Intelligence in the singular…
can it have a meaning ?
Intelligence ! Here is a catch-all word behind which it is hardly believable that so many different, even contradictory, meanings could be slipped into a single word… and moreover, in a singular form !
Intelligence ! A concept so vague that, it has been scientifically reduced to the ability to solve problems in order to apprehend it, but no other measure than the sulphurous I.Q., the no less debatable H.I.P. (High Intellectual Potential), the H.E.P. (High Emotional Potential) or the achievement of a university degree, can attest to its value.
How can we compare the intelligence of an octopus to the one that characterizes us, with its nine brains that adapt to its environment in a fraction of a second by changing color?
This intelligence, we have stigmatized and restricted it to intellectual faculties… to intellectual faculties only. Its singular form refers to strictly cognitive dimensions. We do not speak of :
- manual intelligence for industrial jobs, it is just manual skills anyway;
- motor skill intelligence for a sportsman, we say he is good;
- contextual intelligence for an ecologist;
- relational intelligence for someone who is empathetic;
- emotional intelligence for someone who is sensitive.
- spatial and muscular intelligence for a mover.
All these forms of intelligence are missing from our Curricula Vitae, since they don’t fit into the normative, educational, social dogmas that we have established, at most we qualify them as abilities…
Just as paradoxically, other qualities that we could consider as forms of intelligence, have been related to “senses”: the sense of rhythm, the sense of orientation, the moral sense…
While we argue about the validity of knowing if we have more than 5 senses, in politics, we talk about “strategic or tactical sense” which seems to be rather tactical in fact… Let’s note that ironically, regarding the problems that humankind can create on its own, the capacity of politicians to contribute to their solutioning should be measured in terms of unintelligence… However, we did not wish to find a better way to organize our community until now.
I suggest, while reading these lines, to take a second look at what we, human beings, call “intelligence” in a very ambiguous way, not by talking of I.Q., of cognitive or intellectual qualities or skills, nor oratory or analysis capacities, of memorization or calculation, but by the yardstick of what certain approaches and/or sciences bring to the matter, widening in this way the reductive perception that we have of it. You will then perhaps share, as I do, that each of us is intelligent, not at the same time, not for the same things and not for the same reasons.
If we have the capacity to get to the bottom of things through their details, it is much more difficult for us to take a step back, or even a step up, from all these things. Even more so, when it questions the legitimacy of our own way of functioning, no matter how intelligent we are, or how much we claim to be… Why is this the case ?
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Wanting to understand our evolution and to make things objective by a scientific approach in order to make humankind and its condition progress is certainly not the problem. However, taking into account the living being can only be considered globally because it only functions and evolves according to its environment and to what and with whom it interacts. The scientific approach has not been thought and conceived precisely for that (and for other good reasons). The problem lies in what is done with the scientific conclusions by non-scientists who are also in charge of that evolution.
This article responds in a very small way to the following observation : when it comes to living beings, of which “intelligence”, or should I say cognition is a component, what does nourish the dichotomy between scientific and empirical approaches? They are however in this case perfectly complementary. Both are inspired by observations from real life or by ideas, intuitions ” coming from nowhere “. They differ in that one digs into specific aspects, formalizes them, measures them, demonstrates them and comes to conclusions considered as “objective”; the other has the exact qualities of the defects of the first one : it apprehends what it approaches in a global way and brings demonstrations and answers that we can observe or feel but that cannot (yet) be measured or dissected scientifically. It is however from the synthesis, or even the fusion of these two approaches, not to say of these two worlds or universes, that the greatest advances can be achieved.
Moreover, based on their respective results, these two approaches bring to those who apply them an essential thing that many of those for whom they are intended lack : humility.
Let me illustrate this with a parallel related to a field that has been of interest to me for decades : snow; an element that does not belong to the living world but behaves almost like it, except that it does not reproduce by itself, but it gets transformed.
