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Swimmer963 comments on Generalizing From One Example - Less Wrong

261 Post author: Yvain 28 April 2009 10:00PM

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Comment author: Swimmer963 21 January 2012 07:18:35PM 2 points [-]

Reminds me of the debate 'books-vs-video games', some people claiming books are better for children because they encourage imagination, others saying that video games are better because they're interactive and thus encourage creativity. As for myself...I don't think it's a valid question. There are good books and bad books, and there are good video games and bad video games. Being more immersive, a violent video game might be more likely to de-sensitize children to violence than a violent book, but I don't know, and I have no idea if it's been studied before.

Comment author: TheOtherDave 21 January 2012 07:30:36PM 2 points [-]

That doesn't make it an invalid question. There are tall women and short women, and there are tall men and short men, but asking whether women as a class are taller than men is a perfectly valid question, made no less so by my not happening to know the answer.

Comment author: fubarobfusco 21 January 2012 10:28:22PM 4 points [-]

Sure, it's a valid question, but an ambiguous one. It isn't at all clear that the only right way to answer "Are class X taller than class Y?" is to compare the mean height of members of X and Y. There are other metrics — for certain purposes, you might want to compare the maxima, the 95th percentiles, or the medians. Depending on why you're asking the question, any of these (or others) could be the right answer to comparing populations.

Comment author: CuSithBell 21 January 2012 07:38:52PM 0 points [-]

Outside of the airy realms of theory, though, the question probably translates to something like "which gender should be solely allowed to pick apples, and which should be solely allowed to dig potatoes?"

(Or, perhaps more likely, "which one is the Bad Gender?")

Comment author: Swimmer963 21 January 2012 07:52:07PM -1 points [-]

I agree with your immediate point: however, height is something which is easily measurable and easily compared between both sexes. I don't know if there's a quality of books and video games which is equally easy to measure and compare. Reading books teaches kids to be better at reading (and probably writing too, or at least it did so for me), and exposes them to a range of ideas, concepts, and role model characters. Some books are well written, some badly written...some characters are useful role models for children, others aren't. As for video games, I've been told that they improve information processing and reaction times. In fact, my taekwondo instructor says that likely one of the reasons I'm slow is because I never played video games as a kid. Different people have told me that video games encourage creative and out-of-the-box thinking. These are all good things, and books don't have an effect on them, I would assume.

I guess, in theory, you could ask "are children raised solely on books better adapted and more successful than children raised solely on video games"? Still, 'success' is such a broad category and depends on so many factors that I don't know if the answer could be measured even in theory.

Comment author: Prismattic 21 January 2012 07:30:59PM *  0 points [-]

This is a bit tangential, but since the subject came up. I'm reading this free e-book on game design. One of the essays in their makes the point that:

Since the industrial revolution and the commodity culture it brought to bear, games have increasingly been treated as media products like books, movies, or songs. The business models and patterns of consumption relating to books, magazines, movies, and music are all based on a short cycle of release, consume, and move on. It is into this model of consumer culture that videogames have positioned themselves, and in the process became a form of ephermera -- quickly consumed with little or no expectation of lasting effect. But games are ever-changing, culturally shaped practices that have more in common with square dancing, and, as Frank Lantz has pointed out, butterfly collecting than they do with passively consumed entertainment products. And so the more we try to treat games like media, the less game-like they are. (Kindle location 2298 of 3810)

I haven't decided how much I agree with this, but it does sort of seem to explain why some of the trends in videogames have largely turned me off them and back toward tabletop games. In any case, it is a data point in favor of "don't compare books and videogames".