Thursday, December 27, 2007

Autistic Savants

Recently national geographic is telecasting series of documentaries titled “My brilliant brain”. The series is based on individuals who are gifted with very extraordinary abilities. In a way they could be called as Geniuses. Theses people are either born geniuses or someone they termed as accidental geniuses. One episode tells about a person who when given any date of the history can tell which day it was. There was this individual who was mysteriously awakened to a talent in his middle life which he didn’t know he had. The series was really interesting and made me think about why some individuals are gifted with some extraordinary abilities or accidentally discover some special art or skill while there are others who, in technical sense, are ill or with disabilities (mental or physical).
I remember seeing character of Raymond Babbitt in movie ‘Rain man” beautifully played by Dustin hoffman inspired by a real life person kim peek who was what is called as ‘autistic savant’. Autistic savant is the one with autism who has a special skill. I googled just to find any interesting stuff on autistic savants and found an article,,1409903,00.html which was published in the Gurdian. It ‘s an interesting read and opens with a real life savant named Daniel Tammet who can perform mind boggling mathematical calculations at .breakneck speeds.
Here are few excerpts:
Daniel Tammet has been obsessed with counting. Now he is 26, and a mathematical genius who can figure out cube roots quicker than a calculator and recall pi to 22,514 decimal places. He also happens to be autistic, which is why he can't drive a car, wire a plug, or tell right from left. He lives with extraordinary ability and disability.
"Savants have usually had some kind of brain damage. Whether it's an onset of dementia later in life, a blow to the head or, in the case of Daniel, an epileptic fit. And it's that brain damage which creates the savant.
There is something unusual I found by reading this article about these individuals. An estimated 10% of the autistic population - and an estimated 1% of the non-autistic population - have savant abilities, but no one knows exactly why. Savants can't usually tell us how they do what they do but Tammet can. He says that he can see numbers in the form of figures when he does the calculations mentally. He describes what he sees in his head and that is the key ability which differentiates him from all other Savants.
Article also describes about some other real life Savants
Autistic savants have displayed a wide range of talents, from reciting all nine volumes of Grove's Dictionary Of Music to measuring exact distances with the naked eye. The blind American savant Leslie Lemke played Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto No1, after he heard it for the first time, and he never had so much as a piano lesson. And the British savant Stephen Wiltshire was able to draw a highly accurate map of the London skyline from memory after a single helicopter trip over the city.
Then suddenly I think of a different breed of individuals like, Srinivasa Ramanujan, who can emotionally attach themselves with some form of logical entities or thoughts. This is rather unusual in a sense that they can form a mental imagery of what other people ‘see’ as abstract .
I think it is because of this strange ability of associating abstract things such as numbers or logical entities with emotions or human element of care, is what makes working of mind mysterious and beautiful.
As often Ramanujan used to say “An equation for me has no meaning, unless it represents a thought of God”

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Why are we not creative...

I was a kind of frustrated (though a bit worried at times) on my life being monotonous and I feel that nothing was there which I could look forward to each day. In fact I have observed this kind of frustration in many people who are not satisfied with what they are doing in their life. This is primarily because they are creative persons by their vary nature but are put into a kind of life style or job that is contrary to their way of thinking. What they crib about is job not being intellectually stimulating or it being something which does not have a room for creativity. But slowly we need to adopt/adapt to this way of life. We kill the seed of creativity which is their within all of us, with our own hands. I would mention a famous quote by Abraham Maslow who also proposed popular theory of “Hierarchy of basic needs”.

The key question is not "What fosters creativity?" But it is why in God’s name isn’t everyone creative? Where was the human potential lost? How was it crippled? I think therefore a good question might be not why do people create? But why do people not create or innovate? We have got to abandon that sense of amazement in the face of creativity, as if it were a miracle if anybody created anything.

This quote aptly depicts what is happening with today’s generation. Everybody is running behind material needs and money. In this pursuit, everyone is loosing their natural flare for creativity. In my perspective everybody is creative, in a context, to some extent. What makes him not to be creative or innovative, is the personal blocks he has created around himself. Sometimes he blames himself for it and some times others or even situations.
Human mind should be free to create or innovate. Today’s hustle-bustle of metro life makes one forget about the creativity and the intellectual needs of the mind. One simply discards the thought of being creative, even if it comes in mind. One would think when the task could be copied from others why then worry about not being creative.

I think We’ve grown the mentality that it’s better to listen to someone else than it is to think for ourselves Or simply find an easy way out by “Googling it”. Why take pains by putting your mind at work when you can CCP (cut, copy, paste) others’ ideas.

Where Does the problem lie?
Does it lie with our education system? Or does it has to do with what we think of ourselves?...

Banglore ricks....

Being a north Indian, I somehow had this perception about Bangalore that it’s a south Indian region so I would face a tough time in terms of language and food. In any case for a north Indian anyone who belongs to the southern geography of India would be a “MADRASI” and same applies to any of the south Indian languages namely kannada, tamil, malayalam ( Later I came to know that difference between all these is same as difference between Russian, Italian and hindi)
Anyways I din’t have my own vehicle so I started going by autos. That’s when actually I got to know that a thing as trivial as finding an auto can get on my nerves so much that I wud find it virtually difficult to deal with it.
Whatever I had heard about the traffic problems in Bangalore from some of my friends, I actually found it badly screwed up and these rickshaw walas add their share of chaos to the traffic.
If you compare Bangalore autowalas with those of any other region of India you will find the same behavioral ‘traits’. You can not actually predict their behaviour at times. Imagine you r in a fresh mood in the morning and waiting for an auto. You try to stop one auto, the autowala is in so much hurry that he virtually neglects you (God only knows why Bangalore autowallas are in so much hurry, as if they would miss a flight).
Sometimes they throw tantrums at you as if you have committed a crime by asking them to come with you. Moreover Half the times these guys are not ready to come, the reasons they give are ‘there is too much traffic (so what do these guys plan to do idling through the day) or the destination is too far, or too close, or is some god forsaken place to which they feel theirs would be the first auto to go that day! And to top it all half the time they won’t even pay attention to what you are saying If they don’t want to come with you. Whatever the reason be, they are an annoying lot.
And if you talk about fare Phew!!!......
Where on earth can autorickshaw shamelessly ask for one and a half rates irrespective of the time of the day or the place to which you wish to rent the auto to?
These guys have got the nerve to ask for 15-20 bucks more than the usual meter rates. In fact at times they don’t even consider the meter, they will straight away ask for a random rate which is no where close to actual rates.
What these Khaki wala think that everybody in Bangalore is from IT sector, since everybody is from IT they must be filthy rich and can pay any amount, are always desperate to reach whatever lace they want to go so can always agree upon whatever rates they ask for.
What!! they think that they can cheat any poor commuter and yet will get out clean