Thursday, April 17, 2014

Dyslexics as big picture thinkers

In recent weeks it dawned on me that some of my favorite books have enormous scope -- and appear to the work of authors who are either dyslexic themselves of may have dyslexic near relatives.

I thought I would just post the basic idea here. Full list and documentation to come.

How to compare several big picture tasks with the extremely limited tasks that academic tradition requires?

Preliminary list --

Nigel Calder, Time Scales

Wally Broecker, Harvard course book on building and habitable planet

Broecker, W. (2010). The Great Ocean Conveyor: Discovering the Trigger for Abrupt Climate Change. Princeton and Oxford: Princeton University Press. 

The death of corporate IT power

Heard on "Marketplace" radio business report this afternoon: Once the employees were allowed to give up their company BlackBerrys to use their own personal iPhones the world of company IT changed. Never again would employees be willing to use the old machines and software cleared and paid for by their companies. Never again would they use machines and software inferior to those they used every day in their personal life. Remarkably, the consumer world seems always well ahead of the "serious" business world. -- Yet another revolution to be credited to Steve Jobs and the Apple approach -- while the "winning by intimidation" company has lost its way. Why did it take so long? Maybe it just took the coming of age of a generation of users who really owned their own technology -- and were no longer willing to be told by "experts" what they should have or use. Exactly 30 years, 1984-2014.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Falling "back into old and preconceived notions," Michael Faraday, 1845

These days, as I consider the various road blocks to really new thinking in dyslexia research, I often think of Michael Faraday. Long ago he was so much on his own -- with his experiments and his hands-on visual thinking and lack of conventional education -- yet so far ahead of everyone around him that his ideas are as good today as they were more than a 150 years ago. Rare indeed. It was Einstein -- another powerful visual thinker -- who suggested to me that I should take a long look at Faraday. And it is Faraday (like Einstein) who realized that sometimes you have to transform the fundamentals of your thinking before you can clearly see what is actually going on around you. You may know a great deal, but still entirely miss what nature is telling you. -- TGW

Near Misses Instead of New Discoveries -- An Excerpt from In the Mind’s Eye

            It is, of course, a double-bind in another sense; one has to be close enough to the conventional in order to obtain the needed information from the conventional sources, to check one's findings and to be able to explain one's new ideas in a way that is understandable and acceptable to conventional modes of thought.

            But this is not a new problem. Long ago, an instance of coming close to a discovery but not being able to make the conceptual changes needed to achieve the desired result was observed in a colleague by Michael Faraday. In a letter to a friend who had described to Faraday this colleague's researches on the magnetic condition of matter, Faraday wrote:

Royal Institution: Friday night, December 5, 1845

            Many thanks, my dear Wheatstone, for your note. I have in consequence seen Bequerel's paper, and added a note at the first opening of my paper. It is astonishing to think how he could have been so near the discovery of the great principle and fact, and yet so entirely miss them both, and fall back into old and preconceived notions.

Ever truly yours,

M. Faraday

            Here we see that the power of "old and preconceived notions" may serve as a barrier to imminent discovery in any time or age. Then, as now, for some, one of the greatest deterents to original discovery may be nothing more than long-established habits of thought.