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Comment Re:Neither (Score 1) 282

I think on the whole we're still engaged in memorizing vast swaths of data, but rather than being purely textual data, it's contextual and positional data. Web addicts (like myself) remember what a document is about, the gist of its subject matter and how to find it again, not necessarily the exact wording.

I can't argue it's changing the way my memory works, either. My memory is improving noticeably in its retention of numbers, positional information and what I'd call topic chunking. I less often forget where my keys are and can usually find lone objects in a dark cluttered room without bothering to turn on the lights.

As far as topic chunking goes, I would call this the skill of digesting a piece of subject matter, remembering what it's about, then linking it with other things relevant to it. This helps improve recall and helps shape ideas based on it - you can't use information unless you've internalized it (making it "part of you" as you noted). The people who are good at synthesizing and boiling down to elements any information they read are probably the people getting "smarter" online.

The real problem in my estimation is that the people who are getting "smarter" are doing so in a very 18th century way - instead of becoming specialists in deep topics, they're becoming dabblers in hundreds or thousands of topics. I think there's definitely a place for the jack-of-all-trades but if cut-rate Renaissance Men become the norm for technological countries we're going to have a damned hard time staying technological.

Comment Re:Neither (Score 1) 282

There are people I've met in life who are definitely sharp; fast learners possessing broad body of foundational knowledge and a good deal of specialized knowledge in some field. However, I've met plenty of people like that who define a wall at which they stop thinking at all and don't even bother analyzing. You probably meet these people all the time - the ones who treat computers like magic boxes even though they know how to operate technology that'd take you years to figure out. The people who unravel DNA and yet can't figure out their car's stereo or their DVR.

Intellectual laziness is the simple unwillingness to apply what you've got broadly and constantly. We've all got it, even the most brilliant of us because after a point we stop caring. Sure, we can get lost in Wikipedia or the ACM Portal or JSTOR for hours and hours, but there's always that line we draw that we won't go past.

The real difference between being stupid and intellectually lazy is not knowing when to stop being a lazy shit and applying the brain. The difference between being "dumb" as the article is suggesting and being intellectually lazy is that the people who are "dumb" have either never had or had but have forfeited the ability to think. The intellectually lazy simply won't think because it's easier to Google - and I think we all do that from time to time.

Comment Neither (Score 5, Insightful) 282

It changes the way a person thinks.

Instead of worrying about retention of specific knowledge, I find myself caring more about how to find information again if I should need it. I've been treating the Internet like an extended memory bank. It certainly adds to my humility and (by extension) my critical thinking skills that it takes only a few seconds with Google to demonstrate the inferiority of my personal knowledge and experience on any issue. Questioning your convictions on any topic often leads to a new way of looking at things.

Dedicating a moment's thought to it, I don't believe the Internet can make a person dumber, but it can contribute to intellectual laziness - being convinced that the answer is out there if you care enough to look for it could conceivably make you less likely to try to figure something out for yourself.

Comment Mods (Score 1) 175

I know this is Slashdot, but since when is elitism considered "insight?"

A code is simply a system of rules that you use to translate one form of communication into another form. If that's all you're doing when you're programming, turn in your keyboard now. Writing HTML is coding but it is not programming. Programming is writing a program - a system of instructions which inform the computer how to perform a novel task. HTML is scripting however, even if the script is trivial - it says "Do what this says" to the interpreter.

If you are the sort of guy who tries to impress people by saying you're a "coder" you probably deserve the confusion you get. If you're a software developer, say you're a software developer. If you're a systems programmer, say you're a systems programmer. Don't try to redefine the word "code" to mean "only people who I consider my equals."

Comment Re:You don't "code" HTML (Score 1) 175

Just because something you have written contains logic-related program code does not mean you have imparted logic into it. Even idiots can write code that works, if you've imparted logic into it, it works properly.

I'd argue that an intelligently crafted bit of HTML with elegantly cascading classes in CSS takes as much art as writing a device driver (and I've done both enough to know how to do either right.)

Comment Re:A little from column A, a little from column B (Score 1) 462

I second this wholeheartedly. There's always a market, even among the hardcore gamer, for variety.

I may have bought the whole Half-Life series for its immersive storytelling. I may have bought the GTA games, Mercenaries 2 and Just Cause 2 for their sandbox gameplay. I may have bought Mirror's Edge and Assassin's Creed for their unique movement systems and fluid gameplay. I may have bought Oblivion, Ultima 7, Wasteland and Starflight 2 over the years for their immensely deep replayability, captivating stories and powerfully complicated game mechanics (excepting Oblivion).

But I also bought LittleBigPlanet so I could flop on my couch with friends and build something fun and stupid using springs and motors. I bought PAIN and Flatout for their pick-up minigame-oriented gameplay. I bought Mariokart, Goldeneye and Chu Chu Rocket for the simple competitive gameplay.

Casual gaming is far from mutually exclusive with hardcore gaming, and completionists aren't always different people from the use-once-and-discard arcade crowd either.

Comment Re:No one wants to be behind the times (Score 1) 252

The tiniest of microparticles left in a stream behind the ship... Microscopic chaff sparsely spread, producing the attenuation that an atmosphere would provide in terrestrial battle, rendering the laser ineffective at long range. Powering a laser produces heat. Heat is difficult to disperse in space. Produce armor plating or a directable reflector which is capable of surviving a few nanoseconds of laser, a discharge mechanism which dumps out a huge clump of reflective chaff in that time, and then leaves behind a trail of lighter weight chaff and soon you have a situation where it'd do more damage to the attacker to shoot (from the heat from their emitter) than it does to you to catch.

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