Guess the first thing we need to do is understand what “smart” is before we can answer the question as I’m sure we’ve all watched a segment or two of Jeff Foxworthy’s game show “So You Think Your Smarter Than a Fifth Grader”. As its here on national TV where well educated people embarrass themselves when they go head to head with a group of bright 5th graders and typically get beat and we all laugh rather than question a flawed educational system which hasn’t kept pace with our world as what value is it to know that John Dickinson was President of Philadelphia in 1782? Oh, and before you write about the importance of history, know that I am a huge history buff (why else would I know that) however there is context for everything and apologies to the Dickinson Family, however this “fact” was not worth the time spent on learning as it will only become useful again on a game show, however we wax off topic a bit.
In fact, if we look up the word “smart” we will find words like clever, witty, knowledgeable find and my favorite “operating by automation”, in other words it’s just having the information as those 5th graders are all those things, yet they are rote. Whereas the foolish opponent is “wise” as if we look, what we will see characterized by wisdom is: marked by deep understanding, keen discernment, and a capacity for sound judgment. So with the knowledge of youth, we have mutated these learning’s along with practical experience of years to yield “wisdom” which in the long run trumps “smart” as this is why there could never be a real life Doogie Howser as the “practice” of medicine is just that and again not the rote (automation) application of data.
Where does the lowly rat come into this discussion you ask, and it’s the work that Dr. Matt Wilson at MIT is doing which got me thinking of all of this. As mentioned in a prior post, over the past decade or so I’ve thirsted for the understanding of all things neuroscience in a hope to reverse engineer the greatest computer of all the brain. Also it’s not just the human brain; it’s all brains as how these things work by making relatively simple synaptic connections between axioms and dendrites to build cognitive thought is nothing short of amazing and here is where the rats start to come in.
As Wilson’s experiments have shown a couple noteworthy findings as first is the rat builds a detailed database of its environment by “wandering around” meaning the “wandering” is purposeful for the second interesting fact. Here Wilson has determined that the rat actually thinks of the future meaning it is “smart” and the wandering database is used to create this smartness. As Wilsons works show the rat can rationalize multiple potential out comes as if say offered three exits’s and with the primary removed, from its memory it selects the optimized one of the two remaining.
In short the rat is probably smarter then you too as one of the things which is believed that smaller brains are smarter brains as they have fewer potential for neural connections, therefore they can be made quicker. Now remember that “smarter” and “wisdom” are two different things as volume would likely lend to wisdom by allowing a “larger” set of “nets” to form all bit it may be slower given us “larger brained” species greater hope for the future even if we might not be smarter than a rat…