Re: "Boy with Incredible Brain"

From: H C (
Date: Wed Mar 22 2006 - 11:22:48 MST

>From: Richard Loosemore <>
>Subject: Re: "Boy with Incredible Brain"
>Date: Wed, 22 Mar 2006 10:28:35 -0500
>As others have pointed out, this kind of ability is already an object of
>study in psychology and neuroscience - but I would take issue with some of
>the comments about it.
>I think it is definitely relevant to SL4, because it gives us some
>fascinating clues about what is happening in the human cognitive system,
>and the more clues we have, the more likely we will be able to build an
>Second, there is some talk of Kim Peek's problem being the lack of a
>relevance filter. The problem with this is that, as a theory of what is
>going on, it is much too simple. There is an old analogy between a radio
>circuit and a brain that illustrates the point: if you stick a screwdriver
>into the back of a radio and take out a random component, you are quite
>likely to get a radio that just sits there and makes a squealing sound.
>Deduction: you just knocked out the "squeal suppressor"......? Much too
>simplistic. Same with savant abilities like those of Kim Peek: its just
>a missing "relevance filter"? Well, that is a possible explanation, but I
>really, really doubt that it will turn out to be that crude.
>Daniel Tammet's ability to multiply seems to be mediated by a shape-memory
>pathway. My (admittedly vague) guess would be that he somehow got the
>shape memory part of his system to encode the math algorithms for
>multiplication, so that he can feed in the numbers as shapes and get them
>back as a new shape, corresponding to the product. I would be interested to
>know what he has been doing all these years, and whether he can perform
>many other types of mathematical operations.

I think what it really comes down to is just a superior short term memory.
For example, I can take any two digit number and calculate it to the fourth
power (albeit far more slowly and error prone). I notice that I can maintain
the algorithmic "ultra-fluidity" that he seems so proficient with in the
numbers, however, as the size of the data sets necessary to remember grow, I
have to continually "break" the ultra-fluid data manipulation in order to
mentally repeat the data sets so that they remains unambiguous. So not only
do we have to mentally implement the algorithm in such a way that the output
is incrementally built from some input, but also it is necessary to remember
the input and the output. The thing with savants, it appears, is that they
have some particularly mental balance, in such a way that they can maintain
the ultra-fluid flow of the mental algorithm, and the output and input can
be remembed entirely unambigiously, without constantly repeating themselves.

It sure would be nice to figure out how to do that, if it's not an
unchangeable quality.

I don't believe it is an unchangeable quality, because I have noticed that
the ability for me to remember in such a manner is related to my particular
state of mind. But I won't get into that right now.


ps. apologies if the sl4ness is below the threshold

>Richard Loosemore
>H C wrote:
>>Pretty neat stuff.
>>"Daniel claims that since the age of four, he has been able to do huge
>>mathematical calculations in his head. So the makers of this documentary
>>put him to the test, asking him to calculate 37 raised to the power of 4.
>>He completed this in less than a minute, giving the correct answer of
>>"Next he was asked to divide 13 by 97. This time the researchers had the
>>answer to 32 decimal places"
>>"He is very gifted with words and speaks nine languages and claims to be
>>able to learn a new one in just seven days."
>>"Daniel had his own surprise, in Oxford, England, he would recite the
>>number Pi to 22,500 decimal places, in public in front of a team of
>>invigilators to verify his accuracy"
>>"Kim has a double photographic memory and can recall everything he has
>>ever read. He speed reads by scanning opposing pages at the same time, one
>>page with each eye. "
>>"Orlando Serrill was just 10 years old when he was hit, hard, on the side
>>of the head by a baseball. Since when, he has been able to recall the day,
>>date and weather of every day since the accident. "

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