My entries (every Tuesday) on this blog are about the mechanism inside the writer's mind, how writers do what they do. I talk about and demonstrate skills and craft techniques, and I describe the real world from inside a writer's eye.
This week I want to give one answer (among many I have to choose from) to the perennial question SF writers face that Romance writers are sometimes spared because it seems obvious where Romance writers get their ideas. But of course, the obvious answer is not the actual answer.
When you combine SF and Romance, you get pushed right back to that old question -- essentially, "Where do you get your crazy ideas?"
Romance writer's "ideas" don't seem "crazy" (just trivial and ridiculous) to the general reader.
SF ideas seem "out of the box" crazy, and worse, pointless.
So here I want to show you where to "go" to get crazy ideas that can make up into an SF Romance, ( SFR ) and what to do with that raw material once you assemble it.
This is not about what I think, but HOW I think - what I think about, and how I come up with whole alien civilizations before breakfast.
In previous posts here on writing craft, I've established that a writer can't write a story without something to say. The motive, the fuel for writing any fiction is the burning need to say something important to the writer, that the writer thinks it's important for readers to understand.
That something will be something about the real world that non-artist eyes don't ordinarily see.
The writer is an artist with a "vision" - with a way of looking at things that reveals hidden truths that can come in very handy when a reader goes to live their real life.
You are the engineer of your life, and reading fiction is to you just as mathematical models are to a bridge builder. If you don't want your life to fall down when the traffic load maxes out, you have to "model" your life and build it accordingly. Fiction reading helps you "model" lives, fiddle, tweak and adjust, avoid mistakes in real life.
The fictioneer is the software designer of the modeling software readers use to model their lives.
So to build good fiction, the fictioneer has to reference real life, and extract elements to rearrange into different patterns -- just to see what happens.
And that's what I'm going to show you how to do.
This isn't about what I really think. It's not about my own opinion. And it's not about your real world.
I'm going to lift bits and pieces of "reality" and re-arrange them into a matrix you can use as a springboard for your imagination. If you follow along, then grab that concept, that vision, and build a fictional world around it, you'll be writing a novel before you know it. And it'll be a "glue-you-to-the-page" novel, too.
They say "write what you know" -- but I say "write what you have known so long you've forgotten it." That's how you do the connect-the-dots exercises I've been showing you for the last few weeks.
How Does Intelligence Work?
I'll bet readers of this blog already know exactly what Intelligence is and probably think it's silly to ask "how" Intelligence works.
Asking silly questions is step 1 in "getting a crazy idea." And it should be a question about something people just take for granted and never think about.
Intelligence is something you hardly ever think about because you've known it for a long time, you've known all about it so long you've forgotten everything you know about it. That fits the "write what you know" prescription -- the knowledge has sunk in so deep you can create with it.
OK, so now's the time to use your knowledge of intelligence in worldbuilding.
But why would you want to use intelligence in worldbuilding?
It's more the subject of bathroom humor than a seriously vital subject for worldbuilders and romance readers to master.
Look at this book on Amazon which had no reviews posted at the time I looked at it:
Intelligence is a perfect subject for SFR because it straddles the line between science and love -- we still have the problem of "men" shying away from "intelligent women." It's a cliche already, and you know how I love cliche.
We've all taken "I.Q." tests, so we know how intelligence works, right?
We all learn a dozen things every day, not just the one thing a day regimen recommended to stay mentally vigorous.
What's to discuss when it comes to intelligence?
I don't mean military intelligence, nor artificial intelligence -- also very interesting subjects especially for Paranormal Romance enthusiasts, but not the point of this inquiry. I mean the brain-function we call intelligence.
We have been measuring "Intelligence" since 1904.
This quote, a bit or maybe a piece, is from
Intelligence testing began in earnest in France, when in 1904 psychologist Alfred Binet was commissioned by the French government to find a method to differentiate between children who were intellectually normal and those who were inferior.
"Inferior" -- ???!!!! Oh, now that's politically incorrect, isn't it?
Politically incorrect hot-potatoes make great material for fiction. In film, that's called "edgy."
How far have we come in a century of studying intelligence scientifically?
The article concludes:
In 1989 the American Academy for the Advancement of Science listed the IQ test among the twenty most significant scientific discoveries of the century along with nuclear fission, DNA, the transistor and flight. Patricia Broadfoot's dictum that “assessment, far more than religion, has become the opiate of the people,” has come of age.
We've learned a lot in the last century, but is what we know now any more informative than Binet's original testing concept?
Do we really know what we know? Or is what we know just a matter of the opinion of the majority formed not on the basis of information but on the basis of what other people (sometimes bona fide experts) think, believe, theorize or wish were true?
Things get kinda slippery and scary when you start thinking about thinking (meta-thinking), don't they?
Feel that slippery and scary quiver inside, really focus your attention on it. That feel is the same feeling that people get when they're falling in love. It's disorientation, the stuff of action-drama.
It's the feeling people get when the specter of a real committed relationship looms before them, hot and ready.
That disoriented "falling" feeling is FEAR.
But what's it fear of?
It's fear of something that doesn't exist. (yet)
It's fear of something imaginary.
In the case of "falling" in love and accepting commitment, it's fear of change - fear of a change in lifestyle, fear of not-knowing what that might imply, fear of "it" (meaning the new lifestyle) not "working" - fear of emotional PAIN. But that pain doesn't exist (yet).
It's fear of a specter. Or the specter of fear.
So in the case of thinking about intelligence, what causes that gut-wrenching panic, that flutter of fear?
