People really, really suck at using computers


The OECD's 2011-2015, 33 country, 215,942-person study of computer skills paints a deceptively grim picture of the average level of computer proficiency around the world -- deceptive because it excludes over-65s, who research shows to be, on average, less proficient than the 16-65 cohort sampled. Read the rest

Job skills for the apocalypse

A Redditor asks the critical question, "What professions would be the most valuable in an apocalyptic world?", resulting in an entertaining thread. The tl;dr is "learn to fish, hunt and make tools"; Keytarists and SQL administrators concerned about the end of the world might consider night classes. Read the rest

Zapping the brain into "expert" mode

The "flow state" is how neuroscience researchers describe that zone you can get into when you're doing something that you've become highly skilled at. It's a zen-like place in your brain — that state where you lose track of time doing something that you enjoy doing for its own sake, and where the job of doing the task seems to become something you don't even have to think about. You just do it, and you do it right.

The catch, of course, is that usually it takes a lot of heavy work to get to the point where the flow can take over. This is where Malcolm Gladwell's 10,000 hours of practice comes into play. But, over the years, scientists have learned that there are some ways around that 10,000-hour rule. Some people just seem to pick up on the flow easier than others, for instance.

If your brain isn't just naturally inclined toward the flow, though, there is the option of zapping it into line. This is called transcranial direct current stimulation—basically running a very small electric current through specific parts of the brain. In some studies, and for some tasks, it's been shown to induce a feeling very much like a flow state, and possibly make it easier for people to get to a high level of skill faster. Last spring, Pesco wrote about some of the research that's being conducted on this intriguing but still-not-proven technique. Recently, New Scientist reporter Sally Adee tried it out, and saw a significant short-term improvement in her ability to spot and hit targets in a video shooter game. Read the rest