Briefly on the Definitions of Insight and Wisdom

I basically agree with the previous comments, mainly that this is a bit too broad, but in the right direction. I especially like incorporating embodied cognition into any form of intelligence testing, but I believe there’s still much more that needs to be included, specifically beyond the whole notion that intelligence is supposed to be limited to problem-solving capacities.

Speaking of going beyond problem-solving, what I was looking for was the definition of insight, and the only thing I believe was defined sufficiently in this article was machine insight, which is definitely not what I meant by insight in my article about IQ. How you describe wisdom is much closer, though that’s a term that’s notoriously difficult to define properly.

My problem really boils down to psychometrics seeing every mental capacity as a way to help us solve problems and testing only variations of that. From this point of view, machine(-like) insight, as in the ability to free yourself from preconceived notions and arrive at a breakthrough in solving a problem, is still mostly devoid of even the limited problem-solving version of wisdom, as in the ability to discern between what’s significant and, well, bullshit.

As I wrote in my article, the highest practical form of intelligence that I know of, for which there are some concepts of testing it, is insight as the awareness-based capacity of one intelligence to outsmart another. Oftentimes, this is demonstrated specifically by rejecting the whole framing of reality imposed from without, like starting to question definitions of problems, what it means to solve them, or if you should be “solving” them in the first place. In a way, the test is to realize that you’re being tested and to resist cooperating.

If I’m not mistaken, and I welcome being corrected if I am, we currently don’t know how to mechanically generate awareness, or build a questioning machine, given that we have only vague ideas about how consciousness works on a physical level (the key defining attribute of which is self-awareness). This means that you can create a machine to solve any problem, but only as long as someone (self-)aware defines “problem” and “solution” for that machine.

In this way, even the most intelligent machine is infinitely, incomparably, division-by-zero dumb in comparison to your average human brain. From the informal philosophical point of view, what’s more wise? Becoming excellent at solving everyone else’s problems, or freeing yourself from being a beast of burden? Defining yourself on the basis of preexisting labels, or creating your own identity from scratch? Aiming to pass tests to achieve standards, or striving continuously for excellence into uncharted terrain? Of course, it’s easier to fail at a harder thing, but that’s precisely it — wisdom is harder.

Now, with all that said, problem-solving aspects of intelligence certainly are very useful, but without true insight and wisdom in their deepest definitions, the question becomes to whom you’re being useful when you’re using them. I have no doubt that some of the most intelligent people (even by my definitions) are the architects of intelligence testing and the whole philosophical and educational framework of intelligence as purely a problem-solving capacity. Assuming that I’m correct in suspecting that there are some manipulative politics involved. Not a conspiracy, just good sense.

It would be wise and insightful to socially engineer the whole concept of intelligence for the populace in which intelligence is equated to using your mental capacities usefully. This way, you will produce a lot of effective and efficient employees, which is constructive, but not that many critical, reflective, independent thinkers, which is not constructive (for an economy). These are not my politics, but I can respect pragmatism and practicality. What irks me about all this is that it requires presenting a lesser form of intelligence as the highest and complete form of intelligence. Which is, frankly, dumb.

Now, this may not be an intentional concern of many of the academicians involved in psychometrics. Which is probably why some of the wiser and more insightful ones (at least the way I see it, not entirely subjectively) are continuously moving the field into the direction of infusing more nuance into intelligence testing. So, in my personal opinion, the right direction.

If what you want is a practical conception of how to develop insight (as awareness that leads to the questioning of frameworks) and wisdom (a long-term coalescence of understanding gleaned through moments of insight), I would recommend the work of late Alfred C. Snider, one of the biggest names in the world of competitive debating. Specifically, his paper Gaming as a Paradigm for Academic Debate. I already wrote an article about his ideas, but very briefly, he talks about games and debating as potentially useful exercises in exploring possible futures or alternative ideas (to which I would add entertaining speculative fiction). In these ways, insight is trainable, as well as creativity, adaptive thinking, abilities to persuade and resist persuasion, etc.

An independent Czech thinker, speaker, writer, and composer.

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