An anecdote on IQ from one of the most creative & prolific author of Science Fiction books and other works - Isaac Asimov (1920-1992)

Asimov wrote or edited more than 500 books.

He formulated the Laws of Robotics decades ago(1942) which remain valid even today:
  • A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.

    A robot must obey orders given to it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.

    A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.


What Is Intelligence, Anyway?

Isaac Asimov

What is intelligence, anyway? When I 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. (It didn't mean anything. The next day I was still a buck private with KP - kitchen police - as my highest duty.)

All my life I've been registering scores like that, so that I have the complacent feeling that I'm highly intelligent, and I expect other people to think so too. Actually, though, 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?

For instance, I had an auto-repair man once, who, on these intelligence tests, could not possibly have scored more than 80, by my estimate. I always took it for granted that I was far more intelligent than he was. Yet, 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.

Well, then, suppose my auto-repair man devised questions for an intelligence test. Or 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. In a 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. My 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.

Consider my auto-repair man, again. He had a habit of telling me jokes whenever he saw me. One 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. The 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?"

Indulgently, I lifted by right hand and made scissoring motions with my first two fingers. Whereupon my auto-repair man laughed raucously and said, "Why, you dumb jerk, He used his voice and asked for them." Then he 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." "Why is that?" I asked. "Because you're so goddamned educated, doc, I knew you couldn't be very smart."

And I have an uneasy feeling he had something there.


Asimov was a long-time member and Vice President of Mensa International, albeit reluctantly; he described some members of that organization as "brain-proud and aggressive about their IQs". He took more joy in being president of the American Humanist Association. The asteroid 5020 Asimov, the magazine Asimov's Science Fiction, and two different Isaac Asimov Awards are named in his honor.

PFA an IQ Test....

From India, Bangalore

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Hi Avalok,
A fantastic contribution. Very few people would be really aware about how intelligent Isaac Asimov was. Also the write-up on Intelligence Tests by Asimov is perfect in every way... most tests are described by people from their own point of view and expertise.
Excellent post to share with us all, thanks and keep contributing.

From India, Mumbai
Dear Avalok,

A contribution very subtle, thought provoking and intelligent. Thanks for the post. I always wondered if intelligence is more of an "application" part rather than the "ability to process information" part. Now I think that it is both as these two are complimentary. "Which / What " data and in which "permutation and combination" should they be processed is again dependent on "where and what purpose" you will apply that knowledge for. Moreover, this piece of story clearly tells us why both "learning" and "immediate unlearning" are important and critical. When to do what is "intelligence". In a fraction of a second, billions of atoms appear and disappear (are created-destroyed-recreated), giving us the impression of virtual constancy, since we do not see this change. In the journey of life, progress and ascendancy are co-related with the expanding of our consciousness and therefore development in our material life too. Management is a tool and a mechanism as well as an intelligence too.

Intelligence requires a life force, a primordial source logically!!!! Is this then what we call God? Any deep and careful views???



From United Arab Emirates, Sharjah
Dear Aditya, Very insightful comments. IMHO being wise is more important than being intelligent. Check my earlier post on this topic here: Have a nice day!
From India, Bangalore
Dear Avalok,

Thanks for your comments and for guiding me to your earlier post (pps) regarding intelligence Vs wisdom. It is really very nice to understand this distinction.

However, when I was talking about intelligence, I also took into account that since (according to my view) it is the ability to learn and also to know "when to unlearn" plus the application part; I was talking of pure intelligence that had inbuilt discretion and discriminating ability. Such intelligence as imbibed with wisdom (i referred as primordial) versus intelligence contaminated with ego (ego is fragmentative and then being self centered) become two different things, which is what your previous post clearly indicates in a very nice manner. Primordial intelligence is holistic and undifferentiated and thus referred to as God where as intelligence through the lens of ego is that of the limited human being in an attempt to transcend himself. Therefore, wisdom is supreme, it indicates both the knowledge and the knowledge of its application, simultaneously without any deliberations. Thanks, once more!!



From United Arab Emirates, Sharjah
I am trying to remember the name of a sci-fi short story concerning the choice of next president based on computer screening peoples highest test scores and ends by the choice of a youngster named olgvy ? or something. Could You help ? Thanks.
From Italy, Rome

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