Archive for July, 2011

WoD – Google makes us dumber, Part II

Science catches up to our WoD!  (And since we’re on a Google meme…)

A while ago, I wrote a WoD entitled “Google makes us dumber.”  Turns out it was from June 2007 (feels like it was just yesterday…)  Just two weeks ago I came across this “scientific” article, and guess what – it was all about the same darned points from 4+ years ago!  So, I’ll call this one a Part II (and for any of you that are curious about first WoD on this, ping me…)

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http://arstechnica.com/science/news/2011/07/study-why-bother-to-remember-when-you-can-just-use-google.ars

Study: why bother to remember when you can just use Google?

In the age of Google and Wikipedia, an almost unlimited amount of information is available at our fingertips, and with the rise of smartphones, many of us have nonstop access. The potential to find almost any piece of information in seconds is beneficial, but is this ability actually negatively impacting our memory? The authors of a paper that is being released by Science Express describe four experiments testing this. Based on their results, people are recalling information less, and instead can remember where to find the information they have forgotten.

The authors pose one simple example that had me immediately agreeing with their conclusions. Test yourself: how many countries have flags with only one color? Regardless of your answer, was your first thought about actual flags, or was it to consider where you would find that information? Without realizing it (even though I knew the content of the paper), I found myself mentally planning on opening up my Web browser and heading for a search engine.

This concept of relying on external sources of information is not new to the computer age. In group environments, people develop what’s known as transactive memory, which is the sum of information held by the group (one of the authors of the current paper, Daniel Wegner, is the Harvard psychologist who first proposed the concept in 1985). Think of it like a group of experts working as a team, where each person has their own area of expertise—when you need some information you don’t have, you just go to the person who does.

The authors argue that easy access to information via the Internet forms another transactive memory source. However, in this case, access to this source may actually hurt our memory.

In the first experiment, the authors gave participants a mix of easy and hard trivia questions, then tested their response time to colored computer and non-computer words through a modified Stroop task. The task relies on having a term printed in color; if the term itself is interesting, subjects have a harder time naming the color. They found that, when given harder questions, people took longer on computer-related words, suggesting they thought about computers when needing information.

The second experiment tested whether people remember information if they expect to have easy access to it later. Subjects were asked to remember a bit of notable trivia and type it into a computer; half were informed that the information would be saved. People who didn’t believe they would need information (because it was saved) recalled less than if they thought they would need to remember it. In other words, we may unconsciously make little effort to remember something we know we can look up in the future.

In experiment three, the researchers wanted to see if people recalled the location where information could be found. Again using trivia, they had the subjects type a tidbit into a computer, then either erased it, saved it to a generic location, or saved it to a specific location. Later, the participants were asked to recall the trivia statements, whether they had been saved, and if so where. According to the paper, people have better recall of things they believe will be erased. But they were even better at remembering whether it was saved or erased—even though people didn’t remember where it was saved, just that it was.

The final experiment tested if people recall where to find information more than the information itself. Similar to experiment three, participants were given trivia statements and told where they would be saved, then were tested on both the content of the statements and the save locations. Overall, people remembered the locations where the information was saved more than the information itself. If they remembered the trivia, however, its location was forgotten.

The results from all four experiments suggest that people expect computerized information to be continuously available, and actually remember less when they know they’ll have access to it later. We also seem to remember where we can find information instead of the information itself.

Our memory appears to be adapting to technology, for better or worse. Some argue that the changes to our brains caused by instant access to information are damaging and similar to addiction, but other results suggest that actively searching online can actually strengthen some brains. Most wouldn’t consider typical group transactive memory to be damaging, but beneficial—who’s to say these developments aren’t also a good thing? With access to unprecedented amounts of external knowledge, perhaps this now unused capacity of our brains can be used in other ways?

Science Express, 2011. DOI:10.1126/science.1207745 (About DOIs)

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Friday:

STRASHEN NET DE GENZ  (STRASHin neht deh GEHNZ)

Literally: Do not disturb the geese.  (You are full of yourself and making too much noise.)

Look at that hedge fund guy on CNBC.  Always yapping away.  Strashen net de genz, I say!

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WoD – on Google…

Tonight is a two-fer.

