Archive for September, 2007

The Mind Games

Monday, September 24th, 2007

In the Artificial Intelligence (AI) class – I attended more than a decade ago – the charming smart professor once declared that to create a machine with ability to perceive, reason, learn, act, err, value and risk as a human being has become the utmost frontier for the AI scientists. Mr. Data of the Star Trek was the perfect picture of the final destination, or a little bit simpler was KITT the car from the Knight Raider. Well, the professor continued, it would be a very long journey to go. A simple skill, that we – the human being – inherently and naturally practiced, was a very complex program to the computer. How a baby learned to see? How he began to be able to differentiate red from blue? How as an adult later, he valued right or wrong? All were unspeakably very hard to explain in the shade of the computer science.


Before become the focus of AI, human brain and its mechanism have already been the tantalizing field of study for psychologists and educators; and lately also intrigued the economists. While surfing on the internet, almost five years ago, on the web of one of the most famous school of economics in the world, I read a doctoral project on measuring the cost of memory in human brain. Every byte of our memory would be valued in dollars. Every transaction (retrieval, storage, deletion, updating) has it own cost. What an amazing study!


Beyond that, brain keeps its marvelous charms. Occasions below were dedicated to the work of mind. Many more were kept in and will be enormously added to the memory to cherish the magical routines of the brain and moreover to worship its Creator.


Here is the evidence#1. On my way to the rest room downstairs, I came across my student from the Statistics class. She grinned and uttered a question: “how do we test the normality of data using SPSS?” What? I was in the middle of releasing myself from the natural oppression and she came with the technical question like that? I stunned for a second or two, yet her expression could not make me refuse to answer. I closed my eyes to find my computer in my mind. Then I clicked the icon, see the menu and began to recite “well, go to the Analyze, click Descriptive Statistics and so on.…” (Well, while writing this line, automatically I did the same trick). She noted my answer, smiled and finally let me go.


Actually the similar way applied, when I’m asked to mention telephone numbers, what I will do is dialing the phone keypad in my mind and simultaneously revealing the numbers.


The next occasion happened right after I had just finished saying my grace for having a seat in the Trans Jakarta bus. A young man precisely a seat far leftward, smiled and then said, “Ma’am I was your student… “Really?” “But you might have forgotten… you could no longer recall my name.” He even mentioned names of his classmates. I felt conquered. Before he continued to lead my mind, I stopped him… “Wait a minute!” I said. Then I let my memory wander and after a while proudly said, “A…ha… you are Syaiful!” The young man smiled, “No, ma’am… I’m Jamil…!” I could not resist myself to smile. See, how I kept the boy’s name. I associated his name with the name of one of the Indonesian singer, Syaiful Jamil, Jamil – Saiful… What a tricky strategy!

To close this confabulation, below I copied a poem by Emily Dickinson, an absolutely touching contemplation… Also a dedication to the memory kept for all the beloved, friends, teachers, students, the reachable and the unreachable, the ones who still around and the ones who no longer here

Wider than the sky:

A poem by Emily Dickinson (1830–86):

The brain is wider than the sky,
For, put them side by side,
The one the other will include
With ease, and you beside.

The brain is deeper than the sea,
For, hold them, blue to blue,
The one the other will absorb,
As sponges, buckets do.

The brain is just the weight of God,
For, lift them, pound for pound,
And they will differ, if they do,
As syllable from sound.

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