It's fear of something imaginary, which makes it far worse than fear of something that now exists.
So we're at the threshold of Step 2.
We've asked a naive question and found a CONFLICT GENERATING emotion, a plot generating dynamic hidden inside our innocent question.
A protagonist gripped by FEAR will set a GOAL of getting away from what's feared, avoiding-at-all-costs, and then as the protagonist "arcs" the protagonist will heroically turn to face the most feared thing - an imagined threat. The more intelligent the protagonist, the more imaginary the threat, the more severe the reaction.
Take a concrete example, fear when a burglar breaks your window -- no time to sit and gnaw on abstractions, you throw something and run screaming, or decide to duck, hide, or just stand very still and hope not to get hurt.
You REACT to the threat. You don't think about it.
How can you "react" to the threat of thinking about thinking?
What exactly are you thinking about thinking?
What is the threat?
That YOU are "inferior?" by the old French government definition?
Well, the application of the mathematics of statistics has shown that no matter what trait you measure and graph distributed among a large enough population, it'll graph out as a bell curve.
No matter what kind of I.Q. test you administer, if you test enough people, the traits you're measuring will form a bell curve.
The "norm" is the middle swatch of that curve, so that half the population is below the norm and half above the norm. HALF.
If you are in the middle of that curve, you aren't "safe" - you see, you are in a distinct minority!
In a majority rules world, you have no power if you are "normal."
Normality may not be something to aspire to. It might be a threat, to be labeled "normal."
I remember a sociological SF novel about a society structured around an intelligence test. Here's a Wikipedia item about it. The title of the novel was World Out Of Mind by J. T. McIntosh.
J. T. McIntosh is a pseudonym used by Scottish writer and journalist James Murdoch MacGregor (born during 1925 in Paisley, Scotland).
MacGregor used the pseudonym for all his science fiction work, which was the majority of his output, though he did publish some books by his own name. His first story, "The Curfew Tolls", appeared in Astounding Science Fiction during 1950, and his first novel, World Out of Mind, was published during 1953.
It wasn't a horror novel. It portrayed being at the top tenth of the top percentile rank of all humanity as a good thing. It made the reader aspire to become such a person, and be recognized as such by objective measurements.
But the cold reality of such a structured world society would not be so very grand. There's a lot more to be said about using science to structure society, and those novels have yet to be written.
That scientific bell curve distribution though is a bit of science that hasn't yet (even in fiction) been fitted into the pieces of human character, morals, religion, aspirations, sentience.
Half the people in the world are inferior to normals. Half are superior. (which half is which is a matter to be explored by worldbuilders - but neither half can out-vote the other in a majority rules world.)
So "Intelligence" as a measurable trait was actually invented as a tool of government (in France).
Most of us took "intelligence" tests in school. Check back over the last 20 or 30 years worth of political campaigns (state, local, federal) and you'll see both parties "take a stand" on "Education." Government runs our "public" schools, and even private and homeschools have to meet the "standards" set by Federal and State government. (whether that's a good thing or a bad thing is a variable for worldbuilders to fiddle with)
The majority rules on what "intelligence tests" actually mean, and nevermind the actual science - the majority thinks the "science" is what some expert tells them it is.
What teachers may and may not do with the results of the test is not usually determined by the individual teacher or the parent of the child in question. Most public school boards strive mightily to involve parents of the students in the school district in the "running" of the schools, but worldbuilders might ponder a problem with letting parents decide how to educate their children if the children are actually more intelligent than the parents (or less intelligent).
What if the parents are intelligent but not educated? What if the parents have been taught contempt for education?
The potential for plot-conflict is enormous here. What would be the psychological condition of an adult subjected to an early education distorted by the push-pull tug of war between government, education experts, parents, and normal childhood rebellion? Can love conquer that?
The wonder of the internet produced for me this 1955 article about a book (that cost a whopping $3!!! back then, but I remember reading it from the library) about "Why Johnny Can't Read -- and What You Can Do About It"
The article cites the book as establishing that the problem with children (at that time) who weren't learning to read was the teaching method adopted without challenge or question as the best way to teach children to read.
The method is the whole-word recognition method. I was not taught that method. I was taught by the one-letter-at-a-time and "sound it out" method which I used to teach my children to read.
Later, I recall finding research on yet another generation that was reading-deficient, and the problem was traced to lead in fuel exhausts impairing brain function of children (who are much more vulnerable to concentrations of toxic chemicals).
That later generation is now in their 40's and basically in charge of the world. They don't read for fun.
They watch movies and TV. Their children text and post YouTube videos.
The gap between generations is widening fast, but the old bell curve distribution still prevails. No matter what trait you map, half the people can, half can't.
Today, we no longer confuse the ability to learn to read with the ability to think.
We've discovered "learning disabilities" and the prevalence of ADHD, Aspergers and dyslexia, etc. Diagnoses are rising and rising and rising.
We've found mechanical geniuses who are dyslexic, and techie-geeks who are socially challenged. Every trait eventually turns out to be good for something humanity as a whole needs.
Now we're edging into step #3.
"What if..." speculation. What if genetics finds a way to take that bottom half of the distribution and erase it - or flip it, so that those who are deficient in a trait become as much more than "normal" as they were below "normal" by "turning on a gene?"
Then we come to some challenge for the whole global human population that requires one of the erased traits - but we don't have that trait.
This is not smoke and mirrors speculation. It's generated a few good SF novels, but it's nearer reality today.
