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Luminosity-fact or fiction ?

Intelligence is almost indefinable but some of the more ironically intelligent definitions include the ability to assimilate data, make associations that lead to conclusions with all of this being performed in a conceptual framework. Since the commencement of the 20th century there has been an increasing interest in the field of intelligence with significant efforts by biologists, anthropologist and psychologists to define, categorize and develop evaluation techniques. The scientific arguments have been interwoven with race, religion and politics as this arena of social science has evolved into an ever more fascinating discipline. The birth of artificial intelligence has without question been a major factor in the increased obsession with every facet of intelligence, and it is logical that as AI progresses the human interest in intelligence will continue to increase.

The societal pressures that exist today are principally based on the knowledge economy as compared to the more manual landscape of a century ago. This movement towards the hegemony of the intellect has occurred much sooner than originally thought by the brain pioneers and is consistent with the exponential nature of knowledge acquisition. It is not, therefore, surprising that an entire industry has mushroomed around this social revolution, that aims to profit from the insatiable desire of humans to develop acuter intellects, and it does this through the marketing and selling of so called brain enhancement tools. Luminosity is an American company that likens their collection of tricks to the exercises one might perform in a gym hoping to build muscle and increase tone. The comparison, on the surface, seems to make sense until one realizes that there are both relevant physiological and anatomical differences between brain and muscle form and function.

Intelligence, if some theories are to be believed, is accounted for by 85% genetics and 15% environmental factors. There has been much dispute in the scientific communities about these numbers and usually when politics joins the party. However even if one accepts these numbers as fact it still leads to the question of how much, if any, benefit tools such as luminosity actually produce. As far as this author can ascertain there have been no randomized double blinded trials to test the marketing hypothesis put forward by the company, and all it may ultimately be is an amusing way to spend your spare time.

Intelligence is intimately linked to the reflection of life experience and it has been demonstrated that humans can increase their I.Q with conceptually based introspective exercises that generally have little to do with matching matchstick figures and numerals. The process by which intelligence increases, as per the generally accepted evaluation tools of the western world, is explained using the concept of neuroplasticity which essentially describes the ability of mature adult nerve cells to grow new connections and widen their neuropeptide horizon. These changes are naturally subtle and currently there are no direct reliable diagnostic instruments that can objectively substantiate these alterations of form and function.

Intelligence has also been shown to increase with exposure to new and intellectually challenging situations that the individual has never previously encountered. This subtle but critical detail is highly relevant in the development of intellect and is notably absent from the well trodden tests of luminosity. For this product to really advance the intellect it would require the introduction of challenging material of which the individual has had no previous exposure. This experience stimulates the extending and formation of original neural networks and neuropeptide flows that are the physiological precursor of intelligence.

Reading books that are initially unintelligible such as a Critique of Pure Reason by Emmanuel Kant, which are admittedly torturous, are more likely to lead to an increase in neural function which is explained by the fact that as the individual tries to understand the text he must constantly conceptualize the words, phrases and most importantly of all the meanings. To use the luminosity marketing trick of analogizing their tool to a gym workout, the aforementioned reading of Kant is akin to Olympic level gymnastics.

Different cultures understand intelligence in different ways and one of the more obvious limitations of luminosity is that it has been designed by individuals educated in a western culture which naturally limits their ability to draft questions that would be more applicable to eastern cultures. Now it might just have been their business intention to limit their market to the minds of America and Europe but is not made clear on their website, which seems to sell the product to the people of the world.

There are competing companies that have set themselves up in the same intelligence sector as Luminosity using similar claims and promotional tactics, but again none of these entities have been scientifically tested and ironically, for a company that is ostensibly in the business of science, it has failed to demonstrate its scientific credentials. The purchasing public are blithely unaware of the frailty of their claims, and have predictably bought into the gym analogy, thus adorning the product with an undeserved credit.

Luminosity should provide some externally verified hard scientific data to support their marketing claims, which if they turn out to be true then I am a monkeys uncle.

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