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US Intelligence Wants Tools To Tell: Who's the Smartest of Them All? 162

Posted by samzenpus
from the finding-big-brains dept.
coondoggie writes Can a tool or technology be applied to the brain and accurately predict out of a given group of people who will be the smartest? The research arm of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA) is looking for exactly those kinds of tools."IARPA is looking to get a handle on the state of the art in brain-based predictors of future cognitive performance. In particular, IARPA is interested in non-invasive analyses of brain structure and/or function that can be used to predict who will best learn complex skills and accomplish tasks within real-world environments, and with outcome measures, that are relevant to national security.
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US Intelligence Wants Tools To Tell: Who's the Smartest of Them All?

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    They want the smartest and fastest and strongest - where are you Jason Bourne?

    • They want the smartest and fastest and strongest ...

      They should look at that guy in the White House, the epitome of "smart", "fast" and "strong"

    • He probably works in finance now.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      They want the smartest and fastest and strongest - where are you Jason Bourne?

      More than likely they want to determine who is the smartest person (leader) in a group of people so they can imprison or kill them because dumb people are easier to control. Once they turn the population in unquestioningly obedient sheeple they can cause Idiocracy to happen even faster.

      • More than likely they want to determine who is the smartest person (leader) in a group of people so they can imprison or kill them because dumb people are easier to control.

        Besides: learning ability is not necessarily a great predictor of performance. Maybe there are emotional, or just plain -- ahem -- willingness issues.

  • Dumb question (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Krishnoid (984597) on Thursday August 07, 2014 @12:37AM (#47620079) Journal

    What's 'national security'? I mean, is there a rigorous definition of it?

    • Dumb question (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      National security is worrying about terrorists in countries 7000 miles away across the ocean but leaving the southern gate wide open.

    • What's 'national security'? I mean, is there a rigorous definition of it?

      Of course there is!

      Telling you what it is would be gravely harmful to a variety of force protection, vital infrastructure, and national security interests that are too sensitive to actually describe, so the definition, the OLC memos interpreting the application of the definition, the existence/nonexistence and/or contents of the signing statement outlining the executive branch interpretation of the definition, any DoD, Intelligence Community, or Law Enforcement operational policies from which the definiti

    • by marxmarv (30295) on Thursday August 07, 2014 @01:44AM (#47620369) Homepage

      "the protection and preservation of existing power inequalities"

    • by gweihir (88907)

      Simple: It means "We are much more powerful and much less moral than you, so you better shut up NOW!"

    • What's 'national security'? I mean, is there a rigorous definition of it?

      When you listen to public officials talk, they never talk about defending our lives or our freedoms, but always about defending our "national interests".

      And of course, that means whatever policymakers and their pwners want it to mean. If they think bombing some peasants halfway around the world will help keep toilet paper affordable, it's a national security issue.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      What's 'national security'? I mean, is there a rigorous definition of it?

      Yes. National security is defined by the US government as its ability to prevent US citizen's from learning what it is up to.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    You teach people stuff and then you see how well they retained it and how well they can apply it.

    Of course you'll have to define what "smartest" means to use any such results and to set the questions. That's the real challenge. Otherwise a beautician might be considered smartest. Usually we use math, pattern recognition and logic questions. Would be interesting to see how you could significantly improve over that with brain scans. Isn't Einstein's brain preserved somewhere? Ahhh yes here we go....

    http://en.

    • I think that IARPA wants a cool science machine (ideally one that makes impressive pictures, like an fMRI) that will predict who the smart people are without the trouble and time of teaching them something and testing them on it.
      • So we can expect the following conversation, "uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu pretty pictures." From the folks that are looking for smart people? What could possibly go wrong?
    • Einstein had trouble with basic math as a child. His teachers thought he was an idiot. You have to wonder how many "smartest" never happened because they got beat up on the schoolyard and gave up on their dreams.

