Cory Leonard

Archive for December, 2010|Monthly archive page

Searching the Brain for the Spark of Creative Problem-Solving – NYTimes.com

In career on December 9, 2010 at 9:35 pm

Understanding how the brain works (including the subconscious)  as a key to problem solving:

It’s imagination, it’s inference, it’s guessing; and much of it is happening subconsciously,” said Marcel Danesi, a professor of anthropology at the University of Toronto and the author of “The Puzzle Instinct: The Meaning of Puzzles in Human Life.”

“It’s all about you, using your own mind, without any method or schema, to restore order from chaos,” Dr. Danesi said. “And once you have, you can sit back and say, ‘Hey, the rest of my life may be a disaster, but at least I have a solution.’�”

For almost a century scientists have used puzzles to study what they call insight thinking, the leaps of understanding that seem to come out of the blue, without the incremental drudgery of analysis.

via Searching the Brain for the Spark of Creative Problem-Solving – NYTimes.com.

Frum on the State of the Nation, Post-Tea-Party

In politics on December 1, 2010 at 7:30 am

What has changed and what has stayed the same as the result of the Tea Party insurgency?  David Frum offers some useful insights, describing the environment of “contemporary American politics as a class struggle between those with more education than money against those with more money than education.”

He urges the TP-ers to remember the danger of closes information systems, be clear on “the market” v. “the markets”, focus on more than the budget, see some good in the welfare state, and beware of raw populism.

As per point one and phenom Glen Beck, Frum explains:

This is how to understand the Glenn Beck phenomenon. Every day, Beck offers alternative knowledge — an alternative history of the United States and the world, an alternative system of economics, an alternative reality. As corporate profits soar, the closed information system insists that the free-enterprise system is under assault. As prices slump, we are warned of imminent hyperinflation. As black Americans are crushed under Depression-level unemployment, the administration’s policies are condemned by some conservatives as an outburst of Kenyan racial revenge against the white overlord.

Meanwhile, Republican officeholders who want to explain why they acted to prevent the collapse of the U.S. banking system can get no hearing from voters seized with certainty that a bank collapse would have done no harm to ordinary people. Support for TARP has become a career-ender for Republican incumbents, and we shall see what it does to Mitt Romney, the one national Republican figure who still defends TARP.

The same vulnerability to closed information systems exists on the liberal side of U.S. politics as well, of course. But the fact that my neighbor is blind in one eye is no excuse for blinding myself in both.

via Post-Tea-Party Nation – NYTimes.com.

The Perils of Partisanship

In politics on December 1, 2010 at 6:43 am

A majority of Americans consider themselves to be moderates–hewing to pragmatism and good governance rather than ideology, party, or another “one best way” to govern. Perhaps there will be a political movement, such as Michael Bloomberg’s “No Labels” group aims to attain. In his NYT column, Ross Douthat effectively demonstrates the dilemma:

Up to a point, American politics reflects abiding philosophical divisions. But people who follow politics closely — whether voters, activists or pundits — are often partisans first and ideologues second. Instead of assessing every policy on the merits, we tend to reverse-engineer the arguments required to justify whatever our own side happens to be doing. Our ideological convictions may be real enough, but our deepest conviction is often that the other guys can’t be trusted.

Douthat proffers the type of examples (national security) that help to explain the appeal for moderation.  Policies between Bush 43 and Obama 44 on many areas have changed little–whether owing to our system of policy creation or that occasional fact that perhaps the policy was in the U.S. best interest and has thus been maintained.

On a personal level, partisanship can be unproductive–again, as Douthat zeroes in:

Is there anything good to be said about the partisan mindset? On an individual level, no. It corrupts the intellect and poisons the wells of human sympathy. Honor belongs to the people who resist partisanship’s pull, instead of rowing with it.

via The Partisan Mind – NYTimes.com.