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My first encounter with Intelligence Quotient, aka IQ, was 25 years ago during my preliminary exam for the mandatory military service. In those years Serbia was part of a former socialist federation of Yugoslavia along with couple of more countries and avoiding army service was impossible. Everybody had to go to serve the "time" for one whole year and they used those preliminary tests to better fit you into suitable unit and doing a form of an IQ test was part of it. They didn't give us the result, but I probably did it pretty well since they put me to be main operator of a ground-to-ground missile unit. At least my little bit higher intelligence than average "soldier" spared me from the mud, dirt, long marches, carrying heavy weaponry and other meaningless activities of the service. So I spent most of the time in a classroom surrounded with state of the art simulators, playing video games made specially for practicing real time guidance of the missile in simulated environments. The little rocket itself was too expensive so we never fired the real one, so more or less, even-though I would never participate the military if I was asked, my "time" passed smoothly and surprisingly enjoyable as I made couple of good friendships there.

When I started writing the blog one of my first post was the famous short story by Isaac Asimov called "What Is Intelligence, Anyway?". When I first read it, I remember my initial reaction was that it's exactly how I feel about the topic and not just the intelligence itself, it's more about Asimov's writing style. Don't tell anybody, but this was my first inspiration for my blog. It was a short story initiated with his life and yet embedded with a strong message and also informative and funny. Great man Isaac. One of my role models and surely one of greatest writers of all times. Please read it after reading this post as it will be the conclusion of the main IQ story. However, like Asimov, I have my reservations regarding measuring IQ, simply because I am not sure how accurate these tests are. There are lots of them on the net, the ones on Mensa sites and those improved by more textual questions and tasks so I selected several tests online and scored every time different result - with approximate number in the realm of still undiscovered element (Uqb'). The score variation could be caused by part of the day I took the exams, amount of concentration and distraction I had, etc.

I remember one of the famous quotation of sir Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes, from the original series played by Jeremy Brett - he said that his mind operates the best in the morning whit empty stomach in a dark silent room (sometimes enhanced with some sort of certain chemicals). But in a nutshell it is individual routine, some people, and I know couple of them, operate the best if a radio is playing in the background, some are more stressed than the others if the test is performed in the class room filled with other participants. Some, like me, operate better without time limitations or deadlines. So I have a feeling, if it is possible, that intelligence must be measured differently, like how person reacts in different real situations that require intelligent thinking, in other words the test must be defined to be a bit more than just answering a questions on a piece of paper. However and nevertheless, the actual IQ measurement is able to provide pretty accurate picture of person's intellect. On the other end or better say from the DNA point of view intelligence is comparable to any other human genetic feature. Some people are tall some short, some are blond, others are brunette, some are strong and muscular, some are thin and skinny, people also can be born hetero or homo sexual, some can't eat meat without vomiting, others can't live without pork or lamb on a weekly menu. The same is with little gray cells and while we are perfectly able to use measuring meter in order to find out how tall we are, the only valuable instrument to measure how smart we are is the IQ test. Co-founder of the DNA molecule, James D. Watson once said that we should think of the human intelligence as a feature if it's high or a disease if it is low. I am paraphrasing his words now but he said this while watching a post-graduates receiving their degrees referring to those with low IQs: "It may not be their fault that they aren't clever, their genetic code may limit their capacity to dazzle - think of it as a genetic disease and one day we will find cure for that."

Leonardo is estimated with the highest IQ of 220**

Keeping in mind that IQ is just a measurement of our intelligence, even if there is a public criticism among scientific circles, the question is - are we able to maintain it? Can it be improved by exercises or special diets? Many say yes and I agree fully. However, it's not completely clear or defined what intelligence really is, whether it is just a way how our brain operates with internal memory or there is something alternative to modern CPUs in our heads that with different people comes with different performance. Either way, it is possible to at least maintain the IQ by solving puzzles from time to time, keeping your brain busy by daily watching, reading and thinking about various topics and adjust your diet according to your organism and its expectations keeping it satisfied by digesting the food and drinks it is comfortable with. I know it is vague, but this is simple true, nobody knows your body better than you, so try to listen its needs more than your friend's advice. Nutritional advice by professional could also come handy and helpful as well as reading and exploring the scientific articles and experiences.

One particular study comes to my mind - I recently stumbled on Science Daily article reporting a study performed by Prof. Mark Weiser of Tel Aviv University's Department of Psychiatry. In the study, conducted with 20,000 Israeli Army recruits and veterans, the average IQ for a non-smoker was about 101, while the smokers' average was more than seven IQ points lower at about 94, and the IQs of young men who smoked more than a pack a day were lower still, at about 90. So there you go, numbers don't lie. I am sure armies all over the world will never ban smoking in their facilities. It would be wrong for the moral and it could make soldiers to start thinking. Scary. Literally. Satirically.

Mean IQ and World IQ level prediction

Criticism aside, IQ tests are today standardized and carried by organizations like Mensa International providing good monitoring of IQ trends among countries, social groups, races, genders, etc. It also gives us data about IQ trend worldwide. What would you think where it is going? Are we going to be smarter or dumber in the future? According to Fourmilab Switzerland and their article named Global IQ: 1950-2050, the mean population IQ is completely opposite to the population growing chart. The mean population IQ dropped for 5 points from the year of 1950 to predicted IQ in the year of 2050. It seams that we are getting down with our social IQ year after year. No wonder why reality TV shows like "Big Brother" are more popular than adventure movies or scientific documentaries.

If I would like to show you the funny side of the dropping IQ trends I would only advise you to watch first couple of minutes of the movie "Idiocracy". Famous narrated introduction of the movie goes like this: "Evolution does not necessarily reward intelligence. With no natural predators to thin the herd, it began to simply reward those who reproduced the most and left the intelligent to become an endangered species." Here is the first part of the intro I found on FoxConnect channel, it's hilarious:

How this 'competition' ended watch in the next part of FoxConnect YouTube channel here: It also reminded me to the TV Shows "Cheers" aired decades ago. In one of the episodes there is a funny explanation of evolution called Cliff Clavin's Theory of Beer. It goes like this: "A herd of buffalo can only move as fast as the slowest buffalo. When the herd is hunted, the slow and weak at the back are killed first. The speed and health of the herd keeps improving by the regular killing of the weakest members. In the same way, the human brain can only operate as fast as its slowest brain cells. Excessive intake of alcohol, as we know, kills brain cells. Naturally, it attacks the slowest and weakest brain cells first. In this way, regular consumption of beer eliminates the weaker brain cells, making the brain a faster and more efficient machine. That's why you always feel smarter after a few beers."

Original post date: April 2012, Updates: June 2016, May 2018

Image refs:


*Neuroscientists Find That Status within Groups Can Affect IQ

**Tony Buzan's 2005 genius tabulation

Smoking and IQ

Global IQ: 1950–2050

Are we becoming more stupid? Human brain has been 'shrinking for the last 20,000 years'

IQ Alarm Clock: Firing Up Your Brain to Life Every Morning

IQ xAlarm

Isaac Asimov

Mensa International

While IQ is generally thought to be innate, there are things you can do that may improve your IQ score.
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