      • You mean... (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        committed suicide realizing the futility of modern existance. Or: switched off their brains either through force of will or substance abuse in order to better conform to society's expectations and be able to hold that crappy 9-5 they needed to actually eat.

        While I'm sure there are plenty who succeed, if you're not a big arrogant or sociopathic it doesn't seem likely you'll make it far in this world. Well, unless you've got a sociopath 'managing' you.

      • Einstein had trouble with basic math as a child. His teachers thought he was an idiot. You have to wonder how many "smartest" never happened because they got beat up on the schoolyard and gave up on their dreams.

        I thought getting beat up on the schoolyard is what makes them pursue their dreams.

        • by Minwee (522556)

          I thought getting beat up on the schoolyard is what makes them pursue their dreams.

          It's also the reason that our... er... their dreams so often include world domination.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Einstein had trouble with basic math as a child.

        That's sort of an urban myth. He did have a lot of problems with the math particularly for General Relativity compared to good mathematicians (like his friend Marcel Grossmann). David Hilbert actually published a complete GR framework shortly after conversing with Einstein about his ongoing work, then retracted the publication. Because the important achievement was not going through with the math, but rather knowing which postulates and invariants the math needed to fit.

        It is popular to cite Einstein's a

  • by Wycliffe (116160) on Thursday August 07, 2014 @12:48AM (#47620121) Homepage

    Obviously intelligence varies from person to person and we have tests like IQ tests that can measure this
    but IQ tests are not super good at measuring people who are successful at accomplishing tasks because
    it takes more than raw intelligence. Things like willpower, dedication, creativity, work ethic, etc... all play
    into whether someone is successful at accomplishing tasks. I don't see how a brain scanner is going to
    accomplish this or how it would be any better than existing testing methods. If I wanted to know this I
    would be more inclined to give a group of people a ton of different types of tests and then watch their
    career and decide which of the tests more closely correlated with what I was seeking then I could narrow
    it down to a combination of traits for instance maybe the results would be high IQ, high creativity, and
    high level of willpower or some other combination of 3 or 4 attributes then you could test for only those
    3-4 attributes instead of dozen of attributes. If you didn't want to wait, you could instead give the same
    battery of tests to the people in your company that you considered most successful and see if there are
    any patterns.

    • by fractoid (1076465)
      It's more a matter of there's nothing to make them certain that it *won't* work. Having something like this would be a significant tactical advantage, so it's worth a shot.
    • resourceful is one trait you missed.that might be handy to have. That's hard to teach.
      • by Wycliffe (116160)

        There are dozens of attributes that I missed and many overlap (like resourcefulness and certain types of intelligence).
        I wasn't trying to be all inclusive. I think you could probably come up with 50 or more tests of random traits and attributes.
        Many like if you tested for eye color or hair color probably won't have any correlation at all. The point is to have enough
        tests that then you can look at the good candidates and see where they all clump then you could eliminate all the useless
        tests and only keep t

      • by rtb61 (674572)

        So the real question who is the smartest at what? The what being the particular goals or problems you wish resolved. So an idiot savant is the ideal solution as long as the savant skill is the skill you require to solve the problem. IQ ideally measure learning ability across a range of mental skills, now if that is the solution you are looking for fine, however if it is not then you are wasting your time. The is also desire, mental feedback, those good brain chemicals that will promote focus upon a particu

    • by TubeSteak (669689)

      âoeSuch a predictive capability would allow organizations to determine in advance who is most likely to be able to learn and master complex skills and accomplish tasks in real-world environments that are important for the organizationâ(TM)s mission and success, thereby increasing return on investment for training activities and optimizing matching of personnel to tasks/environments.

      This sounds a lot like Gattaca, but with brain scans instead of genetic scans.

    • Too often I see stupid mistakes (that are known mistakes) implemented because someone higher in the hierarchy or with more social clout pushed for it.

      We don't follow the "best" idea. We don't follow the "smartest" people.

