Sunday, December 11, 2011
56880? Is that all you got? [g]
Actually, you're not far off on the usefulness of video games, and that worries me. The Army has found that, for many of their heavily computerized weaponry tasks, heavy video gamers train better and faster, although by the end of training, their plebeian fellow recruits have caught up.
The reason it worries me though, is the dependence on computers. One of the things I'd do with my USAF trainees--and newly OR personnel, as well as the experienced--was turn off their computers in mid-mission, even with prior warning so safety wasn't compromised, and watch them struggle. The tasks were fully capable of being done manually, but the people had become too dependent on their computers. They both had trouble recognizing that their computers were failing them and with diagnosing the problem. Worse, they spent too much time in the diagnosis, at the expense of manually completing the tasks.
That was 20 years ago, when analog contact with the needed sensors and the com systems was still possible. Today, those same computers, also, too often govern all the contact with the sensors and com: lose the computers and the human is both blind and dumb, and so has no means of manually accomplishing the task.
I agree that being too dependent on technology is bad. It's a pretty high threshold, but it's there. My C++ programming teacher once said he didn't like most cars made after '08 or '09 since they didn't have a physical steering column or mechanical brakes, they had computers to figure that out. That's part of the reason the Toyotas had trouble braking a couple years ago. The worst part is that it makes average mechanics less useful, since they have to learn the ins and outs of a proprietary system (if the company doesn't just keep that knowledge secret to give the dealer mechanics job security, which would also mean YOU couldn't fix it either) in order to fix anything.
In a less dramatic example, I remember having a lot of trouble showing my work in 6th or 7th Grade Math class because I'd always just do the problems in my head. Writing out the easy stuff took valuable test-taking time I needed for the harder problems. Then one day my math teacher divided the class into thirds: Mental Math, Paper-and-Pencil, and Calculator to see who could solve a problem she put on the board the fastest. Even if the people in Paper-and-Pencil and Calculator could do it in their head, they had to write out or punch it into the calculator for it to count.
As it turned out, Mental Math was the best at solving the easy stuff and "trolling" problems like (5893*4*26*0). Paper and Pencil was best at solving things like long division with remainders and quadratic equations, which are a pain in the butt to type into the calculator. The calculator was best at geometry (circumfrence, area) and anything involving really big-non-round numbers.
PS. The important part of the video was the time (the score is kinda meaningless), the fastest I've ever been able to do that level was like a second and a half shorter, but I've seen some videos that shave another 5 to 7 seconds off somehow.
Problem setup is, indeed, critical to effective problem-solving, even if the setup is as simple as keying in the parameters and operators in the right order.
There was an incident not too long ago where a friend and I were in a carpet store looking for coverings for her floors, and my daughter, who worked there at the time, was showing us the goods. Repeatedly, on questions of cost, area coverage, amount of carpet for the floor shape in question, and so on (essentially, your trolling problems), I'd get the answers, to within a couple of dollars or square feet, before my daughter had finished keying in the problem on her calculator. All I was doing was simplifying the numbers with scientific notation, and using some estimating shortcuts I'd learned in grade school.
The geometry problems in calculators make use of a number of algorithms that are called just by giving, for instance (and it depends on the calculator, also), radius and hitting the "Area" function key. And I wonder how much, in this day of "use calculators for the easy stuff so we can concentrate on the hard stuff," scientific notation, for instance, is taught. We think how to use our automating equipment to solve the problem; we don't think so much about how to solve the problem.
But that's part of the problem with dependency on computers--it's too easy to lose track of the setup requirements, which makes going manual problematic, even if the residual systems allow it.
PS: I don't know what ballistics your game uses in its calculations, but it may be that your 5-7 second shortfall is from jumping higher than absolutely necessary.