What is the highest form of intelligence? Can intelligence be developed (rather than being immutably engrained traits)? Can you work for intelligence? Who is an intelligent person? What traits separate intelligent people from the rest?

“Intelligence has been defined in many different ways such as in terms of one’s capacity for logic, abstract thought, understanding, self-awareness, communication, learning, emotional knowledge, memory, planning, creativity and problem solving. It can also be more generally described as the ability to perceive and/or retain knowledge or information and apply it to itself or other instances of knowledge or information creating referable understanding models of any size, density, or complexity, due to any conscious or subconscious imposed will or instruction to do so.” Wikipedia

These are some of the best and most upvoted answers on Quora on this topic.  

1. Clyde Rathbone

By defining intelligence as the capacity to change in order to solve problems, it becomes clear that the problems which require the greatest change also require the highest form of intelligence.

In a relatively short time life on earth has achieved awe-inspiring feats. Our ability to ask new questions, break through dogma and forge new frontiers relies on our ability to adapt.

From single cell life to walking on the moon…life is a story of change. 

Defining intelligence as the capacity for adaptation is useful for three reasons.

1. It’s broad.

People often attribute intelligence to individuals or groups that have learned to solve difficult problems in narrow fields. Consider the brilliant but morbidly obese inventor, scientist or investor. These individuals often display super high intelligence in solving certain problems, but show very low intelligence solving the problem of maintaining good health. If we define intelligence narrowly…our judgement of it will be equally narrow.

“I was asked once, you’re a smart man why aren’t you rich? I replied, you’re a rich man why aren’t you smart?” ― Jacque Fresco

2. It’s relative

If you want to know how smart someone is find out what problems they’ve solved. The third world immigrant with no money, education or language, who through sheer tenacity and ingenuity found a way to the free world while educating and feeding their family…could well be far smarter than Steve Jobs or Mark Zuckerberg. Wondering if you’re smart? Ask yourself what opportunities you’ve had and what have you done with them? And more importantly, what will you do with the opportunities you have now?

“sarcasm is the lowest form of wit, but the highest form of intelligence,”-Oscar Wilde

Related: Thinking Smart: Understanding Intelligence

3. It’s motivating

Once you realise that intelligence is the ability to solve problems the entire universe becomes your laboratory. Go out and fail, learn, succeed, and repeat. Personal growth is about change, and we all have far more capacity to change than most of us believe. Don’t let others define your intelligence in narrow terms. If you can change, and you can, then you’re smart enough to get smarter. Embrace that and get busy.

“The measure of intelligence is the ability to change.” ― Albert Einstein

2. Curt Tigges

The highest form of intelligence is the ability to capture future possibilities.

Based on the research of physicist Alex Wissner-Gross, I would suggest that intelligence is fundamentally the ability to capture future timelines/possibilities through the maximization of entropy. That is, the more possibilities an organism makes available to itself, the more adaptive it is, and the the more intelligent it is. From this multitude of timelines the most desirable can be selected, and the more timelines are available, the greater chance there is that one of them will be beneficial to the organism.

The things that we traditionally consider intelligence (fluid intelligence, analytic ability, etc.) contribute to the ability to capture possibilities, but so do emotional intelligence, attitude, habits, culture, persistence, creativity, and many other abilities and attributes.

These abilities and attributes lead to accelerated entropy through increase in calculations performed (the brain, not to mention the computers we use, is a famous consumer of energy, and each use of energy adds to entropy), things created, and actions performed. Every energy transaction leads to entropy, and the creation/capture of higher numbers of possiblities requires energy transactions–either in terms of calculations, processes, or the rearrangement of matter.

Certainly there are ways to increase efficiency in the operations of intelligence–the human brain, for example, is far more power-efficient than a supercomputer. But nevertheless, for any given level of efficiency greater intelligence will always require greater energy usage, and may even (as Wisser-Gross suggests) be a part of the universe’s inherent tendency for entropy maximization.

Fixed Mindset vs. Growth Mindset

Do you have a fixed mindset or a growth mindset?

“A “fixed mindset” assumes that our character, intelligence, and creative ability are static givens which we can’t change in any meaningful way, and success is the affirmation of that inherent intelligence, an assessment of how those givens measure up against an equally fixed standard; striving for success and avoiding failure at all costs become a way of maintaining the sense of being smart or skilled.”

Related: Habits You Need To Boost Your Emotional Intelligence

“A “growth mindset,” on the other hand, thrives on challenge and sees failure not as evidence of unintelligence but as a heartening springboard for growth and for stretching our existing abilities. Out of these two mindsets, which we manifest from a very early age, springs a great deal of our behavior, our relationship with success and failure in both professional and personal contexts, and ultimately our capacity for happiness.”- Maria Popova (Brain Pickings)

Founding Editor @Alltopstartups, Contributor @Entrepreneur, Columnist @Inc. Magazine and Curator at Postanly (his free weekly digest of the best life and career improvement posts on the web. Subscribe for free.