Note this article on cloning a Neanderthal.
The title of that article says it all:
We May Soon Be Able to Clone Neanderthals. But Should We?
At the same time that article was being touted all over the internet, we have more action in the combat zone of government vs. schools.
Remember, this is the world your reader lives in. These are the problems worldbuilders need to turn inside out to reveal new perspectives. Put a cloned Neanderthal child into a modern classroom and see if the Teacher can handle that. Two Neaderthals, male and female?
In February 2010 "authority" has decided to act once more, re-engineering our school's functions, just as the French government wanted to in 1904.
Here's a quote from:
The American Psychiatric Association announced Wednesday that it is proposing to eliminate the diagnosis of Asperger's syndrome from the official diagnostic guide of mental disorders. The revised manual would place kids who are currently said to have Asperger's within an expanded definition of autism.
That change might affect how families get special education services in public schools. Currently, parents of children with autism turn to the federal law that guarantees a free public education for students with disabilities. Kids with autism clearly qualify, but for kids with Asperger's, it's much less clear. They are often highly intelligent but have social problems that make it hard for them to thrive in school.
Has something changed with this rise in autism diagnoses? Or have we just discovered something about the differences among people that have always existed? I'll leave that question for worldbuilders to ponder as well.
In the 1940's, children would be "held back" if they didn't complete an elementary grade's work, or "skipped" ahead if they were faster than their age group. School was about giving each child the education they needed to make their way in the world, regardless of what "the majority" of their age group could or could not do. School was about acquiring skills.
By the 1960's, government had decided that school was about "socializing" children so they could be happy in adult life. So kids weren't "skipped" because that was bad for them, and others were promoted with the class because we can't stigmatize someone just for not learning something.
Remember Star Trek in the late 1960's -- and really more in the 1970's, popularized and iconicized SPOCK - the brain, the super-intelligent geek-prototype. (crazy sexy too)
While people, especially college age people, were adoring intelligence (and the women, maybe some men, were lusting after super-intelligence), our schools were "socializing" children instead of teaching them.
Read this article on Emotional Intelligence:
The subtitle is:
A Site Dedicated to Communicating Scientific Information about Emotional Intelligence, Including Relevant Aspects of Emotions, Cognition, and Personality
That's a page that indexes scientific articles on emotional intelligence -- note the layout of this index page: "emotional intelligence made visually simple" is what I'd call it.
The index is visually designed to be all about exalting "emotional intelligence" so people who can't read (or maybe can't actually reason?) won't feel so bad that it's hard to learn about emotional intelligence?
OK, maybe the subject of Emotional Intelligence does not deserve a stab in the back like that -- but I'm focused on worldbuilding that might get fiction readers to think about intelligence, which is real scary to do.
The term emotional intelligence may have been first used in a doctoral dissertation in 1985. Here's another website, and as you read this I want you to think about "politics" and "education" and "intelligence first measured at the behest of the French government."
And don't forget this is a worldbuilding exercise in Science FICTION Romance.
Here's a quote from that article:
In 1985 Wayne Leon Payne, then a graduate student at an alternative liberal arts college in the USA, wrote a doctoral dissertation which included the term "emotional intelligence" in the title. This seems to be the first academic use of the term "emotional intelligence." In next five years, no one else seems to have used the term "emotional intelligence" in any academic papers.
Then in 1990 the work of two American university professors, John Mayer and Peter Salovey, was published in two academic journal articles. Mayer, (U. of New Hampshire), and Salovey (Yale), were trying to develop a way of scientifically measuring the difference between people's ability in the area of emotions. They found that some people were better than others at things like identifying their own feelings, identifying the feelings of others, and solving problems involving emotional issues. The title of one of these papers was titled "Emotional Intelligence".
Read between the lines of that historical reprise. The FIRST person to come up with an idea is not the one historically credited. People with solid CREDENTIALS get the credit. Not intelligence. Not inventiveness. Not thinking outside the box. Not imagination. Credentials.
There is so much CONFLICT behind stories like that, you don't need help finding it. So let's move on.
In surveying this seething field of the study of Emotional Intelligence, I ran across the statement that emotional intelligence is not set at a certain level when you're born, but rather is something that develops over time.
Other studies I've seen show how learning speed and ability decline with age. So maybe "Intelligence" declines with age, but "Emotional Intelligence" increases? What of someone who's 900 years old? A Vampire?
The concept the French government was chasing was the idea that people ARE what they are born and the important thing about them, the thing that distinguishes one from another, doesn't change. (if that's true, then love can't conquer all)
That "you are what you're born" theory actually is a notion growing out of the concept of the "Aristocrat" that gives rise to government of the many by the few - Kings, totalitarianism, and all the forms that say a few people know what to do and the "many" just don't are all based in this notion that a peasant is a peasant. That's what the French government was likely trying to "prove scientifically" because science was the new legitimizer, the new "political correctness" that couldn't be challenged publicly.
The USA was founded by aristocrats, land barons, and the privileged who harbored the exotic theory that government doesn't rule, it serves.
The IDEA was that the "majority" can choose government servants for themselves because all that's needed to tell a good presidential candidate from a bad one is "emotional intelligence" or the ability to judge character. Men of good character would make good decisions "for the people."
So the USA did not become a "Democracy" at all, and still isn't. It's a REPRESENTATIVE DEMOCRACY and "stands for" a REPUBLIC. Totally different notions from what's going on now that the Internet and blogging has opened up whole new avenues of communication among us peasants.
