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Camy

Thick as a brick

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I like to think I'm reasonably intelligent. Oh, I know I'm not a genius, or even close, but as I can count all my fingers and toes without getting lost I reckon I'm okay. And then I came across a news item. It's about Nick D'Aloisio, a sixteen year old who came up with 'Summly' (an ios app) in his bedroom.. He doesn't even study computer science!

http://www.bbc.co.uk...nology-16306742

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Watching these young people grab the world by both hands, or perhaps I should say with both halves of their brains, leads me to consider that we oldies who were born 50 or 70 years ago, were really deprived of an access to knowledge which would have expanded, extended, our development and opportunities.

No that it was all bad, or even depriving us of a sense of accomplishment but the sheer ability to pursue our contemplations wasn't always available or encouraged. What I think is important is to realise that what we were doing was preparing the way for this new technology to eventuate. We did it by learning what we could, and by playing games, computer games, mind games with ourselves, and by simply dreaming of the impossible. We wondered and waited for our minds to create this means to extend our mental abilities.

I am convinced that mental health in the aged need not fade as much as it used to, if we can accept the challenge to attempt to understand the technology sufficient to expand our own knowledge. What we can still yet bring to this 'conference of thought' is the need to maintain our humanity, our compassion for each other in all that we achieve, or to use old terminology, wisdom.

Here is a young man finding a need that perhaps no one else had thought about, and then remarkably, he was able to take the opportunity to invent and realise a way to fulfil that need. He prepares for the future with his app.

How I long for the day when such opportunities are available to everyone.

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I understand, Des, yes I do. In my youth (and presumably yours) the education available was only as good as the local library. Today we have the world at our fingertips and thousands of libraries, documents and blogs filled with knowledge...or what passes for knowledge.

We had to learn to find our way through those books and research a subject carefully. I think the internet throws so much information at you that unless you choose carefully the documents are worthless. The credibility of information concerns me now, especially in this open information gathering system we know as Wiki...Wiki-everything.

Those who pass along information have a point of view, and even in the most reputable of publishing situations the authors have an agenda. Books are like that, but you know what you are getting when you pick it up. Bad information is the same as no information, and I have been astounded by some of the intelligence spouted by those without real knowledge. You need look no further than the current political campaigns here in the US.

The fact checkers are having a field day with all this disinformation, and from what I gather none of the politicos are telling the truth about anything. Should I be surprised? It seems we are all to be considered cattle to be prodded one direction and then another by the words of the pundits. I am reading less news as time goes on which means by November I should be completely ignorant of the American political situation.

Hmm, maybe I should run for President. :icon_thumleft:

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I know what you mean, too Chris.

It took me a long time to understand that we are the results of our culture, or at least subject to it with the many taboos that are hangovers from previous less enlightened periods. As with the politicos there is much that is a headache attending those hangovers, and disinformation is certainly part of that headache.

The information on the Internet needs to be interrogated as it is consulted, and wherever possible the sources cross-referenced. However, it is wonderful to be able to access the videos, and the books, the ideas of so many people, past and present. Whereas you and I had to search and hunt for a book, today's youth can consult so much more. I have faith in youth's ability to sort the dross from the facts even though there are many who further there ignorance by only consulting those sites which represent the closed minds that seem to always be with us.

I am also encouraged by every young person who dares to question everything they are told.

As for the politics, I too despair for the systems of government that are so patently inadequate for this modern era, but there are signs, slow as they are, that advances are being made. The danger though, is that we step back before we step forward. From the long term view, humanity has made great progress over the last 1000 years, but there is always the possibility of a new Dark Age of ignorance, and that is something we must do everything we can to avoid.

As for computers, I meet a lot of people in the 70s and even into the 80s who absolutely refuse to die until they have made the damn thing obey them.

As for running for President, be careful what you wish for, you might get it. :lipssealed:

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The government body here that is responsible for regulating ISP's is the same body that's responsible for radio, telephone, TV, and other old-school communication methods. Reading their press releases, working through their regulatory gobbledygook, and listening to their interviews, or, even worse, answers to questions in parliament is truly scary and disappointing. These folks just don't get it. Most of them are still trying to figure out how to dial out on their cell phones, the few who even own a cell phone. And they're making legislation that is backwards, short-sighted, stupid, and will have far-ranging consequences limiting the wonderful information at the fingertips of today's youth.

Watching what kids can do today with all of this information at their fingertips is awe-inspiring. And truly amazing. Yes, there's a whole lot of crap out there. But the kids that get it, the ones who know what they're doing, are just as good as sifting through the chaff to find the diamonds as they are at using those resources in the first place.

