Thinking like Einstein on the Hokule'a: the continuing puzzle of the visual


Thomas G. West Author of In the Mind's Eye Using the Best CuesWe Have With the words of Navigator Thompson, in this passage we see a wonderful description of using wel l the best of what is ready at hand to do a mos t i m p o r t a n t job on which rests the survival of a whole people. Indeed, du r ing the past 25 years, the successful voyages of the Hokule'a and other long-distance canoes have become cultural milestones and Navigator Nainoa Thompson has become a major hero among all Polynesians [4]. But these voyages and revived navigation skil ls have much to teach us all. We are shown a highly refined example of the observation and visual thinking skills needed to navigate across the Pacific. If we had not k n o w n be t te r , m o s t of us w o u l d have thought that it was not possible to do. Perhaps we are just now mature enough in our modern culture to fully appreciate what these navigators accomplished in an earl ier culture wi th the simplest of tools and the most sophisticated use of their brains and to see that such feats rank wi th the highest accompl ishments of human beings, in any field, at any t ime. We can now see that it is not merely a matter of developing complex mathematics or the most modern tools and technologies. Rather, it is a mat ter of using well what is available in the particular situation developing techniques to train the brain and the senses through close observation, long pract ice and sensitive teaching making the best use of what is at hand, using "the best clues that we have." And, as ACM SIGGRAPH members know, many feats such as these draw heavily on visual and spatial abilities and "intelligences" that have been generally under appreciated in modern culture. But all this is changing and the newest technologies are taking us back to some of our oldest and most essential abilities teaching us that in some fields, the further forward we proceed, the more we reconnect with our ancient roots.

DOI: 10.1145/570332.570339

Cite this paper

@inproceedings{West2002ThinkingLE, title={Thinking like Einstein on the Hokule'a: the continuing puzzle of the visual}, author={Thomas G. West}, booktitle={COMG}, year={2002} }