Mind Matters Natural and Artificial Intelligence News and Analysis

Will AI triumph?

Will that phone end up smarter than your kid?
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If so, it might not happen in quite the way we are told to fear:

Nearly two out of three U.S. kids spend more than two hours a day looking at screens, a new analysis of activity levels finds. And those children perform worse on memory, language and thinking tests than kids who spend less time in front of a device, the study of over 4,500 8- to 11-year-olds shows…

On average, the children in the study spent 3.6 hours a day using screens for video games, videos and other fun. Children who spent less than two hours on screens scored, on average, about 4 percent higher on a battery of thinking-related tests than the kids who didn’t meet any of the screen, exercise or sleep guidelines, the researchers found. Laura Sanders, “Survey raises worries about how screen time affects kids’ brains” at ScienceNews

Experts caution that the paper, published September 26 in Lancet does not prove that too much screen time harms brain development, though 2016 guidelines recommend no more than two hours a day, along with an hour for exercise and nine to 11 hours of nighttime sleep.

One problem any such research faces (and we await replication) is that it is hard to study what is not happening. That is, we don’t know what the same kids would be doing if they were not watching the pixels dance. But if there is a realistic chance that they would otherwise be more physically active and in actual touch with other human beings, the researchers are surely right to be concerned.

As Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt have noted in The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas Are Setting Up a Generation for Failure, iGen, the screen-raised babies, don’t seem to be tolerating reality all that well, if we go by their growing demands for safety on campus from, essentially, other people’s ideas.

See also: Maybe iGen really is fragile. Did social media’s troll frenzies trigger the campus war on ideas?

Will AI triumph?