Intelligence Evolving (2008)

Gaff's Unicorn

So I was digging through my FTP space when I happened across this gem. Back when I was studying Computer Information Systems at DeVry University (go ahead, get your laugh/joke in, I’ll wait… ok, good, ready?) I was often amazed at the lack of forward thinking and technological illiteracy by both students and faculty. I mean, I shouldn’t have been, but it was still kind of disheartening to be in a “technology school” and be surrounded by technologically inept people. In fact, I published an FAQ to setting up basic accounts on this site that still gets a crazy number of hits every month (

Anywho, I ended up getting so frustrated that I converted a post I once made on this site in 2007 about the need to reassess how intelligence is quantified in the emerging networked world into an essay and submitted it as a class assignment. I used to publish my papers to my webspace and deliver them as links because I didn’t have a printer and, well, I think for the most part printing is an archaic practice. So below is that essay. It’s crazy how some of the numbers have changed in the past 4 years, especially global population.

And no, this essay didn’t fly well with the professor, but that was expected. I’m sure my not-so-subtle closing jabs didn’t help matters.

Intelligence Evolving:
Why traditional assessment will have to change for the Information Age.
Ferbuary 13, 2008

As the modern world evolves through technology, the need to redefine many accepted standards has arisen. Among these accepted standards are those that define, quantify, and legitimize an individuals “intelligence”. Before we reevaluate the standards that surround intelligence though, we first need to explore some of the more common, accepted, definitions of intelligence.

There are two widely accepted consensus definitions of intelligence and hundreds of individual definitions. The first of the two consensus definitions was set forth in 1995 by the American Psychological Association in their report entitled “Intelligence: Knowns and Unknowns”. It reads:

“Individuals differ from one another in their ability to understand complex ideas, to adapt effectively to the environment, to learn from experience, to engage in various forms of reasoning, to overcome obstacles by taking thought. Although these individual differences can be substantial, they are never entirely consistent: a given person’s intellectual performance will vary on different occasions, in different domains, as judged by different criteria. Concepts of “intelligence” are attempts to clarify and organize this complex set of phenomena. Although considerable clarity has been achieved in some areas, no such conceptualization has yet answered all the important questions and none commands universal assent. Indeed, when two dozen prominent theorists were recently asked to define intelligence, they gave two dozen somewhat different definitions.”

The second consensus definition comes from an earlier report. In 1994 the Wall Street Journal published an opinion article written by psychology professor Linda Gottfredson entitled “Mainstream Science on Intelligence”. It was a list of 25 statements that claimed to uphold findings on the subject of intelligence research discussed in the 1994 book The Bell Curve by Harvard professor Richard J. Herrnstein and American Enterprise Institute political scientist Charles Murray. The article was signed by 52 professors (including Gottfredson) specializing in intelligence and related fields at the time. Its definition reads:

“A very general mental capability that, among other things, involves the ability to reason, plan, solve problems, think abstractly, comprehend complex ideas, learn quickly and learn from experience. It is not merely book learning, a narrow academic skill, or test-taking smarts. Rather, it reflects a broader and deeper capability for comprehending our surroundings—”catching on”, “making sense” of things, or “figuring out” what to do.”

Even though these definitions are both over ten years old, they are still the two most widely accepted consensus definitions. From these two definitions we can easily construct a simple definition. In general, intelligence is an over-arching term used to describe aspects of the mind that encompass a range of related abilities, such as reasoning, planning, problem solving, abstract thinking, comprehension, use of language, and learning.

While the general definitions of intelligence are broad enough to advance alongside the changes of society and culture, the means by which intelligence is assessed by organizations has not been. Technology has leapt forward by enormous, almost incomprehensible, distances in just the past decade and these advancements have had a profound effect on many of the accepted aspects of intelligence, especially the acquisition and retention of information, or data.

As previously mentioned, the advancement of technology has forced many accepted standards to adjust and adapt for modern times. One doesn’t have to look further then the ongoing battle between the music industry and file sharing technology advocates for a basic example of this. Copyright law has been thrust into the limelight over the past decade with many changes being made over the course of that time. The Digital Millennium Copyright Act, signed into law in 1998, is probably the most well known example of standards (in this case, law) being amended in an attempt to adapt to a digital age.

