This post’s title comes from a plaque my stepdad has hanging in his office. I love it for its forthrightness, and lack of any qualifications. Although my life has provided me with a plethora of legitimate excuses for taking a time-out and kicking back, I always find the words of that plaque nagging me to get back to work.

In a fascinating article on human intelligence from a computer science perspective, Daniel Lemire asks us what it means to be “intelligent” in the age of computers. If anyone can look up an answer on Google, then the only difference between someone who has memorized a lot of facts and someone who has to look something up is timing. At the end of the day, though, they both have the answer. Further, as computers become faster, the timing difference will become negligible. And so we’re back at the original question: What does it mean to be “intelligent”? Lemire’s answer is “grit.”

I expect that what sets people apart is not this ill-defined intelligence, but rather pure grit. If you want to do something, but you apparently lack the “intelligence” to do it, then it may simply be a matter of finding or building the right tools…As I wrote this blog post, I used a dozen sophisticated pieces of software, including Wikipedia and Google Scholar. Where does “my” intelligence ends and where do the tools start?



This is why I love my chosen occupation, computational linguistics. When writing a program, I know I can get it to do anything I want, if I take enough time and slog through hours of documentation. Heck, I could even get my computer to simulate the Universe, if given enough time.

Thus we return to “Nothing is ever easy.” As human intelligence becomes more extensible, I believe that only those who embrace this phrase, and demonstrate true “grit,” will become the leaders and intelligentsia of tomorrow.

And now to stop procrastinating, and get back to my bigram language model