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A Test of Intelligence

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Napoleon Smart

COMMENT: Mr. Armstrong, your dog is a cutie! I hate to tell you, but your dog will eventually learn to spell. My wife and I had two poodle-bichons, now deceased after 15 1/2 wonderful years. At first we used your method of spelling out rather than using certain words. In about 2 weeks, they got wise and equated the sound and sequence of the letters with things that they liked to do or eat. There was no fooling them. I have found that smaller dogs are much more clever than the large ones; also, mixed breeds seem to be smarter – and tougher – than the purebreds. There are, of course, exceptions.
In all honesty, dogs are smarter than a lot of people that I know. They are aware of their environment and, if permitted to do so, adapt as necessary.
Thanks for all that you do. Your write-up on price controls and pegs was particularly useful for me. Have a great day and an even better weekend!!!

REPLY: I for one probably never considered the intelligence of a dog. Being engrossed in AI programming, I had to really understand how we think. For example, perhaps the night you fell in love your mind was recording everything unknowingly. You might recall that memory from any individual sense. The food, the smell, the song that was playing, the place, and so on. That memory exists but it can be accessed by any single sense. That was very important in trying to understand even how to begin to program AI. It obviously could not be a simple linear progression – IF x THEN y ELSE z – (the fundamental programming equation.

What I was stunned by was she indeed was building a knowledge base keeping track of what I would do and what I like and then could develop patterns to forecast what I would do next. But she was also displaying strategy. I would throw a ball and expect the standard go fetch. Then she would take the ball and drop it down the stairs and more or less say, OK, now your turn – go fetch. I was simply not prepared to actually interact with a dog that was intelligent aside from the emotional reactions of happy to see you etc. She was displaying the same patterns of thinking that I studied to create AI. Even more fascinating, she was displaying traits of curiosity. I throw the clothes from the washer to the dryer and she has to come and watch. I had heard the saying that curiosity killed the cat. But I never really thought much of it.

Einstein Curiosity

She sparked my curiosity. Was she exceptional? Was this normal? A study took place at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Germany. The study worked with 32 dogs and 20 chimpanzees who were each to carry out the same task. The dogs all responded positively and immediately. However, the chimpanzees didn’t seem to understand what was being asked of them. She would bark at another dog but hold her up to the mirror and she knew it was her. In fact, only a small percentage of animal species have passed this mirror test.

Actions not only speak louder than words, they are the key to understanding how we think as well as even our pets.  Spatial thinking is the foundation of thought and evolved long before even language and as such, you can see it in even your dog’s behavior. Spatial thinking is the knowledge, skills, and habits of the mind using the concepts of space such as distance, orientation, distribution, and association. Even throwing a ball for a dog or faking a throw and they quickly use these same tools to conclude where the ball went or if you never threw it in the first place.

We use such Spatial thinking tools of representation such as maps, graphs, and diagrams, for trading, and how we process these images forms the cornerstone of our reasoning. In other words,  this is the ability for cognitive strategies to facilitate even problem-solving and decision-making. It is the foundation of the very structure of problem-solving, finding answers, and expressing that as the solutions to these problems.

I confess, I never expected a dog to have such qualities of intelligence. I suppose I was biased and just never expected anything so I did not look. This is what I taught Socrates to do. Explore everything and retain curiosity at all costs. Check if Azuki Beans in Japan might become a replacement for fossil fuels – which it is not. However, if we do not look we cannot answer that question definitively.


So pay attention to your dog. You might be surprised that they do not love you because you simply feed them. There is a lot more going on that I never would have expected myself.