Three Types of Intelligence Augmentation: A Thought Experiment

Imagine watching a math competition. Three seemingly smart individuals compete on stage to answer a series of hard questions. The final result is a three-way tie.

Later you learn that these three individuals, who resemble each other externally, are actually very different on the inside.

The first individual is a math professor who’s spent his entire life studying the subject.

The second individual has only studied math up to the high school level. However, a revolutionary new smart drug has increased his brain functioning to the point that he can learn and master new math concepts as soon as he is exposed to them.

The third individual has no knowledge of math whatsoever. But a smart earpiece connected to the internet feeds him the right answers at lightning speed.

These three individuals are analogous to the three different types of intelligence augmentation. The first type, education, optimizes the existing brain for a particular task. The second, enhancement, upgrades the brain’s ability to master new tasks. And the third method, extension, offloads the task to an external module.

Interestingly, from an outsider perspective, the functional result of all three methods can appear to be the same. But the conscious experience of the individual in question is qualitatively different.

3 thoughts on “Three Types of Intelligence Augmentation: A Thought Experiment

  1. The agent that translates for me, or does my taxes, or any other information task can be any of the 3 for all I care, though I expect the associated costs will vary widely.

    As for my conscious experience, give me type II, no question about it. A little bit of type III for incidentals, but for the most part, I’d be much happier actually learning things.

  2. I’m not sure that Type II would really feel like ‘learning’ though. It seems like the process of learning shapes who we are and allows each person’s ‘learning’ experience to be different. I think Type I is still important, but maybe augmented by the others. Type III doesn’t really feel like learning at all, but I think it is most likely to be the near future. Why memorise endless facts and figures when you can get them up almost instantaneously.
    Education needs to be about making the big links between all the knowledge, and that comes through learning and experience. ‘Knowing’ things is only part of the picture.

  3. I think Noah is correct; only the type-I individual is actually exhibiting direct intelligence – providing what we MEAN by intelligence. The other two are serving as “modem” devices and not functioning as intelligent agents themselves. Watching a brilliant chess game unfold is not the same as playing a brilliant chess game.