Monthly Archives: November 2011

Intelligence is adaptability

Free association and open-mindedness are truly gifts, and pretty fun!

This morning’s personal revelation (perhaps not novel to the reader, but certainly to the author): intelligence is adaptability.

Human adaptability – the ability to consciously (and unconsciously) change and adapt in relation to external and internal stimuli.  In other words, our ability to change in response to the world, our ability to be changed by the world, and our ability to change the world.

This idea is an extension to the famous quote by George Bernard Shaw from 1903: “The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself.  Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man”.  I’d extend – progress depends on us, and we are all a little unreasonable, and we all adapt in different degrees.

When I considered who, as a society, we praise as a true genius or an intelligent person, we think of (in no particular order) great scientists, philosophers, artists, leaders, and even family, friends, loved ones… people who we respect for their accomplishments and/or possibly their relative importance to us.

And the one thing I see in common with all those people who came to my mind, when I tried to imagine who exactly those people were, is that each of them in one way or another somehow adapted something in some meaningful and important way that affected my thinking, and possibly my life.

I have so much more to say on this topic, and I hope to have more time to explore it later.  It just felt to me that this idea was worth sharing immediately, to be recorded (again) in this written “history” called the Internet.  Every time I have pondered what it meant to be truly adaptable, I have felt like I entered an entirely new plane of understanding.

For future thinking, then, I leave this – if true intelligence is adaptability, what is the relationship between intelligence and evolution?  And, what types of self-chosen, productive tasks, experiences or learning can be done which would hone and challenge our adaptability, beyond the experience of simply living life itself?

And what about those who do not adapt or refuse to adapt, are they not also intelligent?  Of course they are.  As odd as it sounds, it makes sense – not adapting, ignoring adaptation, or refusing to adapt in itself is still a form of adaptability.  We adapt without even realizing we do it.  But maybe, just maybe, we can reach a higher plane the more we practice adapting.

Perhaps recognizing the value of adaptability is just part of self-actualization, but I’m not sure.