We are supposed to choose people to govern us on the basis of a judgment about their essential "character" -- and then turn them loose to do as they see best (Aristocracy). We don't elect a President, we "dub" a President and then crown him/her.
That may also true of elected School Boards who run our schools, choose textbooks, select "what" to teach children to "believe" (or not) and what to protect them from learning.
Schooling, even home schooling, is political indoctrination of one kind or another. (in home schooling, parents can teach what they want as long as they cover the test material, true, but still parents do select what the child may or may not be exposed to, and that's political.)
So we've all been indoctrinated in early schooling, and "broken out" in college or university or maybe just in "life." It's part of maturing. Everyone has to start somewhere, right?
Well, step back and look at the results in the modern world.
Some people have a lot of money and, even in this recession, no fear of not having enough for everything they need and most of what they want.
Some people are living in the streets and dying for lack of medical care.
Some people go through a weekly endurance trial known as "paying the bills" -- having to decide which ones to pay and which to let slide, and worrying if another job will ever turn up.
What's the difference among those 3 groups?
Does the misery of poverty (or anguish of hand-to-mouth paychecks) have anything to do with how well developed your "emotional intelligence" is?
Does emotional intelligence help you pay the bills?
That question is an example of Step #4.
You take the original question, "How Does Intelligence Work" - add some bits and pieces, shake well, and produce a new question that connects the abstract world of thinking about thinking to the reader's world of daily worries and conflicts.
Well, yes, oddly enough, Emotional Intelligence might pay the bills.
Because, you see, what really differentiates the Well Heeled from the Worriers from the hardcore poor is a College Degree.
OK, there are of course exceptions, and I know a lot of them personally!
Remember that bell curve distribution. It wouldn't be a bell curve if it didn't have asymptotic tails, and "readers" are on one of those asymptotes - we just aren't "normal" by any means. It's always been only about 5% - maybe 10% - who buy books. You can get up to 10% only if you include people who read one or two books a year, and include non-fiction. We readers just don't count in the bigger scheme of things.
There are ultra-rich like Bill Gates who don't have a college degree. And there are really poor people living on the streets who do have a college degree or even two!
Statistics only work in one direction. Statistics can predict the behavior of large groups. But you can't work the equation backwards. You can't predict the behavior (or dominant trait) of a given individual by the statistics of the group(s) that individual belongs to. That's the main cognitive error most people make.
But statistics are very revealing of the larger picture. Just look at this government website:
That's a 2008 bar graph of education vs unemployment rate
Study that graph that shows unemployment rate vs. variety of diploma in 2008. Unemployment hadn't reached 10% yet, but I recently saw some statistics I can't now find about 2009's unemployment picture, and the distribution seen here does hold through 2009.
Very clearly, if you have a doctorate, even in the midst of this replay of The Great Depression, you have a WELL PAYING job, or will get one tomorrow.
There is NO UNEMPLOYMENT among those with advanced degrees and precious little unemployment among those with a solid middling education.
To refresh your memory, the recession of 2000 was the tech recession where degree holders got hit, and before that it was middle management that got eliminated and replaced by computers.
Today, however, there's something even stranger going on.
Before the crash of 2007-8, we had a growing scream of anguish from employers who could not, no how no way, FILL JOBS.
We had farm hand jobs going unfilled, whole fields going unpicked unless they could get illegal labor over the border.
But even more, we had high tech jobs, advance degree jobs, and higher management position jobs going unfilled, stretching and stretching the limits of what a company could accomplish without having their jobs filled and the work done.
Even before the baby boomers started retiring (which is happening right now - people born in 1948, right after WWII, are 62 and many are in ill health and need to retire) even before the boomers started retiring, there were more top level jobs, jobs that take 30 years to learn to do, going unfilled, work going undone.
It's my (worldbuilder) theory that the lack of getting that work done is what caused this economic collapse.
Yes, I know, it's really over-borrowing; but has anyone thought about why businesses borrow too much?
It could be because they can't fill the jobs and get the work done themselves so they have to borrow to buy stuff they would ordinarily make or do themselves.
To protect USA workers, the government made laws against importing the high-level, advanced degree workers we needed, and against importing the farm labor we needed. Today we import over 60% of our food. I saw that statistic a couple years ago and it horrified me enough that I remembered it as a dot I keep connecting.
I actually live in a house in a tract on what used to be very productive farm land. Orchards north of us are gone, replaced by tract housing.
The US population has increased, as I've noted in previous posts, very steeply, and we can barely build houses and apartments fast enough to accommodate the increase when times are good. Right now, housing demand is building up until affordability comes in reach of newly formed families.
This is my connect-the-dots futurology thinking. Every time I had read one of the (many) articles about jobs going unfilled and unemployment being too low but population exploding, I knew in my futurologist bone that we were in for a humongous collapse of the economy.
Following the crash of 2007-8 we still have that pre-crash scream of anguish from employers who can't fill vital jobs!
We have a government earnestly scrambling to spend tax dollars on "creating jobs" when in point of fact, we have too many jobs already!
Here are facts and figures in Forbes Magazine
I love that illustration at the top of that article. I wish I had a visual-intelligence like the fellow-gal who thought that one up!
But look at this quote from that article:
We all know America's labor force is graying. Workers over the age of 55 will swell to 20% of the total in five years, compared with 10% two decades ago. The oldest boomers turn 65 next year. While a rotten economy and a rocky stock market will force many to cling to their jobs, they'll eventually have to go. Surprisingly, new hires of the right sort are tough to find: 2.4 million positions--many in professional services, health care and education--are going unfilled, says the Bureau of Labor Statistics. "We have high unemployment that will persist, but we've also got a coming talent shortage," adds Tamara Erickson, a workforce consultant in Boston.
