Talk:Learning Learning/Parable 3

< Talk:Learning Learning
Revision as of 13:41, 2 December 2006 by (talk) ("Ability to program computers is a) different from math and b) normally distributed")
(diff) ← Older revision | Latest revision (diff) | Newer revision → (diff)
Jump to: navigation, search

Unfortunately, this learning parable is based on an urban myth. The QWERTY keyboard was designed so that common sequences of letters would be typed by alternating hands, to minimize the chance of key jams. Speed had nothing to do with it. See Indeed, QWERTY is a very efficient layout; other "more efficient" layouts are only about 10% faster or so.

What should we do about this parable? Another issue, beyond being based on an urban myth, is that it is written in first-person but not signed...

Simson 15:01, 27 November 2006 (EST)


Absolutely. You hit it right on the nose.

And while we're at it, there's no reason for them to learn to use a pencil or pen either. A keyboard is so much faster. And even that will be obsolete when we get better voice recognition. Technology for reading and speech synthesis is improving rapidly, so soon it will not be necessary for anyone to learn to read. We also need to take a look at the interface. Written characters are highly inefficient for storing and transmitting information. Human language could be stored much more efficiently in machine form, and that would eliminate the need for (1) paper, (2) keyboards, and (3) visual displays.

As long as children can carry around a laptop, computers are so good at remembering things that there's very little need for them to remember anything. In fact, they won't really need to learn much at all except how to get along with each other and how to turn on the computer. Socialization is probably best taught at recess, so there won't be much need for classes, or classrooms any more. With improving communications we are rapidly reaching the time when face-to-face interaction is no longer needed, so even the recess can go.

Machines can do our work for us, and even most of the chores will be done with machines. So that really doesn't leave much humans will be needed for, except, of course, programming. All this will happen much sooner than we think -- probably even before Firefox quits leaking memory, some time by mid to late 21st century. Now if I can just get this &*#$@ program to compile and quit crashing....

Laptops? Yes, laptops for all. Just one problem, though. It's hard to learn number theory until one has a thorough concept of numbers.

I disagree very strongly with your first paragraph. It's complete nonsense. This whole idea about audio being some kind of future for human/computer interfacing is fluffy thinking. Let's look at this: Speech synthesis/analysis has major problems of a very fundamental nature. It's a broadcast medium. With screen and keyboard (or book and pencil) any number of people can work together in a room. Add speech synthesis and you have an unbearable cacophany - and even with headphones, you have an impossibly noisy environment just as soon as you add speech analysis - not to mention that the things I say get picked up by my neighbours computer. I can't use audio in a noisy environment - how do I use my computer in a factory environment? Furthermore - speech is a serial, almost one-dimensional process - it's hard to hear the output from a dozen programs running at once without getting confused. Vision is much easier to spatially separate. When a program outputs data - it's easy to see which window it appeared on. Worse still, audio is inherently temporally bound. The program says something - if you didn't pay attention - you have to ask it to repeat it...with video, the data can stay there for as long as the program wants you to see it. Further - the BANDWIDTH of your ears is at best about 20kHz - and about the fastest we can process data is the rate of human speech - perhaps 100 words per minute. The bandwidth of our eyes is roughly 12 million pixels at maybe 10 frames a second with colours - that's maybe 200MHz - twenty thousand times the bandwidth. Try analogies like 'cut' and 'paste' with audio - it's an exercise in total futility. There are a few things you can do with audio that you can't do with sound - one is that you can broadcast to many destinations at once - but networking solves that with computers - you can just tell one of them and have it pass the message along to the others. Also, audio let's you communicate around corners...maybe useful for ordering robots around...but generally, audio is a crippling medium. So - no - there are VERY good reasons why we don't have practical audio interfaces that seeing people actually use - and we're not likely to change that in a hurry.
I don't know what makes you think that storing human speech would be more efficient than text. A long-ish word in English might be 10 characters of text. That's 70 bits. Text is pretty easy to compress and there are plenty of algorithms that'll compress ASCII text to one third of the size - so we're talking maybe 3 bytes per word. How much audio can we get into 3 bytes? Well, 4KHz is recognised as pretty poor quality - so if a word takes 1/4 second to say, it's 4,000 bytes - compression of audio can be fairly agressive - maybe 10:1 but you're still looking at 400 bytes per word. So text is more than 100 times more efficient. Then look at the processing power to decode speech - it's a nightmare! No two people sound the same - you have tons of amgiuity that requires AI to sort out - even one person sounds different when they have a cold or talk with their mouths full. Searching ASCII text for every occurrance of some word is a trivial task for a computer - yet finding a specific word in a bunch of audio recordings from different speakers is still a research topic! One day it may be POSSIBLE - but compared to searching text, there is no way you could ever describe it as 'efficient'.


