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Make me a Genius

kgrass's picture

On Tuesday, we discussed how humans think, and whether our lives are ruled by just a bunch of algorithms. Computer intelligence is possible because of these algorithms, but does our brain work the same way? While discussing this concept with a friend, she told me about a documentary she had watched about a grand chess master (which can be watched online for free. Here’s the link: ) Watch the Part 2 video, “Make Me a Genius”, if you’re interested. Susan Polgar was trained to play chess from a very early age by her father. Susan’s brain has actually developed in such a way that the ability to recognize chess patterns is in the same part of her brain that enables her to recognize faces. She has memorized thousands of patterns, which allows her to make a quick decision on what move to make next, and is what allows her to be such a great player. In essence, it is the same as a computer program. There are certain patterns that appear over and over again in games, and allows her to know what to do next based on patterns she has learned. With her ability to recognize patterns, her playing is more like intuition rather than thinking.      

             This documentary also makes me think about how the environment shapes our genetic potential. Whether someone actually grows to her full height potential is determined by her nutrition while growing, and skin pigmentation can be determined by how much sun a person is exposed to. This documentary shows that the way the brain thinks is actually very malleable, and that environmental factors can actually change the way the brain makes connections. We tend to think of a genius as some accident, someone born with a special “gift”. Susan’s life demonstrates that every child has the ability to become a genius. The documentary also discusses the difference between how girls and boys think, and that in the 1970s people believed girl’s brains were not equipped to handle chess. Susan says that although there are differences in the brain, that does not mean there is only one way to think about the game of chess. She says there is not one way to succeed, which has been a constant theme in our discussion about evolution. There is no one way to live, but many different ways to thrive in our world.   


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