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What If Humans Were Twice as Intelligent?

You might someday be much, much smarter than you are now. That’s the hope of neuroscientists focused on understanding the basis of intelligence. They have discovered that the brains of people with high IQs tend to be highly integrated, with neural paths connecting distant brain regions, while less intelligent people’s brains build simpler, shorter routes. But no one knows why some brains construct much longer-range connections than others.

For simplicity, imagine that instead of our current mean IQ score of 100, humans had an average score of 200. (Experts say this isn’t a true “doubling” of intelligence because the IQ scale doesn’t start at zero and, furthermore, the test isn’t actually designed to yield a score as high as 200 — but we will set aside these qualifications for the purpose of argument.) According to Earl Hunt, professor emeritus of psychology at the University of Washington and president of the International Society for Intelligence Research, approximately one person in 10 billion would have an IQ of 200. With a current world population of 7 billion, there may or may not be one such person alive today and, in any case, his or her identity is unknown. However, the 17th-century genius Isaac Newton, discoverer of gravity, calculus and more, is sometimes estimated to have had an IQ of 200 (though he never took an IQ test). So, using him as an archetype, what if we were all a bunch of Newtons? Would the world be much more advanced than it is today?

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