As these technologies advance, so must our definitions of ideas and standards for institutions that are drastically changed by said technology. Copyright law is just one example of how emerging technology has forced traditional standards to adapt and adjust to the modern, digital, age. As we continue forward we will explore another established standard that has not adapted to address the role modern technology plays in our lives, the assessment of intelligence.

Attempting to recount all the ways technology has changed the lives of humans in the modern world could fill millions of pages, and even before you finished you’d have to write a million more. For the purpose of this paper we’ll take a look into modern communications technologies and how they’ve drastically changed how people access and utilize information every day.

It can be argued that modern communications technology has reduced the need for the individual to store large of quantities of information in their brain. While it cannot substitute for experience, there is a vast wealth of information available to an individual at nearly anytime, anywhere. As this trend continues, the need for a new standard is established; one which accounts for the individual’s ability to retrieve relevant information from a remote node, rather than just recite it from memory. This is, in computer terminology, networking or remote access. By storing information remotely and accessing it when it’s needed over a network you can save resources on the host machine. For humans, this means not having to store “trivial” information in the local bran and instead leave it in a remote location and access it only when it’s needed. The challenge here is the interface, the tools used to access the information. It is in the past decade though that we’ve seen huge advancements in this field of technology.

In November, 2007, the level of global cellphone penetration reached a staggering fifty percent (Reuters, 2007). That is, half the people in the world, roughly 3.35 billion people as of February 2008 (US Census Bureau, 2008). Millions of these phones are capable of accessing the internet for information, but even the ones that are not are having a profound effect on the people that use them. According to a 2007 survey by Ian Robertson, professor of psychology at Trinity College, Dublin, two thirds of people surveyed relied on a mobile phone or electronic organizer to remember key dates and phone numbers. The same survey revealed that people below the age of 30 stored far less dates and numbers in their brain than those over the age of 50 (Reuters, 2007). I’m sure anyone who reads this can relate a similar instance. In a conversation with my father, a man I respect for his profound knowledge and intelligence, about this topic he revealed that he has found that his once encyclopedic knowledge of sports trivia has been rendered almost obsolete by the internet and people’s access to it. The separation of human memory and machine memory is seemingly dissolving further every day.

As humans continue to integrate these technologies into all aspects of their lives, we’re forced to adjust and re-write standards that now fail to address the new issues presented by that very technology. We’ve seen one example of standards struggling with technology in the form of copyright law. An even greater example of how standards are being rendered obsolete as humans merge with technology is the story of Oscar Pistorius. Pistorius, who had his legs amputated when he was one year old, has been training as an Olympic sprinter for most of his life. He was recently denied entry into the 2008 Olympic Games because his prosthetic legs were ruled by the International Association of Athletics Federation to be superior to natural human legs (IAAF, 2008). The prevailing opinion in our culture is that completely natural is superior to artificial prosthetics, yet Pistorius has proven just the opposite. His “disability” is actually ability. An appeal is expected. This is precedent setting in that an official ruling body has declared that artificial, prosthetic, limbs are superior to natural ones.

This brings us back to the topic of assessment. Copyright infringement can be measured in downloads and dollars. Sprinting can be measured in meters and seconds. How is intelligence measured? With so many aspects present it seems almost impossible to accurately judge and quantify a person’s intelligence, yet we all seem to know what is “smart” and what is not.

There are many different ways to measure intelligence, but most methods are based around two approaches, each over 100 years old. The first method is based on the studies of Sir Francis Galton, an English scientist. He conducted studies from 1884 to 1890 based on psychophysical tasks, which he believed were the basis for intelligence. It’s the second method though that has become the basis for most modern intelligence tests. Developed as a child’s test in 1904 by Alfred Binet and Theodore Simon, it was brought to America from France and modified by Stanford University psychologist Lewis Terman. This became known as the Stanford-Binet test. This test produced a score called an Intelligence Quotient, or IQ. Many of today’s modern tests, such as the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale, score multiple IQs for different categories as well as an overall IQ.

