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Archive for the ‘Philosophy’ Category

I have a high IQ. Well… actually I have no idea what my IQ is. But I’m a member of Mensa, and ostensibly the organization wouldn’t allow my membership if my IQ wasn’t fairly high.

But there are many types of intelligence that will not necessarily be reflected in a measure of one’s IQ. If you are an auto mechanic who knows everything there is to know about fixing cars, then I consider you to be a genius in your field. If you are a fluent speaker of several languages, then your linguistic intelligence is superior to mine. Even professional athletes have a high level of intelligence — a physical ingenuity of body control and muscle memory.

The most recognizable form of intelligence, however, is that which is measured by standardized testing: one’s mastery of mathematics, of logic, and of a primary language. In a way, this is understandable; these skills are among the most basic and essential for processing the world we live in. Yet many otherwise intelligent people find it difficult to excel in one or more of these areas.

I have a theory that developing a higher IQ is not as hard as it might seem. With the following tips, you might be able to release your inner genius — or to build upon the intelligence you already possess:

1. Read. A lot.

This is a case in which the conventional wisdom is correct. Reading builds focus, strengthens vocabulary, broadens horizons, and improves communication skills. When it comes to building intelligence, the importance of reading cannot be over-emphasized. But here are a few tips to get the most out of your reading:

  • Read a variety of material. I know people who refuse to read fiction, thinking that they won’t get anything valuable from it. I also know people who don’t read nonfiction because they don’t think they’ll find it entertaining. I can personally attest to having read a lot of very informative fiction and some extremely entertaining nonfiction. Reading a wide range of materials is like a comprehensive workout for your brain; it will keep your left brain and right brain in optimum shape, and it might even expose you to some subject matter that you wouldn’t encounter otherwise.
  • If you have difficulty with a story or an article that you’re reading, if you find it boring or your mind starts to wander, take a break and come back to it later. Don’t give up on it; not finishing the things you read is a bad habit to get into. Besides, you might find the part that you would have left unread to be valuable information, and it will almost certainly be easier to continue reading after you’ve given your mind a rest.
  • If you come across a word you’re not familiar with, stop and look it up. These days, many of us have immediate internet access at our fingertips. If you do, there’s no excuse for bypassing a new word without finding out its definition. If you don’t have internet access, you should keep a dictionary close at hand when you read. Reading, and learning words as you read, is one of the fastest and most enjoyable ways to expand your vocabulary. And if you stop and look up the word before you continue reading, you’ll be able to use it in context right away when you resume. If you don’t look up the word immediately, however, there’s a good chance you’ll forget to do it later. Which brings us to the next point:

2. If you don’t know something, ask.

That could mean anything from consulting an expert to searching for answers on Google to performing a scientific experiment. The point is that you try not to pass up an opportunity to learn. The more knowledge you accumulate and retain, the closer you will be to releasing the genius inside you.

If you’re like me, you sometimes have the inclination to pretend you know something that you don’t really know. Try not to. This kind of pretence usually has one of two results: embarassment for you, or the spread of misinformation to others. There’s nothing wrong with not knowing something. After all, you never know anything until you learn it from somewhere. Think of knowledge as 90% curiosity and 10% memory. If you don’t ask, you’ll never learn.

So whether you’re wondering how to make pizza dough, or how to use HTML, or how to read music; the information is available to you to a greater extent than it ever was for previous generations. Take advantage of it. Although our technological advances are not always the best choice:

3. Do the math.

Whenever practical, do math in your head. Or at least on paper. It’s a great way to keep your mind sharp, and it’s sure to impress your friends. Some people find math intimidating; others are actually soothed by the logic of mathematics, the strict adherence to a set of rules. Either way, it can be tempting to turn to the calculator function of your cell phone or computer. But there are a few tips that can make the numbers a bit easier to crunch:

  • For multiplication, the most important equation to remember is this: A*(B+C)=A*B+A*C. It’s a simple formula, but incredibly helpful. For example, if I asked you to multiply 44 and 23, it might seem daunting initially. If you just try to multiply the two numbers in your head, you’re likely to get stuck. But using the formula, you can see that 44*23=(44*20)+(44*3). Those two equations are a lot easier to do in your head, giving you 880+132. Your final answer is 1012.
  • For percentages, simply multiply the numbers and move the decimal point two spaces. If you want to impress your date by mentally calculating the tip for dinner, simply round up your bill to the nearest whole dollar amount and multiply (using the formula above if necessary). For example, if the cost of the meal is $23.56, round up to $24.00 even. If you want to leave a 15% tip, multiply 24*15. That’s the same as (24*10) + (24*5), which comes out to 240+120. 360 is your total, and moving the decimal place two spaces to the left gives you your tip of $3.60.

If these methods don’t come easily to you, practice them until they do. There are other techniques to make math easier, as well. Find them, and practice them, and you’ll feel more like a genius every time you do.

4. Keep an open mind.

This is the last tip that I’m going to share in this post, but it’s one of the most important. There’s always more to learn; if you think otherwise then you’re on an intellectual road to nowhere. Always be willing to listen to new ideas, evaluate them, and make decisions based on logic rather than emotion or peer pressure. Knowledge can be gained from anywhere, and from anyone. But only those who seek it with curiosity and an open mind are likely to find it.

Thanks for reading through to the end. If you have any other tips, feel free to share.

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Groupthink

There’s been some controversy recently about Erykah Badu’s video for her single “Window Seat”, which features the singer as she emerges from a vehicle and strolls through Dallas, gradually shedding her clothing until she is completely nude. From the point that she loses her shirt, the word “evolving” is prominently displayed across her back. Once she is completely devoid of clothing, she collapses at the sound of a gunshot, in the area near where President John Kennedy was assassinated. On the ground where she falls, the word “groupthink” seems to bleed out of her head (the gunshot and the word, of course, were added post-production). If you’re one of the few people who haven’t seen it, you can watch the video here (go ahead, it won’t kill you):

As she lies on the ground, the word “groupthink” is shouted, and then Badu’s voice is heard: “They who play it safe are quick to assassinate what they don’t understand. They move in packs, ingesting more and more fear with every act of hate on one another. They feel more comfortable in groups, less guilt to swallow. They are us. This is what we have become, afraid to respect the individual.”

In the time since the video released and the controversy arose, Badu has explained her motivations and has been attempting to provoke a dialogue about groupthink. Via Twitter (http://twitter.com/fatbellybella), she said: “being honest CAN get u assassinated. Your character, spirit,& sometimes physically. Interesting. What drives this? Keep dialoging.”

The singer’s piece of performance art seems to have succeeded in what appears to have been one of its goals: to create a story on which the news media at large would be unable to resist reporting in such a way as to drive public opinion. Most major news reports are focusing on the simple facts that Badu was naked in a public place with people (including children) present. The intent of the message, along with most other relevent details, is going largely unreported.

Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary defines groupthink as “a pattern of thought characterized by self-deception, forced manufacture of consent, and conformity to group values and ethics.” We are conforming to group values and ethics if we immediately jump to the conclusion that Badu was wrong to be nude in public, or even that she was wrong to do so with children present. It would be hard to argue that there was any harm done by the performance. I doubt that anyone present was traumatized. If that’s the case, then why was the performance automatically “wrong”?

That’s not to say that it wasn’t; rather it’s a reminder that in order to be individuals we have to think things through on an individual basis. If you’ve chosen to adopt the beliefs of a religion or a political party simply because your family or friends hold those beliefs, then you’re engaging in groupthink. If you spread rumors without checking to determine their veracity, you’re promoting groupthink. We all do it; the point is that we need to be conscious of that fact, so that our awareness will at least result in our doing it less. We have to analyze the choices we make, and try to make sure that we’re doing things — and believing things — for a reason. That is how we will continue growing, and evolving, as individuals.

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