Read that whole article. It will chill your worldbuilder bones and make you wonder how love can possibly conquer this! Out of that wonder may come the novel of a lifetime. (Don't forget the Neanderthals and the French government initiating the I.Q. concept.)
We have a bureau of labor statistics, a government agency, complaining we have too many unfillable jobs, and we have a government scrambling to alleviate a jobs shortage by emergency action.
I did hear a government official say on TV, "Never waste a good emergency." And he wasn't talking about the "other" party.
Just remember that even with 10% unemployment, we have too many jobs unfilled, high paying good jobs, and no unemployment worthy of graphing among those with higher degrees. You have to study that graph of degrees vs. unemployment and think about that bell curve -- half the people are not smart enough to get those advanced degrees, it's just that we don't know which half is which.
Remember all those times Alan Greenspan testified before various Senate and Congressional committees, saying directly to the camera that the key to preventing a major collapse of the economy was to RE-EDUCATE THE WORKFORCE. The tone of voice telegraphed an assumption that anyone could learn to do anything. The I.Q. concept says that's not so.
The worldbuilding question is "Which is true?"
Greenspan used the word "education" over and over. Savings rate (i.e. not going into such deep debt) and education were the two keys to preventing disaster. The politicians on those committees (I watched their faces time and again) did not listen, did not hear, or maybe just could not understand, what he was saying and why he said it.
OK, it was ALAN GREENSPAN. His version of the English language is nearly incomprehensible to those who can't read 5 syllable words and parse complex-compound sentences, but I listened carefully and I can attest that Greenspan's grammar and vocabulary usage are impeccable, correct, precise and totally comprehensible. But our elected officials did not heed his warnings.
Similar testimony and warnings have come down from the halls of Education, and similarly been ignored, as indicated in the Johnny Can't Read article I pointed to above.
So, how does Intelligence actually work?
Step #5 in this process is to check back to the original question.
Is there a connection between intelligence and education?
Intuitively, we would think so.
Let me specify my personal definition of intelligence, so we're all thinking about thinking about the same subject.
Let's say "Intelligence" is the ability to LEARN, and I.Q. tests should, ideally, measure the speed with which an individual learns. NOT "what you know" but "how fast you learn something you've never encountered before."
Under that definition, which I didn't make up but learned, emotional intelligence is just intelligence, and measures the speed with which an individual learns emotional matters (like love and commitment).
Ethics, morals, even religion and faith can come under my definition of Intelligence, as can "intuition" -- the speed with which the individual apprehends a pattern that has not manifested on the material plane but exists only in the individual's imagination.
Now, remember what we found out about the shift in educational emphasis from a meritocracy based on the speed of acquisition of hard facts and the ability to manipulate learned facts to generate hypotheses and theories, to a meritocracy based on "fitting in" on "socialization" on "citizenship" and emotional intelligence alone.
With a school system geared only to reward those who have high emotional intelligence, who excel at social skills, it's small wonder Aspergers and ADHD kids who are often extremely "intelligent" are sent off to special ed where they have social skills pounded into them but are starved for intellectual stimulation and success at the things they're really good at (geekish stuff).
So if high emotional intelligence is what elementary schools look for, foster, and reward with high grades, it's those folks who get to go on to tech HS and college, get the degrees, and STAY EMPLOYED EVEN THROUGH A MINI-DEPRESSION!!!
I would expect today's Ph.D.'s have extreme emotional intelligence coupled to a fairly high I.Q. or intelligence for learning hard facts.
The reason our schools turn out too few Ph.D.'s to fill those high level jobs, and have turned out too few for so long that the high-level admin positions that take 30 years on the job to learn are now unfilled and emptying fast -- the reason we have too few of these high-level professionals is that very few of us have both high level emotional intelligence or the capacity to develop it, AND high level math-science intelligence.
You're looking at the intersection of two bell curve distributions.
Maybe something has gone wrong with our schooling, not with us?
This is the world your reader is living in. "Model" it in your worldbuilding, and ask new questions about it, find new solutions to old questions.
Older people (say 80 year olds today) will tell you that these young people today, regardless of how many degrees they have, just don't have the education "we" used to get. (hey, I'm not 80.)
People who have a long-time perspective attest to the deterioration of educational standards, and though I haven't any hard statistics to substantiate this notion, it seems to me that the takeover of our schools by the "emotional intelligence" admirers parallels the deterioration that the old timers see so clearly.
It may or may not be a "deterioration" but I'd say there's no escaping the notion that it is a change.
And that change has not been designed according to objective criteria.
The change is directed by politics.
Whether this is good, bad, or indifferent is a matter for worldbuilders.
But let me refer you to my blog entry of last week,
which discusses the changes to our civilization currently splitting generations apart.
The biggest change is of course, social-networking, and I took a long, connect-the-dots futurologist's look at social networking and the mistakes being made in understanding what it is, nevermind what it does.
The March 1, issue of Fortune Magazine has an article titled THE FUTURE OF READING, Tablets? Smartphones? Netbooks? They could all save newspapers, books, and magazines -- or destroy them. Or both.
The import of this article for you, the online public, is not what it says but who says it. Fortune Magazine! All the major media are now taking e-books and systems like Kindle (wi-fi download of current magazines, blogs and news) seriously.
