Dancing With Numbers: How to Think Like a Savant
Scientific American has a fantastic interview with Daniel Tammet. He is an author and linguist, who’s also an autistic savant. He shares the amazing way his mind works, and gives advice on how to think better.
I have always thought of abstract information—numbers, for example—in visual, dynamic form. Numbers assume complex, multidimensional shapes in my head that I manipulate to form the solution to sums or compare when determining whether they are prime or not. For languages, I do something similar in terms of thinking of words as belonging to clusters of meaning so that each piece of vocabulary makes sense according to its place in my mental architecture for that language. In this way, I can easily discern relations between words, which helps me to remember them. In my mind, numbers and words are far more than squiggles of ink on a page. They have form, color, texture, and so on. They come alive to me, which is why as a young child I thought of them as my “friends.” I think this is why my memory is very deep, because the information is not static. I say in my book that I do not crunch numbers (like a computer). Rather I dance with them.