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I read about two studies that were done concerning IQ and the more general sense of just how smart we think we are.

Your IQ (intelligence quotient) was probably tested and measured in school, though you probably were never told your magic IQ number. Think you might be a genius?

Genius IQ is generally considered to begin around 140 to 145. That’s about ~.25% of the population or 1 in 400 people. There are varying guides to how the geniuses are divided up. One guide shows:
115-124 – Above average (e.g., university students)
125-134 – Gifted (e.g., post-graduate students)
135-144 – Highly gifted (e.g., intellectuals)
145-154 – Genius (e.g., professors)
155-164 – Genius (e.g., Nobel Prize winners)
165-179 – High genius
180-200 – Highest genius
>200 – “Unmeasurable genius”

Einstein was considered to “only” have an IQ of about 160.

Since the early 20th century, IQ scores were increasing at 10 points per generation, but in the last twenty or thirty years, humans have started getting dumber – if dropping IQ scores are to be believed.

The trend that IQ increased throughout the 20th century is known as the Flynn effect, named after intelligence researcher James Flynn after he observed the rises in IQs for every decade in the 20th century. But in recent years there has been a slowdown or reversal of this upward trend, at least in some countries.

The Flynn Effect is attributed to a variety of societal improvements during the 20th century, including prenatal and early post-natal care, reduced exposure to lead, reduction of pathogens, improved nutrition, better education and improved social environment.

But from the 1970’s onwards, our intelligence has started falling. Are we getting dumber?

One theory concerns dividing our intelligence into two types: fluid and crystallized. Blame is thrown at schools that value and judge you on your ability to recall information for tests and exams. That is crystallized intelligence. It is a type of intelligence that is fine for many service class jobs.  An increasing number of people are going into these kinds of service jobs, and many of those jobs are being dumbed down. You don’t need to add or subtract or even put in amounts when the iconized cash register shows you a picture of a soda or a burger or fries and does it all for you.

But fluid intelligence is what we use for problem solving, critical thinking and higher order skills. It’s not that fluid is better; it’s that both kinds are needed for higher intelligence.

Let me bring in here a second effect: the Dunning Kruger Effect. This was developed by David Dunning and Justin Kruger of Cornell University who found a cognitive bias that occurs when people fail to adequately assess their level of competence (or incompetence) at a task. They consider themselves to be more competent than they actually are.

The theory has a far less academic name, according to the Urban Dictionary, as “Mount Stupid.” This is a mountain you climb until you get to the place where “you have enough knowledge of a subject to be vocal about it, without the wisdom to gather the full facts or read around the topic.”

It sounds like pop psychology, but there have been serious studies done on the effect. People with low ability do not have the necessary critical ability and self-awareness to recognize how low their ability actually is, and that leads them to have an inflated view of their own competence and knowledge.

In much cruder terms, this effect occurs when people are “too stupid to know how stupid they are.” Have you ever noticed this effect?

Dunning and Kruger tested developed their theory with tests of humor, logic, science and grammar. They found that those who performed best consistently underestimated their ability. But those who performed worst believed that they had in fact done well. As cognitive ability worsens, so does the ability for the participant to accurately assess their ability.

Again, in simpler terms, those with only a little knowledge were more dangerous than those that knew they had no knowledge about a subject. “A little knowledge is a dangerous thing“ said Alexander Pope way back in 1709.

The more you learn, the more you realize how much you don’t know. You have heard that, right? It is a commonly said idea, but it is actually a different cognitive bias known as “Imposter Syndrome.”

When Nicholas Carr published The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains in 2011 (and was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize) people kept quoting his earlier Atlantic Monthly article “Is Google making us stupid?” He hit a nerve at the time – we enjoy the Internet a lot, but are we sacrificing our ability to read and think deeply by using it too much?

Carr references earlier thinkers from Plato to McLuhan and notes that the idea that every information technology (printed books to the Net) also changes our nature of knowledge and intelligence.

Thinking people feared that the printed book would erode our use of memory. But it actually served to focus our attention and promoted deep and creative thought.

Carr doesn’t think the Internet is doing good things. It encourages rapid, distracted dipping into bits of information from many sources. His theory is that what it is making us better at is scanning and skimming – not concentration, contemplation, and reflection.

But you’re reading this article and you’re thinking about it. Did it make you feel a bit stupider or a bit smarter to read it? Will you comment on it, or share it, or read more about it, or talk to someone else about it?

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Steve Jobs was never a teacher in the classroom. He only did a year of college himself. But he was surrounded in his workplaces with talented people. most of whom had college degrees, many who had advanced degrees. He seems to have taken on a teaching role is many of his interactions.

Walter Isaacson has written about several geniuses and innovators, and his book, Steve Jobs, portrayed the Apple co-founder and CEO as a visionary and a difficult and sometimes cruel person to have as a boss.

