increase intelligence by concept learning

Let’s  look at some basic questions, which are nevertheless insightful:

  • How enthusiastic are you about learning?
  • How flexible are you?
  • How do you keep up with the fast pace of our changing world?

Whatever your answers to the questions above I hope you recognize the importance of intelligence. It helps you to tackle problems more effectively. It facilities a life of growth. It makes difficult choices easier.

Would you like to increase intelligence?

I bet your answer is “yes”.

There is a simple practice you can install in your mind: creating accurate and up-to-date concepts about the surrounding world. By concepts we understand mental representations of an object, idea, activity, living creature or phenomenon. Whatever we see, hear, feel or encounter in our lives, goes through mental processes of our brains.

For instance, when we learn what an apple is, we learn a concept of a class of apples in the from of a mental representation of the encountered apples  or an abstract idea of an apple.

We are people of the patterns

We are people of the patterns. We create patterns in our lives, art, work and products. Whatever we do it bears the very characteristic of our whole being. It’s hardly possible, even if at all, for you to create something that is completely not like you. Try it. And report to me if you are successful, because I will find it extremely interesting ;).

I challenge you to write a genuine piece of text that is perceived not like yours. Try to cook a meal which is not like yours. Try to make a design that is completely dissimilar with your previous designs. Try to continuously speak or walk in ways that are 100% alien to you. Try to make something creative that is completely different from who you are. Even attempting this feels weird.

The reason is that at any moment we are attracted to specific ideas or concepts that we live by. These are specific patterns. They permeate our whole being including consciousness, feelings and thoughts.

These drive our actions. When we act, take decisions, make judgements or create something, we derive them from our internal resources. Whatever the output, it is going to bear the watermark patterns of who we are.

Because patterns are so prevalent in our lives, we are very efficient at finding patterns and recognizing traits. Finding patterns relies on noticing the differences and perceiving similarities. We learn concepts, classes or categories after having observed the patterns.

Classification / categorization is essential

A class or category is a group or collection of objects, things, events or experiences that have something in common; there is an underlying similarity.

In this light, any given object or experience is a representative of its class. At the same time any given object may belong to multiple classes, nested or not. For instance, there is a class of oaks which is a subclass of leafy trees, which is a subclass of trees.  Or, there is a class of bananas and there is a class of fruits that you like which includes ripe bananas (but not unripe ones).

Without classes or categories, every object and every experience would be novel, interesting and puzzling. No doubt, this would lead you to a thrilling life of ever fresh experiences, yet without understanding and learning. You would not be able to organize your experiences into meaningful ways.

As a result, you would not be able to tell whether something is a carrot, chair or car, or whether it is useful or friendly. You would not be able to survive.

Have you ever observed how a small child learns to recognize an object?

There are two levels to it: unconscious and conscious classes of experience. Before using a language, a very small child forms unconscious classes of objects or experience. He basically goes through a certain experience and recognizes when something similar happens again. This informal grouping relies on some observable similarity.

An example is a child experiencing an enormous joy in a repetition of a certain play; I bet you’ve seen these situations many times. A child may be laughing when you play with him his version of hide and seek (covering his face with a cloth and asking “Where is  Joe?” and then uncovering and saying with surprise “Oh, there he is!”), over and over again. Even after 20 times the child may still be in the same hilarious laugh as after the 1st time. He recognizes from the first movement what it is going to happen and anticipation makes it great.

In the conscious forming of classes, language plays a role, or more specifically, naming. The whole process begins with a child being interested in the chosen object. He finds this object appealing to his senses, so he interacts with it. And he usually plays with the object in all possible ways. He asks for its name. Naming is essential for learning a concept, because a name labels the class, hence it is identified with the class.

Without the name we miss our reference. The name serves therefore as a handle of a bag. It points to or indicates a group of objects or experiences which are in the bag. At the same time, naming assigns an object or experience to a given class.

The child usually collects sensory experiences and explores the object by touch, taste, sound and smell. He interacts with it in multiple ways. It allows him to create an idea of the object, before a concept is learnt. Later he sees another object of the same kind and explores it even more. Then the next example comes. And some more.

