sloth -- the speed of my thought
March 27, 2016
The thing about sloths is that they are slow. Slowest moving mammals on the planet. They are so slow that its actually absurd. Not as slow as a snail but definitely slower than the giant tortoise. According to this random list of animal speeds, sloths are the second slowest animal.
My brain’s processing speed was translated to animals, I’m about sloth level. According to my autism assessment I’m in the second percentile for information processing speed. Well, okay. Its a type of processing that I’m not very surprised that I’m deficient in: “Processing Speed Index (PSI) is a measure of an Individual’s ability to process simple or routine visual information quickly and efficiently and to perform tasks based on that information”. So the measure was info processing of a limited sort. Given my aphantasia, its pretty unsurprising that it takes me a while to process visual information.
This one area skewed the IQ part of this test so much that the psychologist refused to give me the score, bc it would’ve been meaningless. Not I think that IQ has anything to do with actual intelligence (if anything, I’m a great example of this. I typically score very low on most IQ tests bc of the visual parts.).
For me, this was welcome and unsurprising information. Welcome because now I had an Official Paper saying exactly what I’ve said for years (ie, me and visual information just don’t get along) and unsurprising because slow processing absolutely has been a pretty consistent aspect of my life and cognition.
One thing I’ve likewise said for years – long long before I even had the inkling that I might be neurodivergent – that I’m a ‘slow’ thinker. And I am. While the above test just measured visual cognition, in most conversations I often feel like there is about a 10 sec time delay between people talking and me understanding. And it isn’t that I have to think, necessarily, but that I’m usually spending that time reconstructing what they just said in my head to something coherent.
Something I’ve done for years without thinking much about it. Never occurred to me that a lot of people don’t spend most of a conversation trying to reconstruct what is communicated in their heads. This also clues me into why learning other languages is so difficult for me. If I have a time delay in English and need to reconstruct whole sentences in my head, this is only compounded when I’m trying to communicate in French or Mandarin.
It is pretty common for me to be sitting and listening to a conversation in either language and understand enough of what is being said that I can follow along. I know what is being talked about. However, since I’m actively listening, people will – as is lovely and polite – include me in the conversation. They’ll maybe as a question. And I’ll understand the question just fine. But……
In either language my overall fluency isn’t good enough that I can reconstruct the question in my head. And so… despite knowing the answer. Despite understanding what they’d been talking about. Most times I just can’t answer. Not in the language I’m suppposed to be speaking and not in English. I can’t communicate what I’ve understood in some coherent fashion.
Similarly, with reading. Or really any other information that I’ve internalized. My bro likes to make fun of how I describe movie plots because they are always super vague and general. Even for movies that I’ve seen many times. A lot of the times, I have trouble communicating what I know.
I guess one way to look at it, is that I can intake a lot of raw data. But… it requires motivation and effort on my part to convert that data into useful information or knowledge. At least if I want to do it quickly. However, give me time, and this data will, idk, process in my subsconscious mind and eventually become information or knowleddge.
But it can take months or longer, depending on what the data is about.
This actually creates a lot of problems for me these days because it isn’t unusual that by the time I’m done processing some bit of data, I’ve long forgotten where it came from. Its one of the reasons why I frequently refuse the ‘single’ authorship idea. Why I prefer to attribute what I write and my ideas to a ‘community’ of people that I speak and engage. To the various things I read and see. I don’t feel like I ‘own’ my ideas bc I know that I didn’t come up with them all on my own. But… I also can’t always remember who – precisely – contributed which part.
All that is my own is how I put these bits of data into one coherent picture. But even this isn’t wholly original because you can find people saying the same things as me all over the place. In academia, in blogs, on twitter, wherever. The main dif. with me and most academics at this point, is that I don’t need to read a fuckton of sources on a subject to get to the same conclusion as them. Instead, over time I pick up bits of data that eventually coalesce into a coherent picture. Which I then share with other people.
But one of the reasons why I’m generally so confident in my conclusions is precisely because I know that it takes me a while to arrive at them. By the time I’m ready to write about something and share with the world, every bit of data that supports my theory has been very well integrated into my overall knowledge. And I do mean ‘knowledge’ in the philosophical sense, so I’m talking about things I truly believe to be true. This is where my strong sense of conviction comes from.
And to the friend for whom this post is an answer to a question, is this genius? Idk. It really isn’t something I tend to think about. But I do honestly think that my slow thinking/processing plays a large role in how I conceptualize and communicate the ideas that I have. As in, whatever positives you (and others) might be attributing to my writing and philosophical work, one of the material conditions in giving me my insight is that I process information slowly.
(Of course, this has its downfalls. Me writing this is making me realize that this is probably why I’m entirely useless in emergencies. Emergencies require near-instant response, lest the consequences be devastating. In every life threatening situation I’ve been in, I just shut down. I can assess what is happening but… for the life of me, I cannot ever come up with a response.
The apartment fire I experienced is a great example. I wake up to someone banging on doors and shouting fire. I’m naked. So I’m like, ‘go put on clothes’. I do this. I open the door to a wall of smoke. Memory tells me that you do not go into walls of smoke if you don’t want to die. I close the door. I am now at a complete loss as what to do. I can hear sirens though. I decide to lay down on the floor until someone tells me what to do. I lay down. Eventually someone does come to tell me what to do and… it turns out that I had the easiest and best fire escape of all the apartments in the building. It was literally the most trivial thing in the world for me to get out of my second floor apartment. With about zero danger. And that’s my brain in a crisis.)