New Hope for Underachievers

Being smart and successful doesn’t mean that you’ve always been smart and successful, or that you’ve always been singleminded about your vocation, or that you’ve always been driven and focused. I’ve collected a few links that flesh out that thought:

  • Video Games Boost Brain Power, Multitasking Skills, gives a welcome respite from all the catastrophic hand-wringing in the mainstream media about the dangers of spending too much time on video gaming. I still think there’s such a thing as too much, but I’ve never thought it should be banned, just a little bit control would be good. The NPR article profiles work done by Daphne Bavelier, professor of brain and cognitive sciences at the University of Rochester, who said that “video gamers show improved skills in vision, attention and certain aspects of cognition. And these skills are not just gaming skills, but real-world skills. They perform better than non-gamers on certain tests of attention, speed, accuracy, vision and multitasking…”.
  • If you think the world’s greatest brains are always right, check out Accept Defeat: The Neuroscience of Screwing Up at Wired Magazine, for an insightful look into how scientists are now examining the actual process of scientific discover, with some surprising results. To get to interesting results, sometimes it’s more useful to fail quite a lot first; and sometimes, smart generalists can beat a group of world-class experts when they are trying to solve a problem.
  • Finally, consider Why Self-Discipline Is Overrated: The (Troubling) Theory and Practice of Control from Within, an essay by controversial author Alfie Kohn (to oversimplify, he’s also against homework and obsessively and indiscriminately lavishing praise on children, for example). But at least it’s a nice counterpoint to the uncritical acceptance of the importance of doing homework and everything else that school (and other) authority figures insist that we all do.
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