Mind Matters Natural and Artificial Intelligence News and Analysis

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The War of Logic vs Creativity

Are You Left-Brained? Right-Brained? That’s Nice. Now Forget It.

The rise and fall of a really Cool myth about the brain

If you have a few minutes waiting in line, you can try various tests on the internet to help you “figure out the huge dilemma”: Are you left- or right-brained? Or, at least, “Which side of your brain is more dominant?” (in 30 seconds). Buzzfeed, more elaborately, offers a Triangle Test to reveal the dominant side. This stuff is fun (maybe). But should we take it seriously? No. Many of us have heard one version or another of the pop psych myth that the brain functions as two separate departments, logic (left) vs. creativity (right). The myth carries conversations and sells workshops, books and TV shows. In reality, the brain’s two hemispheres work together for most jobs, the degree of…

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IQ test Result, Very Superior Intelligence Quotient.

If IQ Is Inherited, Is the Intellect Simply Material?

A reader writes: I was reading your writings about mind and brain, and I was wondering about how IQ relates to all of this. Since IQ seems to have a large heritable component to it, and the only thing that can be inherited genetically is physical traits, does IQ and its heritability pose a threat to mind-body dualism? It seems to me that someone with an IQ of 75 would have a very different mental experience than someone with an IQ of 145, and that they would also make decisions very differently, which, to me at least, would pose a threat to free will as well, since wouldn’t a certain level of intelligence be required to make decisions freely in…

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Collage of portraits of young emotional people on multicolored background in neon. Concept of human emotions, facial expression, sales. Listening to music, delighted, winner, shocked. Flyer for ad

AI Prof Sounds Alarm: AI “Emotion Detectors” Are Faulty Science

An industry worth over $30 billion uses emotion recognition technology (ERT) on school children and potential hires

Kate Crawford, a principal researcher at Microsoft, and author of Atlas of AI (2021), is warning at Nature that the COVID-19 pandemic “is being used as a pretext to push unproven artificial-intelligence tools into workplaces and schools.” The software is touted as able to read the “six basic emotions” via analysis of facial expressions: During the pandemic, technology companies have been pitching their emotion-recognition software for monitoring workers and even children remotely. Take, for example, a system named 4 Little Trees. Developed in Hong Kong, the program claims to assess children’s emotions while they do classwork. It maps facial features to assign each pupil’s emotional state into a category such as happiness, sadness, anger, disgust, surprise and fear. It also…

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The concept of opposites, hand choose wood blog with plus and minus on blue background, copy space.

The Human Mind Adds Better Than It Subtracts

Getting control of the tendency might be a key to better decision-making skills, researchers say

When trying to solve a problem, a recent study showed that it is much easier for us to add things than to subtract them: In a new paper featured on the cover of Nature, University of Virginia researchers explain why people rarely look at a situation, object or idea that needs improving — in all kinds of contexts — and think to remove something as a solution. Instead, we almost always add some element, whether it helps or not. Jennifer McManamay/University of Virginia School of Engineering and Applied Science, “Why our brains miss opportunities to improve through subtraction” at ScienceDaily The paper is closed access. In a sense, we all know this. When we want to make something look better,…

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Side view of a woman playing with her infant child. Smiling woman talking to her baby sitting on a couch.

Babies Can Understand Whole Sentences Before They Can Speak

Before uttering their first word, a new study suggests, children can understand what groups of words mean together

In a recent study of 11–12 month olds published in Cognition, researchers found that infants on the verge of saying single words themselves can already process complete sentences such as “Clap your hands.” The research sheds light on the difficulties adults have learning second languages if they focus too intensely on single words: Dr Barbora Skarabela, of the School of Philosophy, Psychology and Languages Sciences, said: “Previous research has shown that young infants recognise many common words. But this is the first study that shows that infants extract and store more than just single words from everyday speech. This suggests that when children learn language, they build on linguistic units of varying sizes, including multiword sequences, and not just single…