What is interesting is that a few examples are often sufficient for a child to build a good-enough, or sometimes even detailed, concept of the object. If a child is really attracted to this object, he begins to recognize objects from the same category. He is actively noticing them in the world around and happily pointing to them at any occasion. For instance, given a few examples of (playing) balls, a child is able to recognize a previously unseen ball. And you know that it is possible even if the features of a ball such as a size, color or material are totally new.

In the days or weeks to come, a child will further refine the concept of a ball. This is the time he will study (i.e. explore) more examples of balls. Hopefully, such a set includes less typical balls as well. These are important for inspecting the boundary cases. What is even more important are the negative examples, i.e. examples which do not belong to the class. Again, a special focus is put on these negative examples which resemble the object of interest in some way, but are not the object.

For instance, a child may see an orange and recognize it as a ball. If you reply that the object is not a ball but an orange (a different name, hence a different class), a child will be prompted to reformulate his concept of a ball, respectively. When he is pointed out to differences, he will learn the essential discrimination about ball-like objects which are not balls.

The effective concept learning takes place in the presence of both uncommon and negative examples. Borderline cases from both sides of the class are crucial for a good formulation of the concept.

Abstraction

Although the example of a ball sounds simple, the same steps take place for learning the concepts behind more complicated things such as dogs, cars, flowers, airplanes, or particular meals, as well as activities such as cooking, running or playing. What is remarkable, is the step in which a child takes the concept to an abstract level by becoming to know what is the essence of the object or concept. I believe such an abstraction is the basis for our fast intelligent recognition skill that we so much rely on in daily life.

For instance, when my toddler was exploring the world around, attracted to airplanes flying above, he only started to recognize them when he was able to name them. He learned the concept well.

Recently, he has surprised me by the following. In the garden he found two wood planks of different lengths. He put them across, kept them in this alignment in his hand above his head and started to run around the garden. While doing so, he was making humming noises and joyfully shouting that there was an airplane flying.

I understood he made an important step. He was able to bring the understanding of what an airplane was to the next level in which he saw its basic essence. He was able to emphasize a few features essential for an object to be considered as a plane: a particular shape, noise and movement in the air. This is the skill of abstraction applied to in a creative way.

You learn concepts from examples

If you observe others and yourself, and explore of how we learn, you will discover that we learn concepts or classes from examples. Moreover, in an ideal scenario, we actually follow the process described above. And what is more, we are able to learn them from a few examples only, usually three to five. Just ask yourself:

  • How many times do you need to hear your friend speaking in order to recognize her voice?
  • How many examples do you need to be to tell whether a cathedral is gothic or not?
  • How many examples do you need to recognize an impressionist painting?
  • How many coffees do you need to smell or drink in order to learn what a cappuccino is?
  • How many passionate people do you need to interact with in order to recognize a passionate one?

A few examples are often enough. Of course, it does not necessarily mean that you will make no errors when a recognition should occur. There may be difficult borderline cases, changed circumstances, previously unseen mixtures of objects or other situations which may lead us to a wrong assignment. But a few examples are sufficient to get an idea behind the concept. However, you will need many more examples especially near the border cases in order to refine the concept well for arbitrarily difficult examples.

For instance, you may need to hear your friend speaking when he is ill in order to better recognize his voice over the phone in arbitrary circumstances. You may also need many more examples in order to recognize particular sub-cases of the given classes.

Whatever the case, remember to collect a wide spectrum of examples from the class as well as from outside of the class. Otherwise, your concept would either be too narrow or too wide. What you want is a well-formulated, tight (but not too tight) concept, because it will facilitate your learning.

Well-learned concepts increase intelligence

There is no doubt about it. Remember, any concept you hold, whether it is about concrete objects in the world, scientific discoveries, your skill or experiences, it is your building block for the synergistic working of other concepts.  It has a direct influence on the quality (read: happiness, joy, fulfillment) of your life.

For example, the concept you have learned about computers links to your ability of using them effectively or not, or the concept you created about love has a huge impact on the way you create your relationships.

