Monday, February 22, 2010

The internet will make you smarter, experts say

The brown-nosed "Baroness" Greenfield won't like this. It's just opinion but so is what she says

An online survey of 895 web users and experts found more than three-quarters believe the internet will make people smarter in the next 10 years. Most of the respondents also said the internet would improve reading and writing by 2020, according to the study, conducted by the Imagining the Internet Center at Elon University in North Carolina and the Pew Internet and American Life project. "Three out of four experts said our use of the internet enhances and augments human intelligence, and two-thirds said use of the internet has improved reading, writing and the rendering of knowledge," said study co-author Janna Anderson, director of the Imagining the Internet Center.

But 21 per cent said the internet would have the opposite effect and could even lower the IQs of some who use it a lot. "There are still many people... who are critics of the impact of Google, Wikipedia and other online tools," she said.

The web-based survey gathered opinions from scientists, business leaders, consultants, writers and technology developers, along with internet users screened by the authors. Of the 895 people surveyed, 371 were considered experts. It was prompted in part by an August 2008 cover story in the Atlantic Monthly by technology writer Nicholas Carr headlined: "Is Google Making Us Stupid?"

Carr suggested in the article that heavy use of the web was chipping away at users' capacity for concentration and deep thinking. Carr, who participated in the survey, told the authors he still agreed with the piece. "What the 'net does is shift the emphasis of our intelligence away from what might be called a meditative or contemplative intelligence and more toward what might be called a utilitarian intelligence," Carr said. "The price of zipping among lots of bits of information is a loss of depth in our thinking."

But Craigslist founder Craig Newmark said, "People are already using Google as an adjunct to their own memory." "For example, I have a hunch about something, need facts to support and Google comes through for me," he said.

The survey also found that 42 per cent of experts believed that anonymous online activity would be "sharply curtailed" by 2020, thanks to tighter security and identification systems, while 55 per cent thought it would still be relatively easy to browse the internet anonymously in 10 years.


Hope for children with peanut allergy as desensitization treatment is tested

Systematic desensitization is an old idea. The disgrace is that it has not been applied sooner

More than 100 British children with severe peanut allergies are to be treated with an experimental desensitising therapy that has had promising early results. The study, in which children are given small daily doses of peanut flour to build tolerance to the potentially deadly allergen, is to begin next month at Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge after scientists were awarded a £1 million grant by the National Institute for Health Research.

It follows successful preliminary research, published a year ago, in which 21 of 23 children treated for peanut allergy showed substantial improvements over six months. By the end of their therapy the children could eat up to 12 nuts a day. “The families involved say that it’s changed their lives,” Andrew Clark, a consultant in paediatric allergy who leads the project, told the American Association for the Advancement of Science conference in San Diego.

“Before they were checking every food label every time they ate food. They would worry it would cause a reaction or even kill them, but now they can go out and eat curries and Chinese food. “They can eat everyday snacks and treats. For their birthday they can have chocolate cake and chocolates without any fear of reactions. So that's our real motiviation — to try to develop that as a clinical treatment that we could spread to the rest of the country.”

Peanut allergy affects an estimated 2 per cent of British children and is becoming more common. Effects range from mild itching and rashes to breathing difficulties and the severe reaction anaphylaxis.

The experimental treatment involves adding small amounts of peanut flour to yoghurt, but starting with a dose of just 5 milligrams. Over six months it is increased to 800mg a week – the equivalent of five peanuts, or 160 times the dose the children can initially tolerate. “This is going to be the largest trial of its kind in the world and it should give us a definitive idea of whether it works and whether it’s safe,” Dr Clark said. He emphasised that parents should not try the treatment without medical supervision.

“I think in two or three years time we will be in a position where we have a treatment that works but we are still working on a long-term cure. “It’s likely to be a treatment that lasts at last two or three years, and we hope that once that's over we can withdraw the treatment and maintain long-term tolerance, but we need a long-term study to find out.”


1 comment:

John A said...

"Systematic desensitization is an old idea. The disgrace is that it has not been applied sooner'

Well, I think there was an earlier try with injected extracts. Alas, mot as well controlled and causing more problems than help.