How does someone become smart?

You may not be an expert on Artificial Intelligence (AI), which I will reference in this post, but that’s okay. You are a human and I reference that too, and that’s the more important part.

It seems like there should be an answer to the title of this post. Every technologically advanced country in the world is working on Artificial Intelligence (AI). If we’re going to make something artificial that’s smart, surely we know how to make people smart? Or even what smart is, right?


If society knew exactly the subjects to read, the experiences to have, the skills to develop to make someone “super smart” or “super successful”, then we would have subjected most of society to them.

How does this relate to Artificial Intelligence (AI) and humans?

AI has two components, it has architecture, which is how it “weighs” different decisions and data, and it has training data, the pieces of information that are stored as knowledge. People have this same phenomenon. Your brain has an architecture to it. Studies in personality types are the studies of the architecture of the brain. While we don’t know everything about this field, we certainly know that there are different architectures out there. Two different architectures fed the same data will draw different conclusions. From there, no two people have the exact same life experiences. So all training sets for all humans to ever exist throughout history is entirely unique. That’s 107 BILLION experiments with training data sets. Out of that huge number of humans, many of them died young. A very small percentage of them were “successful” by any measure other than surviving. In fact, through most of history, most people didn’t even make it to their natural lifespans.

The only conclusion that can be drawn, or at least the only one I see, is that it’s impossible for an outside observer to know what someone should learn, experience, or value in order to become smart. Add on to that, one person’s “smart” is making the most money, another’s is scientific breakthroughs, a third person’s is being able to motivate people . It’s all subjective.

Plenty of people (with a healthy brain/good architecture) don’t become “successful” by the measures of their own choosing because they are fed the wrong data, look to the wrong role models, fill up on incorrect information, or don’t know how to discern true from false, deterministic events from probabilistic ones and any other type of interpretation/extrapolation errors. This is why so many people look at the same events in the world and draw different conclusions about good vs. evil, motivations, intentions, outcomes, etc.

That leaves us all with a question, “How can you figure out the right data?”

That’s the answer no one really knows. At least not in advance. “Fail early, fail often”, “Try, try again”, there are many different sayings that address this same fact. Trying is the only way to know if your assumptions are correct or incorrect.

You’re facing a world filled with random events and trying to draw solid conclusions. It can’t be done, but that doesn’t mean we don’t often declare ourselves “correct” even if there is no data to support it.

The only way one becomes “smart” is to first choose what “smart” means to them. Then work hard to try things that may lead to an outcome that makes them feel “smart.” Then if the world shows you that you were wrong, go gather up new data and experience before trying again.

“Smart” is a journey. It’s not a state of being.