Thursday, April 20, 2006

Just Read "Everything Bad Is Good For You"

Everything Bad Is Good For You: The Book

The premise of this book is that the Video Games, Television and other media that we so much fear has actually increased various components of our intelligence. This was done because the media has had to become more complex to hold people's interest, and those items that have developed in a way to be infinitely interesting and replayable/rewatchable are what's being emulated by both high and low arts.

An example: What's more interesting: All In The Family, or The Bachelor. AITF was the groundbreaking in that it dared to look at controversy, whereas Bachelor merely put twelve women and watched them catfight for a man acting like he had money (truly acting: he hadn't earned more than 30K per year). According to the book, if you said All In The Family, you hadn't watched The Bachelor, as The Bachelor led to talk about who was going to get picked, why a certain woman was (or wasn't) picked, and how stupid the women were since the Bachelor was becoming obvious in his poorness. AITF merely fed you stuff, The Bachelor gave you stuff to think about. (The author calls this the Sleeper Curve, after the Woody Allen movie where Junk Food was considered more nutritious than "health food" due to scientific findings in the next two hundred years.)

Furthermore, while the various versions of Grand Theft Auto may glorify Violence and sociopathic behavior, it also causes players to think and explore, thereby getting their brains in gear. Whether they'll turn out to be better rapists and carjackers is up for debate, but that thier minds are being lit up is nothing to argue against.

It's an interesting thesis, although it seems he talks more about mental fitness instead of actual intelligence. He does hit on the idea in his comments on book reading, but to truely figure out things, one needs a sizeable bank of knowledge gathered. It's not enough to be able to figure out everything from a simple set of instructions, you need to develop that knowledge over a period of time, preferrably years if not decades. And while working out various games and TV shows may be good mental exercise, you may be missing out on the sheer knowledge and value judgements that real life offers (or learning to dismiss them as you find multiple setups in various worlds).

Still, it's an interesting read, for the points he brings up. Especially about the rising intelligence of certain forms of media (TV, Video Games).

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