Plastic Intelligence?

(alpha version)

Plastic as in changeable. Intelligence as in cognitive capacity.

This website is an evolving personal project for curator Kenneth Farrall. No warranty is expressed or implied. Its goal is to maximize access to information, not make specific recommendations. The inclusion of individual articles, news stories, videos, or podcasts does not constitute endorsement.

Content sources

Content on front page is selected by site curator from auto-generated streams of data, some of which are available on the feeds page. Streams are built from multiple RSS feeds, which are then combined, pruned, and ranked by factors including time, interest level, and quality. All selected headlines are presented with source and date information.

Articles listed on the main page are selected by the curator directly, while news and discussions items on the feed page are auto-generated. Selection algorithm for the feed page is evolving and may occasionally yield non-relevant or non-sensical results.

Curation includes the discovery, classification and quality assessment of specific feeds, as well as the identification of key "statistically improbable phrases" (SIPs) within target document spaces.

Site design and programming

In addition to active document search and retrieveal, curator Kenneth Farrall designed and maintains the sites front and back ends. Front end interface was built leveraging Twitter Bootstrap 3 and custom CSS3 modifications. Back end database and Internet-data retrieval scripts were developed using a combination of PHP 5 and MYSQL. This site was designed to be fully responsive, to display clearly on all devices. For any issues please contact (below).


Please direct questions to Kenneth Farrall, Ph.D., e-mail: admin AT

Intelligence is not fixed

A growing body of scientific research focused on "neuroplasticity" has shown: with proper environmental stimuli, the brain can form new connections and improve its function throughout one's lifetime. These findings reverse long held assumptions about the aging brain and offer hope to those with a range of cognitive infirmities.

While the brain is plastic, it is also fragile. It may seem logical to maximize one's cognitive capacity whenever possible, but intelligence remains an abstract, amorphous concept. Intervention is sure to lead to a host of unintended consequences, including cognitive harm. Simply jumping on the latest fad (Lumosity...Modafanil...transcranial direct-current stimulation) is not likely the wisest course. Forging one's own path, however, requires knowledge and understanding across a range of disciplines.

This site combines human curation with automatic data retrieval scripts to alert vistors to relevant information that shares the "intention," but not necessarily the method or philosophy, to improve intelligence. There are currently three main "paths," separated by philosophical approach: meditation, brain training, and nootropics. These channels may be accessed from the top menu bar. (Additional categories, currently used only in the editorial selections section on the main page, include diet, exercise, and neuroscience.)

Meditation. Appears to be the one path toward increased intelligence that is both proven effective and free from any significant health risks. Regular meditation increases brain mass while reducing stress. And that's just the beginning. It requires patience and a very special frame of mind, however.

Brain training. The use of computer software and hardware to stimulate brain change, is an intriguing area with an increasing number of approaches. While there is little reliable data to suggest that Lumosity (TM) games have any measurable effect beyond the games themselves, there are many other technologies, from n-back training, to neurofeedback, to body-motion based routines, that continue to show promise. Since you aren't putting anything into your body, the biggest risk to personal experimentation with them is likely to be to your wallet. An annual subscription to Lumosity is US$80.

Nootropics. According to Merriam-Webster, a "Nootropic" is any "substance that enhances cognition and memory and facilitates learning." Although the term itself is relatively new, substances fitting this definition, including coffee, tea and cigarettes, have been around for hundreds of years. Indeed, many kinds of foods, oils, minerals and other natural objects in our environment can be considered nootropics. Nootropics of the 21st century are more often developed by chemists in the lab. Among the more popular today: Modafanil, Phenylpiracetam, and the now legendary NS-189. Both the popularity and diversity of nootropics appear to be growing at exponential rates. Although it may indeed be inadvisable to "experiment" with a healthy brain, there is increasing evidence that that they can improve certain core capacities in individuals suffering from cognitive infirmity.

What to do?

Is it our responsibility to maximize our intellectual potential? Through what means? Good diet and sleep habits? Mental exercise? Pharmaceuticals? Technological intervention? Meditation? Is there a clear border between simple good nutrition and the use of nootropics? And how can we really define intelligence? And isn't it composed of more discrete cognitive capacities (musical, emotional, logical), in ratios that are still a matter of debate?

Site Purpose

This site offers no definitive answers to these questions; instead, the goal is to channel a variety of information to help you explore them yourself. The inclusion of individual articles and news stories does not constitute endorsement.

© Plastic Intelligence 2014