Moulton Lava

Moultonic Musings

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Location: New England, United States

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Very Pretty Combination Locks

I like to reason by analogy.  In an analogy, we map something unfamiliar onto something familiar.  If one chooses an appropriate analogy, one can make good progress in understanding the unfamiliar.

I like puzzles.  I like to play puzzle games.   If one plays enough puzzles, one begins to appreciate the underlying commonality connecting seemingly unrelated puzzles.  The analogy I find most insightful is that of the ordinary combination lock.  A combination lock has a "secret" -- a precise sequence of moves or maneuvers that unlocks it.  A lot of puzzles turn out to be very pretty combination locks.  The challenge, then, is to discover the secret combination.

While there are lots of ways to characterize intelligence, one way is to measure the ability to solve a combinatorial problem -- finding the precise combination of moves and maneuvers to deftly unlock a compelling mystery.

Perhaps the question of intelligence isn't so much one of where it is located in the brain, but in which combination to recruit many different lobes of the brain, where each lobe contributes an essential element of the elusive solution.

Now and then I am obliged to recruit someone else's brain, because my own lacks a sufficiently complete combination of high-functioning lobes to solve the most vexing and perplexing puzzle at hand.

If one is going to entice others to work on an otherwise tedious combination lock, it helps to enrobe it and present it as a very pretty combination lock.


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