Links for December 30, 2017

Why these friendly robots can’t be good friends to our kids

What will these children be empathizing with, exactly? Empathy is a capacity that allows us to put ourselves in the place of others, to know what they are feeling. Robots, however, have no emotions to share. And they cannot put themselves in our place. What they can do is push our buttons.... If a computational object or robot asks for our help, asks us to teach it or tend to it, we attach.... The more we interact, the more we help them, the more we think we are in a mutual relationship. But we are not.

On toys that teach coding

“Learning to code teaches valuable cognitive skills like critical thinking and problem solving” — No, actually, it doesn’t. That’s a common belief, but every attempt to show that learning to code results in improved general skills in critical thinking and problem solving has found no evidence of this. My lab has contributed evidence that strong critical thinking and problem solving skills—most notably, self-regulation skills—can lead to better programming, but not the other way around.

No, Google’s Pixel Buds won’t change the world

In place of a shared phone, which allows both participants to hear everything, give one participant a set of earphones that act as a technological barrier. Worse, force the person wearing the earphones to touch one ear when they respond, like some sort of discount secret service agent. When I tried it with colleagues at work, everybody involved felt a bit ridiculous. I had sound in my ears, but also from the person in front of me. He did not know when I was listening to a translation, so didn’t know when to speak and when to keep silent. Instead of looking into his eyes, I resorted to looking at the ceiling to indicate that I was momentarily unavailable. The whole thing was ghastly.

Thomas Train Stunts