Intelligence Quotient however was originally formulated by a ratio of mental age to chronological age multiplied by one hundred. It should be noted that few test still utilize this method. Most of today’s IQ tests produce a result based on statistical distribution, or bell curve. The third edition of the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale (WAIS III) is one of the most popular IQ tests today. It consists of fourteen categories broken into two subtests, Verbal and Performance, and the results are grouped by four indices; Verbal comprehension, perceptual organization, working memory, and processing speed (Wechsler, 2008).

The test is considered quite thorough, hence its acceptance as a standard means by which to measure IQ. Although the tested categories include many applicable skills as related to intelligence, none test a subject’s ability to acquire accurate information efficiently from a remote source. For example, the Verbal Information Subtest is based on the general information acquired from culture, a common example being “Who is the president of Russia?”. The test accounts for whether or not the subject knows the answer, but not his/her ability to retrieve the answer from a remote node in a satisfactory manner.

While it should be noted that IQ tests are not an exhaustive means by which to measure intelligence, many other styles of intelligence testing exist, they are the accepted standards by many official organizations.

With so many aspects of intelligence and so many definitions of those aspects it’s amazing that any standards of evaluation exist at all. As mentioned, we all seem to instinctively know “smart” and “stupid”, but quantifying these aspects of humanity will never be exacting. This is why it is important for standards to be malleable and adaptable. Unfortunately, it seems that once a standard is accepted by the majority of authoritative bodies it becomes very difficult to proactively alter unless the change is directly beneficial to the authoritative body. Typically an authoritative body will not actively pursue the process of standards alteration unless they perceive a direct threat, such as with copyright law.

So where does this leave us? Many modern official institutions that are recognized and instituted to foster the growth of intelligence and knowledge operate on standards developed for, and from, a time long past. While the premises of many of these standards are still relevant today, their actual function in today’s modern world is sadly obsolete. Fortunately some authoritative institutions are realizing this deficiency and attempting to modernize and adapt. In 1999 The National Science Foundation (NSF) requested the results of a two year study by the National Research Council (NRC) about information technology literacy. The report was entitled “Being Fluent with Information Technology” and stressed that fluency in information technology (FIT) was a synthesis of knowledge rather than just a display of skills. In the IT Journal Educause, Anne Moore (2007) writes about the findings of the report as well as the need to rethink the approach to teaching, learning, technology literacy, and performance assessment.

Another example of authoritative bodies attempting to update the standards by which they assess intelligence is California State University and the Educational Testing Service’s (ETS) Information and Communication Technology Literacy Assessment. An article in USA TODAY (2005) outlines how the test was instituted at Cal State and how the test is designed to test what they call “Internet IQ”. It includes many real world simulations, such as finding a correct answer on the internet and evaluating the legitimacy of online sources. The article also mentions the growing rift between teachers and students, in such that “Of course, some of those text-messaging students are still being taught by professors whose idea of a personal data assistant is a fresh pad of Post-Its.” This is one of the cores problems that exist today with changing intelligence assessment for the modern age, many of those who would be responsible for the giving the assessment are not well versed enough to understand its content, much less its application.

This disconnect between teacher and student forces the generation gap to become almost exaggeratedly visible. The younger generation, having grown up with these technological advancements, follows one set of cultural standards, while the older follows another completely. These tests generally have not been developed by people actually using and understanding the technology, people who have been immersed in its potential and application. The older generation, typically through positions of authority, continues to enforce standards that become more and more obsolete as technology advances, standards like copyright law and prosthetic inclusion. Many times the authoritative body cannot even explain why they cling to obsolete standards, they have forgot the reasons behind the rules and maintain them out of tradition rather than face a change they do not understand. It is my experience that people of authority in this position do not enjoy being questioned about it. They do not seek to understand the “why” of a standard, its existence is enough to warrant adherence. This seems counterproductive to the learning experience, but I suppose no one likes being made aware of their shortcomings.

