Sunday, June 13, 2010

They have in mind a vivid description of almost algorithmic rigor as regards how to move around.

There are certain things that restrict the realization our potentials. The most harm is done when the restriction is imposed on each of us as a system of implicit and often unfathomable constraints.

Although the phenomenon is quite universal, we can start from specific examples. The social enclosure of challenged people, for example.

Recently, I had a chance to converse with a few people who are without vision by birth or through medical conditions, as part of a research for a book project. I found, or should I say rediscovered, that the brains of the visually challenged people are used in a different manner from us. As a consequence, they have developed a unique set of abilities which are a marvel for those "cursed" with visual abilities.

As an instance, when we move around the city, we rely on the visual information so much that our navigation is executed relying on the incessant sensori-motor interaction supported by vision. So when questioned out of location, one has only a very fuzzy idea of the nature of the actual route taken. A blind person, on the other hand, plans and remembers the journey in a very explicit and rule based way, so that they have in mind a vivid description of almost algorithmic rigor as regards how to move around.

Thus, one finds a more logically robust and dense set of abilities in a visually challenged person. There are accompanying difficulties naturally, but if we can find a way to overcome these obstacles, a visually challenged person has a great chance of flourishing in a unique way. Sadly, because of the assumptions and prejudices about what one may do in society, these great capabilities are not tapped to the full yet.

Similar cases of untapped talent resources are rampant in society. Glass ceilings are broken constantly as society progresses.

The real problem is that in many cases we don't even realize the existence of the glass ceiling, and suffocate without knowing the reason why.


Greg said...

Would it be safe to assume that most people have created informal and intuitive "models" of how the world works or of how they believe it should work? If so, perhaps these metaphors or "stories" impose restrictions on the mental processes and structures that reside in what Lakoff and Johnson, in Philosophy in the Flesh, call the "cognitive unconscious." If these conscious "models" are underspecified--the possible factors involved, their interactions, and their contributions cannot be identified comprehensively--then, these "simplified" models might limit the capabilities or capacity of the "cognitive unconscious."

In the context of the example you presented, sighted individuals may not include the capabilities and algorithms observed in the blind into their models of how the world works. This bias or absence can be inferred in the very terms we use, such as "visually-impaired" or "handicapped," which connote a sense of deviation from the "normal" or "expected." Perhaps the uncertainty and anxiety that you alluded to in your previous entry arise from neglecting to be aware of and to nurture our underspecified models of reality. In other words, we have difficulties dealing with things if we believe we do not have the cognitive, affective, or physical resources to address them.

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