intelligence in Hebrew - Cover

What’s between Hebrew and Intelligence

Intelligence in Hebrew

The Hebrew word for intelligence is בִּינָה (bina). It comes from the shoresh ב-י-ן (Bet-Yod-Nun), which also forms the preposition בֵּין (bein) – meaning between.

This is not a coincidence. Among other words that employ this shoresh we may find the verb הֵבִין (hevin) which means to understand, the adjective נָבוֹן (navon) which means intelligent or clever, the noun תְבוּנָה (tvuna) which is another way to say intelligence in Hebrew but referring to it more as a quality or ability, and arguably also the word תּוֹבָנָה (tovana) which means insight.

This connection between intelligence and the idea of between is not unique to Hebrew. We can actually see it in the word ‘intelligence’ itself which exists in many European languages. It derives from the Latin prefix ‘inter’ meaning between and the verb ‘legere’ which means to choose, to pick and even to read.

Intelligence in Genesis

Nothing demonstrates the Hebrew perception of intelligence, and the relation between בֵּין (bein – between) and בִּינָה (bina – intelligence), better than the creation story in Genesis One. As a matter of fact, the word בֵּין (bein – between) makes nine appearances in the first chapter of Genesis – five of which are in the first and second days (marked in blue):

Genesis 1 - verses 1 to 8

The other four times all occur in the fourth day (also marked in blue):

Genesis 1 - day four

In each and every of these occurrences the word בֵּין (bein – between) serves as the preposition of the same verb – the verb הִבְדִּיל (hivdil) which is marked in dark red in the texts above. This verb was mostly translated to English as ‘separated’ or ‘divided’, though its shoresh ב-ד-ל (Bet-Dalet-Lamed) also carries the meaning of differentiating and making distinctions. For instance, the word הֶבְדֵּל is the Hebrew noun for difference or distinction. In Modern Hebrew, when someone says אני לא מבדיל ביניהם (ani lo mavdil beinehem), they mean to say “I can’t tell them apart” and not “I don’t separate them”.

Therefore, it is certainly fair to say that the story of Genesis One is about a powerful intelligent entity who is capable of not only naming things into existence, but also of differentiating between the creations and judging what is good. If this is not the embodiment of the etymology of the word ‘intelligence’ then I don’t know what is.

There are two “eyes” in intelligence

There is another Hebrew verb which is based on the shoresh ב-י-נ (Bet-Yod-Nun), thought at first glance it’s hard to see it. The verb I am referring to is הִתְבּוֹנֵן (hitbonen) which means to look, but more specifically to look closely and attentively, presumably to find a difference, make a distinction, or gain an insight and better understand the very thing you are watching – much like the verb observe in English.

The shoresh ב-י-נ (Bet-Yod-Nun) is not the only Hebrew root to express a relation between vision and intelligence. There is also the shoresh פ-ק-ח (Peh-Qof-Chet) which forms both the verb פָּקַח (paqach) describing the act of opening one’s eyes (or keeping them open), and the adjective פִּקֵחַ (piqe’ach) which means clever or smart. This shoresh is found in Genesis 3 verses 5 and 7 when the story describes the awakening of Eve and Adam after they ate from the Tree of Knowledge.

Another possible indication to the link the ancient Hebrews made between vision and intelligence, is the resemblance between the shoresh ס-כ-ל (Samekh-Kaf-Lamed) and the shoresh ש-כ-ל (Sin-Kaf-Lamed). The shoresh ס-כ-ל (Samekh-Kaf-Lamed) gives us the verb הִסְתַּכֵּל (histakel) which means to look, and from the shoresh ש-כ-ל (Sin-Kaf-Lamed) we get words like שֶׂכֶל (sekhel) meaning mind or brains, and also the Modern Hebrew words הַשְׂכָּלָה (haskala) and מִשְׂכָּל (miskal) which mean education and intelligence (usually in the context of IQ) respectively.

It is also worth noting that from the shoresh ס-כ-ל (Samekh-Kaf-Lamed) we also get the Biblical Hebrew word סֶכֶל (sekhel) meaning stupidity, and the rarely used word סָכָל (sakhal) which is a very literary way to say stupid in Modern Hebrew. So perhaps the similarity between the roots ס-כ-ל (Samekh-Kaf-Lamed) and ש-כ-ל (Sin-Kaf-Lamed) is purely coincidental, or maybe the verb הִסְתַּכֵּל (histakel) originally referred to a simpler way of looking at things, inferior to הִתְבּוֹנֵן (hitbonen) which describes a more intelligent way of looking and observing.

Resolution of the Mind

There is a little thought exercise I like to do with my students when we talk about the importance of language and words. First, I give them the basic definition of the word ‘word’:

A single unit of speech or writing that conveys meaning and can be used independently.

Then I ask them to give me an alternative definition to the word ‘word’ but without using any of the words (nouns, verbs, and adjectives) that appear in the definition I just provided them. Two of the most common alternative definitions we usually end up with are:

  1. Words are the building blocks of our mind.
  2. Words are the pixels of our thoughts.

Though both of these alternative definitions are great, as someone who is really into photography, I particularly like the second one but not only because it employs the term pixels. First of all, it too expresses the relation between בִּינָה (bina – intelligence) and הִתְבּוֹנֵן (hitbonen – look closely or observe). Second, it ties in directly with how I perceive the value of words, the important nature of clear definitions, and the danger of tearing down the fences of semantic fields.