      We do stupid things over and over and over because we are still social animals.

      Even if they could find the 10 smartest people in the nation, they would still tell them to implement the same, stupid "solutions". And if those 10 people argued against the stupidity ... well then ... the test m

      • by Wycliffe (116160)

        Now find me people who:
        a. will agree with me
        b. will agree on who the scapegoat is for when it fails
        c. will not argue with me
        d. we will call those people the "smartest" ones

        If you pick your "benchmark group" well enough and find people with similiar brainwaves/traits then this still solves their problem nicely.
        You might not have actually picked the "smartest" people but you picked the people that are most likely to do what you want and
        succeed where you want them to succeed so I don't see this as being a problem if you can really predict future performance.
        It might actually be easier to detect "people who are good at following orders" than it is to detect "people who are smart"

        • by khasim (1285)

          If you pick your "benchmark group" well enough and find people with similiar brainwaves/traits then this still solves their problem nicely.

          Only if you redefine the "problem" to be "find people like these people".

          And that's been solved for hundreds of years. Just look at the CxO's and Boards of Directors for the major corporations.

          The problem is that these are the worst people for "national defense". Look at their track record.

          You might not have actually picked the "smartest" people but you picked the people

          • by Wycliffe (116160)

            Only if you redefine the "problem" to be "find people like these people".

            But that's exactly what they're doing. The only way they are going to be able to "see" intelligence with a brainwave scan
            is to look at people that they "think" are intelligent and compare other people to that group.
            Whether that means more brain activity, less brain activity, certain areas active, etc... that's the best they can do as
            there is no truly objective measure of intelligence. Intelligence is an abstract concept that we attempt to judge based
            on tests and situations and not only varies from person

      • Now find me people who:

        a. will agree with me

        "The true test of another man's intelligence is how much he agrees with you"

    • by houghi (78078)

      If you look at succesfull people in your company, you are not looking for 'smart' people in your company. There could be a hugfe difference.

      The person who is interested more in family time than in company value might be (from some peoples point of view) the smart person. OK, he doesn't get the promotion and that is not what he wanted.

      So you need to define what is 'smart'. And in many times the 'smartest' person wlll heavily depend on the situation. Many people are smart in one place but stupid in another.

    • by lagomorpha2 (1376475) on Thursday August 07, 2014 @02:02AM (#47620443)

      This test was devised decades ago.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/S... [wikipedia.org]

      Simply give any potential employees the option of a marshmallow now or waiting a period of time to receive two marshmallows. At the very least we should use this procedure to test our police force for poor impulse control.

      It can even be applied to dating. On the first date I offer a marshmallow or if they have the willpower to not eat the marshmallow the promise of sex. So far it's managed to flawlessly protect me from a number of impulsive women.

      • by easyTree (1042254)

        Simply give any potential employees the option of a marshmallow now or waiting a period of time to receive two marshmallows. At the very least we should use this procedure to test our police force for poor impulse control.

        I'd propose option (c), no marshmallows - at all; I really dislike marshmallows.

      • by russotto (537200)

        It can even be applied to dating. On the first date I offer a marshmallow or if they have the willpower to not eat the marshmallow the promise of sex. So far it's managed to flawlessly protect me from a number of impulsive women.

        You're doing it wrong. If you do it right, the response from impulsive women will be to "prove" that they can eat the marshmallow AND have sex with you.

        Also the marshmallow test is pretty flawed when used with anyone who has experience. Doesn't matter how much impulse control you

        • "You're doing it wrong. If you do it right, the response from impulsive women will be to "prove" that they can eat the marshmallow AND have sex with you."

          That assumes you're still young enough that random sex from impulsive women is your goal.

          "Also the marshmallow test is pretty flawed when used with anyone who has experience. Doesn't matter how much impulse control you have, if promises of delayed gratification have in the past been consistently broken and led to no gratification."