When a snow specialist, therefore an expert in snow and its related fields, approaches his subject, he tells you about it with great certainty and abundance of facts about what it is, where it comes from, where and how it evolves and how it works. However, he never concludes with certainty; he always has one or more question marks that make him say : the more he understands the less he knows. Unlike practitioners or heirs of their experience and knowledge who build conclusions on the basis of successful experiments or near-miss scenarios.
Such is the case for all scientific and cognitive interests as long as they are not biased by egotistical, political, economic, fundamentalist or ideological considerations :
to understand is to open up and accept difference and complexity;
it is certainly not to know in the sense of concluding.
The paradox is that advances, whether they are the result of empirical or scientific approaches, provide arguments and grist for the mill for manipulators of all kinds. Being based on the living, the fragmented conclusions offer a fertile ground to serve the debatable ends of particular interests among which we can mention the profit industries and services, but also surprisingly in fields such as training and personal or professional accompaniment.
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My intention is to allow us to make links between things that we do not hear about, or that we hear about separately without relating them to each other; links that have every reason to challenge us as much as they have challenged me. Let me start with a first aspect that makes the use of the singular associated with the word “Intelligence” a source of great confusion.
Over the centuries, we have developed systems that have all been organized around the needs and desires :
- to prioritize, to standardize, to regulate, to framework;
- to choose the scientific approach in order to validate new intuitions or understandings with its necessary need of segmentation.
This evolution that humankind has chosen for itself with intents such as power, conquests, progress, profit, industrialization, digitalization highlights two things :
- Humankind has learned and developed its ability to disconnect from the environment to which it belongs.
- Humankind has converted and still converts details, observations and piecemeal conclusions into generalities..
I am talking here of choices (made consciously or not) or of a chosen path that is generally attributed to our intelligence, the one we are the only ones to benefit from, given the definition we confer on it, and which has self-promoted us to the top of the “hierarchy of living beings”…
But, our own evolution and our intelligence are nothing compared to the evolution of the living world that started hundreds of millions of years ago. AS human beings, we were the last onex to enter the game and we seem to behave like a spoiled children, without scruples, without any real conscience. One can wonder if it is not this intelligence, this differentiator, which is the cause.
We have become greedy predators, even though we are one of the weakest players in this chain.
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The efficiency of this living, in connection with related forms of intelligences, can be traced back to one billion years ago. Our history as hominids, hominins, and homo sapiens begins at the other end of this timescale. If we relate it to the stammering of bipedalism, it started only 7 million years ago.
Have you heard of “blobs”? A single-cell organism that appeared a billion years ago, still alive today (Physarum Poycephalum), on which (should we say with which…) it has been possible to make experiments that demonstrate intelligence capacities that we normally (and conventionally, for lack of a better word…) attribute to beings endowed with at least one brain.
Further on in this article, it will be discussed the emergence of these forms of intelligences comparable to the one we call “intelligence”. Click HERE to read more about this topic)
This has a closer link than one might imagine with what recent discoveries in neuroscience are teaching us as much as with the approach discussed in this website.
Neurosciences, psychology and the sciences of movement provide us with clues to understand what makes our evolution. The work and approach of Bertrand Théraulaz and Ralph Hippolyte (*****) validate the work of Carl Gustav Jung (******). They bring to light an obvious fact, which is still ignored today in many fields, starting with education, sports, and personal and professional coaching :
We have only one brain to move and for everything else.
No matter what we do physically or cognitively, we always use 100% of our brain capacity.
From a psychomotor point of view, the difference between our characteristics as human beings is not a question of gender, sex or nature (Mars-Venus…); it is not even genetic. It is the result of a personal development at the embryonic stage that makes us prioritize the call to neurocerebral resources in one region of the brain rather than another, depending on the context, whether it be for cognitive, physical or emotional purposes.
It is therefore our differences that distinguish us and bring us together. Reducing us to a profile, a measurement, a color, a definition is an intellectual and conceptual heresy that makes no sense when it comes to considering the living.
We start our neurocerebral or psychomotor system differently depending on who we are and differently depending on the context.
As a result, this makes classifications more complex and implausible, or at the very least, decontextualized or even depersonalized.
