What’s It Like to See Ideas as Shapes?

Lead_960Alissa Greenberg at The Atlantic:

Jackson sees his thoughts as shapes. Every person he meets, every sentence he reads, and every decision he makes are presented as data points on a kind of continuously moving mental scatter plot, creating figures he compares to constellations. If he were to make a decision about whether to take a new job, for instance, those points might represent salary, location, and cost of living. The lines between them would change depending on how attractive they were to Jackson, creating a unique configuration for each option.

For many people, decision-making is a murky, difficult process. Think it through, go with your gut, follow your heart—there’s a reason the English language features so many ways to talk about groping around in the cellar of the conscience to find the light switch of intuition. But for Jackson, intuition is anything but blind. When he makes a choice, his gut feelings are visually laid out in front of him. He can choose among his options the way others might choose the reddest, glossiest apple from a bowl.

In 2014, Jackson, who now lives in Seattle, designed and released an app with the aim of helping others make decisions. Called ChoiceMap, it helps users weigh the factors in a given decision, using an algorithm to spit out a “perfection score” for each option. Cold hard numbers; no more groping in the darkness. The app, which was rebuilt and re-released in May, helps users view decisions through a mathematical prism. It also serves as a reminder of the distance between people’s perceptions that can never be fully crossed—and as a testament to just how delicate and strange communication is in the first place.

more here.