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谷歌不能取代你的大脑

更新时间:2017-5-22 18:30:05 来源:纽约时报中文网 作者:佚名

You Still Need Your Brain
谷歌不能取代你的大脑

Most adults recall memorizing the names of rivers or the Pythagorean theorem in school and wondering, “When am I ever gonna use this stuff?” Kids today have a high-profile spokesman. Jonathan Rochelle, the director of Google’s education apps group, said last year at an industry conference that he “cannot answer” why his children should learn the quadratic equation. He wonders why they cannot “ask Google.” If Mr. Rochelle cannot answer his children, I can.

大部分成年人还记得在学校里背河流名字或勾股定理时心想:“这些东西我什么时候用得上呢?”对于这一点,如今的孩子们有个高调的代言人。去年,谷歌教育应用程序部的总监乔纳森·罗谢尔(Jonathan Rochelle)在一次行业大会上表示,当孩子们问他为什么要学二次方程式时,他“不知道该怎么回答”。他想知道他们为什么不能“问谷歌”。我能帮罗谢尔回答这个问题。

Google is good at finding information, but the brain beats it in two essential ways. Champions of Google underestimate how much the meaning of words and sentences changes with context. Consider vocabulary. Every teacher knows that a sixth grader, armed with a thesaurus, will often submit a paper studded with words used in not-quite-correct ways, like the student who looked up “meticulous,” saw it meant “very careful,” and wrote “I was meticulous when I fell off the cliff.”

谷歌擅长查找信息,但大脑在两个重要的方面胜过它。谷歌的支持者没有充分认识到,词语和句子的意思会随着语境发生重大变化。以词汇为例。每位老师都知道,一名掌握丰富词汇的六年级学生提交的文章里经常充满词语使用不当的情况,比如,一名学生查字典看到meticulous的意思是“非常小心、仔细”,就写道“我从悬崖上掉下来时,其实非常仔细”。

With the right knowledge in memory, your brain deftly puts words in context. Consider “Trisha spilled her coffee.” When followed by the sentence “Dan jumped up to get a rag,” the brain instantly highlights one aspect of the meaning of “spill” — spills make a mess. Had the second sentence been “Dan jumped up to get her more,” you would have thought instead of the fact that “spill” means Trisha had less of something. Still another aspect of meaning would come to mind had you read, “Dan jumped up, howling in pain.”

如果你的大脑里存储着正确的知识,它会巧妙地将词语置于上下文中。比如,“特丽莎(Trisha)把咖啡弄洒了。”如果下一句是“丹(Dan)跳起来,去拿抹布”,那么大脑会很快强调“洒了”这个词的其中一个意思——弄洒会把桌子弄脏。如果下一句是“丹跳起来,又给她倒了些”,那么你想到的会是另一个事实:“洒了”意味着特丽莎的咖啡少了。如果下一句是,“丹跳起来,痛苦地大叫”,那么你的大脑里会闪现这个词的另一个意思。

The meaning of “spill” depends on context, but dictionaries, including internet dictionaries, necessarily offer context-free meanings. That’s why kids fall off cliffs meticulously.

“洒了”这个词的意思取决于上下文,但是词典,包括互联网上的词典,需要提供脱离上下文的意思。这就是为什么孩子们会写出“非常仔细地从悬崖上掉下来”这样的句子。

Perhaps internet searches will become more sensitive to context, but until our brains communicate directly with silicon chips, there’s another problem — speed.

互联网搜索可能会变得对语境更敏感,但在我们的大脑直接跟芯片交流之前,还有另一个问题——速度。

Quick access is supposed to be a great advantage of using the internet. Students have always been able to look up the quadratic equation rather than memorize it, but opening a new browser tab takes moments, not the minutes required to locate the right page in the right book. Yet “moments” is still much slower than the brain operates.

快速访问应该是使用互联网的一大优势。学生们一直都可以不去记忆二次方程式,而是在网上查找,但打开一个新的浏览器页面需要片刻时间——当然那比花几分钟时间去书上找要快。不过,“片刻”也比大脑运转要慢得多。

Speed matters when the quadratic equation is part of a larger problem. Imagine solving 397,394 x 9 if you hadn’t memorized the multiplication table. Sure, you could look up 4 x 9, but you could easily lose the thread of the problem as you did so. That’s why the National Mathematics Advisory Panel listed “quick and effortless recall of facts” as one essential of math education.

