Analogy as the core of cognition

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I majored in philosophy in college. At Princeton nearly all liberal arts majors (and many of the engineering students too) have to write a senior thesis to graduate.
I was interested in philosophy of language and wrote a thesis called “Is Metaphor Necessary for Communication?” In it I argued that metaphor was much more than a rhetorical frill but in fact constituted a primary building-block of communication.
Briefly put, I suggested that it’s only through comparisons with existing shared ideas that new ideas (ideas from one person that are new to another) are introduced into a dialogue between two people
In Analogy as the Core of Cognition, a Stanford presidential lecture, Douglas Hofstadter makes a rather similar point:

To me, however, analogy is anything but a bitty blip — rather, it’s the very blue that fills the whole sky of cognition — analogy is everything, or very nearly so, in my view.

I find it particularly interesting that he illustrates some of his points by discussing the process of translation, which was also a topic in my thesis.

How to do precisely the right thing…

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I’m here at SXSW Interactive and I’m scattering my blog notes to various blogs, depending on the topic and relevancy. This one is kind of general and about psychology so I’m stowing it here
Raw notes from the Daniel Gilbert Presentation: How to Do Precisely the Right Thing at All Possible Times:
standing in a slow line is memorable
the “light is always red” problem
people vastly underestimate the numbers of deaths by asthma and drowning (much less spectacular than asthma and drowning)
one of these things is not like the other:
* terrorist attack
* plane crash
* earthquake
* swimming pool
the swimming pool is actually dangerous
you’re 10x more likely to die in a pool than all the other put together
lotteries are a stupidity tax
the planning fallacy, example: student doing thesis
* worst case prediction, if everything goes wrong: 48 weeks
* best case: 27 weeks
* most likely: 33 weeks
* actual: 55 weeks
people make mistakes when they compare the cost of things with the past instead of the possible
people also make mistakes comparing things with the possible
we’re not stupid, we’re ancient
how did we get to the moon?
we can make good decisions with the help of science
tags: sxsw2006, sxsw

Five weird habits of highly effective people

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My blogdaughter, Frances, sent me a blog meme that sounds like fun: Yahoo! 360 – Good Bloggin’ West – Five Weird Habits of Highly Effective People…
OK, so here are five of my weird habits:

  1. When someone’s voice or way of talking sounds funny to me I, almost involuntarily, imitate them under my breath.
  2. Sometimes, when I get up in the middle of the night to heed the call of nature, I check my email with my glasses off.
  3. When I’m home alone I put loud music on and dance around like a fool.
  4. When I hear certain words (examples: ruby grapefruit, Rio music player) my mind dredges up the most nearly related song it can find (Ruby Tuesday, Rio) and then I hear that song in my head for the rest of the day – often with fake lyrics I made up along time ago that somehow overwrote the real words in my memory.
  5. Even though I’m agnostic I pray nearly every day because if nothing else I need the practice in asking for help and recognizing that I don’t have all the answers.

I’ll tag Cecil, Xifer, and So-Called Bill.

The end of dusk

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File under “you learn something new every day”:

The transition to full night happens when the sun is 18 degrees below the horizon.

Source: Joe Flower in the Well’s ‘current’ conference.