And everywhere you turn (even here) you will find people talking about social networking and "how to use it" -- as if we haven't been using social networking since the dawn of human intelligence.
Online Social networking, if you read the how-to articles, is really the tool of the well educated, High Emotional Intelligence, netizen. And in the Microsoft era, just getting online and staying online takes a considerable I.Q.
There is, however, still ongoing disrespect for that combination of skills - the high I.Q. and high E.I.
And of course someone had to connect E.I. to Darwin.
The earliest roots of emotional intelligence can be traced to Darwin’s work on the importance of emotional expression for survival and second adaptation. In the 1900s, even though traditional definitions of intelligence emphasized cognitive aspects such as memory and problem-solving, several influential researchers in the intelligence field of study had begun to recognize the importance of the non-cognitive aspects. For instance, as early as 1920, E. L. Thorndike used the term social intelligence to describe the skill of understanding and managing other people.
And the two kinds of cognitive skills are still seen as different, or independent variables.
Yet as evidenced by the total lack of unemployment during a mini-Depression among those who have passed both the E.I. screening of elementary school and the I.Q. screening of university, our culture, civilization and society reward awesomely those who have both.
At the same time, we disrespect those who exercise both emotional intelligence and cognitive skills by mastering the internet and/or computer games early in life.
Here's an article titled:
The Internet Will Make You Smarter
And a quote from that:
[the survey] was prompted in part by an August 2008 cover story in the Atlantic Monthly by technology writer Nicholas Carr headlined: "Is Google Making Us Stupid?"
Carr suggested in the article that heavy use of the Web was chipping away at users' capacity for concentration and deep thinking. Carr, who participated in the survey, told the authors he still agreed with the piece.
"What the 'Net does is shift the emphasis of our intelligence away from what might be called a meditative or contemplative intelligence and more toward what might be called a utilitarian intelligence," Carr said in a release accompanying the study. "The price of zipping among lots of bits of information is a loss of depth in our thinking."
So you see, even those who spend a lifetime studying how intelligence works have still got no clue!
We keep inventing these different sorts of intelligence. Contemplative Intelligence? Utilitarian intelligence?
Think about Wilmar Shiras's landmark SF novel about super-intelligent children.
Here's a quote from wikipedia on her work (which is brilliant!)
Her story "In Hiding" was submitted in 1948 to John W. Campbell, Jr.'s influential magazine Astounding Science Fiction, where it was published in the November issue. The story, about extraordinarily gifted children who were struggling to find their place in the world, struck a chord with readers and became a classic, rapidly appearing in multiple anthologies. Shiras published two sequels in the magazine: "Opening Doors," and "New Foundations." The three stories then became the first three chapters in the novel, Children of the Atom. It was published during her later-in-life sophomore year in college, attending the College of the Holy Names.
I got my copy autographed by here during a party at Marion Zimmer Bradley's house. What a moment!
If you take a really long point of view and look for dots to connect, you might see the frantic, even panic-stricken, thrashing about for a way -- any way -- to appease the demand of the French government of 1904 to find an objective scientific way to tell the difference among people.
The assumption is that there is a difference. Alan Greenspan's apparent assumption is that there is no difference except education which can be paid for by government.
To the culture of 1904, "scientific" was the imprimatur of legitimacy. And though the French Revolution was a thing of the past, (1789 - 1799), it was barely 4 generations previous to the demand for an I.Q. test.
How do I figure 4 generations? Well, the demand was made by older men, men raised in say the 1860's by people born in probably 1830 and who had grandparents who remembered the revolution. If you take "20 years is a generation" you miss the transmission of cultural values as the counter to the driving force of "change."
Look at the emancipation of the slaves in the USA. That was over in 1865, yet it was 1965 before the Civil Rights Act was pushed through the US Congress against violent objections. And even today, Blacks have their civil rights violated routinely and nobody notices because that's how it's always been, right?
So think about the mind set of the elder leaders of France a mere hundred years after the French Revolution, and the massacre of "the aristocrats" regardless of the personal politics of each aristocrat.
A new kind of aristocracy had invented itself and taken charge of the rabble without letting the rabble know it. Read some historical romances and think hard about why you like them so much. Use your emotional intelligence to analyze your responses.
The French Revolution was against inherited wealth and position, not against a basic philosophy.
The instigators were educated intellectuals who knew one philosophy from another, but the rabble had to be roused with something a tad less scary than thinking about thinking which is what philosophy (my favorite subject) really is.
You see, from the point of view of France's new leaders, there HAS TO BE a difference among people, if the natural aristocrats, the few, are to "rise to the top" and govern us. And they do have to rise and govern because otherwise we're a rabble, right? Rabbles can't govern themselves. The real problem was which aristocrats were in charge, not that someone was in charge. Liberty means something different to each person who uses the word, just like Hope, or Love.
But the founders of the USA believed that all men - one man, one vote, and only for men, white men at that - were good judges of character, and it's good character that we want to govern us. They felt the rabble couldn't govern itself, but the rabble was wise enough to choose the correct aristocrats to do the governing -- but even more than that, the philosophy behind the USA's success is that the rabble has the right to be wrong.
Of course, that was only for men, and they expected the only men who ever could run for high office were landed gentry. Then there was Abraham Lincoln -- but he just proved the point. He was a success in spite of starting out with nothing.
He was a success through education.
He READ BOOKS - so the legend goes - by firelight. Have you ever tried to read by a wood fire's light? Try it, and not with an e-reader that's backlit.
