by Stephen Downes
Jan 08, 2016
Three Vegas psychics predict the year in tech
This will be my first and last article featuring psychics in OLDaily. But I have to admit Joseph Volpe's article in Engadget held me spellbound. It's actually two psychics making predictions and one psychic trying to scam him, but it is Las Vegas, after all. But what was most interesting is that is I didn't know the predictions were coming from psychics, it would be hard to distinguish them from actual pundits (although actual pundits would be able to remember and pronounce 'Oculus'). So why would these readings be so convincing? Well, for one thing, we're reading this through the interpretation of a tech writer who prompted the psychics. And the psychics are good at understanding human nature and in reading and mirroring their clients. Put this all togetjher and yoiu get pretty reasonable tech predictions. No spirit world required.
You Can’t Trust What You Read About Nutrition
We could probably substitutre the word 'education' for 'nutrition' in this headline and still have the same article. I read (and you probably do too) a lot of articles relating this or that think to educational outcomes. The more data we get, the more we are seeing these (along with the scatter plots educational economists love so much). But “Big data sets just confer spurious precision status to noise,” wrote John Ioannidis in his 2013 analysis. Sure, this article is about foods and nutrition. But it also 'cites' data to show potato chips are linked to higher scores on SAT math vs. verbal. As if. But how many educational studies are reporting noise as if it were fact? A preacher who advised parishioners to avoid trimming the fat from their meat, lest they lose their religion, might be ridiculed, yet nutrition epidemiologists often make recommendations based on similarly flimsy evidence."
The Triumph of Email
I had a long and interesting conversation with someone from a technology company on Thursday and he asked me for examples of connectivist-style learning networks in practice. The closest think I could think of was the cMOOC, but on reflection I was able to think of two really good examples: the telephone network, and email. Why? Well, consider how these differ from traditional learning management systems or social networks: each person has their own identify (a number, or email address) and manages their own client (phone, or email reader). They have connections (in a rolodex or contact list). It's mostly peer-to-peer. But a lot of other services have been built around these networks (phone-in shows, mailing lists). And that - if I may be so bold - is what explains the success (and persistence) of email.
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