Are we getting better at handling abstraction? – Radiolab podcast on Killing Babies, Saving the World
I’m a fan of Radiolab podcasts. The one referenced below talks about the Flynn effect. Comparison of various tests of IQ over decades suggest that we’ve been getting smarter over the last 100 years. Josh Greene argues that we (as humans in the developing world) may be developing greater ability to handle abstract thinking. Abstraction isn’t everything in computer science (as Bennedsen and Caspersen showed us in 2008), but it is important. Could our problems with computing education resolve over time, because we’re all getting better at abstraction? Might it become easier to teach computer science in future decades, as we develop better cognitive abilities? Given that performance on the Rainfall Problem has not improved over the last thirty years, I doubt it, but it’s an intriguing hypothesis.
Robert talks to Josh Greene, the Harvard professor we had on our Morality show. They revisit some ideas from that show in the context of the big, complicated problems of today (think global warming and nuclear war). Josh argues that to deal with those problems, we’re going to have to learn how to make better use of that tiny part of our brain that handles abstract thinking. Not a simple proposition, but, despite the odds, Josh has hope.