Re: "Boy with Incredible Brain"

From: Richard Loosemore (
Date: Wed Mar 22 2006 - 08:28:35 MST

As others have pointed out, this kind of ability is already an object of
study in psychology and neuroscience - but I would take issue with some
of the comments about it.

I think it is definitely relevant to SL4, because it gives us some
fascinating clues about what is happening in the human cognitive system,
and the more clues we have, the more likely we will be able to build an AGI.

Second, there is some talk of Kim Peek's problem being the lack of a
relevance filter. The problem with this is that, as a theory of what is
going on, it is much too simple. There is an old analogy between a
radio circuit and a brain that illustrates the point: if you stick a
screwdriver into the back of a radio and take out a random component,
you are quite likely to get a radio that just sits there and makes a
squealing sound. Deduction: you just knocked out the "squeal
suppressor"......? Much too simplistic. Same with savant abilities
like those of Kim Peek: its just a missing "relevance filter"? Well,
that is a possible explanation, but I really, really doubt that it will
turn out to be that crude.

Daniel Tammet's ability to multiply seems to be mediated by a
shape-memory pathway. My (admittedly vague) guess would be that he
somehow got the shape memory part of his system to encode the math
algorithms for multiplication, so that he can feed in the numbers as
shapes and get them back as a new shape, corresponding to the product.
I would be interested to know what he has been doing all these years,
and whether he can perform many other types of mathematical operations.

Richard Loosemore

H C wrote:
> Pretty neat stuff.
> "Daniel claims that since the age of four, he has been able to do huge
> mathematical calculations in his head. So the makers of this documentary
> put him to the test, asking him to calculate 37 raised to the power of
> 4. He completed this in less than a minute, giving the correct answer of
> 1,874,161"
> "Next he was asked to divide 13 by 97. This time the researchers had the
> answer to 32 decimal places"
> "He is very gifted with words and speaks nine languages and claims to be
> able to learn a new one in just seven days."
> "Daniel had his own surprise, in Oxford, England, he would recite the
> number Pi to 22,500 decimal places, in public in front of a team of
> invigilators to verify his accuracy"
> -
> Also,
> "Kim has a double photographic memory and can recall everything he has
> ever read. He speed reads by scanning opposing pages at the same time,
> one page with each eye. "
> "Orlando Serrill was just 10 years old when he was hit, hard, on the
> side of the head by a baseball. Since when, he has been able to recall
> the day, date and weather of every day since the accident. "
> :)
> -hank

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