Wednesday, 16 July 2008


One of my previous posts mentioned memory tricks. As a guitarists, when I learn a piece of music there is clearly a complex mental process going on. But music is quite easy to memorise. I blogged earlier about remembering a pack of 52 shuffled cards - something I can do but which is rather more abstract than music, and something that requires a high degree of visualisation.

Visualisation is a significant skill in an evolutionary capacity. Imagine if you are tracking game, this may involve travelling significant distances. Not only would you have to remember the way home (which would be far from trivial in anything other than Savannah), but also it would pay in many cases to remember resources such as (plant) food and water sources along the way. Should you ever visit an area again you would know of resource to sustain your hunt.

In fact knowing of food and water resource in a wider geographical area actually enables you to roam further from camp and increases your 'harvestable area'. You have a greater 'reach'. In addition, should resource become scarce in one area, you could simply move to another as resources in the locale have effectively already been recce'd.

This is where visualisation comes. Pre-writing, you'd identify plants and geographic locations purely from memory. I really like this kind of explanation for WHY we can develop seemingly complex, abstract skills, tying as it does, a paleo theme with a modern party trick (remembering a pack of shuffled cards). Maybe this link is contrived. I certainly have yet to come across any science to back up my theory (yet), but it fits in to my paleo-philosophy, a tenet of which is to 'grow your mind'.

In the long term, the memory system I use will be developed to card-count in Blackjack. I 'd like to clean up at the casinos (needless to say I have a few books on card counting strategy in my 'To Read' pile). It is easy to go and sprint up a hill or lift a weight and think 'this is paleo'. The paleo quality of activity is obvious. But one day, I will be sitting in a tuxedo at Napoleon's Blackjack Casino using visualisation in a hostile and pressurised environment also thinking 'this is paleo'. It may not be as obvious, but in many ways my animal instincts will be challenged just the same!

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