Jobs didn’t take to college. He attended Reed College in 1972 and dropped out that same year. He wandered a bit aimlessly, then after two years he traveled through India seeking enlightenment and studying Zen Buddhism like a good mid-70s late-to-the-party hippie.

What kind of professor would he have been?

He would have been a tough grader. He would not hold back on his criticism.For example, he obviously did not like his early competitor, Microsoft, and called Windows “the worst development environment that’s ever been invented.”

Jobs was not a real geeky, tech guru. It was really Steve Wozniak who made the first Apple computer and Jobs partnered with him as the sales guys for Wozniak’s Apple I personal computer. His tech side was more of the outside, and he was famous for his demands for sleek and simple designs. He was a good salesman.

I came across a series of videos of a Jobs “teaching” at MIT in 1992, when he was 37. At that point he was  and running his company NeXT, founded in 1985 after he was originally forced out of Apple.

A few years after this, he would be launching a little computer graphics division that would later become Pixar. And the technology and designs that he implemented at NeXT would end up revolutionizing Apple when it bought NeXT in 1997.

But before he would take back Apple in a pretty ruthless fashion, he was in this MIT classroom. I would call this lecturing and not teaching. (I know a lot of you had lectures that passed for teaching in college but…)

With his turtleneck tucked into his jeans uniform and pacing back and forth, he talked about tough topics. (These video clips were on YouTube, but disappeared this past week – perhaps they will return; perhaps the Jobs estate had them taken down.) He spoke about why Windows NT was lousy and how he stole people from Microsoft and why the Apple III and Lisa computers failed.

When asked what he learned by being fired by his own Apple company, he took a very long pause before answering. (This clip was posted by another source and hopefully it will still be there when you read this.)

 

If Steve Jobs was an adjunct professor at my university, I wouldn’t be sure where to place him. Should he teach in the school of management, computer science, or communications? Would students like him as a teacher beyond admiring him for what he had done?

I think the answers would vary greatly depending on what Steve you had in the classroom: the young Apple founder, the just dismissed from Apple boss, the NeXT/Pixar visionary, the tough, calculating CEO of the new Apple, or the late year Steve who knew his time remaining was limited. Any of them would have been an interesting semester.


Steve Job’s gave a commencement speech at Stanford in 2005 that is often quoted (text version). The three stories he tells are three lessons he might have used in the classroom if he was teaching at that point in his life.

The Easter holiday sometimes occurs in March but this year it falls on April first, which is also known as April Fool Day.

Easter eggs (also called Paschal eggs) are decorated eggs often used as gifts or decorations on the occasion of Easter or more generally as part of a springtime celebration. Though Easter eggs are common during the season of Eastertide, the egg being symbolic of spring is much older than the religious holiday.

Dyed and painted chicken eggs are the oldest traditional form and are still done today, but they compete with the commercial chocolate eggs wrapped in colored foil and the plastic eggs that people fill with candy, coins, lottery tickets and small gifts.

As a symbol of fertility and rebirth, Christianity adopted them as part of the celebration of Eastertide. I have read that the egg was sometimes said to symbolize the empty tomb from which Jesus resurrected, and that staining eggs red to represent the blood of Christ has been proposed. The custom of the Easter egg can be traced to early Christians of Mesopotamia, and from there it spread into Russia and Siberia through the Orthodox Churches, and later into Europe through the Catholic and Protestant Churches.

Easter eggs are sometimes called Paschal eggs as Easter can be called Pascha (Greek, Latin) or Resurrection Sunday.

A very different kind of “Easter egg” of a modern and technology-related sort is an intentional inside joke, hidden message, image or secret feature of a work. These Easter eggs are found in a computer programs, video games and sometimes in DVD menu screens. The term suggests the traditional Easter egg hunt with the hope of getting a prize when you are successful.

This usage was coined to describe a hidden message marketing device in the Atari video game “Adventure ” that led players on a hunt to find further hidden messages in later games.

In the novel Ready Player One, the plot involves several Easter eggs discovered in video games.  The novel is now a Steven Spielberg film that opened yesterday.

Ukrainian Easter eggs

 


Doc Searls sends out the warning that “Google Condemns the Archival Web.” What web is that? It is the one when the URL is HTTP rather than HTTPS – the “S” for “secure.”  Google’s Chrome browser will mark all those older pages as “insecure” this summer, possibly striking fear in the clicking fingers of many users.

Google says:   “For the past several years, we’ve moved toward a more secure web by strongly advocating that sites adopt HTTPS encryption…Beginning in July 2018 with the release of Chrome 68, Chrome will mark all HTTP sites as ‘not secure’ on every current Chrome browser.”

So many “legacy” websites created in the days of yore, though they will still exist, will have a kind of Google crime tape around them. Will people dare to enter, or be scared off? I would assume all those insecure sites will see a drop off in visitors.

