Knowledge and Specialization
Updated: Aug 14
Intellect should not be judged by what a person knows, but instead by the extent to which they can know.
In simpler terms, someone should only be deemed 'smarter' than someone else, if they can remember more information. And after coming to that conclusion, I also noticed that no one really does have too much more memorized than anyone else. When we think someone is 'smarter' than we are, we are really just acknowledging that they've memorized more complicated subjects like physics or mathematics, than we have. And, for the most part, had any of us been given their circumstances, studied the amount they did, and trained our brain the way they had, we would be just as 'smart'. Why is this any different than the 'smart' dog whose actually just better memorized their expected response when told to sit, fetch, or ride the skateboard?
"Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid." -Albert Einstein
To break down this topic I am going to introduce a brain function I have deemed Cognitive Equity, or the the specialization of the brain given a limited capacity. Essentially, as the brain only has so much memory and attention, etc. that can applied to any given environment, Cognitive Equity is how those resources are used. If you haven't figured it out yet, everyone has different Cognitive Equity; Different neurological capacity and specializations.
This is a subject that will need to be broken in three parts and posts consisting of Specialization, Attention, and Sensation. Though each deals with concentration and the definition given before, they do so using different brain processes.
Our brain is like a glass of water.
And considering it's around 75% water, the analogy is actually not too far off. Now imagine every concept, situation, and stimulus we have or will ever encounter is a different color dye, each of which, wants to fully encompass the brain in their respective color. We'll say mathematics and numbers are blue, while music and tones are red. Giving our brain, like the pictorial above, a wonderfully colorful cup of knowledge made up of everything we know. How much water we actually start with and how much causes it to overflow, no one can really say for sure.
Now say an individual, from a very young age, was exposed to and interested in more analytical situations. They were frequently sorting toys, counting cheerios, and playing with blocks. These activities would cause their brain to take on a bluer overall hue. While activities like singing, making noise, and listening to songs develops in another child a glass of brain water with a more dominantly reddish color.
When we're young, we have a much greater capacity to take in information. All the dye's are small and have a lot of room to share with other colors. But as we get older, we learn more, and our glasses get fuller causing our our brain to develop more singular colors. Because of this, the less we want to or even have the ability to change. It's still easy to take in similar colors, but a blue mathematical brain does not really care for instruments like a red musical brain, instead it is drawn towards, retains better, and thinks more about stats and percentages. Therefore our brain has to stop giving attention and resources to colors which it doesn't deem necessary. While we rarely lose all the color of a given subject after learning it, if we're not continuously exposing ourself to that color, it is very quickly going to be taken over by whatever interest or interests we keep our focus on.
Not all glasses start the same
Going back to my original paragraph; you may still be thinking, "even if I took all the necessary classes that a mathematician has, I still couldn't do the job." I'm here to say you're probably right, neither could I. But that isn't because we're any less smart, it's because our brain was formed a different way from the very beginning. How much was due to circumstances before birth and how much was from after, once again, no one really knows.
But why are some of us innately born with skill in areas that take most people a lifetime of practice? Simply put, before their glass was exposed to any dye, it was formed with an 'affinity' for some colors. Yet once again, to balance neurological homeostasis, these precocious individuals most likely have an 'aversion' to other areas. The best example that can be used for this is when looking at the brain of someone on the autism spectrum.
Autism is a highly misunderstood mental disorder categorized by difficulties with social interaction and communication, and by restricted and repetitive behavior. Misunderstood because, though it may seem natural to someone without it to be socially adept, social skills are actually just another learned color of dye. One that an autistic cup was pre-programmed to not develop. The farther one is on the autism spectrum the more significant these affinities and aversions are. And though they may have social difficulties, studies show that, when tested correctly, autistic individuals are actually far smarter in certain areas, than someone without the condition.
The best example I can use is known as Savant Syndrome. This is when an individual with severe mental disabilities demonstrates almost super-human skill in a certain area. One of the most well known savants is Magnus Carlsen. He became a chess grand master at the age of 13 and with a rating of 2875, he is the best player in history. Magnus is also highly autistic. The photo provided is from a day where he check mated ten people in chess at the same time without looking at a single board; all through memory.
So next time you meet someone who doesn't seem very 'smart' in terms of what you know personally, try redefining how you judge intellect. And if you don't think you're very smart yourself, maybe you just haven't found the color your glass was made for.
My next post involving Cognitive Equity will discuss the topics of attention, gorillas, and Albert Einstein's poor sense of direction. Thanks for reading and be sure to subscribe below to stay updated on new posts! New topics every Monday.
Brain Dye Photo:
Some children are better at math:
Signs your kid is good at math:
How much of the brain is water:
Autism is not always the problem:
What it's really like to have autism:
Magnus Carlsen Photo(60 minutes):