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child hands showing a colorful 123 numbers agains wooden table. Concept of Child education, learning mathematics and counting

The Fundamental Problem With Common Core Math

Intuition relies on skill, not the other way around

In 2010, a bold effort to reform math curriculum was adopted by the majority of the United States. Known as “Common Core Math,” the goal of this endeavor was to establish a common foundation of mathematics education across the country, and to help bolster not only students’ mathematical abilities, but also their mathematical intuition. The goal was to help students think about math more deeply, believing that this will help them work with mathematics better in later years. Before discussing problems with this approach, I want to say that I appreciate the idea of helping students think more deeply about mathematics. After years and years and years of mathematics education, many students wind up thinking about mathematics as merely a set…

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group of school kids raising hands in classroom

Practicing the Basics: Teaching Math Facts in the Classroom

How to help students make deeper connections within mathematics with creative games.

Many people learn to hate math early on. One of the places where people learn to hate math first is in high-stakes speed testing for math facts. This has caused quite a bit of angst in mathematics education for people on both sides of this issue. On the one hand, some have advocated for getting rid of math facts memorization altogether. On the other hand, others have doubled-down, saying that we need speed tests in order to make sure that the cognitive load of arithmetic is limited for later mathematics work. While I fall more into the latter camp than the former, I do think that a more balanced approach to mathematics education may help students in the long run. …

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abstract metallic number background

The Paradox of the Smallest Uninteresting Number

Robert J. Marks sometimes uses the paradox of the smallest “uninteresting” number to illustrate proof by contradiction — that is, by creating paradoxes

In this week’s podcast, “The Chaitin Interview IV: Knowability and Unknowability,” Walter Bradley Center director Robert J. Marks interviewed mathematician Gregory Chaitin on how he proved that the number that determines whether computer programs are elegant (in the sense of maximally efficient) is “unknowable.” As Dr. Chaitin explained in the segment published yesterday, any solution would be contradictory. Thus, his proof is a proof by contradiction. By way of illustrating the concept of proof by contradiction, Dr. Marks then offered his proof by contradiction that “all positive integers — numbers like 6 or 129, or 10 100 — are interesting.” This portion begins at 19:45 min. A partial transcript, Show Notes, and Additional Resources follow. Robert J. Marks: If [some…

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Serious african american student in headphones studying foreign language online

Researchers: We Learn Better Using Paper Than Laptops and Phones

Writing on paper involves more of our whole minds and even more of our bodies — and that aids retention

It doesn’t sound like good news in a digital society but at least hear the reasoning: A study of Japanese university students and recent graduates has revealed that writing on physical paper can lead to more brain activity when remembering the information an hour later. Researchers say that the complex, spatial and tactile information associated with writing by hand on physical paper is likely what leads to improved memory. “Actually, paper is more advanced and useful compared to electronic documents because paper contains more one-of-a-kind information for stronger memory recall,” said Professor Kuniyoshi L. Sakai, a neuroscientist at the University of Tokyo and corresponding author of the research recently published in Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience. The research was completed with…

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Schoolchildren writing on chalkboard in classroom during math lesson

Antiracism In Math Promotes Racism and Bad Math

If you are scratching your head over how math might be racist, you are not alone

Recently, a conglomeration of California education associations got together to work on a series of resources for mathematics teachers. The goal? Eliminate racism in mathematics classes by promoting Equitable Math. If you are struggling to imagine how mathematics could be racist, you are not alone. I am certain there exist racist teachers, and probably teachers who exhibit racist expectations of their students. I would support any reasonable action to get rid of or reform such teachers. But that is not the primary goal of these resources. The website, equitablemath.org, instead believes that the very way that mathematics is commonly taught is not just racist, but is specifically white supremacist. While I consider myself to be somewhat of a mathematics reformer…

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Educational kids math toy wooden board stick game counting set in kids math class kindergarten. Math toy kids concept.

