Examples of Intelligence

As AI encroaches, people will be looking more carefully for examples of intelligence

2023 appears to be a breakout year for intelligence of the artificial kind so what indicates true intelligence has been on my mind.

Speaking of both subjects, I was little disappointed with the GPTs (ChatGPT and GPT3.5 collectively).

I asked them:

  1. What are the top three signs of intelligence?
  2. What are three useful criteria for assessing someone’s intelligence?
  3. \What are real-world examples?
This yielded disappointing results not worth reprinting.
But it also induced me to write a more intelligent prompt. I will print it with the prior three prompts, because as far as the text generation algorithm is concerned, a prompt consists of itself plus all prior prompts within the same communication window.
So this was the de facto prompt:
  1. What are the top three signs of intelligence?
  2. What are three useful criteria for assessing someone’s intelligence?
  3. What are real-world examples?
  4. What are real world examples that you notice in the context of conversation with someone you don’t otherwise know anything about? Like someone you have met at a party and struck up a conversation with. What are objective “tells” (in the sense of poker tells) that indicate this person’s intelligence?

With this prompt, I finally got some decent answers.



These are pretty good indicators of intelligence (and also of conversational ability).

But they don’t provide specific examples. Which is what I asked for.

As in the ability to summon and articulate an abundance of relevant, interesting, and  thought-provoking examples.

The reason that the GPTs fail to provide examples is not that they can’t think, though they can’t. The reason is either that good examples “in the wild”, ie the texts GPT trained on, are rare – or that it is hard for the GPTs to distinguish from the millions of so-so examples. Or both.

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There’s one sentence from Venkatesh Rao’s Art of Gig that won’t unstick itself from my brain: “Your advice is only as good as your examples“. 

In a way, the whole book is about providing intelligence as a service, in that it is a book about strategy consulting and the basic job of a strategy consultant, the common denominator, is to be intelligent in service of client goals. (This is also in the book).

The brainstuck sentence mentioned above comes from a section of Art of Gig entitled, “100 Consulting Tips”. If the assertion above is true, then we can think of this section of the book as “100 Tips for being intelligent”.

Here’s the 36th tip:

“Examples, examples, examples. Your advice is only as good as your examples. Collect examples everywhere, from all sources. Half your value lies in being an encyclopedia of examples, with ready access to greater volume, velocity, and variety than employees”.

I will also reproduce his 37th tip because it’s related.

“Read up on classic and cliché examples commonly cited in your consulting niche and have something fresh to say about them. Examples: South Airlines for strategy consultants, iPhone for design consultants, AlphaGo for AI, BP futures for futurists”

So the accomplished strategy consultant and author says examples are at the heart of intelligence. 

To be fair, education, work experience, and personal habits or practices also affect one’s ability to provide examples. For example, if you have a practice of taking notes and even writing about them, you be more likely to provide them as examples to something when the time comes. 

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As automated content generation AI begins to seep into every part of our lives, people are going to think more carefully about whether it comes from an intelligent being.

And they might start to be more particular about asking for examples.

I asked the GPTs for some examples of intelligence-revealing examples (sorry) with this elaborate:

Suppose the conversation is about the difficult of finding places to travel to without commercialized tourism. If this is the current premise of a conversation, what surprising and interesting idea might someone subsequently contribute that changes the pallor of the conversation Also, can you give a few examples of remarks this person might make in which they provide good examples to illustrate their idea? Specifically, what examples might they provide that indicate their intelligence?

The GPTs gave this a pretty good answer.

New idea – dark tourism.

Surprising and interesting example – over-commercialized concentration camp, battlefield, or memorial).

But I wanted a specific example. That’s what Christopher Hitchens would give me at a party right. Not some abstract possibility.

So I asked for a joke.

Oof, not a good joke; it’s insensitive and inconsiderate to a large class of people. It’s not a joke that an intelligent person would make. 

The comedian will be the last job on earth replaced by AI.

Meanwhile, to avoid drowning in the mediocrity of AI generated content we will demand, more interesting examples. Conversely, we’ll hone our example-having abilities.