Category: Psychology

Experiments with Dolphins

Dolphins are clever. Like, really damn clever. Sure, they don’t have hands as we do, because hands are not useful underwater, and they didn’t discover fire, because, guess what? There is no fire under the sea.

But they have language. They can coordinate, and work in team developing strategies, and understand what tamers tell them and the syntax they use, and even recognize themselves in a mirror and measure the degree of certainty they have, according to this lovely video and this lovely explanation.

Naturally, this has made me wonder many things. Obviously, they have no science (no hands, remember?), but, do dolphins have a philosophy?

We’ll need to understand their language to know it. And I don’t think they have written a Rosetta stone for us (Because no hands), so we’ll have to figure it out. And to do so, we’ll have to see whether they have many languages or it’s just a code of clics that comes with their genes, like our facial expressions.

Jesus, maybe some scientists have been studying French dolphins and others, Chinese! There’s no way we get to speak Dolphin if each one studies a different language!

Imagine discussing about life and epistemology with a dolphin.

Can we play chess with an octopus? How can we teach them to play?

Hm…

I googled it, and there are no chess-playing octopuses. However, Kasparov had something called “The Octopus Knight”. I’ll check it later.

Dolphins, right.

I want to debate with a dolphin. Please, marine biologists, make that possible. It’s your job, after all.

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Intuition

I love intuition, though I have many problems with the meaning of that word. Being a fanboy of Jungian Functions (on which I will write some day) I have a somewhat strange idea of it, making it a mix of creativity, imagination, abstract thought and hunches.

And that’s what I will write about today.

First, they come out of nothing, aka the unconscious. Our brain is working all the time, though we can’t pay attention to it. So it just gives the answer without showing the steps.

It goes on three phases:

First, you work on the problem. You brain can’t make bricks with no clay, and it can’t solve a problem without a problem and without background information.

Then, there’s incubation. You get tired and do other stuff. You take a shower, you walk, you read… Do NOT watch telly, it doesn’t help. Meanwhile, your problem is submitted to the little slaves on your unconscious, who do the work for you without getting any pay.

And, finally, BAM, the problem is solved and the answer pops up. Or maybe it doesn’t, but the next time you try to tackle the problem you feel as if it were incredibly easy. That’s the inspiration.

I’ll give a few examples taken from my life, which show different ways this can happen.

First, I was doing a work in primes. I spent an hour or so, and got tired, and went to do other stuff. When I came back, it was as if my pen write on his own, and I had at least five different ways to solve it.

For the record, none of them worked on the main problem (It has been unsolved for four hundred years, give me a break, you people!) but I did discover a lot of interesting stuff on my way.

 

I spent a whole day playing chess. It got me addicted, and I had many competitions with friends, so I needed practice. I went to sleep. I woke up confused in the middle of the night, and looked at my chessboard, which was still on the floor. And suddenly I thought “Hey, the knight can move as an L of two and one squares in one move, as an L of three times one in two moves, and as an L of four and one squares in three moves” I was tired, so I noted it and went back to sleep. Next morning, I checked, and it was correct indeed.

 

Finally, I was discussing science with my father. He said he couldn’t understand relativity, and showed me a contradiction he found. I was baffled. It looked as a contradiction at the chore of relativity! And in the most simple part! I couldn’t believe it, and I spent 10 minutes thinking it through. Then I had to leave, so I shifted my focus to other stuff. But as I was walking, I had it. I didn’t have the answer, but I managed to get out of the box, and it was obvious that the answer was right there. And I found it.

 

As you can see, it works on many ways, but they’re fundamentally the same. So, to sum up:

-Your brain works on his own
-It can help you to solve problems
-But you need to try first, and try hard
-Intuition is like happiness: if you’re looking for it, it won’t come.

Working Memory

There are many kinds of memory: long term memory, mid-term memory and short term memory.

This one’s also called “working memory”, and it’s vital.

Most people have a working memory of between five and nine spaces that can be filled with numbers, words, and so on.

That’s for short term. The thing is, this memory is usually related to intelligence. And that’s for a reason. It can be compared to the RAM or the speed of a computer.

This means that working memory helps you to think faster and to think deeper.

Imagine you’re a philosopher. You have to juggle in your head with many abstract terms at the same time: definitions, examples, arguments for and against…

And many times you can’t write them down, either because you’re not a word thinker, either because the simple change of subject resets your working memory, causing you to forget your brilliant idea.

Of course, that’s a big problem. So you want to keep your short term memory sharp.

How?

Well, by using it, of course!

You can crutch it with paper and pencil, of course, and that would be very, very useful. Personally, I do it often. But you can not do it.

Today, for example, I had a hard time grasping a physics concept about different times and relativity and movement. Since it involved time flow and movement (and I was walking on the street, too) I couldn’t write it down on paper (and the drawing I did on the sand didn’t help either, and made people look at me strange), so I had to use all my RAM to think about it. Eventually, I got to the concept. I still can’t make it words, but hey! I understand it! And I solved the problem!

And that’s something.

Mind Palace

I’ll tell you a story. It happened a long, long time ago, when I was watching the wonderful program called “Sherlock”. And in one of the episodes (the second of the second season, in case there’s anybody interested) the detective talked about something called “mind palace”.

Immediately after the episode, I googled it up and found a lot about the “Method of Loci”, aka Mind Palace.

 

It’s a very powerful mnemonic technique that allows the user to absorbe great quantities of information quantum-fast by using creativity, free association and a little bit of reconstruction skills.

It goes as it follows: the human brain is brilliant at remembering places and shapes, and it can easily picture itself walking through his home, his parents’ home, or even a friend’s.

It’s also very good with strange things that get its attention. Therefore, you can combinate this two things to make a Mind Palace.

Picture yourself walking through your home (or any place, really). On your way, keep noticing things that are not the background: tables, beds, pictures hanging, plants… They will be called “pegs”

Done? Good.

The next part is getting a list of things to remember, like the following sequence: Chewing gum, pear, bag, german, silicium.

It’s a short list, but it’s just to grasp the idea.

Now, the process consist in making each of those into a ridiculous, catchy picture and associate it to each one of the pegs: your dinning table hanging from a chewing gum balloon in the middle of the room, a plant being eaten by a gigantic pear*, some guy taking the picture out of your wall and putting it into his bag, a gigantic pretzel and a gigantic C  (which reminds of Si, the symbol of Silicium)

* You cannot make the plant simply grow pears, that would not be strange and you will forget it easily

Now, to remind them, you only have to walk again in your Mind Palace, checking that everything is in order.

There are also some tricks to do it with numbers: a spear for one, a swan for two… There is even the Person-Action-Object system that professionals use to remember entire decks of cards, but it would be too long for this post.

Enjoy your new, improved memory!