The weird way human memory works — Hopfield was right

Sometimes middle of the night thoughts are strange.  At 3AM today, I was trying to remember the name of the guy who wrote “Infinite Jest” and “The Broom of the System”.  The only thing that kept popping into my head was Richard Gordon Loomis, the name of my very excellent piano tuner, but a man with no known literary inclinations. I had no idea why this happened until I came up with the real name of the author this morning, 5 hours later — David Foster Wallace.

They don’t sound the same (except for the last syllable), but they have exactly the same rhythmic cadence of syllables when spoken.  Also he’s the only person I know who uses his middle name (the reason being that, amazingly enough, there is another piano tuner in the area named Richard Loomis).

This fits with John Hopfield’s theory of memory (he’s one of the inventors of the neural net) — having to do with chaos and attractors ( Neural networks and physical systems with emergent collective computational abilities. Proc. NatL Acad. Sci. USA Vol. 79, pp. 2554-2558, April 1982).   Just get anything near what you are trying to remember, and slowly (5 hours in this case), it converges to what you are trying to remember (an attractor in memory space).  It does show just how even peripheral parts of a concept (the cadence of what you are trying to remember when you speak it) are part of the concept itself.   Clearly, concepts are multidimensional.

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