Posted by: Alexandre Borovik | January 20, 2011

Counterintuitive outcomes of technology

An interesting 2010 article by Daphne Bavelier, C. Shawn Green, and Matthew Dye in Neuron [DOI 10.1016/j.neuron.2010.08.035], and also at


“Children encounter technology constantly at home and in school.  Television, DVDs, video games, theInternet, and smart phones all play a formative role in children’s development.  The term ‘technology’ subsumes a large variety of somewhat independent items, and it is no surprise that current research indicates causes for both optimism and concern depending upon the content of the technology, the context in which the technology immerses the user, and the user’s developmental stage. Furthermore, because the field is still in its infancy, results can be surprising: video games designed to be reasonably mindless result in widespread enhancements of various abilities, acting, we will argue, as exemplary learning tools. Counterintuitive outcomes like these, besides being practically relevant, challenge and eventually lead to refinement of theories concerning fundamental principles of brain plasticity and learning.”

[With thanks to Seb Schmoller]


  1. offtopic:
    references to [9] A. Borovik, Shadows of the Truth,∼avb/
    by Misha Gromov, Ergobrain, Jan 4, 2011

    ”The idea of modeling human mind by a formal system is presented by Tur-
    ing in his 1950 paper ”Computing machinery and intelligence” [78]; Turing’s
    argument in favour of the existence of such a model remains unchallenged.
    Yet, there are possible several renditions of Turing’s idea depending on how
    you understand the words ”formal system” and ”intelligence”. The two sources
    nearest to what we attempt to achieve are Alexandre Borovik’s book on percep-
    tion of mathematics by mathematically inclined children [9] and design of self
    motivated learning robots pursued by Pierre-Yves Oudeyer’s team [70].

    ” We shall explain later on how the universal structure learning mechanism
    accounts for the language acquisition along with chess (regarded as a dialog
    between the players) and mathematics (where ergobrain plays with itself [9])
    with agreement with the point of view currently accepted by many psychologists
    and computer scientists [53].

    ” It may seem to a non-mathematician that only Buridan’s ass would have
    any difficulty in choosing one of the two from . But mathematicians often
    find this difficult. (See [9] for a mathematician’s study of amusing psychological
    hurdles encountered by mathematics learners and practitioners.) This is not
    that surprising: try to program a robot doing this, where the two are not
    conveniently positioned on a line, you can not just command: ”take the left

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