The internet, which now connects almost everything in the world, has changed every aspect of the way we live, work, and socialize. It has also changed the way we do science, particularly in facilitating the dissemination of research results, but also in enabling scientific discoveries in ways previously unheard of. Here are a few examples of how the internet has affected (and even effected) genetic research.
International math tests seem to consistently show that Americans don't have competitive math skills. We can argue that these tests don't measure real-life capabilities, but it might also be nice to see math test scores rise someday. Given the growth of online educational tools, the accessibility of good (and effective) math lessons will hopefully help to improve everyone's math talents. Here are just a few interesting links on the topic of math.
A little over two years ago, we wrote about singer Marian Call and the fact that she did a bunch of experiments that helped her connect with fans and give them a reason to buy. As we noted, what she demonstrated is that it takes a lot of experiments to figure out what "works" for a particular creator and their fans. Some ideas will fail, and some will succeed. Since that time, I've checked in here and there on her career and it seems to be going great. I'd missed, however, that she launched a Kickstarter campaign last month, and thankfully Aaron deOliveira clued me in, thanks to a blogpost on Popehat about Marian Call's Kickstarter campaign, which has a few really cool features. So many artists are doing Kickstarter campaigns these days, that there's usually not that much to write about with them. But Marian (not surprisingly, given her willingness to test out "crazy" ideas, decided to take things a bit further with Kickstarter, and turn it into even more of a game than it normally is.
That is, she created Marian Call's European Adventure Quest, in which she effectively "gamified" Kickstarter, such that the more she earned, the more levels would be "unlocked." The main idea was that she would tour Europe and record a live album, but the more she raised, the more places she would visit and the more cover songs she would do (she usually does originals, but people have requested covers, and she was worried about the licensing fees if she didn't raise money in support). She's even got some nice retro video game graphics to show her progress:
The campaign is actually just about to end (within a few hours), but it just recently surpassed $55,000, which means that she'll be performing and recording "Particle Man" by They Might Be Giants... and she'll be doing it live at CERN, which is so awesomely appropriate.
One of the things we get concerned about, at times, is that people get so focused on how others have been successful with things like Kickstarter that they stop being additionally creative on their own and merely copy others' projects. But Marian is showing how you can continue to be creative above and beyond the basics of Kickstarter, and do so in way that is fun and better connects you with fans (while also getting those fans to support you in a big way). It's always great to see these kinds of inspiring examples.
Some folks are out to actively dismantle (or disrupt) the existing education system, and the revolution in public education has only just started. Educational software is getting a lot of buzz for being able to motivate students and more accurately track their progress -- and for its potential to be incredibly cost effective (if everything works perfectly). Here are just a few examples of educational developments aimed at kids these days.
Gamification is a nice buzzword for "tricking" people into doing useful things. Players can be rewarded with badges or points or just the satisfaction of winning the game. And in return, the game designer filters out spam or translates text or discovers a genius who can unlock the ninth chevron. Here are a few more examples.
I had just been listening to a recent On the Media rebroadcast of their episode all about video games. The episode is fantastic, but the part that I found most fascinating was during the final section on the future of gaming, which includes a wonderful clip from a presentation by Jesse Schell, in which he talks about the potential to "gamify" pretty much everything in life, giving people "points" (possibly points that can have tax implications) for desired behavior. Some of that behavior may be "desired" because it's good for you (if you brush your teeth long enough, you get extra points). And some of it may be "desired" because it's good for some companies (if you drink five Dr. Peppers this week, you get extra points).
JESSE SCHELL: And what will that world be like? Well, I think it'll be like this: You get up in the morning to brush your teeth and the toothbrush can sense that you’re brushing your teeth, and so, hey [BELL TONE], good job for you! [AUDIENCE LAUGHTER] Ten points for brushing your teeth. And it can measure how long, and you’re supposed to brush ‘em for three minutes, and you did. And so you get a bonus for that. Hey [BELL TONE], you brushed your teeth every day this week, another bonus. All right, and who cares? The toothpaste company, the toothbrush company; the more you brush, the more toothpaste you use. They have a vested financial interest. So then you go and you get on the bus. The bus, why am I taking the bus? You’re taking the bus because the government has started giving out [BELL TONE] all kinds of bonus points to people who use public transportation, and you can use these points for, for tax incentives. And you get to work [BELL TONE] on time, good job. You, you get a, a special bonus. So then you go to lunch and you've had Dr. Peppers all week, and so you know you got to have another Dr. Pepper ‘cause you get 10 points [BELL TONE], 10 points [BELL TONE], 10 points [BELL TONE], 10 points, and then you'll have another one [BELL TONE]. You know there’s a special with Dr. Pepper this week. If you have five Dr. Peppers in a week [BELL TONE], 500 bonus points, so you definitely have to take advantage of that.
And then you've got a meeting at another building that’s a half a mile away. And you could take the shuttle over but you decide, I'm gonna walk because the health insurance plan that you’re on [BELL TONE] gives you bonus points if you walk like more than a mile each day, and we can sense that easily, you know, through your digital shoes. And if you get your heart rate up [BELL TONE] above a certain, a certain amount, then you get more bonus points from your health insurance company. So then you’re going shopping on the way home, and man, this is like a place you can get a lot of points, and it’s really complicated so you let your like your app figure it out. It like looks at all the point systems you have, it looks at what you want and then it tells you which ones to buy [BELL TONE] in order to get, ooh, wow, a lot of points, just because I make good choices shopping. And then you get home and your daughter’s like, oh, I got my report card. And you’re like [BELL TONE] oh, good job. I mean, you’re getting 2,000 points from the state for getting’ such good grades, and [BELL TONE] [LAUGHS] you’re getting 5,000 as a parent from the Obama bonus for the good parenting bonus, which you’re excited ‘cause you can use that as tax relief. And then you say, hey, wait a minute, wait a minute, did you practice your piano? And she’s like, yeah, I practiced my piano. Well, what score did you get? It’s like, oh, well, I got 150,000. A hundred and fifty thousand, that’s the best you've ever had on that particular [BELL TONE] sonata. That’s 9,000 points given by the Arts Council for your scholarship fund, so go you. Right?
Obviously, some of those things may strike some people as "good" and some may strike some people as "bad." But either way, understanding the likelihood of these things coming about is important, and you can see the full (extremely entertaining) video below.
Computers can be programmed to play all sorts of games, but these machines don't enjoy playing -- or even winning. It'll be quite the feat to create artificial intelligence that actually understands which games are fun to play... and what games are boring. Game designers aren't guaranteed to create fun games, so it's not exactly an easy task for humans to figure out. But when a game is fun, people seem to naturally know it. That's not to say that every popular game is fun for everyone, but there seems to be some quality of good games that can't just be replicated easily. Here are a few quick links on games designed just for us humans.