Why We Need a New IQ Test In Today’s AI-Powered World

By Abinash Tripathy

Is your child’s future being sabotaged by a faulty IQ assessment?

There isn’t much we use IQ testing for these days, but they are still routinely used in the school system to determine whether children are “gifted” — or falling behind.

The problem is that these tests measure an outdated version of intelligence that isn’t necessarily relevant in today’s digital world. And yet this test may keep your kids from getting into the higher quality classes they deserve or, even worse, label them as lower performers who get the second- or third-rate learning opportunities.

Studies across cultures, families, and age groups have shown that until 1975 IQ scores increased almost three points per generation, then began steadily falling. This phenomenon has sparked sensationalist headlines about how technology is making us dumber, how school systems are failing children, and how a greater proportion of “dumb” people are having children.

None of these reasons are responsible for the drop in IQ. The problem lies with the test itself: in a technology-driven world, the skills we need to survive are no longer reflected in a test that was developed in the early 1900s. Homo sapiens has evolved.

Dependence on tech isn’t a sign of laziness, but rather resourcefulness. 

IQ tests consist of a battery of questions that quantify our computing faculties, measure our psychomotor speed (ability to turn thought to action), speed of perception, attentional fluency (our ability to reason based on short-term memory), and the size of our acquired knowledge and our ability to retrieve that information efficiently.

Since 1975, we have become increasingly reliant on computers for storing and retrieving acquired knowledge. With the internet, we now have the ability to digitize large portions of our physical life and store and access them outside of our brain. We have adapted.

I look at my ten year old daughter, who uses an iPad, smartphone, and even my smartwatch with ease. She consults Siri and Google whenever she has a question. This is not laziness; it’s doing what humans have always done: using the best tools at hand to develop the best solution to problems. When I project my daughter’s tech fluency on generations to come, I see a world where our species will use our brains in ways that differ dramatically from our predecessors.

The days when we needed to navigate to a new location by looking at the sun and recalling landmarks are gone. We no longer have internal compasses; we have GPS. We’ve outsourced this knowledge to the cloud.

The optimistic view of a world with this type of evolution, is one in which the cloud becomes an extension of our mind, giving us unlimited data storage that can be recalled at will, and enabling like-minded individuals to collaborate within a global community. As we work together across time zones and cultures, our idea development will accelerate, pushing evolution forward at heretofore unimagined speeds. Until then, we will continue to use smartphones and other technologies as appendages to our minds (think: apps that help people who suffer from memory impairment).

Technology democratizes access to intelligence. 

The alternative view holds that reliance on technology will lead to impaired mental faculty. Joshua Foer’s book, Moonwalking With Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything argues that “to know something, really, is to memorize it.”  Does this mean that as we lose our ability to remember, we will become a shallow race without the ability to solve complex problems?

No. The idea that memory is somehow linked to problem solving and creative thinking is a relic of a now obsolete time. I believe technology will democratize access to intelligence and accelerate our rate of development.   

It is clear that the IQ tests in use today are invalid. Memory recall is not a problem to be solved; we’ve already solved it. Intelligence today is about the ability to imagine, reason, cooperate, and solve problems creatively — using all the tools we have at our disposal. If we insist on using IQ tests for anything meaningful, they must reflect that.

Abinash is the founder and Chief Strategy Officer at Helpshift. Join him at the AI Summit on Wednesday,  Dec. 5th as he discusses the future of how brands will communicate with their customers in an increasingly AI-powered World. 

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