The more factual representation of your concept, the better it serves you to build other concepts and make intelligent choices. The better your concepts, the better your ability to plan and act accordingly. Both recognition and prediction directly rely on the goodness and accuracy of concepts you have created.

Well-learned concepts and well-learned classes are formulated based on all examples (or experiences) with the emphasis on uncommon situations or outliers.

Take your time to inspect your most important concepts about yourself and life.

Learn them anew.

Practical strategy

How do you practically implement the learning of accurate concepts? It’s simple. I will summarize it below:

  1. You learn concepts from examples.
  2. The quality and representativeness of the examples/experiences you use for concept learning is essential.
  3. If you learn a new concept, choose your examples wisely. You need examples that cover a wide range of situations and boundary cases. You will often need as little as 3-5 typical examples and a variable number of boundary examples.
  4. Be open and willing to reformulate your concept when you notice an example that is different, strange or otherwise appealing. What you want is a tight description but wide enough to accommodate what is the gist of the concept.
  5. If you have a concept formulated (e.g. about entrepreneurship, working-out, cars, kids, faith, money, Rembrandt paintings, mountaineering, buying houses etc), inspect which examples or experiences you used to create it. Remove outdated examples that no longer serve you and use more recent examples. Mentally re-crete your concept again by finding patterns, similarities and differences, between the examples you collected. Just think about it and get new insights.
  6. Do it with every new concept you learn.

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The image above shows a quilt by Inge Duin. See www.ingeduin.nl for more details.

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Learning and generalization posts:

stop_complaining

Chronic complaining is a draining habit. It tires the one who complaints and the others who act as listeners. It kills joy and serves no growth. How sad it is!

If you want to live a life of joy and become complainant-free, there are two strategies you need to implement in your life. The first one is a long-term strategy. In this strategy you address the roots of the problem by working on your own consciousness.

Long-term strategy: the conscious YOU

To my understanding there are four main causes behind repetitive complaining. These are

  • self-perpetuated negativity
  • unhealthy self-esteem
  • lack of self-efficacy, and
  • unfulfilled needs.

You may have an issue with one of them or all of them. In any case, you need to take the responsibility for all these aspects in your life. At the moment, you may start by working on building six pillars of self-esteem. The topics of defeating negativity, building self-efficacy and addressing unfulfilled needs will be covered sometime in the future.

Short-term strategy: accept or act

While you may need to wait some time before you observe effects of the long-term strategy and noticeable changes in yourself, there are direct actions that you need to take every day. These actions form a short-term strategy and need to be implemented over and over so that a new habit can be put in place.

If you are unhappy about a given situation, event or behavior you have two choices:

  1. you EITHER accept the situation as it is and adjust yourself and circumstances to handle it better OR
  2. you take an action and keep taking actions (if necessary) in order to change the things you are unhappy about.

How-to: stop before you start

You have to make a deal with yourself to stop complaining and act in one of the two scenarios above (note that acceptance is also an action). First, you need to ask your consciousness to make you aware when you complain. You want to catch the early moment when you start complaining. You can simply do it by creating a mental request to yourself in which you ask your consciousness observer to make it loud to you. You ask for an additional sign such as an image of lightning in your head or a sudden feeling of very cold water. Whatever the signal it should be strong enough to make you shake and notice it in an instant.

When you notice own complaining, STOP immediately. Pause for a second and ask yourself whether you are willing to take action to change the things you are unhappy about. This is something we can evaluate internally very fast, simply because it touches upon our desires to act. If yes, brainstorm proactively (with yourself or the help of others) what can be done and how to improve the case. If not, make a decision to accept the situation.

Face the truth and ask yourself how to adapt and make the best of the circumstances you are in. Acceptance may take some time, and it is okey. Take all the time you need.

Be firm and don’t subscribe to self-pity. Stick to action and plan a reward for yourself when you are successful. Give yourself a treat or buy a massage when you transform complaining into action. Build a hierarchy of sensible rewards to keep yourself motivated. It’s important.

In the evenings, practice the feeling of gratitude for five things or events you experienced during a day. Write it down for a more profound effect.

