How the mind works (or not)

My latest  time waster/addiction/bad habit is a game called PixWords, which is generally very easy as you just look at the picture and if you  know what it is, you fill in the letters and you fly through the levels, four words at a time, but then you come to a picture which makes no sense and you use up all your clues and you’re just  stuck, you’re  staring at it  for two or three days, trying all the letters offered in random combinations until you enter btfsplk and, lo and behold, it’s right.
Usually, though, they play fair and once you see the right word it’s obvious and you just  feel stupid.
Today one clue was a picture that was  obviously  in a hospital, but I didn’t recognize the specific equipment.  I looked at my letters and thought “Aha – anesthetic,” which it wasn’t because  there  was no c.  But after that I just  couldn’t think of  any words without a c (antiseptic, carcinoma, endocrine) and it took me a good half hour  before I realized the word was anesthesia.
So, dial back to this  morning.  I was  watching a thing on  Discovery about how to boost your brain  power and they were showing memory tricks, like mnemonics, and demonstrating how juggling increased your sense of focus, and they showed a magician.  Now, magic is something I find very frustrating because, even though  I tend to think I’m a fairly clever guy, I almost never figure out the trick – like, I don’t even come up with any theories.  So, they tracked the hosts  eye movements and showed them on a computer and then the magician explained the trick and it was totally obvious – sort of like the PixWord words are totally obvious, once they’ve been filled in.
I am sure that all the problems that face mankind – overpopulation, the  extinction of the honeybee, war, crime, rogue asteroids and the Yellowstone caldera – have solutions, and it’s not even that we’re not  smart enough to find them.  It’s just  that we  haven’t solved  them yet and, once we do, the solutions will seem completely obvious and we’ll wonder how we could have been  so stupid.  And we’ll move on to the next level.


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