          That's actually just what

    • by AHuxley (892839)
      Existing testing methods are already in place to offer scholarships, advanced maths, science places and are fully funded.
      The new advanced brain scanner idea allows a new group to enjoy new fresh funding too.
      You can wait for the right grant to show up or create the tech than induces new funding :)
    • by easyTree (1042254)

      hings like willpower, dedication, creativity, work ethic, etc... all play
      into whether someone is successful at accomplishing tasks. I don't see how a brain scanner is going to
      accomplish this or how it would be any better than existing testing methods

      In the sense that they've not had a budget request for this type of project before and have demonstrated considerable creativity in coming up with this potentially-everlasting think-of-the-kids style project? Did I win?

    • "The best of the best of the best! Sir!"

    • by volmtech (769154)

      I worked with a guy who as a recent high school graduate (mid seventy's) was recruited by the DoD to work on ballistic missile systems. He was a southern redneck hot rodder who looked like a Mafioso enforcer. After showing too much intuition about certain systems he was let go. The man was a mechanical genius and a wiz with a soldering station (he brought his own to work).

      His family lived in and managed a small trailer park and he was not a stellar student, how did they find him? I was offered (but declin

  • by Anonymous Coward

    1) Identify the smart ones
    2) "Eliminate" the smart ones
    3) Sheeple are easier to control
    4) Profit!

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Anyone smarter than the mediocre average of government intelligence that is not working within the government must be found, since they are a potential risk. Any potential risk should be eliminated or assimilated.

    • The only reason the government would want to know who the smartest people are is so they know who to add to their terror watch list (assuming they aren't part of The Party).

      • Right. The Shoe Bomber. The Times Square propane bombers. The gentleman with the explosive underwear.

        Top flight people, all.

  • by wisebabo (638845) on Thursday August 07, 2014 @12:58AM (#47620159) Journal

    This is a step along the road towards the Morlocks and Eloi of H. G. Wells "The Time Machine".

    While this isn't as bad as "Gattaca" or "Brave New World" with their emphasis on eugenics; it's definitely not good for the concentration of wealth, power and yes, intelligence. When people can be ACCURATELY rated in terms of all their various intellectual abilities (as they already are in Chess ability) it will mean a further stratification of society and concentration of advantages.

    While this has always being going on throughout history (and pre-history) if they really apply scientific techniques it could dramatically enhance its predictive power.

    Maybe, eventually, humanity will start to diverge into multiple species. :(

    • by Coisiche (2000870)

      Well, not really. See, the elite are not actually going to use those tests on themselves or their offspring so there are always going to be incompetent cretins put in charge of things because being born into privilege is divorced from any natural ability. They're not interested in making themselves better, only richer.

      What this is really about is that they need an easy way to identify skilled workers. There is not going to be any state education so they need to be able to identify potential candidates from

    • by reanjr (588767)

      That's ridiculous. We already lived through centuries of society where it was easy to measure physical strength when physical strength was a strong indicator of work success. This did not lead to the stratification of the physically weak from the physically strong.

  • We are here because you are looking for the best of the best of the best, sir!
  • by waddgodd (34934) on Thursday August 07, 2014 @01:17AM (#47620253) Homepage Journal

    Given the oxymoronic nature of "national intelligence", one can only wonder if they're looking for the smart people to put them on watchlists early.

    • Why limit their analysis to only the smart people?
      • by marxmarv (30295)

        It's what they did with Tor, isn't it? Separate the sheep from the goats (i.e. those who have no interest in hiding anything vs. those who do) and watch the hell out of the sheep?

        The sheep are more responsive to mass propaganda. There's no need to watch them until they prove themselves goats.

    • by AHuxley (892839)
      Re "...they're looking for the smart people to put them on watchlists early."
      Smart people can be guided into good front companies that feel private sector but get 100% gov contracts.
      Smart people can be guided away from eg open source crypto projects before they add large amounts of high quality code for free and tell the world.
      Smart people can be guided to open source projects that create large amounts of quality GUI code, games, charity if they want to give "back" to projects.
      Its more that a gov wants
  • by Chas (5144)

    That's assuming any of these morons actually have the faculties to understand actual intelligence and the factors that go into is measurement.

