an editor before I joined the Air Force was evaluating mental ability tests (in NY we weren’t allowed to call them IQ tests). The test division at our publishing house actually had separate departments for mental ability tests and achievement tests, the latter of which were primarily about the accumulation of knowledge. Mental ability tests — and there were several different kinds — went beyond that. In fact, those of us who worked there had to take a test when we applied for the job, and the test was full of trick questions. We were being tested on how well we could spot faulty questions, see through the obvious, and so on. Actually, once I figured out what was going on, I thought the test was fun.

    1. More and more people don’t know the difference between a simulation and the real thing. So computer models are a substitute for nature, and those who study them and draw conclusions from them are, like, full of it.

    2. It really was a fascinating job. A major portion of our work was to try to “break” the test whenever there was a revision of an existing test or a proposal for a new one. After the field statistical testing for validity and reliability (not part of our job), we sat down with the test and tried to find a way to justify as correct every answer that was keyed as incorrect; spot grammatical or other cues in the question that would eliminate or point to a particular answer; and generally do other such second-guessing. We often caught questions that might have tested well in the statistical analyses but couldn’t pass the “I bet I can out-think you” test in our warped little well-trained minds.

      I once wrote a report that recommended rejecting a proposed new test — by top names in the field — on the grounds that the most intelligent and creative students would probably do the worst on that test. We never did publish the test.

      I suppose I was partially influenced in this job by remembering something that happened to one of my cousins on a standardized math test. He was a math genius at a special high school for science & math gifted students (Bronx HS of Science), and he’d gotten a mediocre score on a test that his teachers had expected him to ace. So they went over his wrong answers with him, and for each one he said he’d thought the questions were too easy and there must be a trick. So he took a different approach and came up with different answers from the keyed ones — and when his teachers followed what he’d done, they had to admit he was right. I’ve never forgotten that … which is partly why I’m still known as the one who always says “but what if” or “yes, but” about everything, no matter how simple it seems. In other words, my experience with testing has made me a public (and private) nuisance. 🙂

    1. In this case, it doesn’t matter why. It can’t be done. The brain doesn’t have a data port that interfaces with digital circuitry. I don’t believe that what they want to do is even possible. But a press release might be a good way to raise some funding for a project, even if it never bears fruit.

    2. The biggest problem I have with the notion is this: human brains don’t operate like computers. In a very broad sense, the brain is a computer, it processes all sorts of data, but the brain is more powerful than any computer ever conceived of. However, the brain also requires refractive periods that and electronic computer doesn’t need.

      Even if they figured out a way to transmit computer data to your brain, the brain wouldn’t be able to take it in the same way a computer does. It would have to stop and contemplate. Will the brain know how to send out TCP retransmit requests when it has to interrupt a data stream? Of course not. The brain processes data, but it doesn’t use the same sort of data streams as a computer. Your brain doesn’t speak TCP/IP and it doesn’t know how to strip off packet headers. The whole concept is absurd.

      Think about how we know the brain to work. If you browse to Wikipedia, it takes your brain a while to read a page. That may be the refractory periods at work. If your eyes, which are remarkably sensitive, can’t take in an entire page at one glance, it isn’t going to go any faster with some gizmo attached to your brain.

      Perhaps the best analog I can conceive for the difference between the brain and a computer, would be the difference between a bird and an airplane. Both are heavier-than-air flyers, but the resemblance stops there. A bird can’t go 600 MPH like a jet plane, and can’t fly deep,into the Stratosphere, but in pretty much every other way, a bird makes even the most advance airplane seem like a toy.

      A bird can do airbatic maneuvers that the Blue Angels never imagined. They can turn instantly and transition from flying at speed to landing on a telephone wire and stopping with no need for a runway. A bird can span oceans, and they are fueled by bird seed. Many species of birds can essentially operate the same as a helicopter, yet fly swiftly like an airplane.

      Likewise, the brain can’t do everything a computer can do, a computer can recalculate a complex spreadsheet in an instant, but the brain can perform multitude tasks a computer could never begin to do. To think that a computer could be wired into a brain and allow someone instant access to, and comprehension of a Wikipedia article is beyond absurd.

  2. I suspect the project managers will dumb down the IQ test so that THEY can have an IQ of 200. Maybe they’ll even try to sell 200 IQ’s to congress, which already has an IQ of 200 COLLECTIVELY.

    1. That too. “Average” – they told us we’re all special so we don’t need to excel beyond their common denominator. If we weren’t ‘special’ we wouldn’t be ‘subjects.’

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