The other side of that coin

QWERTY is an example of the tradeoff you get from demanding reverse compatibility and standardization. We can all point at it and say it's slow and inefficient - but the benefit we've gotten from it is that all of us who grew up with typewriters were able to naturally transition to teletypes and card punches - and then just as naturally to dumb terminals and thence to PC's. Truly you would not enjoy having each new generation of PC move all the keys around - or having different key layouts on your PC at work and at home.

All standardization comes at a price. we still have steering wheels on our cars - when joysticks would be more efficient, safer and cheaper. TV's have only just started to struggle out of the 4:3 aspect ratio chosen by Logi Baird when he invented the system. Modern railroads run with a track gauge that matches the standard chosen by the Romans for their carts.

Yes, we could change - but the cost to business would be spectacular for the first year after we did it.

Changing from QWERTY has been tried - the Dvorjak layout has been intermittantly popular - yet more optimal layouts have been tried. We've also tried truly radical solutions like the chording keyboard of the Microwriter. The uptake of these systems by the market has been pathetic.

You can lead a horse to water - but you can't make him drink.

In addition, there is no optimal keyboard. Every language has its preferred letters. So a international, standardized keyboard (like Qwerty) prevent us from learning new keyboards everytime we move to another country and is IMHO quiet the opposite of "technology [that] can serve not as a force of progress but for keeping things stuck".
Whilst QWERTY is pretty well established, QWERTZ and AZERTY are common in non-English speaking countries. AZERTY is the universal keyboard choice in France for example. They aren't major revisions of the layout though - typically just a couple of keys relocated. But I find it hard to believe though that the letter frequencies of A and Q are radically different between French and English. It is no careful analysis of typing characteristics that caused QWERTY and AZERTY to be different - it's gotta ba an accident of history. 13:29, 17 September 2006 (EDT)

The challenge is?

Change can be disruptive. :[ Change in a positive direction can be worth the disruption. :[ < :]

"Changing from QWERTY has been tried..." Changing from qwerty has been done. Someone has built a working dvorak keyboard. I am typing on dvorak. :] When I go out I am able to type on qwerty.

Creative people will see the power of change. Logical people will analyze the disruption:benefit ratio. Brave people will make sensible decisions.

Can I be creative and logical and brave?

David Ian Walker

"Indeed the QWERTY keyboard was deliberately designed to be inefficient."

I think it should be mentioned that this is only an allegation. Fact is that the keys most likely to be struck in close succession were separated on the keyboard. Although efficience was not the first objective, there was no need to slow down typing as touch-typing was not used but the two-finger hunt-and-peck method.

"Programming kids to do calculations"

Let's not overlook the benefit that our educational curriculum provides our children as their bodies and brains develop. The process of "thinking" through the mechanical calculations helps the brain synapses develop and forms the basis of understanding and reference in a mathematical world. No doubt some of the knowledge attained could be embellished and enhanced with the use of a computer, but people respond differently to different stimuli. I like to consider that mechanical calculations form a foundation of understanding the relationships of various items among each other. For instance, analog time is great for conveying a relative direction or a concept of protection ("cover your six"). People probably relate better to what is relative to their environment than to digital renderings on a flat monitor. Each tool has it's benefits and an appropriate time and place for use. We shouldn't eschew tried and true processes for the sake of what technology can do. What do the electronically literate do when there's no power to operate their computers? Maybe that's why Captain Kirk appreciated Bones giving him reading glasses to puruse the hardcopy volumes.

Chris Gallagher

"Ability to program computers is a) different from math and b) normally distributed"

I have taught college kids to program BASIC in a required business course and taught K-8 kids to program in LOGO on AppleII computers. After watching smart kids befuddled by their inability to figure out this task and previously befuddled lost souls who seemed unable to think, suddenly find themselves in the excitement of programming, I am convinced that programming ability is orthogonal to general intelligence and mathematical ability, although maybe somewhat inter-related in the way that those other intelligences can help compensate, and is probably normally distributed in the population as is, say, musical or kinesthetic intelligence. Seymour Papert's "constructivist" project is not for every child nor every subject, maybe not even for most e.g. the failure of constructivist-influenced math education which has become increasingly evident in widespread falling standardized test scores, leading to shifts back to more traditional methods in some states. Constructivist learning requires and assumes a capacity that I disagree is equally and innately present in all people.

Dave Britton