Friday, July 20, 2007

My weird memory (paca)

I am a classic example of why there is no such thing as intelligence.

I should end my post right there. What more is there to say?

What I meant, however was, "I am a classic example of why there is no single thing to be called intelligence."

A couple days ago, B and I were picking up N from her office at the end of the day. On the way out, N asks, "So, do you notice anything different?"

I am well trained, so I first look her over to see if I am missing a new haircut or something. No dice. I turn back around, and something looks vaguely different. "Ummm..."

N and her co-workers start laughing.

"See, he is just so focused on you, N, that he doesn't even see the rest of the office," says one of the co-workers.

I think. "Ah-ha! A clue! Something is different about the office." I look around. The coffee table is really red. Maybe I would have noticed a really red coffee table before. "Is it a new coffee table?"

More laughter.

Apparently, they'd gotten an entire new set of furniture and moved bookcases, maybe, in an entire section of the main room.

So I have no visual memory. (Oddly, I can tell you about some of the books on the coffee table, but not necessarily the coffee table.)

However, on the opposite end of the memory scale, I am working on a paper on politeness and apologies with former classmate J-W. And I'm currently trying to revamp politeness theory based on the concept of "Rectification of Names", which is a very important term in Confucianism. I even remembered that the Chinese word for it is "Zheng Ming", though I apparently did get the characters wrong. The point? I think the last time I ever discussed Rectification of Names was in a class in 1991 or 1992.

Why can I remember that, but not realize an entire room's furniture has changed in between Monday and Tuesday? No idea.

(Sticklers among you may point out that I have actually discussed two forms of memory, and intelligence may be something different, perhaps about the ability to manipulate variables, not recall them. To which I say, "touché", but also point out that manipulating variables requires that you hold a large number of variables in working memory, so there is some relation, and moreover, it isn't clear that true inspiration, the Archimedes' moment, is actually a function of variable manipulation at all. )

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