So how does "intelligence" work - whatever it is?
Do you need to go to school to become "educated?" Well, a lot of people are having great success (I know a few) with home schooling because the internet has made textbooks, curricula, and association among parents and among students so much more accessible, and computer screens are backlit.
Local public schools are being drained of their academic best by Charter Schools, by parochial schools, and every alternative. Parents are bailing out of the public school system because it doesn't prepare kids for college (because public school emphasizes emotional intelligence) -- and it is increasingly apparent that only a college degree (which needs a high I.Q.) will keep you employed through recessions, and even that's no real guarantee.
Government runs the schools through the School Board, State requirements, and Federal programs and selects what "kind" of Intelligence will get you that coveted degree.
States and school districts have to comply with Federal standards to get Federal money. As I've said on this blog many times, to plot a good novel, learn the oldest adage of civilization -- if you want to understand what's really going on, follow the money.
Read Alvin Toffler's book Future Shock where he shows you, with an avalanche of factual evidence, how civilizations generate schooling for children.
He shows how in our civilization, since the industrial revolution our governments have shaped and conditioned schools to turn out factory workers and bureaucratic cogs for our wheels.
The Industrial Revolution is considered to be 1700's through the 1800's -- so in 1904 when this Intelligence thing became a government project, the social changes the Industrial Revolution generated were just appearing. The internet dates from the early 1970's, sort of, and the Web is really a phenomenon of the 1990's. We haven't begun to feel the impact of this online social networking thing.
What we teach, what we emphasize, what we arm our children with is what our most coveted employers prefer in their workers.
Or so it was through the 1970's when Toffler observed, compiled and wrote. Most of what he predicted has come true.
In fact, in many ways, Alvin Toffler predicted the effect of the internet. He predicted "cottage industry" -- home based businesses and independent contractors instead of corporate employees becoming the base of our GDP. He predicted telecommuting. Yeah, before the Web or social networking existed, he predicted the effect all this would have.
But the principle he revealed is still working, I think, though it's veered onto what seems to be a new tack.
Government generates the curriculum for the schools, both the overt curriculum (what it says in the textbook and tests that you have to pass) and what Toffler called the covert curriculum which is the most important.
The covert curriculum is conveyed by what the teacher telegraphs to the students by classroom rules, the punishments for breaking those rules, by who gets called on how often, by tone of voice when discussing one or another module in the text, by approval and disapproval, by simply being a product of the world he/she lives in.
Both of overt and covert curriculae are about what it takes to succeed in the world, in life.
Step #6 in getting a crazy idea.
Take a worldbuilder's view of the shift to a curriculum rewarding Emotional Intelligence, fitting in, socialization -- and excluding those disruptive, hyperactive kids who can't conform emotionally.
By excluding those kids, you're teaching the rest conform-or-die in a covert curriculum mode. The nail that sticks up gets hammered down.
Having been "hammered down" as a child, an adult will make a great protagonist or antagonist for a novel.
Now go back to the idea of an aristocracy that governs because they know best and because it can, through the auspices of government, solve the problems that distract you peasants from earning a living (and paying taxes).
The advent of social networking and blogging has shifted the dynamics of the society of the governed, of the rabble, of the peasants.
Social networking has made it easy to rouse a rabble with a rumor or two. It's also easy to fact-check, but not everyone can find a website they trust to check facts on.
How many of you have actually followed the links I've inserted here and read the articles to see if they say what I said they say?
And of those, especially those who found discrepancies or who just plain disagree with me, how many have "asked the next question" -- which is "Does it matter for the sake of this discussion that the fact is wrong?"
This is a blog about Alien Romance, about non-human intelligence and human emotional intelligence. To write this imaginative stuff, we need meticulous worldbuilding. To do meticulous worldbuilding, we do not need actual REAL FACTS. We need an apprehension of facts that allows a flight of "what if?" "If Only..." and "If This Goes On ...."
We're looking to find a problem that love can conquer, a problem important to the readers that they don't at the moment know exists.
So if we concoct a notion of how intelligence works that seems plausible to our 21st century readers, we've got a building block for our next "world."
So let's go with a thesis (you can pick a different thesis when we're done with this one) that "Intelligence" and the I.Q. test, and the subsequent invention of other kinds of intelligence, is really just a figment of the imagination of would-be Aristocrats that want to take over government and rule the rabble.
Someone in the French government in 1904 grabbed hold of Darwin's theory (published in 1859 when he was 50 years old) and tried to gain scientific legitimacy for the philosophy that says aristocrats do exist, or the blue blood inherited trait of rulership exists. There really is some definable property of an individual that suits him to rule, and science can select out those gifted individuals.
I seem to recall reading recently that intelligence can be inherited but genius can not. With studies of criminality, they are looking for genes that somehow govern morality. Or sanity.
What steers the direction of scientific inquiry? Government funding? Religion? Both?
So, if you were one of those who moves in the upper circles of our modern aristocracy -- money, power, government -- and you saw the rabble suddenly able to communicate via the Web and uncover your attempts to rule instead of govern, then what would you do to ensure that your children could inherit power, position and privelege?
Would you use government funds to shape education that would sharpen young minds for independent thinking early in life? Would you turn them loose with a freely accessible internet, twitter, texting, communications systems?
Remember the case of the laptop cameras used to spy on children:
Or would you set up what looks like an earnest attempt at an education system (that mysteriously fails to teach reading and writing) and fund and fuel that system with rewards for emotional intelligence?