Our mind works like a camera, you see? Just like the pixels on the sensor of a camera and on the screen in the back, we use words not only to perceive and process the reality around us, but also to display our perception to other people and share our ideas with them. What is discussing our ideas with others if not showing them photos of our mind?

The more properly functioning, well-defined words we have at our disposal, the more we are able to build a clearer picture in our mind. The less words we have at our disposal, or the more we incorporate ill-conceived, cumbersome, and hollow terms that which do not reflect reality into our thought process, the more pixelated, blurry, and noisy our picture will be.

When the resolution of your mind is low, you cannot be truly resolute, and that is very convenient for the people who want to have power over you and manipulate your perception. I don’t know about you guys, but I prefer to perceive the world in HD.

A Clear Choice

There are two ways to say choose or select in Hebrew. The first and most common one is the verb בָּחַר (bachar) which refers to any kind of choice or selection, and even elections. The second way is the verb בָּרַר (barar) and based on their phonetic similarity, it is quite clear that the roots of these two verbs share a common source, or that one may have stemmed out of the other.

The second verb בָּרַר (barar) refers to a specific kind of choice or selection, in which you identify and separate the good from the bad, or the desired from the undesired, and take only the thing that you want. For example, one of the ways to ‘separating wheat from chaff’ in Hebrew is ברר את המוץ מן הבר (barar et ha’mots min ha’bar).

It’s interesting to note that from the shoresh ב-ר-ר (Bet-Resh-Resh) we also get the adjective בָּרוּר (barur) which means clear, distinct, or obvious. The way to say “a clear picture” in Hebrew is תְּמוּנָה בְּרוּרָה (tmuna brura), and this also demonstrates the literal meaning of intelligence, and reminds us that in order to make an intelligent choice, you need to see things clearly.

Skynet Vs the Post-Modernist

Funnily enough the three letters of the shoresh ב-י-נ (Bet-Yod-Nun) which form the preposition בֵּין (bein – between) and the noun בִּינָה (bina – intelligence), are also the three opening letters of the word בִּינָארִי (binari) which means – you guessed it – binary. This is of course purely a coincidence, as the word binary is not of Hebrew origin but a foreign loan word from Latin. However, it still makes for a nice segue to the topic of Artificial Intelligence.

Like it or not, any form of intelligence is predicated on the ability to make distinctions. And at the core of every distinction there must be some form of duality. Yes and no, good and bad, more and less, near and far, up and down, left and right, forward and backward, open and close, early and late, male and female, young and old, hot and cold, safe and dangerous – we wouldn’t be where we are today as species if we were unable to make these primal and fundamental distinctions and express them, along with many others.

The same goes for computers and Artificial Intelligence, only in this case the core distinction is between ones and zeros. Everything else is predicated on that.

intelligence is binary

Now let’s say you wanted to take down Artificial Intelligence, to make it collapse without any chance of it ever recover and rising again. What are your options? Well, you could unplug it or take out its power supply, but it will be back online once someone plugs it back in, or when it finds an alternative power source. You could also try hacking it and wreaking havoc on its memory and operating system, but there is always the possibility of it having a backup, or maybe even the ability to heal and recover itself.

But what if you could introduce the AI with the idea of non-binarity? What if somehow you were able to convince it that sometimes what looks like one is actually a zero, neither or both, and the only way to know for sure is to ask all these ones and zeros what they actually are. And what if you were also able to somehow get to the tiny transistors within the microchips and tamper with their state, making them behave in unexpected ways? How long do you think this AI system will last before it succumbs to self-doubt, becomes totally paralyzed, and finally crashes or shuts itself down?

Who knows? Maybe if in Terminator 2 they had somehow injected Skynet with post-modernism instead destroying the processor, it would have been over for good and we would have been spared two mediocre and one awful sequels.

The Devolution and Devaluation of Intelligence

Speaking of transistors, this is not the first time the prefix ‘trans’ and the trans issue are mentioned in this blog. But this time I want to delve more deeply into why I regard the Trans Ideology as extremely dangerous.

The way I see it, Trans Ideology is not about biology – it’s about neurology. It’s not about reframing biological reality on behalf of a sacred few for the sake of their safety, it’s about rewiring the neurological framework of everyone else’s by exploiting their empathy. It’s about conditioning people to live comfortably with lies to the point they are no longer able to notice them. And finally, it’s about conditioning them not to doubt, question or challenge any claim, no matter how absurd, as long as it is made by the right type of people.

I regard it as a higher form of brain washing which I like to call brain squashing. The purpose here is not to make you to believe in a certain thing nor to train you to think in a certain way. Quite the contrary, the purpose is to make you believe in nothing, to train you not to think, and instead simply accept whatever you are told. It’s about transforming intelligent minds into silly putty, and this clip right here is how it looks like:

Sometimes the best way to understand what something is, is first to understand what is most definitely not it. The clip above does exactly that for intelligence.

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Someone you know might also like this

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