Follow for 21 days. And your new habit of gratitude will be formed.

And complaining?

Hmmm….

What is complaining???

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Photo copyright by Moyan Brenn. Photo available under the Creative Commons license on Flickr.

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Quilt by Inge Duin, www.ingeduin.nlWhen I was living in the Netherlands a group of friends discovered a common interest in studying consciousness. Perhaps this was so because we were already fascinated by learning from examples and pattern recognition.

We started in 2000 as a group of seven people: Alexander, Bob, David, Dick, Ela, Marina and Pavel. Andrzej, Carmen, Piotr and Sergey joined later on. Many new members arrived to the group over the period of ten years. People were coming and leaving depending on their interests or the changes in carrier and place of living.

Consciousness ideas

In each meeting we focused on studying a question or a task which we prepared for in advance.  We shared our views in response to the questions such as

  • “What is consciousness?”
  • “What is Self?”
  • “What are the attributes of thoughts?”
  • “What are your personal truths?”
  • “What is free will?”

and so on. We shared personal stories and observations, performed experiments, discussed scientific articles (e.g. the classical paper on consciousness What is it like to be a bat?” by Thomas Nagel or the The Matrix as Metaphysics” by David J. Chalmers) and discussed (excepts of) books, investigated non-traditional subjects such as near-death experience, studied other philosophies etc. We studied some works of influential philosophers or mathematicians, such as Daniel Dennet, John Searle, Sir Riger Penrose or Douglas Hofstadter. We also looked at other philosophical texts, e.g. by Jiddu Krishnamurti. Sometimes we did simple experiments such as observing how others describe objects or read a text. And sometimes we did more demanding experiments such as paying attention to our involvement and consciousness levels on daily basis.

If you are interested in studying texts on consciousness, there is a big online library here.

Note also that there may be a lot of confusion about consciousness. Some people see consciousness as e.g. a field of infinite potential that we all emerge from. For our purposes, however, we will mostly focus on individual consciousness. This is your consciousness. And this is mine consciousness.

Synergy in a group

It was one of the most amazing experiences in my life concerning the stimulating yet respectful atmosphere we created as a consciousness group. I loved it. I really loved it simply because I experienced a synergistic approach first hand. I was inspired and transformed because of the presence and contribution of others.

As a group of individuals we were able to investigate ideas and create new concepts. We were able to create synergy in a group over and over again. We all contributed individually and parts were recognizable as ours yet, as a group, we were creating something novel. I was amazed by this process, when you experience how the sum of parts becomes so much greater than the whole you would imagine.

What supported this process was our openness and courage to be ourselves in the presence of others and respect we had for each other. Our goal was to share our views and experiences so that we could learn from each other and become enriched as a whole. We encouraged conflicting views, but there was no need to judge nor convince one another about taking a particular stand. Nobody was there to hold the ultimate truth, but to explore own ideas and participate in learning.

I must also say that it was challenging at times simply when we individually held extreme views. For instance, one meeting we found ourselves split into two camps. Some of us thought that consciousness could be simulated in a computer, while some of us thought it was impossible. Often in such cases, we would disagree on the meaning or definitions of particular words (e.g. what does simulation mean?) Of course, sometimes we got emotional about our views or disagreed such that discussion was going nowhere. Yet, we were able to stop and solve the issues in an assertive way.

Overall, we maintained the practice of respecting our differences and being open to learning. We took extra care that all of us felt well and appreciated. I loved the experience of cohesion and synergy.

Future blog posts will present a few interesting findings from these times. These are the discoveries of the Consciousness Group.

Be curious!

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The image above shows a wonderful quilt by Inge Duin. See www.ingeduin.nl.

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Other posts on Consciousness:

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self-esteem

While looking at my own challenges and those of my friends, I’ve again realized how important self-esteem is. Healthy self-esteem, of course :).

It is very important, even fundamental in your life.

Self-esteem is a particular experience of Self. It is an experience in which you like, appreciate and respect yourself, are competent to deal with life challenges and believe you are worthy of happiness. In practice it means you

  • know yourself,
  • accept yourself and
  • trust your own thinking and decision making.