 

So why doesn’t everyone just fix what Google says to fix and make their site “secure?”  Well, there is some cost in money and/or time. For plain old folks who aren’t web wizards, they may not even know what needs to be done. There are old sites that no longer have an owner or webmaster but still exist on the World Wide Web that becomes more of a museum each year. For many sites -like blogs – there is no “cost benefit” to upgrading.

You’ll note that this site is HTTPS, thanks to the folks at WordPress doing the heavy lifting.

 

What happens if you use another browser like Firefox or Safari? I assume all will be well. For now. And you will be able to sneak under that police tape to those other sites – but you have been warned.

Google trumpets that developers have been transitioning their sites to HTTPS and that “progress last year was incredible” – Over 68% of Chrome traffic on both Android and Windows is now protected and over 78% of Chrome traffic on both Chrome OS and Mac is now protected. I am a bit surprised that though they trumpet this stat: “81 of the top 100 sites on the web use HTTPS by default”  I would have thought that 100% of the top 100 sites would have complied.

This in the same week that it is announced that Wikispaces is shutting down. Soon young kids will ask what you mean when you say “Internet.”

Make a mental note for July so that you’re not shocked when you see some warning signs on the information superhighway.

 

car

Would you bully this nice little driverless car?

The news has been filled with bullying and cyberbullying stories for several decades. This election season has certainly brought up many examples too. But would anyone bully a car?

We have all heard of –  and probably experienced – “road rage.” That rage is directed at other drivers. What is the other car is driverless? No road rage, right?

Every car company is testing self-driving cars. They are working to make those driverless vehicles obey the rules of the road and avoid accidents. Sounds good.

But Swedish automaker Volvo has expressed concern that human drivers will try to bully driverless cars on the road. Your rage is with the car’s “brain” (AI) that actually goes 25 mph in a 25 mph zone. They are programmed to err on the side of caution. They follow rules. They don’t give or get road rage.

Volvo plans to use unmarked cars in upcoming London tests so that they don’t stand out from the crowd. Their concern is that more aggressive human drivers might find it tempting to bully driverless cars that behave mildly.

There has already been surveys to see how human drivers might behave toward self-driving cars in a survey of 12,000 respondents in 11 European countries. Knowing that an autonomous vehicle is going to stop if you cut it off may lead to aggressive drivers taking advantage and deliberately doing it.

Something lost in a driverless car (although it probably will still have a human passenger) is that wordless communication between drivers and pedestrians – that hand wave to go ahead and cross the street or pull out before me. Semcon, a technology company, came up with the idea of  giving self-driving cars a front-end display that allows them to “smile” at pedestrians as a way of saying “Go ahead. I’ll wait.”

Trusting that driverless cars will do the right thing is key to their acceptance, but it could also lead to problems on a hybrid roadway of driverless and human-driven vehicles.

I’ll trust the driverless car when all the other cars are also driverless. Let the robots take over the roads.

“A safe traffic environment is dependent on interactions between people. Today, eight out of ten people seek eye contact with the driver before they cross a busy road (Semcon/Inizio). But what happens when there is no longer a driver behind the wheel? We decided to find out how people react to self-driving cars.”
movie poster

World’s first film poster (1895) for L’Arroseur arrosé – Image by Marcellin Auzolle (1862-1942) – Source: moah.org, PD-US, Wikipedia

Auguste Lumière was born in 1862 in Besançon, France. Along with his brother, they played an important role in the early history of motion pictures. Their father had been a painter who moved to photography in its early days.

Auguste and his brother Louis had studied science in Lyon and had a business producing photographic plates.

In 1894, they read about Thomas Edison’s new Kinetoscope. That device was not a “movie” but a “peephole” machine that used illuminated strips of film to create the illusion of movement. The two brothers wanted to build a device to project film images to more than one person simultaneously.

In 1895, they patented what they called the cinématographe. It was pretty amazing. The machine was a camera, developer, and projector all in one device.

They filmed workers leaving their factory in Lyon and had a public screening in December. That screening had 10 films of about one minute each.

These were not fictional “story” films but, as with Edison’s earliest films, documentary clips of everyday life. The one that has received the most attention over the years is one that showed a train pulling into a station head-on. The story is that the audience screamed and that some jumped from their seats with the illusion that the train would come out the screen into the theater.

It is strange that both Thomas Edison and Auguste Lumière didn’t think that their motion picture developments could be moneymakers. Lumière said, “My invention can be exploited … as a scientific curiosity, but apart from that it has no commercial value whatsoever.” Great inventors. Not the greatest businessmen.

The Lumière brothers wouldn’t sell their camera to other filmmakers, such as countryman Georges Méliès. Méliès would go on to produce many highly creative and innovative films on his own. The novel The Invention of Hugo Cabret, and the 2011 film Hugo based on it directed and co-produced by Martin Scorsese, are tributes to the later life of Méliès.

The Lumière brothers cut off their role in motion pictures and moved on to experimentation with color photography. The Lumière company was a major producer of photographic products in Europe during the early 20th century  but the Lumière faded after they merged with Ilford.

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