I'm not exactly a youth anymore. Far from it! But even I have a hard time remembering how I managed before the internet. And Google. When writing, I constantly have a tab or twelve opened to various google searches, web pages, and other information to fact check and research. Even when out for dinner and talking about some random topic of conversation, whenever a question comes up, say about the population of somewhere, or some obscure question like the chemical makeup of seawater or whatever, I can just whip out the smartphone and find the answer. That's amazing. Astounding. And I'm an old fart. Imagine what kids of today will be able to do with that, having grown up with it all their lives.

We're living in the information world that was the science fiction of my youth. And believe me, I think it's wonderful.

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We're living in the information world that was the science fiction of my youth. And believe me, I think it's wonderful.

I agree, too.

What I was trying to hint at when I began this thread (and obviously failed), was that the 16 year old who came up with the algorithm for 'Summly' didn't seem like any 16 year old I've ever known. If you watched the interview he seemed more like mid twenties. Maybe, because the tech is there and kids are staying in and playing with it (and I've no complaints because I certainly would have) no one is going out and doing 'kids stuff' anymore. Maybe humanity has reached a genetic stage where genius isn't as rare a commodity as it once was. Maybe...? And what comes next?

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I'm hopeful that we are seeing the effect of having so much information, rational knowledge, available on the Internet. Yes, I know there is a lot of false, misleading, and rabid stupidity on the Net, but obviously there are people, like this young guy, who are benefiting from the wealth of good stuff.

What we probably need is a rating system for Websites,

Let me see:

PG for Porn that is Good wholesome fun.

AO for Academic Orientated information

R for Religion, restricted to people over the age of 90 and must be viewed in the presence of a team of registered psychiatrists.

G for Golly gosh sites, I didn't know you could do that?

M for Mature people (mostly Gay) who set the highest standards for the future development and freedom of the human race.

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Even when out for dinner and talking about some random topic of conversation, whenever a question comes up, say about the population of somewhere, or some obscure question like the chemical makeup of seawater or whatever, I can just whip out the smartphone and find the answer. That's amazing. Astounding. And I'm an old fart. Imagine what kids of today will be able to do with that, having grown up with it all their lives.

I see the other side of this: research becomes too fast and too easy for kids, compared to when we were in school. We had to go to the library and/or pore through encyclopedias to do book reports and papers. Kids today just jump on Wikipedia, cut and paste, and get a 2000-word report done in five minutes. Not exactly fair.

I'm reminded of an Isaac Asimov short story about a world of the future where all the astronauts and pilots in a space war used computers to figure out courses and trajectories. This didn't work against our enemies, who had the same computers. Eventually, one of the pilots figured out how to do the math himself, in his head, and was able to come up with completely unexpected, random patterns that eventually allowed the fleet to defeat the aliens. The point of the story was: if you start relying on computers too much, the danger is that all your knowledge is in the computer -- not in your own head. I worry about the kids of today winding up like that.

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I see the other side of this: research becomes too fast and too easy for kids, compared to when we were in school. We had to go to the library and/or pore through encyclopedias to do book reports and papers. Kids today just jump on Wikipedia, cut and paste, and get a 2000-word report done in five minutes. Not exactly fair.

I disagree. School is a war between students and teachers. Always was, always will be. If the kids can find a way to reduce the effort expanded on assingments, good for them! It's up to the teachers to stay ahead of them. And the good ones do!

Look at what's happened with essays. Kids found a way to find them on the 'net and print them up, ending the necessity of writing them, or of learning how. Teachers found a way to check the papers using the same technology. This is the sort of struggle that furthers mankind, not one that thwarts it. If a troublemaking kid realizes he needs to learn more to outfox his teachers, that's a tremendous step forward. Onhis own, unmotivated, he may well be a slackard. If he has a mortal enemy to defeat, the sky's the limit.

C

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I agree with Pec and Cole, that is why the basic ability to understand what you are looking up in Wiki is necessary. I don't think we can expect everyone to know everything about, for example, geometric theorems, or the psychology studies of human beings, but they must have the knowledge that these things exist and should always be questioned.

I remember when the first loudspeaker design (Thiele-Small) programs became available for the computer, and would-be loudspeaker designers were feeding the drive unit specifications into the program and getting less than the desired results. The computer loudspeaker design program had omitted the cone excursion parameter, or in one program it halved what ever figure was inserted. This lead to the speaker physically not being able to function according to the expected design function. Engineer PHDs were baffled (no pun intended) until a hi-fi enthusiast pointed out the omission of the necessary parameter.

This was a case where assumption that the computer had all the necessary data, correctly programmed, to fulfil a design function, was quite wrong. I remember wondering at that time, how many shortcuts taken in computer programming for specific functions would produce less than optimum results, let alone a result at all?

So we can say that knowledge of the design objective is necessary, but the engineering details require sufficient knowledge to question the programming. This does not mean however, that you need to have the theorems, calculations and math in your head, you only need to know that they exist and should be subjected to some degree of verification.

