Re: The human ability to employ abstract reasoning is a threshold effect...

From: Jef Allbright (
Date: Mon May 24 2004 - 08:29:45 MDT

Marc Geddes wrote:

>This led me to the intruiging idea that *degree of
>understanding* is analogous to the *resolution* of a
>picture or hologram, with the image itself being
>analogous to the *mental concept*. Low IQ sentients
>can still ‘see’ (understand) the hologram (concept),
>they just see it in very low resolution (their
>understanding is very vague and general?). High IQ
>sentients see (understand) the hologram (concept) in
>high resolution (analogous to a more detailed, sharper
>understanding?) This analogy does seem rather odd,
>because the model of intelligence would seem to be
>backwards from the conventional understanding.
>Conventional wisdom is that understanding starts with
>specific concrete examples of a concept, and then
>moves to a more general abstract understanding
>(induction). But my hologram analogy seems to reverse
>that! Understanding would start with vague
>abstractions and move towards specifics.
Your analogy makes sense in terms of visualizing relative levels of
knowledge, encapsulating previous understanding, of a topic.

Your analogy breaks down when you apply it directly to the *process* of

The process of understanding, as you said, moves from the specific to
the more abstract, "chunking" the discrete observations in a more
compact representational form linked to related concepts. Later, one can
subjectively visualize one's knowledge base in terms of an image of
increasing resolution, or as a tree with increasing branches, or as a
tapestry of increasing threads, etc.

The danger of the analogy, and what has caused countless people to spend
a good portion of their lives naval-gazing, is when they experience a
"Wow!" sensation, correlate that sensation with true value, and embark
on a quest for knowledge to be *revealed* to them if they only look
deeply enough.

- Jef

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