human/world interfaces

From: altamira (
Date: Thu Jul 06 2000 - 12:10:24 MDT

In going through the list archives I came upon a thread which began as a
discussion of "multiple intelligences" and evolved through mathematical
ability and on to the ability to form visual images from memory. Later,
after I'd subscribed to the list, I rambled on about my weird way of
interfacing with the world and some people commented on my apparent
synethesia (eg. I see leaves swirling from a tree in the fall, and the sight
of the leaves falling is translated in my mind into music and often touch as
well, as though I'm feeling the swirl of the leaves against my skin). At
the time, I hadn't read the earlier thread, so I didn't know if other people
would be interested in this sort of stuff; so I didn't say anything more at
the time. Now that I know there's an interest, I'd like to open the
discussion up again.

My original reason for being interested in the human/world interface is
self-curiosity. I realized from an early age that my mind didn't work like
other people's, and that as a result it was hard for me to communicate with
them, and I've often felt lonely. When I was a kid I thought I'd been put on
the wrong planet by mistake, and when I heard stories of UFO's, I hoped one
would come and get me and take me to my proper home.

Later, I expanded my selfish motivations to include the possibility of
improving my communications skills. If I could figure out how most people
interfaced with the world, I'd be able to imagine how it felt to be them,
and then I'd stand a better chance of saying the right things to them. I
don't mean right as in politically correct but rather, right as in "not
crazy." (people used to say of me that I was off in my own little
god-knows-where world)(my brother once suggested that I might be a
"high-functioning" autistic, but I don't think I quite fit that category

I can see now that there are other uses for this interface question, such as
in the development of AI.

I will continue with this idea in another message, because otherwise this
one is going to end up being too long.

Here is a summary of the previous thread (the posts are severely clipped,
but they're available in their entirety in the archives):
Sat, 26 Feb 2000 11:08:37 EST

I have a very uneven distribution of mental talents. I've always scored off
the scale (on the good side :-) in visualization and verbal skills, but am
basically a mathematical moron.

Amara Graps (
Mon, 28 Feb 2000 15:43:10 +0100 (MET)

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>From: Sun, 27 Feb 2000 17:54:08 EST

>I'm a mathematical moron as well. I've taken calculus two or three times.

me too.

I took calculus, ordinary differential equations, partial differential
equations, all, at least twice.

(good teachers and hitting your head against the wall enough times
eventually makes a difference)

>Like you I'm basically visual.

I made it through my physics, astronomy, and math courses drawing alot of
pictures (really).

Damien Broderick (
Wed, 01 Mar 2000 14:28:28 +1100

I've been informally polling people about their visual imagery.

Most can form some kind of red triangle in imagination, and rotate it to the
left, then to the right, and go on to make a picture of their dear old
Maman, check the color of her eyes, and so on. Some are exceptionally good
at this stunt, making elaborate flowcharts and tracking through them without
moving a muscle (or maybe they twitch in sympathy). Others can
`see' whole movies as they read a novel.

Me, I've got *zero* visual imagery.

The module's not there, apparently.

[the following from message sent to extropian list by altamira 6/17/00]

for example, looking at clouds and seeing hundreds of different shades of
white and at the same time hearing (in one's mind) all these shades of white
translated into corresponding frequencies of sound; or listening to the
rumbling of a machine and suddenly hearing intensely beautiful music in the
combination of sounds and seeing (in the mind) the sounds translated into
something like graphs of mathematical functions, weaving in and out of each

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