Sunday, March 17, 2013

Cans of Word Worms: The Project

Thanks to Ray Kurzweil and his team, Siri will guide you and your iPhone to the closest coffee shop. Or music store. Or gas station. The Jetson lifestyle is well on its way.

Ray Kurzweil is a genius. He has been an inventor and explorer of artificial intelligence for a good long time, his latest accomplishment being the creation of Watson, the Jeopardy!-playing computer. In his recent Viking Press book,  How to Create a Mind,  he gives new insight into the way the brain processes information.

The basic premise that I find most fascinating is this: the mind is not very good at logic, but it is excellent at patterns. I could have guessed at the first, having been on the planet for a while observing an abundant amount of human behavior, including my own. It is reassuring to hear it from a genius, I'll admit.

Which only goes to show how excellent my brain is at patterns. In my pattern of a genius, there is an assumption of intellectual perfection. After all,  "genius" and "genie" are almost the same word, right? And genies can make anything happen, right? They have all the answers, right?

Only if you believe in genies. Only if you believe in a pattern that may or may not reflect reality.

At this stage of my teaching and learning, I am spending more time exploring time-honored expressions that show up, like genies from a bottle, over and over in piano pedagogy. It gets me in some trouble, I will admit. Rather than magical ideas stored in beautiful bottles, I'm coming up with cans of word worms - squiggly, wiggly, hard to define, the kind of worms that seem to reproduce themselves when cut in half.

This series of posts will take close looks at phrases like "wrist circles", "hand position", and, gulp, the dreaded word "weight". The project is designed to look at these words as representatives of patterns, for good or ill.  If I get stuck, I'll ask Siri, the genie in the iPhone.

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