It's time for an experiment - this time it is about turning a right-handed person into an ambidextrous one, but with a twist (tm).
My inability to use the left hand efficiently becomes evident in the context of a badminton deathmatch*; when the right hand is tired you either start making mistakes, or you hold the racket with both hands trying to use the power of the left hand and the coordination of the right one. Either way - you will continue losing energy and the opponent will most likely defeat you.
* my flavour of badminton is different from the norm - tennis rackets instead of badminton ones (they are much heavier and bigger), the shuttlecock is reinforced with a metallic screw embedded in its head (this way it flies faster, higher and farther).
If you investigate this matter, you will sooner or later bump into stories that explain how the brain works, how its left side controls your right hand and its right side controls your left hand. You conclude that your left hand is not very skilled because your right cerebral hemisphere needs more exercise. Is that all?
What is there to know about cerebral hemispheres? The common story is that artists are left-handed, scientists are right-handed; therefore one part of the brain stands for creativity/emotions/artistic skills, and the other one stands for mathematics and other areas where rational skills are a must have. This is an oversimplified description, and I don't think it is true; at least for the reason that every scientist is also an artist (as you have to be able to see beauty in complex systems, reveal patterns, design systems elegantly, etc). The next argument in the line is that the universe is not made of "black" and "white", there are many shades of gray in-between.
Why am I doing this?
I took a bird's view look at my works and I realized that something is strange with the poems I write: they are rather sad, and if not sad, then definitely not happy. I'm either looking for something I lost, someone I lost. The doors are either not open, or there are no doors, or there are too many doors :-). The few attempts to write something that is shiny and colourful I consider to be failures. (Note: a single line in the end which brings optimism into an otherwise sad story is not my definition of "shiny and colourful")
I don't consider myself a sad person, in fact I would say that the opposite is true. Writing sad stuff is not necessarily a bug, it could be a feature. For example, in one of his interviews Moby said that he likes making sad music, but he is not a sad person.
Still, the inability to write something other than a sad poem has cost me a lot. It is not the primary reason of this undisclosed failure, but it could have definitely made a difference, and it is definitely related to the other causes that lead to the crash.
As this experiment is in progress, I shall continue writing and publishing new stuff, hoping to see a difference. You can compare the results too, if you read the poems written before this article was published and those written after this moment. Note that some of the works are drafts which were started a long time ago, I will mark those as "previously unpublished" (you can see that with some of the recent entries).
A few more words about the poems - I find them insufficiently metaphoric. As I read them, I picture a robot that tries to be a human: it looks like one, acts like one - but underneath you see a structure made of moving parts, nuts and bolts. Will I be able to change that?
Another reason is that I discovered that it appears that I am out of sync with some types of people. These people are dear to me and losing them is too high a price to pay. While some fees were already paid and there is no way to get a refund, other transactions can still be reversed. The purpose of the experiment is to stimulate my emotional side and turn me into someone, or something else. Robots have feelings too. :-)
My objectives are:
- Learn to understand people better if they are of the "rather emotional" type
- See if being slightly left-handed can affect my writing style (poems, essays)
- Become a better badminton player :-)
- When idle, twist the pen or pencil in my left hand, rather than the right one
- Play badminton with my left hand more often
- Write SMS and navigate the phone's menu with the left hand
- Use the touchpad exclusively with the left hand
- Move the mouse with the left hand if the activity does not require speed or accuracy
- Try to brush my teeth with the left hand
- Do as many basic low-accuracy procedures (open door, call elevator, etc) with the left hand as possible
- Practice reading words backwards (there doesn't seem to be an obvious connection, but why not? :-)
Why I think this is going to work:
- VS Ramachandran on your mind (pay attention to the part about synesthesia) - in this presentation you can see how the development of some areas of the brain affects other areas. Also, look up "seeing tongue" on the Internet.
- Jill Bolte Taylor's stroke of insight - in this presentation you can see how evident it is that different parts of the brain have different functions and how disabling/enabling them in real-time can have a visible effect (something like "plug and play" :-)
- Jeff Hawkins on how brain science will change computing - another interesting video about how the brain works. It is not related to this article, but is still an interesting one; also one that supports the point of view I described some time ago in "Intelligence grows on trees"
Why this may not work:
- Changing a brain is not as easy as changing a pair of gloves - the change (if it happens) is very slow, and the effects may be barely noticeable
- According to this test, my brain hemispheres are pretty balanced, right: 42.8%, left: 57.2%; change, if it happens, may not be essential
WARNING! Things to consider!
If you try to forcefully "convert" yourself, you can experience some nasty side effects. One of them is that your "other" side of the brain will consume more resources in order to do the same tasks - thus your overall performance drops.
The difference is that the "old" half got very specialized in that activity and it can do it well, quickly and for a low cost (in terms of resources such as oxygen and calories). In contrast, the "new" half will do the same thing slower, worse and for a higher cost, because of the fact that it is not optimized to do such tasks.
People who have tried to learn to write with their left hand after writing with their right hand all of their lives, reported that after a while they had some problems with speech. Stuttering is an example of such a side effect. I am not qualified to judge whether this was caused by solely their "left hand adventure", but here is an article that gives a better picture: "Ambidextrous People" are Brain-Damaged.
Are you still into it? :-)
Results so far
- After a week I am pretty good with using a mouse with my left hand; in fact my current desktop PC only has one mouse now (the one which is on the left);
- Writing an SMS with the left hand? No problem;
- Twisting the pen in the left hand: for simple twists - yes;
- Minor problems with speech - yes, but nothing that is persistent; I think this is just a subjective interpretation of what happened and I consider this unrelated to the experiment, unless I gather new evidence.
See you on the other side.
Comment from: Nici [Visitor]
Interesting to see if this works! I like the idea. Would also be an idea for people who suffer from aphasia. Stimulating the other side of the brain this way, may trigger it to take over the speach ability…
Comment from: Ion Todirel [Visitor]
be careful not to overload the cores, if only we had 4 :)
Hi Nici, glad to see you here!
Indeed, this could work, but the way to test this is to actually give it a try. My own experiment is pretty unscientific, and subjective. I have no formal way to verify the results.
If you can suggest a good experiment - go ahead.
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