Sunday, May 21

Old link: Memory

This old Wired article is called The Forgetting Pill Erases Painful Memories Forever. I'm not interested in the angle of the title. I think it would be a bad idea in most cases. But I'm interested in the model of memory presented in the article:
[T]he very act of remembering changes the memory itself. New research is showing that every time we recall an event, the structure of that memory in the brain is altered in light of the present moment, warped by our current feelings and knowledge. That’s why pushing to remember a traumatic event so soon after it occurs doesn’t unburden us; it reinforces the fear and stress that are part of the recollection.
One idea: praying through memories, including forgiveness as part of that process when necessary, could 'rewire' those memories, diminish pain and negative emotion. Interpreted in light of this theory, bitterness can reinforce painful memories and even make them worse.

Here's a quote for those of you interested in therapy:
LeDoux insists that these same principles have been used by good therapists for decades. “When therapy heals, when it helps reduce the impact of negative memories, it’s really because of reconsolidation,” he says. “Therapy allows people to rewrite their own memories while in a safe space, guided by trained professionals. The difference is that we finally understand the neural mechanism.”

Wednesday, May 17

Old link: Genius

I was doing some cleaning and found two old Wired articles that I saved from 2012. More importantly, they were articles that I have thought of multiple times since then.

The first one was called Cultivating Genius. Mostly I think about this piece in the context of sports. Something I like about sports is the chance to see amazing things. The big money ruins it in a lot of ways. But the big money is also the way we identify and train talent and produce geniuses.
Bill James, the pioneer of Moneyball-style statistical baseball analysis, points out that modern America is already very good at generating geniuses. The problem is that the geniuses we’ve created are athletes. As James says, this is largely because we treat athletes differently. We encourage them when they’re young, chauffeuring our kids to practice and tournaments. We also have mechanisms for cultivating athletic talent at every step in the process, from Little League to the Majors. Lastly, professional teams are willing to take risks, betting big bucks on draft picks who never pan out. Because of these successful meta-ideas, even a small city like Topeka, Kansas—roughly the same size as Elizabethan London, James points out—can produce an athletic genius every few years.
We have done a lot of this in the US in the last 150 years or so. The US is great at creating entrepreneurs.

I wish we could do better, but I don't see it happening. What does the market want? Not smart people. The market wants amazing athletes. Thankfully, the market also produces entrepreneurs for the sake of consumer good and services. I don't want to be too gloomy, but given our current society, this is probably as good as it gets.