However, we can distinguish 6 sources of activation leading to as many differences as there are contexts and individuals. These are entry points that may be interdependent in absolute terms. However, in terms of psychomotricity, they produce a very specific effect at a given “t” moment, in a given context and for a given person in their capacity to activate one psychomotor organization rather than another.
To get activated in a coherent way, psychomotor organizations prioritize according to the cases :
- aspects related to the individual’s inner past inner world, for example memories (whether physical, psychological or contextual)
- aspects related to the individual’s present inner world (sensations, logical or normative frameworks, personal values,…)
- aspects related to the individual’s future inner world (imagination, ideas, innovation…)
- aspects related to the past external world of the individual (the experience(s), the lived experiences…)
- aspects related to the individual’s present external world (actions or reactions, contextual feelings (Feeling), life settings, places…)
- aspects related to the individual’s future external world (projections, goals, perspectives…)
From a neurocerebral point of view, human beings (or at least those who influence its evolution) seems to privilege priorities and capacities specific to the left hemisphere in order to organize and develop the diverse and varied models of society that it has built. These are qualities :
- of analysis
- of details
- of order
- of framework(s)
- of organization
- of short-term efficiency
- of rigor
- of impact
- of known
- of complexity
- of immediacy
- of experimentation
- of sensations
It is the domain of the impersonal and of time as opposed to space. It refers so to speak to a convergent system and tactical sense (not necessarily “common sense” in this case…). These are qualities that are wonderfully illustrated in the world of entrepreneurship and politics where the objectives to be reached at a given deadline are defined on the basis of complex data (details) leading to quick conclusions.
Without proof, one could be tempted to argue that those who participate and influence political and economic life are their representatives. From there, claiming or concluding that those who abstain or undergo its effects prioritize the qualities of the other cerebral lobes… the question, the debates as well as the scientific conclusions on the subject remain open.
The forms that have been given to our models of society do not find their source or origin in cultural, geographical, political, military, religious or economic considerations. These forms are the expression, the leverage or the outcome of the above-mentioned qualities.
Even today, digitization, technologies, standardization and normalization are also social and societal priorities that are the expression of the same neurocerebral qualities and priorities that we have favored or promoted. It seems obvious to us (not to say natural…) that these choices and priorities are the extension of relevant and “logical” answers or evolutions to what we had developed without them until now.
We have taken advantage of these levers, or have allowed those who benefit from these cognitive priorities to express their talents and exert their influence, to shape our society into what it is today. For better or for worse, depending on one’s interests or ideology…
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Reference has been made in this blog to the conditioning of which we are heirs and willing actors, yet enslaved to the imperatives of our integration and acceptance of the systemic mechanisms we have developed.
I invite you to savor, since it is done with a touch of British humor, the depth and truth of the words of Sir Ken Robinson, world-renowned educator, who tells us in a presentation that has become a cult, why it is so difficult to be or become oneself.
In Europe, more than anywhere else, we have been bottle-fed with the stigma of error, which is supposed to reflect any kind of incompetence, and therefore a lack of intelligence, that so-called intelligence in the singular. He tells us in substance that :
“If we are not prepared to make mistakes, we deny ourselves the opportunity to come up with something original, something creative.”
And I add… with something really personal.
From the early choice of study paths, school-leaving or end-of-study at a “T” time exams, to compliance with values and a system for the benefit of which we are expected to be devoted and then efficient, nothing is done for the person to find his or her true identity by default and by definition.
This observation alone explains why so many of us are led to walk beside our shoes at key stages of our lives. We are forced to adapt ourselves permanently to external injunctions without having had the opportunity to become aware of how it was possible for us to comply immmersively while respecting our own truth; namely, the coherence of our own psychomotor organizations.
Version originale en anglais :
Version avec sous-titrage en français (ou au choix d’une autre langue dans les options de sous-titrage) :
Let’s go back to science, in this case anthropology, which argues that :
Intelligence was born with predation.
