Saturday, March 2, 2013

What Others Cannot See


Once again I apologize for rare posts to this blog. I have had many thoughts on these topics lately and intend to post more here shortly. However, to start off, I will post below info on a talk that I have given recently in several venues, along with a short updated bio. This gives an idea of what I am thinking about lately. Several important conferences and other events are coming up and I will have more on these soon.

All best wishes,


Seeing What Others Do Not See or Cannot See

Trying to understand the advantages of dyslexic talents in scientific discovery, technological design and entrepreneurial business

A talk by Thomas G. West, author of In the Mind’s Eye and Thinking Like Einstein

In recent years, dyslexia is coming to be seen, remarkably, as a significant advantage in an increasing number of fields -- often linked to substantial success in design innovation, entrepreneurial business and scientific discovery. One of the founders of the modern study of molecular biology was dyslexic. He described how he used his powerful dyslexic imagination to see interactions at the molecular level – seeing new patterns and developing fundamental insights and new theories (twelve years ahead of all others in the field) about the links between the human genetic code and the development of the human immune system. Later, a different scientist proved experimentally that he was right and received a Nobel Prize.

The US National Science Foundation has been funding a Harvard-Smithsonian study of when and where dyslexia may be an advantage in doing science, especially within astrophysics. In the UK, the dyslexic head of the Virgin Group explains that his dyslexia has been a motivator in building his group of more than 250 companies as well as giving him a “business edge.” In the field of computer graphics and simulation, dyslexic artists and technologists are often leading innovators. A world famous professor of paleontology tries to teach his graduate students how to “think like a dyslexic” so they can see patterns invisible to others, making discoveries long thought impossible. The rest is “just memorization,” he says, without significant discovery or true innovation.

Author Thomas G. West says it is high time for us to begin to recognize and understand and learn how to deal with these puzzling extremes – the unexpected academic weaknesses that are frequently linked to success in both life and work. Schools don’t teach or test what dyslexics are good at – but often life does.

Biographical Sketch
Thomas G. West is the author of In the Mind's Eye: Creative Visual Thinkers, Gifted Dyslexics and the Rise of Visual Technologies (Prometheus Books), selected as one of the “best of the best” for the year by the American Library Association (one of only 13 books in their broad psychology, psychiatry and neuroscience category). With 17 printings over 20 years, a second edition was released in September 2009 with Foreword by Oliver Sacks, MD, who states: “In the Mind's Eye brings out the special problems of people with dyslexia, but also their strengths, which are so often overlooked.  Its accent is not so much on pathology as on how much human minds vary. It stands alongside Howard Gardner's Frames of Mind as a testament to the range of human talent and possibility.”

In the Mind’s Eye was published in Japanese translation in as Geniuses Who Hated School. A Chinese translation was published in 2004. A Korean translation was released in November 2011. In connection with In the Mind's Eye and his other writing, Mr. West has been invited to provide presentations for scientific, medical, art, design, computer and business groups in the U.S. and overseas, including groups in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Dubai-UAE and twelve European countries.

For years West wrote a regular column, “Images and Reversals,” on the broad effects of visualization technologies for Computer Graphics, a quarterly publication of the international professional association for computer graphics artists and technologists (an organization in an industry where many creative, visual-thinking dyslexics thrive in organizations such as Pixar Animation Studios in Emeryville, California, and Vancouver, British Columbia, as well as Weta Workshop and Weta Digital in Wellington, New Zealand). These columns were collected into a book with the title: Thinking Like Einstein: Returning to Our Visual Roots with the Emerging Revolution in Computer Information Visualization Information Visualization.

West is now working on a third book, this one dealing with high level creativity, new computer information visualization technologies and role of brain diversity (including dyslexia, Asperger syndrome and other alternative modes of learning and thinking) in several leading-edge entrepreneurial businesses -- as well as scientists and technological innovators (including one British family with, over five generations, many visual thinkers, many dyslexics and four winners of the Nobel Prize in physics).

Recently, West was invited to speak at a Harvard-MIT conference, Learning and the Brain, “Preparing 21st Century Minds: Using Brain Research to Enhance Cognitive Skills for the Future.” Other recent invited lectures or keynotes include: Magdalen College of The University of Oxford in England, The University of California at Berkeley, The University of Malta, the University of Trieste in Italy, the Arts Dyslexia Trust at St Martin-in-the-Fields, London, the 2012 annual conference of the International Dyslexia Association in Baltimore, Maryland, and two keynotes along with two workshops at a conference for regional educators in Dubai-UAE. Early in 2013, West give a talk on creative thinking and computer graphic visualization at Pixar Animation Studios in Emeryville, California – and presented a Director's Colloquium on the same topic for scientists and staff of NASA Ames Research Center (at Moffett Field in California’s Silicon Valley).

1 comment:

  1. I read "In the Minds Eye" 10 years ago when my son was in the 3rd grade. It brought ideas into my head that I wasn't getting from my son's school career. It's so hard to imagine, when your son is doing homework for hours a night, mostly because he hates math, the physical act of writing is exceedingly difficult (lets see, is three words a sentence?), and he's not a good speller. BUT---he can dictate to you a 5 page story about an egg with perfect grammar/punctuation (because he tells you where to put the punctuation). Most 8 year old kid's stories are not 5 pages of brilliant, colorful writing. What if he had been graded on such a creative mind?

    He HATED,HATED, HATED school. He was called a "retard" by classmates because he had to go to the "behaviorally disordered" classroom one mod a day.His special ed teacher also said he was probably the smartest child in his class of 800. He took ritalin....

    The best thing about school was nearly flunking Algebra in the 8th grade. He was then homeschooled, and in what would have been his junior summer, he started Tech school. It was SO HARD not to make him fail through public high school. I KNOW that's what would have happened...because I saw it when I was growing up forty years ago. Some kids and school don't mix.

    Anyhow, thank you, Dr. West. There are a handful of experts I listen to. You are one of them.