So I was typing the word star-studded from the other WoD, and I went to Google to just verify the hyphen and spelling.  (It is kind of a weird word to type.)  I typed it in and got 12,900,000 results back.  Normal stuff.  But I paused and thought about this for a second.  In 0.31 seconds it delivered back to me 12.9 MILLION references of the word star-studded from everywhere across the Web.  Google is truly amazing!  How can it do that?!

But this made me curious – what does the 12 millionth-delivered search result look like?  How does one even get to the 12 millionth?  Or the 11 millionth, or even 1 millionth?  I mean, most of us have probably never even ventured past the 4th or maybe 5th page of search results, right?  How do we know there are 12.9 million results?  So I looked.

And here’s what I learned.  Google has one helluva scam going!!  I kept clicking the farthest page of results – first the 10th page, then the 19th, then 28th, etc.  And guess what?  It stops at 100!  So in other words, the most results you can see are 1000 (100 pages of 10 results).  After that, you can’t click any further.  So how can you see the 10,000th search result, or the 12 millionth?  Apparently, you can’t!  I really couldn’t figure any way to do it at all.  Google just ends at 100 pages.  WTF!

Don’t get me wrong – Google is still absolutely amazing.  But I feel kind of… jipped.  So much for 12 million actual results.  I guess in the world of Search, the world is flat after all, and after 1000 you just sail off the Googly edge…

Wednesday (still)

FEH!  (FEH)

An expression of disgust

Feh!  I can’t believe Google’s results stop at 1,000.  I feel like a shmoe!

WoD – Handsome Men’s Club

Just some levity tonight.  This is a long clip (forewarned), but funny.  And star-studded… 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MyGJXLxtVEo

Wednesday:

ON TAM  (ohn TAHM)

without taste

Them:  I take my own spice rack to her house; everything she makes is on tam.

Me:  Some might say this youtube clip is on tam.  

WoD – Talk about Chutzpah!

Given our (slight) fascination with funny yiddish words, I couldn’t resist making this into a WoD itself.  

Congresswoman Bachmann sure has some chutzpah (or should I say CHOOT-spa), trying to use a Yiddish word she obviously doesn’t know the meaning of!  Umm, or the pronunciation…

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9_mWlXvKnq8

(So, wait – is she really a presidential nominee?  Oy vey…)

Friday:

Chutzpah  (KHOOTSpah)

Brazenness, gall

(See above.  I can’t top that one for a good use of the word…!)

WoD – The Smell of Old People

Did you ever notice that old people seem to have a certain… smell?  A few of us walked into a friend’s house a little whole ago and we were all smacked in the nose by this specific scent we all have smelled before.  It was pungent.  It was strong.  It was a bit stale.  It also was familiar.

What is funny is, this scent is common to all old people.  It is that sort of mothball, sort of cedar closet, sort of musty aroma.  I can’t quite describe it, but you all would know it when you smell it.

Why is this?  Yes, one common element may well be the clothes that are often hanging in mothball-lined closets.  But it isn’t just from the clothes, because it was in the carpets and drapes of this house, too.  They were on vacation and weren’t even home, yet the house was still thick with the smell.  So, what gives?  (As with many WoD’s, it is not mine to explain why or how; merely just to point out that which we all sense, feel, see, or smell, but don’t talk much about…)

Tuesday:

DOS HOT MIR GEFELT (dahs HAHT meer gehFEHLT)

Just my luck

They want to withdraw their offer?  Dos hot mir gefelt!

WoD – LiveScribe, the “B” Case

Remember a WoD from a few years ago on a neat company called LiveScribe?  It seemed so promising, and so cool.  A pen that records sounds and also all pen-strokes and marks from paper directly to a digital file.  No more paper-only notes!  And in fairness, the technology and ideas still have lots of potential today – certainly, our world is not yet completely digital.

But let’s fast-forward.  Or rather, let’s just jump from May 2007 back to the present.  Tablets, tablets, everywhere, right?  I, for one, have gone completely digital with all note-taking, as have lots of people.  What’s worse, it is the same swath of people that might have found LiveScribe intriguing (early adopters, those with careers in the technology world, etc.)  

Point is, just a few short years ago this idea seemed cool and full of promise.  Now, just a few short years later, it seems so… yesterday.  

I suppose the lesson could be: figure out what Apple may do some day.  Then do something else…   

Thursday:

SHNUK (SHNOOK)

A “sad sack,” pathetic person

The poor shnuk didn’t even see it coming, until his wife walked out the door with her suitcase.



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