Friday, March 24, 2017

As recruiters note special skills of the blind I ask: can we learn better?

I have linked into three groups doing leading studies of future jobs and the growing challenge of fitting people and jobs together. One of the people in one of these groups (iiiij) recently posted:

Hi all,
Coolabilties are hot:) New research about enhanced-compensatory abilities of blind people.


This particular coolability is interesting, not just because of political correctness, but because it may be a clue to another aspect of human potential.

Paying attention to nonvisual inputs can of course result in the organism learning more and doing better pattern recognition on them.

But even more can be done by conscious use of "shaping" or pathways in learning.

A few years ago, my family got "locked into" an interior cabin of a cruise ship, maybe as perfectly dark as caves are said to be. As an old man, I wanted to walk when others were sleeping and make minimum noise, above all not turning on lights. I could swear that the right kind of attention to that task was a very useful learning experience, in part because I was NOT totally blind, and the slight availability of the old visual inputs helped me boostrap-learn pattern recognition based on nonvisual inputs better than would be possible with simple pure blindness. [Addendum: it helped me that I knew what to be open to, and could "look down" on my brain enough to assist a little. I took the one and only neuroscience course at Harvard College in 1964.] 

I actually discuss bootstrap learning a bit, in my paper Neural Networks and the Experience and Cultivation of Mind, published in the journal Neural Networks, 2012.  

In my own view, this larger issue of human potential should be treated as coequal at least with survival of the species, when we define our ultimate "bottom line" of what we are trying to accomplish. So much work still needed, at so many levels... 

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