if u cn rd this, ur smrt

There’s an article in the New Yorker that talks about the death of reading, and the effects of reading on the human mind. It covers a lot of interesting ground. For example:

In a study published this year, experimenters varied the way that people took in a PowerPoint presentation about the country of Mali. Those who were allowed to read silently were more likely to agree with the statement “The presentation was interesting,” and those who read along with an audiovisual commentary were more likely to agree with the statement “I did not learn anything from this presentation.” The silent readers remembered more, too, a finding in line with a series of British studies in which people who read transcripts of television newscasts, political programs, advertisements, and science shows recalled more information than those who had watched the shows themselves.

So Edward Tufte is right; even a well-delivered presentation is worse than a written report. Who’s to blame?

Researchers recently gave Michigan children and teen-agers home computers in exchange for permission to monitor their Internet use. The study found that grades and reading scores rose with the amount of time spent online. Even visits to pornography Web sites improved academic performance.

Awesome. But as the article points out, the act of reading is unnatural; humans only recently adapted to be able to do it. It may be that we will go back to a world similar to the pre-literate world, where reading is something done by a privileged few.

[And ironically, I initially managed to forget the link to the article. Maybe I’ve been watching too much TV.]

Pay-per-view monkey porn

Scientists at Duke University came up with an interesting experiment. They set up a system to let monkeys pay in fruit juice to see pictures of other monkeys. They discovered that male monkeys would pay good juice to see crotch-shots of female monkeys. They were also willing to pay to see photos of high-status monkey celebrities, but had to be paid to look at pictures of low-status monkeys.

I guess we’re not all that distant from our genetic cousins after all.

Update: Hot or not?