Would you set up a system that would bestow rewards on those smart enough to spend most of their effort on reading other people's emotions instead of novels of far away places with strange sounding names and incendiary ideas?
Think about this from a gamesmanship standpoint. 3 Times is Enemy Action. It's an adage for a reason.
Have our schools been "reformed" and "refunded" 3 times and failed 3 times?
Is the chronic failure condition of our schools actually enemy action? Is it "the enemy" succeeding to do what they set out to do?
Remember The Peter Principle?
The adage that applies is "Never attribute to malice what can be adequately explained by stupidity."
The people who are "reforming" our education system are people who are the product of that failed education system. Can love conquer that?
You know it can, it just hasn't yet in real life. Build a world where love has conquered The Peter Principle.
With the government reporting all the failures of our education system and drawing on more and more tax money to "improve" our schools (thus increasing the amount of power certain officials wield), but still reporting mysterious failure after failure (and the drop-out rate is still incredible among Blacks, Hispanics and inner city kids), could you possibly entertain the notion that the schools are doing exactly what the government wants them to do?
Mallice succeeding? Or stupidity floundering? It's for worldbuilders to choose, then pursue to a logical conclusion.
Does the application of the theory of "Emotional Intelligence" actually produce followers rather than leaders or iconoclasts like Warren Buffet?
That's a book called
Iconoclast: A Neuroscientist Reveals How to Think Differently
--------READ THIS WHOLE DESCRIPTION ONLINE-----
From Publishers Weekly
Psychiatry professor Berns (Satisfaction: The Science of Finding True Fulfillment) describes an iconoclast as "a person who does something that others say can't be done." Though keeping his promise to reveal the "biological basis" for the ability to think outside the box, Berns keeps technical explanation to a minimum, instead using themes like perception, fear and networking to profile a number of famous free-thinkers.
An Iconoclast is a human somewhat like C. J. Cherryh's "Aiji" from her Foreigner series which I highly recommend. The concept of the "Aiji" is essentially the Iconoclast by this neurological definition, but with a few twists you need to be able to see our education system, founded on the I.Q. and E.I. concepts in a new light.
Read a few novels about Medical School and Internship and Residency - and the hierarchy in hospitals, in the medical profession. Read about the legal profession and listen for the sounding of similar notes.
Do you suppose the "failure" of a certain type of person, driven to drop out of school and found a career running drugs or worse, is due to the identification of that type of person by "authority" as Darwinianly unfit to join the ranks of the rulers?
Do you suppose Obama is the Lincoln of today?
Is Intelligence a figment of government imagination, a tool to keep the rabble in check and clueless that they are being kept in check?
That's by no means a new idea. People have been fighting the use of I.Q. tests on that basis for more than 50 years. But have all the worlds that can be envisioned from that idea already been used in SF?
If they have, then good, because now we can do "the same but different" and add a twist of Romance.
The idea that using the internet makes you stupid, i.e. undermines your intelligence, would be propagated as part of the covert curriculum in schools if the use of the internet actually makes you smarter than those who are in authority over you and fear your ability to think about thinking.
But I don't think it really is that way.
Still, it would make a dynamic premise for worldbuilding behind a really hot Alien Romance.
Now Step #7, build yourself a series of alternate universe worlds, some fantasy, some SF, some paranormal romance ones.
1. A sub-variety of human evolved along a different line on this chart,
maybe brought into the modern world via cloning --
where "intelligence" (whatever that is) is bestowed upon certain chosen young the way bees make a queen out of one of the eggs, while all the rest of the young are left to be "peasants."
2. An alien species - maybe ruling an alternate Earth with a gateway into this world to make it an urban fantasy. This alien species would have the ability (maybe not all of them; only a Talented few) to tell intelligent human fetuses from us dullards?
3. An Earth colony on some distant lost world founded by super geniuses for super geniuses and genetically selecting their progeny for even higher "intelligence." Now they get discovered by us dullards.
There are 3 crazy ideas that can be springboards into the craziest romances you have ever read.
All of the writers reading this could write any of those 3 "crazy ideas" and none of the books would be copyright infringements. You can't copyright an "idea."
And the truth is, you can start with any of those 3 ideas and by the time you finish writing a novel, the idea itself will be completely invisible. You could make a career out of writing just one of those in all its possible variations.
And so now you see exactly how to go get yourself a "crazy idea" - this one about the civilization built around a philosophical idea of what constitutes "intelligence" is only one crazy idea that's out there on the internet waiting for you to put the bits and pieces together and ask the next question -- as Theodore Sturgeon taught us:
Tuesday, February 23, 2010
How Does Intelligence Work?
Posted by Jacqueline Lichtenberg at 2:52 PM
Labels: Alvin Toffler, Binet, crazy ideas, I.Q., Jacqueline Lichtenberg, Paranormal Romance, PNR, science fiction romance, Theodore Sturgeon, Tuesday, Worldbuilding
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The morning after I posted this blog entry, I found the following headline which pertains to some of my points about education:ReplyDelete
All teachers, principals fired at poor-performing R.I. high school
The URL for that story is:
Here's a quote from the article:
The move makes Rhode Island one of the first states to meet a federal mandate to identify and overhaul poor performing schools.
Central Falls High School was singled out because of very low test scores and a graduation rate of 48%, the newspaper says. Five other schools have been put on notice.
The State must meet a Federal mandate based on "test scores" -- pretty much what I said in the blog post about government and schools.
Now be sure to include this dimension of daily reality in your worldbuilding.