Yes, There Really Is a War on Math in Our Schools

Pundits differ as to the causes but here are some facts parents should know

The Oregon Department of Education (ODE) recently encouraged teachers to register for training that encourages “ethnomathematics,” an education trend that argues, “among other things, that White supremacy manifests itself in the focus on finding the right answer”: “The concept of mathematics being purely objective is unequivocally false, and teaching it is even much less so,” the document for the “Equitable Math” toolkit reads. “Upholding the idea that there are always right and wrong answers perpetuate objectivity as well as fear of open conflict.” … An associated “Dismantling Racism” workbook, linked within the toolkit, similarly identifies “objectivity” — described as “the belief that there is such a thing as being objective or ‘neutral’” — as a characteristic of White supremacy. Instead…

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Propaganda and brainwashing of the influential mass media concept. Vintage TV set with hypnotic spiral on the screen.

Contradictory Beliefs Are a Feature, Not Bug, of Critical Theory

As a historian of totalitarianism has pointed out, “The aim of totalitarian education has never been to instill convictions but to destroy the capacity to form any.”

“Intersectionality” is the claim by critical theorists that various kinds of oppression against victim groups intersect, in the sense that all oppression ultimately has the same source — you. In an essay at Substack titled “Intersectionality Has Hit the Stop Sign,” Tom Knighton argues, too optimistically in my view, that intersectionality is falling victim to its own contradictions. I believe he misunderstands the nature of the problem. Let me explain why. He cites the example of women’s rights vs. trans rights. A major victory for women’s rights is all-female sports, which allow women to compete without having to overcome the natural physical advantages of men. A major victory for trans rights is to allow men who identify as women to…

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The red human figure extends its influence to the neighboring figures. Spreading ideas and thoughts, recruiting new members. Infection of other people, zero patient. Leader and leadership, new team.

To Succeed, Understand Difference Between Influence and Power

Do you wonder why some people are listened to and not others, regardless of the value of their ideas? Well, read on…

At business mag Forbes, some have begun to consider the difference between influence and power: Swarthmore College has been rated the best liberal arts college in the U.S. by Academic Influence, a new college rankings method that uses artificial intelligence technology to search massive databases and measure the impact of work by individuals who’ve been affiliated with colleges and universities throughout the world. Last Monday, Academic Influence released its first-ever ranking of American liberal arts colleges – those four-year institutions that are relatively small in size, focus on bachelor’s level education, emphasize direct engagement with professors, provide an enriched residential experience, and insist on broad grounding in the liberal arts along with focused study in a major. In brief, here’s…

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Guérilla urbaine

Gödel’s Incompleteness Theorems: The Cause—and Cure—of Wokeness?

Why do so many people today think there are only arguments, not facts?

In modern “woke” ideology, there are no facts, only arguments which express cultural power— based on the acceptance of those arguments by current society. In such ideologies, it is not important whether or not the arguments are logically consistent or if they are true in any real sense. What is important is whether or not they achieve the desired results in politics and society. This is not a criticism. It is a description of their methodology (for a review of the academic literature on the subject, see the book Cynical Theories by Helen Pluckrose and James Lindsay. Many people wonder how we got here. Why do so many scholars actively reject logic as a method of finding the truth, and…

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backside graduation hats during commencement success graduates of the university, Concept education congratulation. Graduation Ceremony ,Congratulated the graduates in University during commencement.

Will Machine Learning Disrupt Academic Rankings?

A case study in the best computer science and artificial intelligence programs

Note: Our author, Ross Gulik, an educational consultant who closely follows the academic ranking industry, offers us a look at how such rankings are created and how they might be improved. 1 Introduction to AcademicInfluence.com AcademicInfluence.com is a new website that claims to do academic rankings right. Getting academic rankings right has become a pressing concern for higher education. As AcademicInfluence.com correctly observes on its methodology page, schools face enormous pressure to perform well in the big annual rankings. The big academic ranking organizations (such as US News and Times Higher Education) carry enormous weight. If a school slips in these annual rankings, it can affect student enrolments, the bottom line, and the prestige of the institution. This pressure leads…

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Dictionary showing the word definition

Jill Biden: Who Should, and Shouldn’t, Be Called “Doctor”?

