The only intelligent answer to any question, in any situation, with whatever context, at all times, is this one:
I DON’T KNOW.
For dumb persons, the exact opposite seem true: that not knowing is always the least intelligent stance. But the power of a cognitive system (that is, intelligence) is not it’s question answering capacity, or “how many it can score”.
First of all (to begin lightly) you might have misunderstood what is being asked. Even if you ignore noise and other mundane problems of communication, you rarely do know your interlocutor well enough to have a grasp at the connotations of his words, of his ironies, of his intentions. And even if you do, the question might still be a new idea, that the other just had and you had not time yet to grasp.
To further clarify this point. Any communication act (and, therefore, any question) can be interpreted in different ways, depending on the interpreting power of the listener. That is, the more intelligent one is, the richer and more complex his reading of the world will be. But more complex rarely means more clear cut, more certain — for a richer picture has more nuances and perspectives and doubts.
But communication problems are the least of the issues. Any comprehension machine is limited to understand completely only systems that are less complex than itself. When confronted with more than that complexity, it has to revert to partial comprehension strategies. In other words, big systems need to be grasped heuristically — and that, by the very definition, means to not know some things about the system.
And the world is more complex than anyone answering a question. I will not even try to prove that — it’s enough to argue that the very air you are breathing right now is composed of so many particles that you don’t know the name of the number for them.
So, our understanding of things is always partial, and therefore, we don’t know all there is to know about them. Any time you assume to know, you are assuming that the limits of the thing in question are also known, and therefore you are wrong. “But it is only a fish-bowl, nothing weird is going to happen there.” “You might be right. But, then again, a meteorite can fall over it.”
Smart-asses (which are people who need to seem intelligent, therefore most likely aren’t) will point over and over again to “simple”, “unavoidable” questions. Things like “what is my best course of action now?” or “what shall i do now?”. But the more intelligent answer to those is still the same.
A “best” or “right” or “safest” course of action, or strategy-in-life, presupposes that the world you live in is completely analysable. Even worse, it assumes that you do know all you need to know. To imagine that any one specific path is safe and without problems is both a secure way to get frustrated (sooner or later) and to make oneself unaware of any deviations that occur. To live without such illusions of sureness is much, much simpler.
Then, those people would start to qualify their questions, to nitpick, to specify. “What will you do in an incomplete information situation?” “What is the strategy when you cannot analyse?”
The answer is still the same. First of all, what you propose yourself to do is not equal to what you actually do, and even that is different if observed from different perspectives. And what’s more, anyone is always continually changing his strategies as he goes along. And continually does not mean an infinite amount of small choices one after the other, it means on whole process, where each instant is only understandable as a sample from a bigger trajectory, which would not be the same if frozen in time.
I suppose one can say that life is composed of infinite questions, in every infinitesimal instant. It’s just a metaphor, an analogy, after all. What is the point of this particular one? I sincerely have no idea. But it does not change the basic premise: the intelligent answer to any question is always the same.
If anyone really wants to argue that i am just using language traps to avoid the criticisms, i will have to say that actually it is him who is trying to impose the idea of “questions” and “answers” in situations where it might or might not be appropriate. I don’t know if it is a good thing to think about life in terms of questions and answers. Maybe, maybe not.
Obviously, there is much more to intelligence than answering questions. Even the idea that it would be intelligent to always answer every question with the most intelligent answer is stupid. One does not know that. I don’t know.