Understanding Pattern-Recognition

Picasso, Barcelona
By the time you read this post, I’ll be well into the heart of Spain. These are some books on Picasso (as you can tell).

Imagine you went to a friend’s house today.

You’re in your friend’s kitchen.
And you see a chair.

And you sit down on that chair.

How do you know it’s safe to sit on that chair?

But even more interestingly, how do you know it’s a chair in the first instance?

Your brain worked out the pattern, didn’t it?
It figured out, that if the chair looked like a chair, then it must be a chair.

The chair you picked may be orange, and you’ve never sat in an orange chair before, but hey the brain still sees it as a chair.

And even if the chair didn’t have four legs. Even if it had just one central beam, your brain still sees the chair as a chair.

This is the simplicity of patterning
You see the chair. You sit on it.
A five-month old baby sees it.
And slams into it. Bumps into it. Stares at it.

Isn’t sure what to do with it.

The patterns are clear in your brain. The patterns ain’t that clear in the brain of that baby.

Which brings us to why some people seem so talented

They just see patterns we don’t see (not yet, anyway!)

But here’s the really frustrating part.
If you ask a ‘talented’ person what they’re seeing, they can’t explain what’s really happening.

picasso.jpg pichetepa_468x362.jpg s17_005_bg_picassopainting.jpg

So if you asked the famous artist Picasso, what patterns he saw before he drew a masterpiece, he may not have been able to give you an answer. And yet, he was seeing patterns.

But patterns at such high speed that most talented people can’t tell you what they’re seeing.
These um, talented people simply draw, or sing, or dance.
They can’t describe to you the pattern (in most cases).

So how do we know it’s a pattern after all?
Because of the repetition.

Picasso’s first drawing may not look exactly like the next, but try as he may, the next drawing will have an overlap of the first.
A dancer may do a completely different dance routine, but hey, there’s the style coming through. And what is style, but a pattern?

Artists, dancers, heck even criminals follow a pattern.
But because we can’t see the pattern at normal speed, we think it’s talent.

Yes, you have a talent for spotting a chair.
Yes, you have a talent for sitting down on a chair.
But can you explain that talent to me?

No you can’t.

Because it’s happening too fast in your brain.
And that’s exactly what’s happening in the brains of so-called talented people.
But let’s do the impossible in the posts to follow, shall we?
Let’s slow down patterns so that you can see them.

Aha…now that would be something eh?
Then the so-called talent wouldn’t be so magical after all.
But how do we slow things down? That’s the question.
And yes, there’s an answer.

Amazing as it may sound, there’s a simple, logical answer.

But hey, that answer will come in another post.
For now, look around and see your magnificent brain. And how it seems to recognise patterns all the time.
You are indeed talented at recognising patterns.
But we’ll go one step further. We’ll do stuff that seems impossible.
Like draw cartoons. Or write jokes. Or do things that seem um, quite out of your current league.


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