An interesting model-illustration of human cognition occurred to me this morning.  Imagine a sphere.  At the center a nuclear reaction is occurring.  This represents the whole of the ‘processing power’ of the human mind.  In unusually brilliant individuals, like my daughter Emma, the reaction is hotter, brighter, but in ordinary minds it is nevertheless hot.

I notice that Emma’s world appears chaotic at a glance, with projects in various stages of completion and books and the flotsam of life strewn everywhere.  A closer look reveals startlingly high levels of organization amid the chaos.  Now, look at that sphere again.  The surface of the sphere is the cognitive interaction of the individual with the external world.  Areas on the surface, picture continents and islands, are the various disciplines and relationships of the individual.  Exemplii Gratis, one of the ‘Hawaiian Islands’ is her ability to solve Rubik’s Cube.  Australia is her relationship with her friend Jasmine.  Etc.  But now also picture a wedge of rays emanting from the center, the reactor core, to the surface, illustrating the allocation of resources (‘processing power’) from the total capability of the mind that is applied to this particular aspect of cognitive experience.  In a normal individual, there is a capability to apply the mind to that part of the surface in such a way that the individual appears normal — people come away from them feeling as if they’ve met a real person, or the Cube gets solved.

Now consider another scenario.  The idiot savant does not exhibit this appearance of normality in many types of interactions, but is instead very strange.  Even (perhaps especially) their savant characteristic is strange.  But what if the path through their sphere from the surface to the center is non-homogenous?  That not all paths are equally traversible, or there are latencies in the channel, or … you can see the network transmission analogy arising, but that is not my intent.

What if the path to the core is frighteningly optimized for the peculiar gift of the savant, but it’s not really a gift — it’s just the application of the entire energy of the core to the one thought to the exclusion of the others arising at the surface because the neural pathway of whole-person-ness from the remainder of the surface is so suboptimal?

Just a thought.  Almost certainly thought before.  Probably the subject of a dozen research papers exploring it in a hundred times more depth.  But fun.

I was actually trying to reason through how the chaos can arise on certain areas of Emma’s cognitive surface and yet so much of it function at such a high level, and seized on the sphere analogy simply as a visualizable.  Then the ‘path to the center’ observation arose naturally and with it the application of that central heat source to the interaction occurring at the surface.