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June 17, 2012

Wired for speed

The Economist:

ARE geniuses just born with their brains wired differently? Or do their early experiences fashion a richer set of neuronal interconnections that let them view the world through a sharper lens? The literature is replete with accounts of people who went on to accomplish great things--in the arts, sciences, philosophy or even politics--after exhibiting little promise in their youth. It would be encouraging to think that, if nurturing does indeed play a crucial part, there could yet be hope for the rest of us.

An outfit in San Francisco called "tenXer" has begun testing a service that aims to help people boost their mental accomplishments by up to tenfold--hence its name. That has made your correspondent wonder what distinguishes the truly talented from the journeymen of any trade. And what, if anything, the rest can do to improve their more menial lot.

Several years ago, your correspondent wrote a column about innovative operating systems (see "Heading for the clouds", June 17th 2010). The software he admired the most was PC/GEOS, from a tiny firm in Berkeley, California, which crammed a full multitasking operating system and a whole suite of applications with scalable fonts and a stunning graphical interface into a couple of megabytes. The Microsoft equivalent of the day needed nearly ten times more memory and came with half the tools and none of the applications. In the early 1990s, GeoWorks Ensemble (as the program later became known) was the hare to the Mac and Windows tortoises.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at June 17, 2012 3:17 AM
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