This takes us away from the cognitive and conscious angelism that we want to attribute to intelligence. It would be only to answer a vital need to eat or not to eat that we would have become more “resourceful”. This brings us closer to what R Llinás (**) tells us, in the name of another plural science, the neurosciences :
“We think because we move”
and not the other way around…
Because yes, our brain does not have the original vocation that we attribute to it according to Daniel Wolpert (***)
“Our brain was designed for one reason and one reason only : to produce adaptable and complex movements.”
and I add… in environments that are constantly changing.
But what do we observe ? That we are domesticating and controlling our environments in order to move less and less in the name of progress, productivity and profit, but above all, comfort. However, the less we move, the less we perform and the more energy it takes to move (physically or/and cognitively).
As such, I invite you to stop by an escalator or a treadmill and watch what happens… While this facility was designed to allow us to move faster, higher or further with less effort, most of us stop walking as soon as we step on it… Is it the simple fact of accessing this facility that transforms in one go a psychomotor system made for moving into a “psycho-rigid” system lost in its thoughts, thus getting disconnected from the environment in which it is located ?
This is in line with what ethologist Audrey Dussutour (****) and her team have brought to light with their experiments on “blobs”.
How not to be questioned by this unicellular organism on earth since 1 billion years, neither animal, nor plant, nor mushroom which, with no brain optimizes its movements with goals, which solves problems, which learns, which communicates, which breeds, which interacts according to the environment in which it is located, which chooses its food, which manages an external memory, which develops, which goes into “pause mode” almost indefinitely ? I come back to this topic HERE for those who want to know more about it.
What is brought to light in these experiments are indeed forms of intelligences (in the plural) with no brain and beyond the meaning we have found for it. Of four things :
- The word “intelligence” is a poor choice for what we do with it or for what we want to say about it.
- There are many forms of intelligence; its singular definition is obsolete and we should make use of its plural form.
- Intelligence is not what we thought it is.
- Generally speaking, the word only has meaning in the plural; consequently, in the singular, the corresponding qualifier must be added (motor intelligence, cognitive intelligence, memory intelligence, analytical intelligence…)
It appears from all these different approaches, observations and studies that intelligence is not limited to the brain and it has been the case for a long time…
This is also in line with what B. Théraulaz and R. Hippolyte (*****) have understood our motor identities and differences which revolutionize the way we can organize our coordination and psychomotor coherence according to the context and the environment. It is not a luxury, it is even vital in the long run, to be able to endow, on an individual and personal basis, with the means of reconciling our “phy” with our “psy” and vice versa. This completes the work of the Swiss doctor and psychologist C.-G. Jung (******).
All thas goes in the same direction :
“There is no intelligence without a body”
This sentence should temper the ardor of those who qualify the x.0 man, endowed with digital and artificial components, as an “enhanced man”.
It has been considered that advanced programming, associated with digitization and robotic technology should be enough to augment humankind. What a pretense ! It just illustrates the level of decontextualization of those who claim it.
Summarizing the living and its evolution to lines of codes and printed circuits, as brilliant as they are, should certainly not be intended to replace the living; because this is what it is all about in fine, behind the praising speeches of their representatives. All this hidden behind new catch-all words such as Artificial Intelligence, Chat-GPT. These are brilliant developments put at the service of greedy powers, therefore evil.
These advances are not a billionth of what the living can do. And that’s good ! The heresy is to assert the argument that it solves our societal and environmental challenges and problems. We have 150 years of hindsight to be able to observe the progress and the irreversible damages caused by the implementation of the technological discoveries proned by the “intelligence in the singular” of the human beings.
We are told that the future of mankind, and therefore his destiny, will take place on Mars, even though we do not understand one billionth of what distinguishes one living being from another on earth, in the air and in the seas. We have reason to wonder very concretely if it is not high time to put a few right cerebral lobes in the chaotic and organized rigidity that our globalized world has become.
The living, to maintain and develop, depends on an indissociable trinomial whose components are mutually interdependent in the following order :
- the environment and the contexts,
- the body,
- and something that belongs to the cognition and the consciousness that is part of this body or not, that emanates from it or envelops it, that is one with this body.
