At Scientific American, Douglas Fox reports on “The Limits of Intelligence,” where “The laws of physics may well prevent the human brain from evolving into an ever more powerful thinking machine” (June 14, 2011):
Summary Human intelligence may be close to its evolutionary limit. Various lines of research suggest that most of the tweaks that could make us smarter would hit limits set by the laws of physics. Brain size, for instance, helps up to a point but carries diminishing returns: brains become energy-hungry and slow. Better “wiring” across the brain also would consume energy and take up a disproportionate amount of space. Making wires thinner would hit thermodynamic limitations similar to those that affect transistors in computer chips: communication would get noisy. Humans, however, might still achieve higher intelligence collectively. And technology, from writing to the Internet, enables us to expand our mind outside the confines of our body.
Interestingly, popular culture has always regarded the idea of a really big brain with suspicion; the usual tale is that the Big Brain requires monstrous problems to solve, and thus creates them.
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Some people think we can and will boost intelligence. Do these groups talk to each other?
Denyse O'Leary is co-author of The Spiritual Brain.