Wednesday, November 9, 2011

More Intelligence: Back To Technology

Would that I had a little time to get a post written today.  Oh wait, here it is.

Whatever the conclusions that came out of yesterday's post, with my proposing for all of ninety minutes the possibility of rewriting the combat tables and then rescinding them, I still find myself in the same basic quandary:  How does a low intelligence differ from a high intelligence in principles of game play?

Granting for the time being (the next thirty years or so) that the effect isn't upon combat, what exactly is effected?  Roleplay?

Okay, I've taken a few moments to stop laughing and get myself together.  No, obviously not roleplay.  No two people in RPGs can agree on any rule binding roleplay for three minutes at a time.

Frankly, I'm not concerned with whether intelligence 'conforms to scientific reality' or not.  I just want a game system that is defined, clear, practical and allows for extrapolations to be made in world design and game play.

Consider, if the gentle reader will, that the lower orders of intelligence are fairly well defined.  A zero-intelligence denotes no thought at all.  A one-intelligence permits the conception of most animals ... with an instinctual thought structure based on seek food or flee.

Two-intelligence brings the lesser sort of animal hunters who, while associating in tribes, tend to attack singly or in not-so-organized groups (the lions bringing down an elephant in David Attenborough's Planet series is a good example).  You can see it here.

A three-intelligence describes a small step up, not so much in terms of combat strategies, but more so as regards personal inter-relationships, such as among the lower apes.

The four-intelligence, or "semi-intelligent" by D&D standards, excellently describes the higher ape.  So in that we have the brink of tool using culture ... where tools are used, but not specifically fabricated for use.  This is a question of intelligence, since while you can teach an ape to use a specific tool, you can't teach it to understand how the tool works, or indeed expect it to understand why the tool is superior.  It learns to use the tool by rote, and not by reason.

Logically, then, the five-intelligence or better creature steps into the realm of primitive tool fabrication and proper tribal organization.  "Low" intelligence, so-called.

At this point I think I would have to argue against considering the matter one of intelligence at all.  Simply throw out that appellation at this point, and define any intelligence higher than 4 as a question of technology, which can be separated.  In effect, a 5 intelligence merely describes a 10 intelligence creature hundreds of thousands of years lacking in social and cultural development.  We can leave any other discussion of intelligence on the shelf, so to speak, and simply not speak of it.

Once we do that, we can easily make a definition between a "low-intelligence culture" and a "human culture."  Humans use metal tools.  Humans have developed religion.  Humans read & write.  Humans have access to theoretical science.  Lower cultures do not.

If you like, you can consider in a medieval setting that it wasn't easy for more advanced cultures, like Europe, to have a steady impact on less advanced cultures, like that of the Bantu or the Nentsis of the Arctic shore.  Some jerk is going to rush at this point to bark about how the Bantu were actually very advanced, but this is a relative question.  Does "very advanced" mean they knew how to grow food and pick sores from their bodies, or does "very advanced" mean the development of a printing press and subsequent literature.  People have a tendency to ascribe the phrase "very advanced" to a wide variety of things.

An 'intelligence' scale (remember we put actual intelligence upon a shelf), balanced against a group of technologies, such as those to be found in, say, Civilization IV, which I've spent a lot of time writing about, might solve the whole problem.  Certain technologies could be allocated to certain 'intelligence' ratings on a point system ... so that if a creature had a 7 intelligence, you could define just exactly what technologies that creature possessed and which it did not ... with the added benefit that two seven-intelligence cultures need not have the exact same technological advances.

Just throwing it out there.

1 comment:

Sharon Kerr-Bullian said...

When my husband and I grappled with this problem, we settled on a quick and dirty guide to what the various intelligence scores mean. For every point you have in intelligence, it's worth around 10-15 IQ points. Now, my husband and I both understand IQ to not really be a reliable measure of intelligence at all; the beauty of IQ however is that in our observations, there are thinking patterns and attitudes which are common to certain ranges.

What does that mean on a cultural technology level? Not much at all. Intelligence isn't the only factor in technological advancement. Put simply, technology moves forward after a discovery only when the old way is less efficient than the new.

If you don't make the discovery, you can't move forward.

If your discovery doesn't yield a more efficient piece of technology that's relevant to the cultural circumstances, it won't change the current technology.

For some cultures, this may mean that inventing the combine harvester is a complete waste of time, and just won't happen. They're grade-limited, and can only work on long, reasonably flat land. They're useless in mountainous areas.

Certainly, this means such a mountain people is unlikely to independently develop a printing press, their farms take longer to tend, and they really don't have enough time in the day to waste on the frivolity of writing and reading. However, they might develop a better crane, or an alternative to the crane that uses the natural wind currents to lift or lower goods from one small mountain ledge to another. They may develop flying machines long before a flat-land culture who has a printing press.

Which is more advanced: the printing press, or flying machines?

The problem with ascribing a technology level to a cultural intelligence level is that, by its very nature, this is going to be a system with a strong bias toward one culture or another. It requires certain assumptions about technological hierarchy that have little solid fact to support such a position.

I think this is one of those subjects where it's best not to try to place rules and boundaries on something that appears not to be objectively defined in the real world. It's too subjective.