Sunday, February 26, 2012

How I Build My Intelligence

Category: Life

A friend asked me online how I think intelligence might be increased over time. I decided to share my response to that question here on Litmocracy.

I have enjoyed an increasing degree of flexibility, and measurable gain in my intelligence throughout my life, and I believe it is due to a habit I formed when I was young, which I think of as chaotic knowledge streaming.

My base intelligence began well above average when first assessed as a small child, and has increased as I have aged; I suspect the only thing that’s produced these advances in my intelligence is my willingness to feed my insatiable brain anything and everything that happens to catch its interest.

My mind is a like high strung animal, one that will languish and become self-destructive if I do not allow it to run free in new avenues of information, and I mean every day. When it becomes restless, it begins to atrophy, and to lose power and vitality, so I make sure that I tend to it as often as I can.

I am a reclusive lifelong autodidact, and the hardest thing for me to understand when I was younger (and it is a thing that I often forget even now, well into middle age) is that many people do not find it simple to teach themselves new things.  From the earliest time I can remember, whenever I wished to learn how to do something, I collected all the existing materials I could locate for it, and immersed myself in them. 

Due to this lifelong practice of indulging my curiosity and subsequent yearning for knowledge, I find it easy to learn whatever I wish to learn, and this ease has only increased over the years.

I took an equivalency test in my first year of high school, (which I found so boring and punitive that I could barely bring myself to attend) and I escaped, with eager plans for attending an institution of higher education.

I thought this would prove a much better place to learn; I imagined my mind would be freed of the gravid, incomprehensible mental and social strangleholds I encountered in high school. I soon discovered, for my part, that formal educational path lead to a noticeable decline in the level of my motivation to learn, and killed the pleasure I was accustomed to experiencing in the learning process I developed on my own.

Traditional education did not move quickly enough for me, and after a few attempts at college, where I found it a simple thing to maintain a 4.0. However, I chafed so painfully at the forced miniscule pace, and languished emotionally in the grim environment (too often staffed with dull, or even malicious teachers, and bored, stressed out students) I abandoned further pursuit of that course.

I decided to pursue the course of study I tried in the college class, at my own pace, on my own time, using a public library and the methods I had developed when I was a child. I discovered that my comprehension and overall grasp of the topic accumulated much faster when I allowed myself to immerse in it freely, and on many levels and directions.

The next quarter I tested myself by returning to the college and taking an exam that would allow me to receive credit for the course without having to attend the class.

I aced it.

I trained myself to advance my own intellectual abilities by seeking out new topics of interest, and thinking outside the box (a nice way of saying that I do not feel I have to force my mind to think about anything in any particular fashion).

I allow my curiosity to range anywhere it wishes to go. I also do not restrain the path of my thinking when I am free feeding it knowledge; for instance when I do research a topic, I allow myself to think about it on many levels (think spider web), rather than in a linear fashion (think learning cycles).

If I find myself lead away from the main track of it, I let myself follow the side path wherever it goes. After all, I can return to the learning cycle for that topic whenever I like, and I often gain greater insight into the main topic when I explore subsidiary branches of knowledge as well.

On any given day, I may read about particle physics in the morning, browse Sanskrit at lunchtime, and spend my evening playing with logic puzzles, or cryptography, or arranging flowers.

The only important thing I need to do, at least for myself, is to feed my mind a large variety of interesting knowledge every day.

I never avoid a topic that catches my eye, no matter how lofty, for even if I do not have the background to understand what I am reading, I know I can choose some portion of it, digress to the rudimentary aspects of it, and then pursue mastery of the subject matter from there.

If it is intriguing or challenging, and ignites my interest, I pursue it. If I do not find it useful or pleasing, I browse something new, and the process begins again. The world is so full of accumulated knowledge, that no human being could ever explore it all in a single lifetime.

The advent of the internet, of course, makes this process as easy as opening a browser, picking a random topic and from there begin jumping though linked pages.

I can begin with a brief summary on the evolution of a chrysalis, for example, and an hour later find myself immersed in an intriguing introduction to chaos theory.

I did teach myself the method of loci in my late twenties to help me order, retain, and retrieve the knowledge I accumulated. After so many years of practicing chaotic knowledge streaming there was so much information in my brain that I needed a way to order it all, and besides, method of loci was, and is, just plain fun.

I have a widget on my Google home page that offers me an excerpt from the Encyclopedia Britannica on demand, which is a fabulous starting place for such learning adventures. I find that this habit has afforded me the wonderful fluidity of mind I have enjoyed all my life, which serves me so well when I do turn my mind to mastering something new.

By permitting myself to practice such unrestrained learning patterns, I have enabled my mind to absorb and sort a large amount of knowledge on demand.

To this day I find that I can learn anything I wish to learn, and generally it is far easier for me then most of the other people around me, and every few years I test my IQ, again out of curiosity, and it has continued to increase every time it is measured.

The last time I bothered to measure it I found I had gathered over 30 points from that first baseline in adolescence.

That was over ten years ago.

I have not cared enough to measure it again, but I would wager it has increased since that last checkpoint.

Topics that challenged me a decade ago are much easier to absorb and quantify now. I assume this is a mix of accumulated knowledge patterning(think cross-referencing), and an increase in the flexibility of my own thinking patterns.

I would like to mention that despite bearing the affliction of severe dyslexia (I am legally blind to the written word) I read quite easily, write very well, and average 2000 words a minute with 90 percent comprehension as a rule, when I am browsing new topics.

So there you have it, briefly.

By practicing chaotic knowledge streaming, and perhaps in the construction and maintenance of that ancient mnemonic device, method of loci, I find I am still experiencing measurable gains in my intelligence as time progresses.