The notion of a super-intelligent being has been the source of both speculation and entertainment for many years. We have conceptualized modern-day super intellects through characters like the genetically blessed Sherlock Holmes, the chemically altered Lucy, and the AI-enhanced Iron Man (a.k.a. Tony Stark).
While we may not have reached these fictional levels of intelligence, the Flynn Effect shows that IQ scores have increased an average of three points per decade since 1930.
I only have to think back to when I started my career to see this effect in action. I applied for my first job as a developer armed only with what I learned in university and a willingness to expand my horizons. Three decades (and nine IQ points) later, today’s first-time developers are showing up to interviews with apps they’ve already created and subscriber bases of 100,000+. Each generation starts further along on the IQ curve. This acceleration is being fueled by the availability of computers that provide access to information and exposure to technology.
If this natural progression continues at the rate observed by the Flynn Effect, in two centuries, the average human could be as smart as Stephen Hawkins or Albert Einstein (with an IQ of 160), and in three centuries, the average IQ could rival that of Isaac Newton’s (an estimated 190).
Technology—be it computer-assisted learning (CAL) or artificial intelligence (AI) systems embedded in our bodies—will dramatically accelerate the natural IQ curve. People will be as smart as Hawkins and Einstein in mere decades instead of centuries.
Soon we could all be as smart as Einstein
Biogenetic engineering may also provide a means to radically increase our IQ and pave the way for super-intelligent beings. Whether achieved using machines (like CAL and AI systems) or through bio-engineering, humans may have IQs of 1,000 sooner rather than later.
As super intelligence becomes more of a reality, the human experience will change. With a pool of knowledge deeper than the Internet and the processing powers of quantum computing, will there be any limits to what our minds are capable of? Will omnipotence be a byproduct of omniscience and allow us to unlock the secrets of the universe? Or will we suffer the ultimate lesson in hubris?
And what will the effects of super intelligence be on society? If only a few (the rich and powerful, for example) have access to IQ-enhancing technologies and processes, will super intelligence serve to widen or bridge the ever-growing digital divide?
We can only speculate at this point, but I believe that the implications will be positive. While high IQs are not the only determinant for success, IQs of 1,000 will empower us to accomplish whatever we set our remarkable minds to, like detecting and preventing global climate change. More on that in my next blog in this series.