A good comrade (EC) suggests the other day in a quasi-poem email that I'm exceptional at something he intriguingly refers to "arbitrage" — I speculate he means building bridges. He writes:
I wonder why you find it so easy to arbitrage concepts
Across disciplines and others find it so difficult.
Have any theories?
It's a skill of successful poets/artists
Hmmm! My reactions flow quickly through the sequence:
- how can I learn to write nifty prose-poems like that?
- what does the phrase "arbitrage concepts" really mean?
- am I really abnormally good at that sort of thing?
- if so, is it obvious?
- what are the factors that might contribute to that talent or skill?
... yes, and leaping ahead (as I am wont to do) to that final question, some candidate answers:
- sheer luck (raised in a lower-middle-class family that valued education, in a society with enough wealth and good public schools to learn a lot, avoided jail and drugs, fine health, stable brain chemistry, etc.)
- good genes (rather quick & clever neural network, decent memory, tendency toward patience and empathy, etc.)
- diverse reading for decades (long-time bias toward science and analysis of ideas)
- self-deprecating and self-effacing personality (but need to work to overcome far too many inhibitions still!)
- tendency to enjoy developing and interconnecting mental models and metaphors
- fortuitous cultivation of "epistemic virtues" (love that term, mentioned by Australian philosopher Tim van Gelder in the course of a lecture last week; cf. PickyAboutFacts, Critical Thinking, Critical Thinking Defined, ...)
More on some of these another time — unless they're discussed here too much already in years past!
^z - 2012-12-15
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