Defining Intelligence

The intransigent difficulty of obtaining a sufficiently concise, compelling, universally agreed-upon and resilient definition of intelligence sits somewhere on the same geometric arc or architecture of axiomatic assertion as does complexity and, indeed, life. If epistemological closure is demonstrably (ref. paradoxes of self-containment, among other things) impossible, intelligence both can and can not (!) be comprehensively defined by intelligence. This is not intended as a curiosity but is, rather, to be considered as a fact.

In this context, an impossibility of epistemogical closure is a bug to which indefinite logical and systemic extensibility is the feature. It is also a hint at precisely the kinds of heuristics and theoretical systems we might seek and deploy to successfully bootstrap all of this into reality.

As an aside, if it is true that the most accurate simulation of a thing is that artefact, entity or system itself, we may find ourselves forever enveloped in a labyrinth of recursively indefinite uncertainty: “intelligence is intelligence”.

The implication is that unity and completeness is only possible by virtue of it’s own (logically abstract) negation. This is a subtle and subjectively problematic pill to swallow.

2 replies on “Defining Intelligence”

Shades of Gödel. But it seems to me that you’re arguing that the reason we can’t define intelligence is the recursivity of intelligence defining intelligence. I don’t see the problem that way (maybe I just don’t understand your argument). We are conscious and yet we think we have at least a fighting chance to define consciousness in ourselves and other beings. As far as recursivity goes, we are part of the universe and yet we attempt to measure the limits of the universe. What did I miss?


The most accurate simulation of a system is the system itself. The recursivity and yawning epistemological vacuum of uncertainty incurred by aspirations to define intelligence precisely *is* intelligence. You didn’t miss anything. The self-reflexive, self-reflective definition of consciousness or intelligence precisely is (also) the simplest entity, object, set or instance and manifestation of that thing, of c consciousness or intelligence. There is no argument, just an observation of the poverty and incapacity of the language with which we communicate to capture those entities which prefigure it. 🙂 The answer, strictly speaking, to these questions is that there is no answer but this, again, is a very special nothing. Look up Cantor’s Dust; consider the gaps by which the structure is defined and through which it progressively iterates. That is the answer, but it is unutterable. Zen.


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