At a time when we perceive that the universe is expanding exponentially, when we consider the quantum as something more conceivable than it was, it seems that there may be room for a space, a dimension with which the human race can deal other than by projecting itself into a mystical beyond
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(**) SIR KEN ROBINSON (1950-2020)
Expert en éduction / Professeur / Écrivain / Présdient d’assemblée parlementaire
Ken Robinson s’est fait connaître pour son constat que l’école annihile le potentiel créatif de l’individu en stigmatisant le droit à l’erreur et que sans erreur il n’y a pas de créativité.
Ses détracteurs lui ont reproché de n’avoir pas apporté de réponses concrètes; ce à quoi je réponds que l’approche dont je défends le bien fondé à travers ce site corrige cette lacune et offre des bras de levier très concrets aux enseignants autant qu’aux élèves pour leur permettre de mieux vivre leur individuation; de mieux faire appel à toutes leur ressources, dont la créativité.
Il est à l’origine de nombreuses initiatives pour faire évoluer les choses dont un projet sur 4 ans qui a réuni plus de 2 000 professeurs, artistes, administrateurs autour de 300 initiatives et qui a influencé le programme scolaire britannique.
Auteur, orateur et vulgarisateur de la cause, il a été fait chevalier par la reine d’Angleterre en 2005. Il est décédé en 2020.
(**) RODOLFO LliNÁS RIASCO
Neurologue / Neurologiste / Médecin
Il a consacré sa vie à la compréhension du fonctionnement du cerveau. Il s’est tout d’abord intéressé au fonctionnement des neurones simples, puis progressivement, il est passé à l’étude des assemblées cellulaires. Il s’intéresse maintenant au fonctionnement global du cerveau en étudiant les mécanismes de la conscience et la manière dont le cerveau simule la réalité qui nous entoure. En particulier, il a étudié le mécanisme de ” liaison des sensations “, grâce auquel le cerveau est capable de produire une seule image consciente à partir des sensations qui lui parviennent séparément. Ce mécanisme est expliqué dans l’exposé “Le film de la conscience”.
(***) DANIEL WOLPERT
Médecin / Neuroscientifique
Daniel Wolpert est un leader mondial dans l’étude computationnelle du contrôle sensorimoteur et de l’apprentissage, transformant notre compréhension de la façon dont le cerveau contrôle le mouvement.
En combinant des travaux théoriques et comportementaux, il a mis au jour l’étude du contrôle moteur sensoriel et a montré comment le bruit neuronal joue un rôle central dans la façon dont nous traitons l’information et organisons nos actions.
(****) AUDREY DUSSUTOUR
Directrice de recherche / Éthologue / Neuroscientifique / Myrmécologue / Autrice
Connue et reconnue pour ces études et expériences sur le comportement des fourmis et des blobs, et ses expériences éducatives, Audrey Dussutour alimente scientifiquement l’idée que l’intelligence est plurielle et va au-delà de la définition qu’on en a donnée jusqu’ici et pourrait remettre en question l’origine qu’on lui a attribuée, voire sa définition.
Je cite une phrase issue d’un de ses livres qui résume bien la personne et le (bon) sens de son parcours.
“La science est comme une plante dont la recherche fondamentale est les racines et la recherche appliquée les fleurs. Sans racines vous n’aurez pas de fleurs.”
(*****) BERTRAND THERAULAZ
Entraîneur de volley-ball / Maître d’éducation physique / Fondateur de l’approche ActionTypes / Auteur
et RALPH HIPPOLYTE
Entraîneur national de volley-ball / Conférencier / Chercheur
Lire leur parcours et la genèse de l’approche ActionTypes ICI.
(******) CARL GUSTAV JUNG
Médecin / Psychologue / Psychiatre / Psychanalyste / Auteur / Fondateur de la Psychologie Analytique
Éminent médecin et psychologue suisse, on doit à Carl Gustav Jung des contributions essentielles sur la compréhension de notre fonctionnement psychologique et notre psyché. Il est à l’origine des concepts tels que l’inconscient collectif, les archétypes, l’individuation, les types psychologiques, l’imaginatin active, la synchronicité.
Intelligence in the singular :an outdated concept ?
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