Black boxes

Today (and by that I mean last Thursday, when I started writing this) I woke up pumped up to work on my research, more specifically on the scripts that I had in mind to make the computer work for me. I spent pretty much the entire day on them, from scratch. In the evening, after wrapping up the codes, I decided on the last minute to take them to the supercomputer at the university and try them out on a test run, since I had classes anyway. Might as well do something useful. Well, the reason why I’m talking about these shenanigans will become a bit clearer later in the text (hopefully – if not, it’s because I diverged to a completely different direction).

So, during this class I had tonight, the professor said something that really caught my attention. But first, as always, here’s a bit of backstory: if you’re not aware, telecommunication/broadcasting services (mainly internet, phone and paid TV) in Brazil tend to be crappy, at best. Things get even worse if you live in the mountainous areas or places far away from the big cities. Just so you can understand the gravity of the situtation, the highest internet speed where I live is 10 Mbps, but the vacancies for this speed are very limited, with 5 Mbps being the highest you can get if you are not lucky enough to get a vacant slot.

Anyway, back to the main story. This professor was complaining about how faulty his paid TV service was, how he was paying crazy amounts of money for a premium package (something like US$ 70/month) and not even getting a stable signal during the day. Well, sometimes I try to be a helpful person, so I made him a suggestion: to stop watching TV. He would save money and would have time to do more interesting stuff. It’s a win-win situation! However, he replied saying that he couldn’t give up of TV, because he has… a kid. And again, trying to be a gentleman, I made him another suggestion: to stop watching TV and buy a videogame. He would save money, would have time to do more interesting stuff, would humor his kid with a more active entertainment and would have a chance to have a father-son time playing with him. It’s a win-win-win-win situation! His response was: “No! Videogames are like crack“! He referred to the possible outcome of his kid getting addicted to them, and how damaging that it could be.

I don’t usually expect people to have the same mindset or preferences as me, but what I heard from that professor was something that almost made me bleed inside. What he did not realize is that TV is just as addictive as any other means of entertainment. And just as a FYI, I know far too many people who are addicted to TV, and I have to say that they are way less interesting and smart as the people I know who are fond of videogames.

This is the way I see things: the only thing you do with a TV is to watch (not even talking about content for now); on the other hand, what you do with (most of) videogames is to play, solve puzzles, think strategically, suffer, get better at something, train your senses, develop a sense of space, listen to good music, read stories, make friends, cooperate with other people, explore new worlds and, heck, create new worlds, and even learn new languages. Believe me, the main reason why I’m here writing in English is because I learned it while playing videogames. Why the hell would someone choose to get addicted to freaking TV instead of videogames?

Someone could say that they are only stupid toys, but hey, the last Dota 2 Championship (The International) had a prize pool of US$ 8 million. Also, there are professional fighting-game players who receive actual sponsorship to play: they train for hours every day and spend a lot of time developing strategies, while their playing style is based on thinking ahead their opponent and exploiting counter opportunities. Another person could say that videogames are a waste of time, because don’t have anything to do with reality, it’s just pure make believe. While I do agree that they are make believe, I would hardly call it a waste of time. Imagining and exploring new worlds can be a great boost for creativity, just as a book or a piece of poetry. On the other hand, going to traditional school, now THAT is a huge waste of time.

You see, I am not a parent, nor do I claim to be an expert in education or pedagogy. But I think there are many ways to entertain a kid while triggering their brain into being active. You name it: books, sports, music, painting, playing with pets, gardening, handcraft, puzzles, videogames, and many other things. I, for instance, liked to read atlases and check their pictures when I was a little lad. However, I consider watching TV the last thing they should be doing. Let them be kids!


Black boxes

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