December 10th, 2008

breaking bad

Folly to be wise

I was just opining the other day that higher intelligence is not an unequivocal advantage in reproductive terms, let alone a marker for a pseudo-Darwinian 'fitness factor'. Now someone has posted on this subject on metafilter.

More intelligent people are more likely to be alcoholic and suicidal. Animals forced to act smarter suffer stress and die younger.
Forming neuron connections may cause harmful side effects. It is also possible that genes that allow learning to develop faster and last longer may cause other changes. “We use computers with memory that’s almost free, but biological information is costly,” Dr. Dukas said.

My guess is that relatively high intelligence is a social choice, and requires the expenditure of energy - or you could say it is a higher stress choice, a higher risk choice in terms of life fortune. I think even getting a high mark on an IQ test is about subjecting yourself voluntarily to stress, or if you like exerting greater mental effort. There probably are also limits to intellect imposed by genetics - but as I say, if high intelligence was an unequivocal good, there'd be more smart people about.

Also - why do smart people do dumb things?
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breaking bad

Chaos does not reign: it pours

Pictures of untidy workspaces submitted to the BBC. I thought I was untidy. Now I realise I am nowhere.

My workspace and my home can get bad, but they never get anything like some of these. That's partly because I like to throw things away. Computers make that easier.

Pics 1 and 2, pretty bad
Pic 3 - cute
Pics 4 and 5 - utterly horrible, they make me feel depressed to look at them
Pic 6 - a spoof - 'Wolfgang Danspeckgruber is chair of the Liechtenstein Institute of self-determination at Princeton University'? Sure he is
Pic 7 - this most closely resembles my desk at work (my neighbour leaned over a few minutes ago when I was going through the pics and said 'yours is like that') perhaps not quite that bad
Pic 8 - this most closely resembles my workspace at home, on a bad day, when H has got all his guitars out. Cue a frenzy of throwing things away.