Douwe Osinga's Blog: I'm not a roll

Monday, June 30, 2003

I'm not a roll

Two weeks ago, I opened my blog with: I'm not a roll, and while I'm really not, I meant that I was on a roll, because I had blogged three days in a row. I'm a messy speller and an untidy typer, something the more regular reader of these pages will not have escaped.

A week or so ago, I came across this article by the New York Times, about a weird machine that supposedly improves your ability to draw dogs, spot prime numbers and proof read. It works by suppressing certain kind of brainwaves making your brain more like that of an savant. What happens according to prof… is that normally our brain is in abstract mode, which makes it harder to do these more literal tasks. We know what a dog looks like, but to draw it, to literally transfer what we see to the paper is hard, because our abstract thought machinery comes in between. The same goes for proofreading (I know how words should be spelled, but anything close to it is good enough and the me part of my brain only gets the interpreted version of what I read, so I never see an spelling error) and for spotting prime numbers. Apparently our brains are pretty good at integer calculations at a low level; at a higher level this ability is obscured.

You might go one step further. There are the more abstractly thinking people, who don't see what they see or think, but only see the abstractions of what they see or think and the more literally thinking people or see what they see and think what they think. The first way of thinking is maybe more found in people who study science, the second way of thinking is more common to those who study arts or languages.
Both ways of thinking have their applications of course. Also, this only has to do with how people approach problems in their thinking, not much with how creative people are. If this theory is true, you probably would find most artists in the second group, because the ability to copy what you see or think in a literal way into what you draw or sculpt, obviously helps in being acknowledges as an artist. The creative people of the first group would tend to end up as scientists, inventors or sometimes writers and probably the more sober writing writers (complex scenery descriptions are like paintings). I do think the world is missing out on artists of the first group. Maybe blogging can grow out to become an art form for this group. (Yes, that's me.)

Another funny thing is the relation towards computers. The second group usually doesn't like computers much. They can me made to see that computers are useful or even essential to some endeavours, but there is no love there and hardly ever the overwhelming feeling of wow that people from the first group tend to experience. It's easy to see why. The things computers are good at, are also the things that people from the second group are good at. It's more a thread than help. For first-groupers computers are a much better match. The computers fix spelling errors (for example, I wanted to type spelling with triple l, but the auto correct feature of word wouldn't let me), can do image processing and calculate any number.