Avid gamers can develop the ability to make fast decisions, based on incomplete information, decisions that have been found to be just as accurate as those made by slower thinking non-gamers.
But there turns out to be a type of game that is known to boost a variety of skills, from decision making to tracking multiple objects: standard action games. A study, released today by Current Biology attempts to explain how these video games can produce such wide-ranging improvements. The authors of the study argue that the root of all these tasks involves making a probabilistic inference, where complete information is missing, so people have to make a best guess based on known odds. Video gaming, in their view, increases the efficiency at which people can process the odds and make an accurate decision – gamers simply can do more with less. As a result, any task of this sort sees benefits.
I don’t read a great many historical fiction books, but do see instances of this type of fiction in films. This works if it is clear the story being presented is fiction, even though actual historical figures are involved, as was the case for, say, Robin Hood.
On the other hand it can be confusing to the point of being misleading, when depictions of actual historical events are given fictional embellishments, with Amazing Grace, and The Last Station, being examples.
Historian Niall Ferguson (The Ascent of Money) said that he no longer reads historical fiction because it “contaminates historical understanding”; conversely, he warned against historians inferring beyond the written record, “or else this takes you into the realm of romantic fiction, a world I shall never enter”.
While there’s plenty of misinformation to be found online, there is plenty of information that is perfectly accurate and correct. As in “real life” it’s a matter of shifting the wheat from the chaff with a little (or more, as the case may be) objective thinking.
The first thing we all need to know about information online is how to detect crap, a technical term I use for information tainted by ignorance, inept communication, or deliberate deception. Learning to be a critical consumer of Webinfo is not rocket science. It’s not even algebra. Becoming acquainted with the fundamentals of web credibility testing is easier than learning the multiplication tables. The hard part, as always, is the exercise of flabby think-for-yourself muscles.
An interesting New Scientist graphic that examines timekeeping: optical atomic clocks are accurate to within one second in 80 million years… that’s sharp!