Three Types of Intelligence Augmentation: A Thought Experiment

Imagine watching a math competition. Three seemingly smart individuals compete on stage to answer a series of hard questions. The final result is a three-way tie.

Later you learn that these three individuals, who resemble each other externally, are actually very different on the inside.

The first individual is a math professor who’s spent his entire life studying the subject.

The second individual has only studied math up to the high school level. However, a revolutionary new smart drug has increased his brain functioning to the point that he can learn and master new math concepts as soon as he is exposed to them.

The third individual has no knowledge of math whatsoever. But a smart earpiece connected to the internet feeds him the right answers at lightning speed.

These three individuals are analogous to the three different types of intelligence augmentation. The first type, education, optimizes the existing brain for a particular task. The second, enhancement, upgrades the brain’s ability to master new tasks. And the third method, extension, offloads the task to an external module.

Interestingly, from an outsider perspective, the functional result of all three methods can appear to be the same. But the conscious experience of the individual in question is qualitatively different.