Random Thoughts from a Restless Mind

Dr. Darrell White's Personal Blog

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A Friday Quickie: Genius

We are constantly told of all the wondrous things computerization and automation can do that we humans cannot do, or cannot do as well. What we DO do better, though, is patten recognition. Everything from identifying things visually (a computer can barely recognize a Chihuahua as a dog, let alone differentiate a Chihuahua from a Great Dane) to seeing trends in a data stream, the human mind is particularly wired for pattern recognition.

For this reason some people hold the view that there is no such thing as genius, that each new discovery is simply the next logical extension of what has come before. You know, the intellectual version of “you didn’t build that”, or “there’s nothing new about CrossFit.” I think there’s more to genius than that, though.

Pattern recognition is dependent on the point of view, literally, from which you gaze upon the pattern. An “E” looks entirely different if you look after rotating it 90 degrees away from you or 180 degrees clockwise, for example. Genius might be the ability to see something from a wholly different angle so that the pattern becomes evident; seeing the first “E” from the back side only and knowing it’s an “E”. How many times have you come across the output of someone’s genius and just “gotten” it while simultaneously saying “I coulda/shoulda thought of that”? It really doesn’t matter how prosaic or common (flush toilets–big fan of the inventor), or how poetic and earthshaking (predicting the Higgs Boson).

Genius really does exist, and the product of genius should be acknowledged as such.

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