Hal Finney expressed his scepticism regarding David Musick's claims to
effectively retrain his mind.
Hal, you have every right to be sceptical, considering the difficulty
in proving the objective and impartial assessment of a subjective
David, I have no doubt that you've accomplished just what you've claimed,
and we've touched onto these very pursuits in past dialogue. As stated in
my 'Twisty's FAQL' (http://www.twisty.org/twistfaq.html), I would have
continued to be little more than a daydreamer until I *chose* to value
my skills in math and science more.
David Music wrote:
>Tony Csoka asked, "Have you been able to significantly increase your
>mathematical ability through mental traing? Also, do you believe there
>is any aspect of intelligence that is more difficult to improve
>Math is something I really enjoy doing, so I've done a lot of work
>with that, and my mathematical abilities are significantly greater
>than they ever have been. The complexity of problems I'm able to
>solve and the speed with which I'm able to solve them keeps increasing
>the more I practice my math skills. After a while, I start picking up
>on little tricks and shortcuts and develop more advanced thinking tools,
>and problems start seeming a lot easier. Also, just doing some problems
>makes it easier to do similar problems.
Great stuff, these optimizations. When sixth grade introduced me to
algebra, I pounced upon it like a ravenous wolf... It fit well with
my sense of spatial flow and relational sequence. Since preschool I've
exhibitted strong skills in 'Visual Reasoning,' but I had so badly
neglected my math until the fifth grade that I am still below average
speed in arithemtic. Yet optimizations have improved my skills since my
days in Junior High.
>What I'm working on now, with my math, and this can be applied to lots of
>other areas too, is to stop hesitating so much between steps. I have the
>unfortunate habit of interrupting myself when I am working on a problem and
>pausing frequently. I want to train myself to just do the problem straight
>through, in one swift, fluid motion. It is hard for me to break this habit,
>but I am getting better, and I am getting faster at solving problems, as a
I think much of the learning optimization process is a matter of
converting the 'relationships' of one's knowledge. When one learns
to drive, for example, it is difficult to relate the process under
one's inexperience. You memorize several proceedures, and hope not
to confuse the brake pedal for the accelerator. Yet under a little
on-road experience, you relate things more to patterns. You find it
easier to forecast the behaviors of other cars, and your ability to
control your own vehicle becomes 'second nature.'
The difference in method is much like in computers: It is very
inefficient for a system to reload a program every time it has to
print one character on the screen. Instead, you change the approach.
You learn to keep the program in RAM. You learn to print sequences
or strings of characters instead of one at a time. You undestand
the behaviors of objects, and the relationship of what comes before
and after. The results can increase performance manyfold.
>Regarding the second question; yes, some cognitive abilities are harder
>to improve than others. Generally, when I'm not very good at something
>and don't have much experience using an ability, it is very difficult to
>improve my ability. But the more I work at it, the easier it gets to
>improve my ability in that area. From watching myself, it seems like
>learning a new ability is very much about creating an internal language
>that is appropriate for that ability. At first it takes a lot of
>experience to even find general principles which are accurate, but once
>those are noticed, they become symbols and it becomes easier to think
>about an analyze the ability. As more experience is gained, my internal
>vocabulary regarding that area of ability continues to grow and my
>internal dialogue becomes more and more complex in that area and it
>builds on itself faster. Also, I start seeing relationships between
>what I am learning in one area and what I have learned in another area,
>and I can transfer the old knowledge to the new area. By the way, the
>internal language I develop when I learn new things is very different
>(at least superficially) to spoken language; there are no sounds to
>represent the symbols, so they are not anything I can communicate
>easily to other people, but I know what I mean when I think them.
What you've just described is quite familiar to me, although I don't have
much trouble recounting my own process of discovery, so it makes it
easier for me tutor others in what I've experieced. The mind sees
likenesses and differences, causes and effects. The greater its store of
knowledge, the easier it can draw associations and relationships between
Here are a few optimizing methods that have improved my skills by
changing the relationship of knowledge:
o DRAWING/ART: Imagine the product you desire, as if its
already completed on the canvas. Now just *trace* your imagination.
Increased experience under this approach will improve your results.
Imagine every last detail, so that you can envision the strokes
required to *turn* the medium *into* the final product.
If you must contend with human error or flaws in the medium,
just envision turning the 'bugs' into 'features.'
o SETS: As we move from the Industrial Age into the Information Age,
we move from fill-in-the-blank forms to list processors. A blank
labeled 'Occupation' need not hold a single item, but could hold a
subset of the many hats you wear, or 'emptyset'. Set Theory can
improve understanding of Geometry, Music, Interpersonal
Relationships, and more, when one comes to realize that not every
blank requires just a single property. This should be taught in
grade school, or sooner.
o RIGHT/LEFT BRAIN: There are two sets of mind that should be recognized
in learning... First is Discerning Logic, focussing on differences
however subtle. This often (yet innacurately) called Left Brain
thinking. Logical, Lingual, and Legalistic, it deals with sequences,
protocols, and rules, and is often triggered by intollerance of
a difference. The other is Emotional, Instinctive Pattern-Matching,
associating likenesses however improbable. This 'Right Brain' mindset
is the 'fuzzy logic' patterning engine that is often found in
creative arts and 'religious experiences.' Problem-Solving is
a bridge between the two, causing both to work in concert to seek
causes and effects, drawing hypotheses by 'inducing' like-behaviors,
and narrowing conclusions by deducing which causes are eliminated.
>It seems to me that every cognitive ability can be improved
>significantly with practice. The level of difficulty seems to
>depend on how familiar one is with the ability and with how
>strongly one is motivated to improve it. Also, it depends on
>how appropriately one goes about improving the particular ability;
>each one requires a different approach to improve.
The older we get in our adult lives, the fewer graycells we have left, yet
the more associations we can continue to learn. Our faculties don't
seriously diminish until there is serious injury or until we just get
complacent with oversimplified and incompleted thoughts. (ie television?)
Like driving, the rules and exceptions to rules start out quite unfamiliar.
It requires exercise in order to cause the patterns of rules to surface.
Their relationships and associated patterns become more familiar,
increasing one's pattern store and knowledge base.
> - David Musick
> -- Learn to look at the world as though you are an alien, seeing
>everything for the first time. --
Funny you should mention this... I happen to be part of 'the Klingon Assault
Group,' a Star Trek Fan Organization. (http://www.kag.org) The unusual
thing is that I think Star Trek kinda sucks, growing entropic with age,
but the original vision of tolerance, diversity, and acceptance is kept
alive in the Fan Community. (Does that make me a 'Social Trekker?')
To me, the real fun of Role Playing a Klingon (or Cardassian, Narn,
or Vorlon) is the act of losing one's inhibitions, and perceiving Life
through the eyes of an Alien. There is a delightful objectivity that
results. (Or perhaps it's more the cause than the effect.) When one
plays a Role, particularly one defined by what you are NOT, it gives
one a 'professional distancing' from yourself.
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