Rising IQs and belief in God

Evidence accumulates to the effect that notwithstanding junk food, reality TV and celebrity culture, humanity is actually getting smarter. The Flynn Effect to which this article refers mentions the phenomenon associated with New Zealand-based philosopher James Flynn, who has built a thoughtful and engaging career on his early observation about rising IQs worldwide over the course of the last century.

Flynn’s work distinguishes crystallised intelligence – what we learn over time, and how we apply that learning – from fluid intelligence, which involves abstract thinking and reasoning. Flynn identifies the latter kind of intelligence as the engine room of humankind’s increasing cognitive strength.

Ironic smiles will be inspired in those who recall the famous Atlantic article, “Is Google Making Us Stupid?”, still resonant seven years after it appeared. If our “fluid IQs” are indeed rising, it may be that we are learning to play to our strengths. The irony would be that this is happening as Narrow AI is turning us into stupider versions of machines whose data manipulation and information retrieval skills so far exceed the crystallised cognitive capabilities of our own, attention deficit-disordered brains.

Given Flynn’s inverse correlation of rising IQs to declining belief in God, the question to ask is: if AI evolves from what is programmed into Narrow AI towards the Super AI that will think for itself, will a defining characteristic of mature AI be its atheism?

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2 thoughts on “Rising IQs and belief in God”

  1. Interesting thoughts!

    I don’t know about AI and atheism. It is nearly impossible to imagine how an AI might perceive and think about the world. Our debates about god(s) and religion might simply be irrelevant to an advanced intelligence.

    I’ve thought a more likely result is not necessarily AI, but a new intelligence and consciousness that inseparably connects humans and machines. That dynamic could create an entirely new pattern and trends in intelligence, that may or may not follow the Flynn Effect.

    There is also another perspective. The causes and results of all this are hard to understand even in the present. The factors involved, beyond just technology, are constantly changing.

    For example, the physical environment is extremely important. We are constantly introducing new chemicals into products, into the food supply, and into the environment. I’m sure the microbiome is changing as well.



  2. Well done for finding us pre-launch (!) and for your thoughtful comments: the first, we hope, of many to come.

    I agree with your implicit reservation about the utility of specific terms such as AI. “God” might be in the same category as “AI”, useful descriptors in their time but growing increasingly creaky as the decades and centuries pass. Whatever we call the post-Singularity emergent intelligence, God and AI might reside within the etymological DNA but time and usage will roll on.

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