Intelligence and The Flawed Assumption of Transferable Knowledge

February 19th, 2023

General Intelligence training doesn’t exist, knowledge is domain limited and has extremely limited transfer.

You know those human benchmark tests? The ones that ask you to memorise a sequence of numbers, or the order of blocks flashing. These give the impression of testing our intelligence, or skills. A higher score means we’re more intelligent than others, or have some greater aspect somewhere in life compared to those with low scores. However, what would these tests actually do? The only thing it helps with is getting really good at the test itself! Why? Because knowledge, generally, is non-transferable. Being skilled at memorising numbers or flashing patterns doesn’t translate to anything else, besides extremely similar tasks.

  This is even true in cooking and baking. Although they’re so similar, you’re making food to eat, both require a diverging skillset, even if you’re a masterchef at cooking dinner, that might not be so for desserts like pudding. I would deem myself decent enough at cooking, however, the first time I made pudding it was burnt. Only immediately similar skills transferred over, not the overall skill of being good at cooking.

  Writing non-fiction vs fiction is another example. To write non-fiction isn’t overly difficult, just research a bunch and spew out words on a page, that’s exactly what my blog is. Even if we could write non-fiction perfectly fine, that doesn’t mean writing fiction is suddenly easy. Check out my fiction novel, Love, Life and Board games,, it fucking sucks. Seriously, I cringe just thinking about that single chapter. Even for something as similar as writing, intelligence is non-transferable.

  An IQ test isn’t exactly an intelligence test, it measures how quickly we discover and apply the pattern. Ie new job, how fast do you learn. Getting proficient at an IQ test, which you can study and learn, doesn’t suddenly mean you’d pick up everything quickly, nah, you just get really good at performing IQ tests.

  So any time you see shit like benchmark tests or the like, just do it for fun, but don’t take it seriously. Even though the study of intelligence is rather depressing, that there’s no single activity we can do to improve intelligence across all domains. Understanding these restrictions means we won’t waste time on silly tests and, instead, focus on a domain, trying to figure out which skills become transferable to the next role and which ones need to be learnt.

  Otherwise we’d become the Peter Principle, promoted to position of least competence. As people demonstrate skill in their job, they’d get promoted up and up. But, as they climb up, the skills they mastered for their current role doesn’t transfer over to the next. There’s a world of difference between being a programmer and a manager. Thus, eventually, they’re promoted until they don’t show enough competence to be promoted again. Hence they’re promoted to the position of least competence.