The controversy around Jill Biden’s title, “Dr.,” could use some clarification from the dictionary

There is a controversy about whether Joe Biden’s wife should be referred to as “Doctor” Jill Biden. Isn’t “Doctor” a title for physicians only?The question is resolved easily by consulting a dictionary. Two of the definitions in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary are: 1.a person skilled or specializing in healing arts especially : one (such as a physician, dentist, or veterinarian) who holds an advanced degree and is licensed to practice 2.a person who has earned one of the highest academic degrees (such as a PhD) conferred by a university Jill Biden has a doctorate (an EdD) from the University of Delaware. Independent of one’s politics (I’m not a Biden fan), Jill Biden can be accurately referred to as Dr. Jill Biden.…

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Quitting smoking - male hand crushing cigarette

Yellow Fingers Do Not Cause Lung Cancer

Neurosurgeon Michael Egnor and computer engineer Bob Marks look at the ways Big Data can mislead us into mistaking incidental events for causes

It’s easy to explain what “information” is if we don’t think much about it. But what if we ask a student, what does your term paper weigh? How much energy does it consume? More or less matter and energy than, say, lightning striking a tree? Of course, the student will protest, “But that’s not the point! It’s my term paper.” Exactly. So information is very different from matter and energy. It means something. Realizing that information is different from matter and energy can help us understand issues like the difference between the causes of a problem (causation) and circumstances that may be associated with the problem but do not cause it (correlation). In last week’s podcast, “Robert J. Marks on…

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student term paper showing 'a' grade

Can a Computer Write Your Paper for You Someday Soon?

GPT-3 recently came up with a paragraph that—a pop psychologist agreed—sounded just like him

This summer the OpenAI lab, backed by $1 billion in funding from Microsoft, Google, and Facebook, released an updated version of GPT-3, a text generator that produces convincing sentences by analyzing, among other online sources, Wikipedia, countless blog posts, and thousands of digital books. According to a recent story by Cade Metz in the New York Times, one GPT-3 programmer decided to target pop psychologist Scott Barry Kaufman. Could GPT-3 really come up with a paragraph that sounded just like him? Kaufman himself (pictured) was really impressed with this one, on the subject of becoming more creative: I think creative expression is a natural byproduct of growing up in a diverse world. The more diverse the world is, the more…

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Educated school kid lifting world globe chalk doodle drawing on green chalkboard for education concept

To Fix Math Education, See It as a Program That Needs an Update

As a computer programmer, I’ve seen this problem in my work: The basic idea is still sound but “fixes” have made it too complex

In this series we are looking at ways that math education can be reformed. In contrast to some other math reform efforts, we are not trying to fundamentally rewrite what math education is doing but to simply admit that we can do better and see where that takes us. (See Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.) Here in Part 4, let’s look at specific content issues that, I will argue, we could improve when we do a curriculum revision. Mathematics is an old subject. We have inherited quite a bit of mathematical thought. We must educate future generations so as to make sure that this hard-won knowledge is not lost. But one of the biggest impediments to our task…

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Bored student girl during math lesson

Helping Students See How Math Benefits Them in the Long Run

To keep them motivated, we need to answer the “Why bother?” question honestly and directly

In this series we are looking at ways that math education can be reformed. In contrast to some other math reform efforts, we are not trying to fundamentally rewrite what math education is doing but to simply admit that we can do better and see where that takes us. (See Part 1 and Part 2.) Here in Part 3, we will concentrate on making the curriculum more “conscious” of what students are supposed to be learning in mathematics. One of the primary complaints students have about higher mathematics is that they don’t see where they are going to use the information later in their jobs. There are a number of ways of answering this question but first I want to…