Monday, January 7, 2013

Elementary, in the details

I had the chance to catch a few episodes of Elementary, the U.S. take on BBC's Sherlock, itself a 21st century update of detection, deduction and the art of fine, sometimes crazy tiny, detail. I am all for fine detail, a skill that is sadly neglected in our education system, but what makes both new versions of Sherlock Holmes' adventures palatable for the mainstream viewer is that the lead character is presented as a "high-functioning sociopath" to quote one of the shows. In other words, the only way an ordered mind can excel in our society is by acting out in the most disorderly ways: no social skills, no guile, no vanity, no use for authority - the many habits of highly deductive people.

As chance would have it, I also watched a brief video talk today on the subject of "should designers learn to code". I won't bore you with the outcome, as it is fundamentally self-evident, but I did perk up at the lecturer's spritely comment that it is somewhat fashionable to hire brilliant coder/developers who "verge on Asperger's" syndrome, to paraphrase out of context. As if that thin line between autism and ADHD can produce brilliant, if not cleverly hip,  individuals who may be useless in the real world but whose focused brain can mean a goldmine for any commercial enterprise. (In other words, they are good hires, just don't expect them to dress well or be up to date on Buck Wild.)

Both Sherlock versions have shown the detective describe himself as only having so much room in his brain (comparing it  to a hard drive) and all vacuous, useless, trivial information needs to be excised so that the brilliance of deduction can have the space it needs. And I think there's an interesting lesson here, as most of the viewing audience - myself included - has to ingest so much information in a day, the fine details of life can easily be lost, or worse: the big picture fades because the everyday minutiae of social networking, tweeting, texting, rss,  - and, sure, blogging -  distort, confuse and shroud sometimes both the forest AND the trees.


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