Re: Fwd: We Can Understand Anything, But are Just a Bit Slow

From: Chris Capel (
Date: Thu Apr 13 2006 - 06:14:43 MDT

On 4/12/06, Chris Capel <> wrote:
> On 4/12/06, Charles D Hixson <> wrote:
> > On Wednesday 12 April 2006 07:18 am, Chris Capel wrote:
> > > Given the Flynn effect and the amount of time since the industrial
> > > revolution, I think if humans do straddle the threshold, the threshold
> > > would still be below the average IQ. Even in human beings, the main
> > > component of intellectual accomplishment is dedication and energy,
> > > leading to steady, long-term progress, not raw processing power. Ask
> > > any bright person with ADD.
> >
> > To me it appears that there is something analogous to stack depth that renders
> > some concepts unintelligible to many people, even though some others can
> > understand them. This doesn't appear amenable to teaching or solvable
> > through interest. I'll grant that for many concepts this doesn't apply, but
> > for some it appears to.
> >
> > It's actually even worse (more extreme) than that...sometimes, e.g. when my
> > allergies are acting up, I cannot understand thoughts that I had
> >'s as if there is a step involved in processing that is a
> > variable, and it must allow a certain depth of recursion or stack or
> > something. Somedays I can't understand things that I couldn't on other days.
> If what you say is true (and I have no opinion, though it sounds
> plausible)

Actually, I think I have an opinion. It seems like, on problems that
are too complex for us to understand, we can actually make slow
progress on them. But each additional piece of information required to
understand the problem requires an exponential increase in the time
required to understand it. Because information can be made to "shrink"
so that we can fit more of it in our working memory. This is a major
function of all learning, and it applies to specific problems. It just
takes repeated exposure to the relevant ideas for them to become
habitual, more easily brought to mind, and more easily worked with.

So on an issue you're not very familiar with, you might see what
Charles saw, that you can grasp it in its entirety when you're feeling
especially insightful, but that you're not practiced enough with the
concepts to bring them all to mind when you're feeling a bit slow. But
with additional familiarization, you'll be able to bring those
concepts to mind even at a diminished capacity.

Alternatively, it could be that at some times one's capacity for any
rational abstract thought is very diminished, but it turns out we
don't really use that part of our minds as much as we think, so we
only notice it when we try to think about complicated problems.
Certainly, we use habitual neural pathways, and our unconscious mind,
for a lot more than we often realize.

Chris Capel

"What is it like to be a bat? What is it like to bat a bee? What is it
like to be a bee being batted? What is it like to be a batted bee?"
-- The Mind's I (Hofstadter, Dennet)

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