    Otherwise, it'll wind up some stupid "if-then" matrix that tells you jack and shit about actual intelligence.

    But all these dipshits will be dancing around going "I finded a smart goy! YAY ME!"

    • to them. If they can detect the sort of brain activity that correlates with intelligence, certainly this can be expanded to other brain activity. Throw a Union Jack on their screens and see how they respond. Boom, state loyalty tester. Throw two naked guys on their screen, boom, sexual orientation test. Throw scenes of snipers shooting civilians, boom, black ops aptitude test.

      The cover story, as usual, doesn't matter.

  • #27, lack of dates

  • by dohzer (867770) on Thursday August 07, 2014 @02:17AM (#47620489) Homepage

    The smartest ones are those who don't reveal their true intelligence to the security agencies.

    • by PPH (736903)

      There are two rules for succes:

      1) Never reveal everything you know.

  • by dbIII (701233) on Thursday August 07, 2014 @02:28AM (#47620521)
    Too many decent potential scientists and engineers are following the money and playing complicated accounting tricks on others similarly wasted in positions where they add no value to society.
    Take a look at the Enron debacle for a well documented situation. Plenty of very intelligent hard working people were doing nothing but creating smokescreens for scams. Don't misunderstand or turn me into a strawman - accounts and finance people have an important role in society but highly creative ones building complicated artifices designed to mislead (or HFT people who do it via man in the middle attack) are a drain on society and a waste of potential talent. Pick just about anything else in society and they'd contribute better there.
    So while it's very attractive for the bright to become tricksters and while the media portrays scientists and engineers in a very negative light we're only going to get the people who are driven or import people from other places where they don't mock scientists.
  • Do you want to play a game? :)
  • And idiot brains taste terrible. Brains of politicians are unedible. More's the pity, but it does explain a lot.
  • by Mr Z (6791)
    Acronyms Can Really be Obnoxious Names, You Mean?
  • this brain has to function? I mean specifically, does the test account for that brain being surrounded by and overseen by clueless administrators throwing obstacles in that brains path at every turn?

  • by PPH (736903)

    Dilbert [dilbert.com]

  • ... not taking the test.

  • I'll gladly pay you for 2 hamburgers tomorrow for one hamburger today. -Wimpy on Popeye 1970.
    Unfortunately for me, I was offered this sort of deal by my boss. However, my boss fired me when I came around to collect. This sort of culture exists on Wall Street. Lots of people dangle carrots in front of you, but when it comes time to collect, all promises are forgotten. I remember a friend who worked for Shersom-Lerhman Brothers in the 1989. Her boss got a big bonus for his previous years "work", and she
  • Wouldn't they realize that humanity would do better if we could "all just get along", that is, govern certain aspects of our global-impacting activity at the global level, based on rationally arrived-at policies, and also define and enforce human and ecosystem rights at the global human level.

    That kind of enlightened, future-projecting realization and viewpoint would not be consistent with working for a US intelligence agency.

  • After all, once you can identify a priori who the smart people are, you can make sure that they are in their proper place from an early age. What a brave, new world that would be.

    "Alpha children wear grey They work much harder than we do, because they're so frightfully clever. I'm really awfuly glad I'm a Beta, because I don't work so hard. And then we are much better than the Gammas and Deltas. Gammas are stupid. They all wear green, and Delta children wear khaki. Oh no, I don't want to play with Delta

  • damn smart, learned to read at the age of 3, was responsible for major news and info gathering protocols, etc., and this effing gov't hounded him to death.

    Jeremy Hammond is another superior technoid, and he's in jail. John Kiriakou, not sure about his tech skills, but he is certainly an intelligent and honorable man, and he's in jail.

    Any questions?

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