What Is Intelligence, Anyway?
By Isaac Asimov
was in the army, I received the kind of aptitude test that all
soldiers took and, against a normal of 100, scored 160. No one
at the base had ever seen a figure like that, and for two
hours they made a big fuss over me.
didn't mean anything. The next day I was still a buck private
with KP - kitchen police - as my highest duty.)
don't such scores simply mean that I am very good at answering
the type of academic questions that are considered worthy of
answers by people who make up the intelligence tests - people
with intellectual bents similar to mine?
when anything went wrong with my car I hastened to him with
it, watched him anxiously as he explored its vitals, and
listened to his pronouncements as though they were divine
oracles - and he always fixed my car.
suppose a carpenter did, or a farmer, or, indeed, almost
anyone but an academician. By every one of those tests, I'd
prove myself a moron, and I'd be a moron, too.
world where I could not use my academic training and my verbal
talents but had to do something intricate or hard, working
with my hands, I would do poorly.
intelligence, then, is not absolute but is a function of the
society I live in and of the fact that a small subsection of
that society has managed to foist itself on the rest as an
arbiter of such matters.
a habit of telling me jokes whenever he saw me.
time he raised his head from under the automobile hood to say:
"Doc, a deaf-and-mute guy went into a hardware store to ask
for some nails. He put two fingers together on the counter and
made hammering motions with the other hand.
clerk brought him a hammer. He shook his head and pointed to
the two fingers he was hammering. The clerk brought him nails.
He picked out the sizes he wanted, and left. Well, doc, the
next guy who came in was a blind man. He wanted scissors. How
do you suppose he asked for them?"
auto-repair man laughed raucously and said, "Why, you dumb
jerk, He used his voice and asked for them."
said smugly, "I've been trying that on all my customers
today." "Did you catch many?" I asked. "Quite a few," he said,
"but I knew for sure I'd catch you."
that?" I asked. "Because you're so goddamned educated, doc, I
knew you couldn't be very smart."
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Autobiography by Dr. Isaac Asimov (1920–1992):
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