There is no way anyone other than a mutated brain from the future could possibly retain or access in their own brain, all the knowledge and data that can be loaded into a computer. The computer has to be seen as a device we use, so that we are free to exercise the that spark of intelligence, creativity and inspiration, which is somewhat ahead of artificial Intelligence. In fact, I think that is how we keep ahead of it; our personal adaptation and evolution, and our species evolving ahead of the artificial intelligence, by using it as a tool. Too many people think of our human cognition as static, I think it never stops developing if we just keep the superstitions in their place, but that's another subject. :lipssealed:

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I don't see how plagiarising other peoples' work can be furthering humanity, Cole. All it means - if you get away with it - is that you either have a crappy teacher, or one unfamiliar with google. And if you get caught you're branded a cheat.

It's a good idea for a plot, though.

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I don't see how plagiarising other peoples' work can be furthering humanity, Cole. All it means - if you get away with it - is that you either have a crappy teacher, or one unfamiliar with google. And if you get caught you're branded a cheat.

It's a good idea for a plot, though.

My lord, did you ever misunderstand my point! The cheater is using his wits, and having to learn to use technology to succeed at his purpose. No, he's not learning something he should be learning; he's learning something else instead. Now, if his ultimate profession is to be a writer or an English teacher, then he's being stupid. But if he's going to be active in our new technological age, learning how to be more efficient and effective using the tools he has available seems a pretty good lesson to me.

I wan't talking morals at all. That's another subject altogether. But morals seem to be changing these days at a rate equal to technological advancement. Le Bron James got married to his girlfreind the other day. I'd say that's pretty nice, especially for the 7 and 3 year old sons they have. It seems more young men between 18 and 30 and are in monogamous relationships have girlfriends today than wives. Almost all young men and women live together before marrying, if they ever do that. When I was young, that was something that was hardly even in anyone's imagination.

Cheating is still wrong. And I'm not advocating it. I'm just saying that one that does it to get ahead by learning something he might not otherwise have taken the trouble to learn, might be helping himself more than he's hurting himself, in a practical sense.

As long as he doesn't plagiarize anything of mine, of course.

C

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The point of the story was: if you start relying on computers too much, the danger is that all your knowledge is in the computer -- not in your own head. I worry about the kids of today winding up like that.

I have to say I agree with this. Now, don't get me wrong, I would go crazy without my internet, desktop, tablet, smart phone and iPod. But, I see people everyday, who are the products of the computer age, that can't spell or do simple mathematics. They've relied on computers to figure this out for them. It's very disturbing to go into a store, pay for something, and then wait for the cashier to figure out how much change they should give you back. What's so hard? The register tells you EXACTLY how much change is due! It's even worse when I get an email or memo from a supervisor that has misspelled words and poorly constructed sentences. (Actually, one time, I made spelling and grammar notations on one and gave it back to the boss. Strange, he didn't seem to find it as amusing as the rest of us. :smile: )

Maybe I'm just being overly critical, I don't know. I grew up in the time when computers weren't assessable to the general public. I had to learn how to do math without a calculator. I had to learn how to correctly spell words without the luxury of spell-check. It just seems to me that school is no longer about learning the 3 R's. It's about learning Google, Wiki, and whatever else they use to find what they need.

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I have to say I agree with this. Now, don't get me wrong, I would go crazy without my internet, desktop, tablet, smart phone and iPod. But, I see people everyday, who are the products of the computer age, that can't spell or do simple mathematics. They've relied on computers to figure this out for them. It's very disturbing to go into a store, pay for something, and then wait for the cashier to figure out how much change they should give you back. What's so hard? The register tells you EXACTLY how much change is due! It's even worse when I get an email or memo from a supervisor that has misspelled words and poorly constructed sentences. (Actually, one time, I made spelling and grammar notations on one and gave it back to the boss. Strange, he didn't seem to find it as amusing as the rest of us. :smile: )

Maybe I'm just being overly critical, I don't know. I grew up in the time when computers weren't assessable to the general public. I had to learn how to do math without a calculator. I had to learn how to correctly spell words without the luxury of spell-check. It just seems to me that school is no longer about learning the 3 R's. It's about learning Google, Wiki, and whatever else they use to find what they need.

I can relate to that! I had the same experiences when working for a living. I had bosses with seemingly no knowlege of or interest in the English language. That was supposedly excused because they were engineers. They certainly explained it that way. As though being an engineer preclued you from having a fundmental capacity in using the language.

Well, I was an engineer, too, but I still wished to be literate.

I hated it when they questioned a word I used. They'd say, "Hey, what does that mean, and why are you using it? Are you trying to show me up? I had to look that up! Don't do that." The problem was, I never inteded to do that. And the words didn't seem that abstruse to me.

Needless to say, I didn't get along well with my bosses. Nor they with me.

C

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