by James Bailey |

Do the examples in the previous blog entry really matter that much? After all, the authors all follow up the chess board analogy with their own individual versions of “Hey, remember that the world is really more complicated than that.” Which it is, but they do not then take the chess board off the table. It is the metaphor that the reader is left with. Of course, the chess board analogy is nowhere near as disastrous as Decscartes’ use of the number line as the right model for thought.

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Order is what is needed: all the thoughts that can come into the human mind must be arranged in an order like the natural order of numbers. 

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We can see how dangerous this analogy is in Michael Hayden’s take on a meeting between President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu. His high school education has left him seeing it as a game of algebra.

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Reflecting on a meeting between the two in the Oval Office… I compared the session to high school math and being forced to solve algebraic equations, with Obama pointing out how hard we were working to solve for Y, where Y represented Iranian intentions. Unfortunately, in the Prime Minister's equation, Y had already been defined as a constant. Israel believes that it knows where the Iranians are going. In its equation the unknown is X, and X is what the United States intends to do about it. source

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How much safer we will all be when students are routinely taught to think in terms of networks, not chess boards or algebraic equations. Then they will recognize, as Prof. Silva does in her description of Memory's Intricate Web, that:

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one recollection summons the next, establishing intricate sequences of memories that help us to better predict and comprehend the world around us… When two memories share the same neurons, they are formally linked.

A key prediction of the hypothesis [is] that discrete memories that are formed at closely spaced intervals are stored in the same brain area in overlapping populations of neurons.

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Networks, not chess boards. Installed in our habits of thought early, not late.

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