Understanding Genius and Savants

There exists a man in this world deemed the human Google.’ That is, his mind is as sharp, accurate, and extensive as a search engine. His name is Kim Peek and he is an autistic savant.

I have always been fascinated by the ever elusive prospect of pure human genius. Savant syndrome in particular captured my attention a few years ago when I watched Dustin Hoffman’s portrayal of an autistic savant with extraordinary mathematical skills in the classic 1988 film “Rain Man.” Yet, it was not until I watched a CNN special last year on the subject of savants that I correlated the astounding and rare phenomenon possessed by gifted individuals such as Peek with its scientific ramifications.

You see, among others, the special illuminated a specific individual named Orlando Serrell, who was once what one would call an “ordinary boy,” as common colloquial goes. However, at the age of ten, Serrell suffered a baseball to the head, and in the months preceding the impact he gained a phenomenal memory. In fact, Serrell’s memory is so phenomenal that it is classified as savant caliber. I find the implications of sudden-onset savantism provided by a case such as this one astounding, and thoroughly attest that if I could make one scientific discovery in my lifetime it would be to identify the exact neurological workings of the rare gift/disorder, prove that the human brain has the inherent capability to achieve savant feats, and, ultimately, discover a way to unlock the inner savant within all willing members of the general population.

Imagine a world where individuals, when asked the question, “What number times what number gives 1,234,567,890?” instantaneously spit out the answer “Nine times 137,174,210,” as some mathematical savants do. Calculators, indeed, would be obsolete.

Can you fathom the absolute precision of musically inclined savants who are observed to be able to find the exact spot in a room full of music where the sound waves from different speakers hit the ear at the same time? Essentially, such prodigies are human sound meters.

The commonplace phrase a mind is a terrible thing to waste’ holds incredible merit in lieu of the subject, as I recall hearing somewhere that humans only use ten percent of their brain. Upon increasing their mental capacity and harnessing theoretically innate abilities that once seemed elusive, individuals could focus on advancements in the arts, science, mathematical, and overall societal advancement. Productivity would be at its apex and intellectual pursuits would flourish.

Many aspiring researchers may choose a cure for cancer as their scientific discovery. Others may suggest discovering the exact workings of wormholes and black holes. I, however, advocate that the identification of how to access the savant ability within an individual surpasses both of these feats in pertinence. For, indeed, it is crucial to understand that brilliance is the crucial foundation that will inevitably spawn such feats in the medical community and the field of astrophysics, as well as progress far beyond the borders of contemporary civilization.