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Augmented Intelligence

By Head of School Gary Krahn, Ph.D.
We should not be surprised if there is a course in the near future titled, “How to Augment Your Intelligence.” Here’s why: In today’s world, it would be hard to imagine traveling without cars, trains, planes or ships. The first Industrial Revolution utilized new energy sources, including steam power, fossil fuels and electricity, to augment human power. Today, cars driving on the highway harness 250 horses. As we create cities, roads, buildings and desalination plants, it requires power beyond our own capabilities.

When he was at IBM’s Watson Labs, Bill Pulleyblank led the effort to build the supercomputer called “Deep Blue” that beat chess grandmaster Garry Kasparov in a match in 1997. (On a side note: Bill will be visiting LJCDS next year). Bill shares that 40 years ago, the best chess player was a human, 20 years ago the best chess player was a computer, and today, the best chess player is the partnership of a person and a computer.

It is now hard to imagine analyzing and solving complex issues without computers, data recognition software, an expert system, swarm intelligence or virtual reality modeling. Our industrial revolution today is about augmenting intelligence—the combination of information and the application of knowledge generated from a source outside one’s own capacity.

Today, a car goes down the highway with its 250 horsepower along with the intelligence of 250 neural networks. The car senses the immediate environment and collects information from other cars, weather reports and road conditions. It processes information from mechanical and electronic sensors, all without being distracted by a thought or the sound of an incoming text message.

Commercial pilots use augmented intelligence to fly planes. Physicians use it to examine x-rays. Google uses it to filter information. And I use it to check my spelling (most of the time). Augmented intelligence is here, and it is only going to become more pervasive. In our home and offices, augmented intelligence is already flowing across the grid—the cloud—the same way electricity does.  
Many people think of intelligence in one dimension. For example, a hamster has some intelligence, a chimpanzee has more intelligence, and a rocket scientist has even greater intelligence. However, we know that intelligence exists in multiple dimensions. In the 1983 book, Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences, Howard Gardner chose eight intelligences: musical-rhythmic, visual-spatial, verbal-linguistic, logical-mathematical, bodily-kinesthetic, interpersonal, intrapersonal and naturalistic. He later suggested that existential and moral intelligence should be included. Today there is not a consensus as to what exactly constitutes intelligence. It is widely accepted that there are different types of intelligence, but psychologists and neuroscientists debate over whether these intelligences are linked or whether they exist independently from one another. As augmented intelligence becomes a mainstream commodity, I suspect there will be the need to quantify the type of intelligence to market and sell it.

Our understanding of intelligence will change over time, and the full story of how best to augment our intelligence still needs to be written. However, inspiring greatness for a better world will be a promise that LJCDS will cherish and cultivate even if Siri or Alexa suggests otherwise.


La Jolla Country Day School

9490 Genesee Avenue
La Jolla, CA 92037

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