Technology has changed the face of the world we live in. Ideally, for every step mankind takes in technological development an equal step is taken in understanding. This, unfortunately, is not the case. As time and progress march unstoppably forward though, that responsibility falls squarely on the shoulders of this generation, and the next.


Gottfredson, L. (1994, December 13). Mainstream Science on Intelligence.
The Wall Street Journal, p. A18

Herrnstein, R., Murray, C. (1994). The Bell curve.
New York, NY: Simon and Schuster

Kurzweil, R. (2005). The Singularity is near.
New York, NY: Viking Penguin.

Litman, J. (2001). Digital copyright.
Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books.

Logan, J. (2008). iGeneration: Shuffling toward the future.
New York, NY: Penguin Global.

McHugh, Josh. (2007, March). Blade Runner.
WIRED, 15-03, 136-141, 179

Neisser, U., Boodoo, G., Bouchard, T., Boykin, A., Brody, N., Ceci, S., et al.
(1996). Intelligence: Knowns and Unknowns.

American Psychologist, 51, 77-102
Reuters. (2007, November 29). Global cellphone penetration reaches 50 pct.

Reuters UK. Retrieved on February 15, 2008 from


  1. WIRED Magazine
  2. New York Magazine
  3. USA Today
  4. The Wall Street Journal
  5. The University of Washington News and Information
  6. The International Association of Athletics Federations
  7. The Education Resources Information Center
  8. Educause Quarterly
  9. Ray Kurzweil @
  10. iGeneration (Main Site)


I just realized that this will be the first time i’ve ever not been in EST for New Years. Do PST people celebrate on midnight PST, or midnight EST (i.e. “real time”)?

One more down…

Another year gone. A lot has happened this year, too much for me to care about looking back on.

Every year i think to myself that things will be different and every year they are, in a way i always seem to question. Hindsight is 20/20 i suppose.

I’ll be 30 this year and although that’s supposed to be significant somehow, i’m still not really aware to what that significance is. I feel like i’m supposed to know, like it’s one of those “gee golly whiz bang” things but i know it’s not really going to change anything.

I still feel like i’m not in the place i’m supposed to be. I don’t know if that’s an expectation i put on myself or just one i’m too lost to see clearly.


I stopped by a Verizon Wireless store today just for the hell of it and got some hands on time with the new Blackberry Storm. It prompted me to republish a post here that I originally made over on the Heliocity forums.

I’ve been with Helio for a while now, having originally switched from Verizon. I didn’t like the direction Verizon was moving in and the Ocean had just been released to rave reviews. I made the switch and for the first year, only ever had positive experiences with Helio. Customer Service has always been great to me, the price was (and still is) dead on, cell service has never skipped a beat, the Ocean did everything i wanted it to, and there were some great perks.

Now i’m on the back half of my contract, my 2nd year. In the past 11 months the whole “mobile device” landscape has changed. Helio’s customer service isn’t what it used to be. The NYC Helio store is on the way out gone. BuddyBecon got torn apart and never fixed. The Ocean isn’t even alone in the “dual slider” category anymore. GPS/Google maps is found plenty of other places now. New devices and services, like the iPhone/App Store combo, are easily overshadowing what the poor Ocean is capable of. So on, so forth.

Helio, and the Ocean specifically, have sadly lost their luster with the exception of a few areas, most notably the price. I’m a text/data person, not an airtime minutes person, so the all-in plan is just amazing for what i do. The “Ultimate Inbox” is also a huge thing for me, since i utilize every kind of account it supports. The Ocean is still a beast for texting and i love the keyboard despite it’s lack of a quick-access “&”.

A lot of my friends have jumped over to iPhones and Blackberries. I’m not a touch-screen fan, but the iPhone makes up for it with an amazing app suite. BlackBerry has a reputation for reliability, but seems like it lacks a lot of the apps that i use on a regular basis. I haven’t even looked into Android based phones, like the G1, yet.

