The Lion is Assimilated Sheep

Our civilization has always recognized exceptional individuals, whose performance in sports, the arts, and science is vastly superior to that of the rest of the population. Speculations on the causes of these individuals' extraordinary abilities and performance are as old as the first records of their achievements.

When the eminent composer Johann Sebastian Bach was asked how he managed to manifest such a tremendous musical mindscape, he simply answered: "I worked hard. Anyone who works as hard as I did can achieve the same results".

This very mundane heritage from such a God-given genius is almost unbelievable for many who have observed exceptionally gifted people – who often demonstrate a high degree of perfection in their field at a very young age (e.g. Mozart). However, there is little evidence to back up this theory, and nor did Mozart compose at his best at a young age. He actually seems to conform nicely to the rule that productivity correlates with quality. The three composers who produced the most music, happens to be Mozart, Beethoven and Bach. These three composers outlines what an outlier is, in terms of excellence.

In the book Outliers, author Malcolm Gladwell says that it takes roughly ten thousand hours of practice to achieve mastery in a field. The psychologists who did research into this field reported a direct link – statistical relationship – between hours of practice and achievement.

If we assume this conclusion to be true, then we must also accept that the kind of intuition exceptional performers develop stems from the ability to recognize patterns. A.S. Reber studied how people best learned an artificial language. His study displayed that the participants learned better if they simply memorized words in the artificial language, and not tried to solve the algorithm behind the language. This points us to the immense ability of the human brain for pattern recognition. By memorizing words in a artificial language, the brain manages to look at new words and guess if this word belongs to that language or not.

After retiring as chess professional, Га́рри Каспа́ров [Garry Kasparov] went back and analyzed the crucial moments in games played by his great predecessors. What he discovered was that despite (often) tremendous time trouble and stress, the great masters of chess made the optimal moves (according to the strongest chess engines as of today) at the board. This adds to the importance of intuition. Why do I tell you about this? Well, perhaps because "intuition" is now being assimilated by very hard-working computers. Google's Deep Mind just recently beat humans in the ancient game "Go". This adds to the claim that the lion simply needs to assimilate enough sheep – there is no shortcuts, special talent or magical trick.

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