04 June 2014

Ramblings on performance enhancement and next-generation translators

On Sunday 11 May, ABC Radio National presenter Joe Gelonesi, host of The Philosopher's Zone, asked Nicole Vincent, Associate Professor of Philosophy, Law, and Neuroscience
Georgia State University, to discuss personal responsibility. The program summary reads:
Personal responsibility occupies Nicole Vincent's centre stage. But the closer she looks the more complex it appears. The times aren’t helping: pills and potions are being used to sharpen the wits in a very modern race to be the best. When simply being good may not be good enough, where does this leave responsibility? Should we expect more from Superman than Clark Kent?
Most of the discussion focuses on questions of responsibility raised by performance enhancing drugs and aids. Professor Vincent mentions transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS), a physical aid described in Want to enhance your brain power? (subtitled: Research hints that electrically stimulating the brain can speed learning) by Emily Singer in the 26 June 2008 issue of MIT Technology Review and many subsequent articles.

To watch Nicole Vincent's Sydney TED Talk, go to TEDSydney Live, then scroll the list of names and click on Nicole Vincent.

From a post dated 9 July 2013 by Sean Fannon on the brave neuro world blog entitled a battery powered brain boost:

Neurostimulate in style with the Foc.us tDCS headset.

For the moment, the foc.us page on the tDCS headset is targeted solely at gamers. And, while there is plenty of hype and it would be silly to overreact, questions keep coming to mind.
Assuming that this or a similar technology is soon demonstrated to enhance language performance, including writing and translation skills, without significant side effects, it will quickly raise questions of responsibility for students and their teachers, and later for budding translators.
Of course, chemical stimulants already raise the same issues despite the known side effects.
Feel free to share your thoughts.

Sean Fannon's post also discusses the classic "nine-dot problem" while suggesting in passing a possible origin of the expression "thinking outside the box".

The classic “nine-dot problem” asks subjects to connect all nine dots
in a 3×3 array using only four straight lines.
Almost everyone fails to solve this problem in laboratory settings,
even after being given hints and many attempts.
Without being told to do so, people tend to confine their placement of lines within the dot array,
which prevents them from finding the solution
(This problem is also the source of the expression “thinking outside the box”).

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