You can also see self-esteem as a healthy balance between shame and pride. You know who you are, you know your features, characteristics, skills, values, morals, pitfalls and problems. You know your past and you know your present time. And you deeply appreciate yourself and love yourself.

You are both humble and proud, humble about your present and future and proud about your past and present. Pride relies on the honest recognition of whom you have become while humbleness appreciates what is still before you on your path. You simply see the truth, accept it and take the responsibility for it.

How much do you like to be with yourself?

Self-esteem is neither an inborn gift nor a by-product of living.

It doesn’t just happen.

Instead, it is a continuous creation, an experience of consciousness for valuing Self and enjoying the being with Self. It is a very deep inner feeling of your own competence and worth that is being built and strengthened over time.

You need to cultivate it daily, reflect on who you are and what your path is. And whatever your current status of self-esteem, you can always improve it.

Nearly everything you do aims either at increasing self-esteem and personal value, or protecting it from being diminished by other people. Your self-esteem if essential to anything in your life. It is fundamental for your success and happiness.

Your self-esteem determines how you feel and how you approach all situations. High self-esteem encourages you to take courageous acts while low self-esteem makes you be immobilized by fear.

Self-esteem determines your emotional health and overall well-being. It inspires you for reaching beyond your comfort zone, strive for achievement and peak performance.

It is a building stone of any successful marriage or relationship. It inspires you to think bigger than yourself and act accordingly. It continually challenges you to grow and shine.

Low self-esteem

In practice, however, many people lack a healthy, high self-esteem. Look around and notice what you see, hear what others are saying, and feel their joys and problems.

So many of us strongly depend on the evaluation of authorities, teachers, bosses, parents, significant others, and so on.
So many of us generalize single experiences or unfortunate events in order to make final decisions about our own (in)capabilities and skills.
So many of us are helpless in the presence of strong authorities and their judgements.
So many of us are fearful and shy.
So many of us cover our poor self-esteem with arrogance, overconfidence or self-pity.

Low self-esteem requires a constant feed of approval from the external world. If this need is unfulfilled, the person starts complaining, becomes frustrated and negative, and basically powerless.

It doesn’t need to be like that.

Self-esteem is an inner feeling of worth

We are not our behaviors.
We are not our performance.
We are not frozen states.
We are human beings in progress and personalities to become.

External opinions or complements are not a measure of our self-esteem. External achievements are not a measure of our worth. Our confidence and behaviors are not a measure of self-value. True self-esteem cannot be acquired by approvals, fame, opinions, affirmations, achievements, sexual appeal, beauty, hypnosis or implanting of beliefs. All these may help but are not the answer.

Self-esteem is internal. It is a basic trust of your consciousness in yourself, your worth, thoughts, actions and decisions.

In order to nurture your self-esteem you need to align yourself with the truth, the reality as much as you understand it.

You need to recognize who you are and where you are in life. And you need to accept it: your past and your present, your look and your skills, your ambitions and your choices, your illnesses, problems and challenges. Your studies, your job or its lack.

If your life sucks at the moment, accept it. It’s OK.

If you know where you are you can take a few breaths and decide where you want to go. Then you will determine how to take the first steps.

If you need help, you can ask for it. If you need knowledge, you can educate yourself. If you need forgiveness, you can receive one. If you need time, you have it all….

Nurture your self-esteem

You need to become aware of your self-esteem and take the responsibility for its development. Whatever your circumstances, whoever opinions and judgments determined your feeling of self-worth so far, wherever you are, know that you can make a different choice this very moment.

Simply, make a choice to nurture your self-esteem. It is not of your parents, peers, teachers, colleagues, managers, husband or wife, children, mentor groups, web communities, music fan clubs etc.

Nobody can give you self-esteem, neither take away from you.

It is your conscious recognition, acceptance of who you are and a reflection on how to become the one you want to be. You can begin strengthening your self-esteem.

Face the truth, embrace it and act in integrity with yourself.

If there is one thing you can work on this year, focus on developing your high self-esteem.

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Photo courtesy Fe Langdon, available under the Creative Commons license on Flickr.

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