With the way things have changed in the past year, is there really any compelling reason to stick with Helio other than brand loyalty? I hate to give up on them, especially with some of the great experiences i’ve had, but i feel like they charged out ahead of the pack early but just couldn’t hold the pace. Sporting the Ocean used to be an awesome, exclusive, insider thing… now it’s kind of like a joke.

With the way things have changed in the past year, is there really any compelling reason to stick with Helio other than brand loyalty? I hate to give up on them, especially with some of the great experiences i’ve had, but i feel like they charged out ahead of the pack early but just couldn’t hold the pace. Sporting the Ocean used to be an awesome, exclusive, insider thing… now it’s kind of like a joke.

So yeah… what’s really left for us with Helio?

This is where i left it and it turns out that a lot of other people are in a similar situation.

At any rate, i wasn’t really impressed all that much with the Storm. If i go BlackBerry it will probably be the Bold. Any switch though leaves me having to deal with any of the top-dog, bullshit, wireless companies. To be honest, i hate them all. They’re all devious, underhanded, corner-cutting, thieves. It’s really just a big game of “pick the lesser of 9 evils” and that’s a pretty compelling reason to stay with Helio.

I don’t know. I still have time to decide, but i doubt Helio is going to catch back up. I only hope the other options that are available when my contract is up paint a prettier picture than they do now.

Ring of Fire

Well, i’m now a resident of Las Vegas, NV. The apt. is coming along, things still trickling in via UPS and USPS. Hopefully everything will be sorted in the next week or so.

One thing i can’t get over here is the weather. It’s been perfect every single day since i’ve been here.


Just in case you’re keeping score at home, here’s the breakdown.

– Panic At The Disco
– Dashboard Confessional
– The Plain White T’s
– The Cab
– You? (No really, i mean you, reading this.)

– The Game: Rock Band 2
– The Goal: Beat every other band there and open for Panic.
– No really. On stage, thousands of people, you rock out before Panic goes on.

My job is fkn hilarious sometimes. Heather, get Steve and two other people and come win this in LA. XD

Oct. 05, 2008: San Diego, CA – San Diego Sports Arena
Oct. 08, 2008: Pheonix, AZ – Arena
Oct. 09, 2008: Las Vegas, NV – Hard Rock Outdoors
Oct. 10, 2008: Los Angeles, CA – Staples Center
Oct. 11, 2008: San Jose, CA – SJ Events Center
Oct. 12, 2008: Sacramento, CA – Arco Arena
Oct. 14, 2008: Seattle, WA – Everett Event Center
Oct. 16, 2008: Salt Lake City, UT – The E Center
Oct. 17, 2008: Denver, CO – Broomfield Event Center
Oct. 18, 2008: Lincoln, NE – Pershing Center
Oct. 19, 2008: St. Louis, MO – Scott Trade Center
Oct. 21, 2008: Minneapolis, MN – Target Center
Oct. 22, 2008: Chicago, IL – Allstate Arena
Oct. 23, 2008: Detroit, MI – EMU
Oct. 24, 2008: Toronto – Arrow Hall
Oct. 28, 2008: Bridgeport, CT – Harbor Yard
Oct. 29, 2008: Lowell, MA – Tsongas Arena
Oct. 31, 2008: Washington DC – Patriot Center
Nov. 01, 2008: Philadelphia, PA – Spectrum
Nov. 02, 2008: Newark, NJ – Prudential Center
Nov. 04, 2008: Atlanta, GA – Gwinnett Center
Nov. 06, 2008: Orlando, FL – University of Central Florida Center
Nov. 07, 2008: Coral Gables, FL – Bank United Center
Nov. 08, 2008: Gainesville, FL – University of Florida, O’Connell Center
Nov. 11, 2008: Bossier City, LA – CenturyTel Center CANCELED
Nov. 12, 2008 Dallas, TX – Nokia Theatre
Nov. 13, 2008 Austin, TX – Frank Erwin Center
Nov. 14, 2008 Houston, TX – Reliant Arena CANCELED


If you don’t want the novel version, skip down to “START HERE“.

