How Intelligence Happens
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Human intelligence is among the most powerful forces on earth. It builds sprawling cities, vast cornfields, coffee plantations, and complex microchips; it takes us from the atom to the limits of the universe. Understanding how brains build intelligence is among the most fascinating challenges of modern science. How does the biological brain, a collection of billions of cells, enable us to do things no other species can do? In this book John Duncan, a scientist who has spent thirty years studying the human brain, offers an adventure story—the story of the hunt for basic principles of human intelligence, behavior, and thought.
Using results drawn from classical studies of intelligence testing; from attempts to build computers that think; from studies of how minds change after brain damage; from modern discoveries of brain imaging; and from groundbreaking recent research, Duncan synthesizes often difficult-to-understand information into a book that will delight scientific and popular readers alike. He explains how brains break down problems into useful, solvable parts and then assemble these parts into the complex mental programs of human thought and action.
Moving from the foundations of psychology, artificial intelligence, and neuroscience to the most current scientific thinking, How Intelligence Happens is for all those curious to understand how their own mind works.
but this is not what Spearman’s theory is about. It is about one extraordinary observation concerning human behavior and how we might explain that observation. A similar line of thought is reﬂected in the frequent deﬁnition of new kinds of “intelligence”: practical intelligence, social intelligence, emotional intelligence. As we have known from Spearman onward (in fact, we hardly need science to show us this), people vary in countless ways, and somehow it seems fair to capture this by deﬁning
research literature in social psychology documents the strong human tendency to form groups of “us” and “them” at every level from family to classroom to football team supporter to nation. It shows how we accord rights and value to “us” and often denigrate or distrust “them,” whether “they” are whites, women, Muslims, or children living in a different bunkhouse.11 This feature of our thinking is so strong that I doubt any of us fully avoids it; perhaps the best we can do is to be vigilant for its
properties of the visual world. Where are edges seen between dark and light? What wavelength (color) of light is coming from each region? This information is then distributed to a whole set of adjacent regions, extending through the occipital lobe and into parts of parietal and temporal lobes. In each region visual information is used to address further questions. Are objects moving, or does the image move on the eye because the eye has moved itself? What shape does an object have (a ball, a cup,
very restricted form of decision-making. A machine may be built to press one of four keys when one of four lights appears, but can a machine also be built for our everyday lives and the inﬁnite variety of illspeciﬁed, complex decisions that they entail? In Oxford I had two friends who had also been trained as psychologists, but in a more open, philosophical tradition. They were perennially unpersuaded that the science of psychology could ever make progress on real minds and real life. One weekend
same. The animal learned to carry out the task. The experimenter recorded activity from randomly selected prefrontal neurons. Though cells were arbitrarily selected from among Up Close uncounted millions that could have been recorded, maybe 50 percent of those examined—sometimes more, sometimes less—did just what the experimenter was looking for. They coded the exact information and events of this particular experiment. Let me illustrate with two more experiments from the Miller laboratory. In