当二次方程式是更大问题的一部分时,速度就显得很重要。如果你没有记住乘法表,想像一下计算397394x9时的情况。当然,你可以查4x9是多少,但这样你很容易乱了头绪。这就是为什么美国国家数学咨询委员会(National Mathematics Advisory Panel)将“快速轻松地想起知识”列为数学教育的必要组成部分的原因。

Speed matters for reading, too. Researchers report that readers need to know at least 95 percent of the words in a text for comfortable absorption. Pausing to find a word definition is disruptive. Online, the mere presence of hyperlinks compromises reading comprehension because the decision of whether or not to click disrupts the flow of understanding.

速度对阅读也很重要。研究报告称,读者至少需要知道一篇文章中95%的单词,才能轻松理解它的意思。停下来查单词会打乱阅读过程。在网上,单是超链接的存在就会影响阅读理解,因为考虑是否点击链接会破坏阅读的顺畅进行。

Deeper knowledge of words also helps. Your knowledge of what a word means, how it’s spelled and how it sounds are actually separate in the brain. That’s why you may recall one but not the others, as when you know what you want to say (“someone who owes money”) but can’t find the word (“debtor”). Good readers have reliable, speedy connections among the brain representations of spelling, sound and meaning. Speed matters because it allows other important work — for example, puzzling out the meaning of phrases — to proceed.

对词汇的深入了解也有帮助。你对某个单词的意思、拼写和发音的记忆实际上存储在大脑的不同区域。这就是为什么你可能会记得单词的某个方面,却记不得其他方面,比如,你知道你想说什么(“欠钱的人”),但找不到那个词(“债务人”)。优秀的读者的大脑中负责拼写、发音和意思的区域能够可靠、快速地连接起来。速度很重要,因为它让其他重要工作得以进行,比如弄清短语的意思。

Using knowledge in the head is also self-sustaining, whereas using knowledge from the internet is not. Every time you retrieve information from memory, it becomes a bit easier to find it the next time. That’s why students studying for a test actually remember more if they quiz themselves than if they study as they typically do, by rereading their textbook or notes. That parades the right ideas before the mind, but doesn’t make them stick. In the same way, you won’t learn your way around a city if you always use your GPS, but you will if you work to remember the route you took last time.

使用头脑中的知识也能促进大脑本身的发展,而使用互联网上的知识却不能。你每从记忆中搜索一次信息,下次就更容易找到它。这就是为什么对备考的学生来说,与重读课本或笔记等常规方法相比,做自测记得的东西更多。前者能让正确的知识在头脑面前经过,却留不住它们。同样地,如果你一直使用GPS,你就记不住一座城市的道路,但是如果你努力记住上次走过的路线,你就能慢慢记住。

The brain beats the internet when it comes to context and speed, but the internet clobbers the brain when it comes to volume. You can find any fact on the internet, even alternative ones. Your brain, in contrast, is limited, so how should we choose what to learn?

在语境和速度方面,大脑优于互联网,但在处理大量信息方面,互联网就完胜大脑。你可以在网上找到任何事实,甚至是各种可供选择的事实。相比之下,你的大脑就很有限,那么我们该怎么选择学习内容呢?

Students should learn the information for which the internet is a poor substitute. Getting information from the internet takes time, so they should memorize facts that are needed fast and frequently. Elementary math facts and the sounds of letters are obvious choices, but any information that is needed with high frequency is a candidate — in algebra, that’s the quadratic equation.

学生应该学习互联网很难提供的信息。从网上获取信息需要时间,所以他们应该记住那些需要快速获得、频繁使用的事实。基本的数学常识和字母发音显然属于这一类,但是任何需要经常使用的信息都应该在考虑范围之内——在代数方面,就是二次方程式。

The internet is poor at putting information in context. Kids who look up the quadratic equation may end up like the child who looked up “meticulous”; they have a definition, but they don’t have the background knowledge to use it correctly. Students should learn not only the formula but also why it works and how it connects to other math content. That’s how contextual knowledge develops in the brain, and that’s why vocabulary instruction seldom consists of simple memorization of definitions — students are asked to use the words in a variety of sentences. The same should be true of more advanced concepts and for the same reason.

互联网不太擅长把信息置于语境中考虑。查找二次方程式的孩子可能会跟查看“meticulous”的孩子一样,只得到了定义,却不知道正确使用它的背景知识。学生们不仅应该学习公式,而且要学习它为什么成立,以及它与其他数学知识的关系。背景知识就是这样在大脑中形成的,所以词汇教学很少只包括记忆定义,而是要求学生在各种句子中使用单词。因为同样的原因,学习更高级的概念也应该是这样。

It’s a grave mistake to think Google can replace your memory. It can, however, complement it, if we keep in mind what each does best.

认为谷歌可以取代你的记忆是大错特错。不过,它可以是一个很好的补充——如果我们能记住互联网和大脑各自的优势的话。

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