Generally i’m pretty picky about what I wear on my feet. When i was growing up i little recourse but basketball shoes, usually Converse, because i have big (13), wide (4E), feet. A lot of pictures of me as a little kid look really silly because i wasn’t, and am still not, tall enough to counterbalance the size of my feet.

When i was a sophomore in high school I joined the wrestling team and in doing so, discovered the wonderful world of wrestling shoes. I loved the low profile and tight fit. The super thin, split sole, felt great, like i really had my feet on the ground. Even though i left the team after one year (undefeated!) I still wore the shoes, full time. Combined with cannon-leg jeans (they were in style once, I swear!), they essentially made my feet disappear. I got especially used to driving in them, to the point where it was difficult to drive in shoes with thicker soles.

When i moved to New York after high school I brought my wrestlers with me. They turned out to be fantastic for cycling and since i was a courier (amoung other things) when i first moved here, they were great. Of course, here in NYC i didn’t have a car and that meant walking in the winter, which wrestlers are just no good for. Coincidentally i ended up being run over quite violently at the intersection of 8th St. and Broadway which ended my courier career quite quickly. With that job prospect off the table, i fell back on my retail job at Funhouse Clothing and my nights as a Goth/Industrial club DJ. My aesthetic had already started to change by that time and not being a courier anymore threw me full on into the g/i club culture. It was during this time that i bought my first pair of NEW ROCK boots.

New Rocks became my signature. I always had the biggest, blackest, more badass boots of anyone in the scene (not counting those fucking crazy club-kid home-made ones). New Rocks are awesome for walking in, can take endless punishment, and make people think you’re going to stomp the shit out of them at a moments notice. Oh those were the days…

In the fall of 2001 i moved back to Boston to take care of my mother who was recovering from a full hysterectomy as a result of cancerous ovarian cysts. I discovered very quickly that New Rock’s are not the most practical footwear for driving in. It was during this time that i bought my first pair of SKETCHERS. They were a casual, quasi-slip on (velcro) style that they don’t make any more… which is a shame, because i loved them. They were light enough to not make me feel like i had lead on my feet, but protective enough to work in, and by work i mean what became my current profession of tour production management.

On my first tour ever, i brought a pair of New Rocks. Yeah, that didn’t work out so well. I never got to wear them and the impracticality of transporting them became pretty damn obvious when one of them ended up with a split sole. Split like, in half. Not cool. My Sketchers became pretty much fulltime footwear.

They were my only pair of shoes i wore. Everyday, 3 years of touring, and when they eventually wore down so much that you could see my socks though the bottom of them, i bought a new pair. The exact same pair, and wore them the exact same way. They lasted me until last year.

I’ve sort of been lost in terms of footwear since then. Sketchers stopped making my favorite style and nothing else they make really caught my fancy. I randomly found this weird pair of PUMAs at a DSW. They were on clearance for like $15. Super-lightweight, some kind of breathable, mesh, material. They’re almost like rock-climbing shoes. I can find no evidence of their existence on Puma or DSW’s websites. Given that they were on clearance at DSW, they’re probably some ancient style. Anyway, i love them, they’ve almost brought me back to my wrester’s days. They also look good with shorts, which i pretty much wear exclusively now, even in the winter. Because of the material they’re made of and the abuse i’ve put them through they’re getting close to the end of their life and, of course, i’ll never find another pair.


Now that we’re all caught up, i was reading through Men’s Fitness today (the subscription was a Christmas gift from my brother) and they had a small feature on VIBRAM (Go ahead and click that, it’ll open in a new window) and their “shoes”. I took one look and knew i had to try them on. I headed out to City Sports and took a look.

I tried on the KSO’S in two sizes (since they size differently from regular shoes) and holy crap. I won’t say “amazing” because i haven’t had time to break them in (i’m wearing them right now) but man, they feel totally different from anything i’ve ever worn. It’s like someone wrapped my feet in polyamide and let me go run willy-nilly. I can’t wait to get them on some grass and rocks and i’m definitely taking them on tour with me.

I can’t upload images to IAM that i don’t own, but for the time being i’ll hot-link an image with a link-back for those of you reading that don’t feel like following links.