corvi (corivax) wrote,

random poll

The basic theory, as put forward by Allan Snyder, is this:

This is probably not a politically correct term, but I have no idea what the PC one is: 'idiot savantism'. One estimate is that ten percent of autistic people have some outstanding, astounding talent: lightning calculators, people who can estimate distances of hundreds of meters to the exact centimeter, perfect pitch, timekeeping abilities.
Snyder has theorized that in neurologically normal people, higher brain centers actually inhibit the output of what he calls 'early' modules - lower level stuff, but that all people have the potential for that sort of genius, but can't focus it. Idiot savants can directly access 'lower levels' of the brain.

Which is a nice theory, and all. Sounds like the setup for a bad sci-fi novel, doesn't it?

So then some colleagues of his go and try it. Silence the front lobes with electric current (transcranial magnetic stimulation), cut off higher thought, see what happens.

It works.

They test seventeen grad students. To various degrees, they develop the sort of incredible talents and bizarre behaviour patterns associated with idiot savants.
You shut off the current, they go back to normal.

(I would like to take this moment to stress that seventeen is not a good sample set, and that the experiment needs repeating/verification, yadda yadda. It's philosophical implications that concern me at the moment.)

I was mentioning this to gfish, and he said, "That's Focus! Sign me up!" (See Vernor Vinge, A Deepness in the Sky, which featured a society built upon the labor and discoveries of artificially-focused researchers, genius, but too wrapped up in their work to even take care of themselves). Others were more diffident.

So: they can put the electrodes on your head, and start the current, and you will be a genius. And a moron. It will tear down the walls in your head, and rip away the structure of your thoughts. Would you do it? For work, to become a living computer? Temporary? Permanent?

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