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Intelligence

I love the word intelligences. The plural says so much. The notion that intelligence is just one thing, the skilled use of reason,…By Kevin Berger

I love the word intelligences. The plural says so much. The notion that intelligence is just one thing, the skilled use of reason, strikes me as outdated, provincial, a description in a Victorian novel. “Hanley exuded such lambent intelligence when he spoke of gardenias that I was flush with admiration,” Hazel announced to the diners in the pavilion. In fact, intelligence flowers in myriad colors around the world. It is never one thing. We talk past one another when our definition of it is rigid. With understanding and kinship, we don’t have to.

That’s what mathematician and science writer Dana Mackenzie, who loves Hawaiian culture, and expresses it himself as a male hula dancer (men have always been part of the traditional dance), tells Nautilus readers in his open letter to those opposed to a revolutionary new telescope to be built on Mauna Lea, Hawaii’s sacred mountain. Neither the language of Western scientists nor of native Hawaiians dominate MacKenzie’s sympathetic essay, written to expose the common ground between the two cultures.

Mackenzie’s open letter epitomizes the creative approach to intelligence, and the expansive definitions of it, that characterize this issue of Nautilus. You will see starlings in flight, outwitting their predators. You will confront concepts like the hyperintelligence of cyborgs and terms like superdeterminism in physics. When it comes to intelligence, the mind is overrated. We explore body intelligence and emotional intelligence, and finer still, cellular intelligence. We peer into the black boxes of artificial intelligence, where the future looks dangerous. But don’t worry. One of the inventors of one of the most famous robots in history, the Roomba, tells us why robots are misunderstood and our fears unfounded.

It’s a smart issue, if I do say so. The intelligences in the sciences, and of the sciences, are without bounds.


Lead image: agsandrew / Shutterstock

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