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Posted by on 22 Jul 2015 .

Last updated 3rd June 2015, 14:52

Rising IQs and belief in God


Evidence accumulates to the effect that notwithstanding junk food, reality TV and celebrity culture, humanity is actually getting smarter. The Flynn Effect to which this article refers mentions the phenomenon associated with New Zealand-based philosopher James Flynn, who has built a thoughtful and engaging career on his early observation about rising IQs worldwide over the course of the last century.

Flynn’s work distinguishes crystallised intelligence – what we learn over time, and how we apply that learning – from fluid intelligence, which involves abstract thinking and reasoning. Flynn identifies the latter kind of intelligence as the engine room of humankind’s increasing cognitive strength.

Ironic smiles will be inspired in those who recall the famous Atlantic article, “Is Google Making Us Stupid?”, still resonant seven years after it appeared. If our “fluid IQs” are indeed rising, it may be that we are learning to play to our strengths. The irony would be that this is happening as Narrow AI is turning us into stupider versions of machines whose data manipulation and information retrieval skills so far exceed the crystallised cognitive capabilities of our own, attention deficit-disordered brains.

Given Flynn’s inverse correlation of rising IQs to declining belief in God, the question to ask is: if AI evolves from what is programmed into Narrow AI towards the Super AI that will think for itself, will a defining characteristic of mature AI be its atheism?

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