Neural Replay

Welcome to Digitally Literate, issue #329.

I spent the beginning of the week in San Diego at AERA and then was back at home to catch up on emails, projects, and life.

I posted the following this week:

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Voice Typing Changes Everything

Dictation in Google Docs has always been an awesome tool.

I think Google is starting to fold in some machine learning smarts from Google Voice, Search, and elsewhere. The ability to type with our voice while still using our keyboard and mouse is amazing. This can be a way to support learners that may struggle with holding ideas in their head and then writing. It also is a way to just talk during brainstorming and get those ideas out into print or pixel.

Every ridiculous thing we learned today about Elon Musk’s plan to take over Twitter

Earlier this week, Elon Musk strikes deal to buy Twitter for $44 billion dollars.

There are multiple takes on why Musk would want to buy Twitter. As news broke about the potential sale, Musk immediately seemed to start breaking the rules of the acquisition by settling old scores.

It remains to be seen what will happen with this story, but the acquisition of the social media platform by one of the world’s richest men is a privacy nightmare.

The extreme centralization and privatization of online spaces disproportionately harms those who don’t have access to traditional media. Evan Greer, deputy director of Fight for the Future.

Elon Musk Got Twitter Because He Gets Twitter

One of the top pieces of the Musk/Twitter story that interests me is the foreshadowing of trends online.

Will Oremus captures this in this Twitter thread. This appears to align with some of the trends I’ve seen as “free speech” becomes more about ability to bully, harass, and troll others.

Ezra Klein pulls these threads together in the piece linked above as he shares insight from C. Thi Nguyen‘s piece on Twitter and gamifying discourse.

Twitter gamifies communication by offering immediate, vivid, and quantified evaluations of one’s conversational success. Twitter offers us points for discourse; it scores our communication. And these game-like features are responsible for much of Twitter’s psychological wallop. – C. Thi Nguyen

Google, Meta, and others will have to explain their algorithms under new EU legislation

I’ve written quite a bit about how the Internet has largely become unintelligible for most users.

Last week the EU agreed on the broad terms of the Digital Services Act, or DSA, which will force tech companies to take greater responsibility for content and interactions that appear on their platforms. New obligations include removing illegal content and goods more quickly, explaining to users and researchers how their algorithms work, and taking stricter action on the spread of misinformation.

Although the broad terms of the DSA have now been agreed upon by the member states of the EU, the legal language still needs to be finalized and the act officially voted into law. This last step is seen as a formality at this point, though. The rules will apply to all companies 15 months after the act is voted into law, or from January 1st, 2024, whichever is later.

Smartphones vs. Science: On Distraction and the Suppression of Genius

Cal Newport reflecting on a piece by Adam Weiss, a fourth-year chemistry PhD student at the University of Chicago, in which Weiss talked about how he had recently hit “a rut” in his research. Weiss identifies the problem as his phone and the digital distractions that colonized his quiet time.

Newport is equally optimistic and pessimistic in his response to Weiss. Newport is excited that Weiss would recognize this and ditch his phone. Newport is also concerned about the “the vastness of the creative, energetic, innovative, impact-inducing cognitive potential in the world that’s currently being suppressed by these ubiquitous slabs of glowing glass.”

We Drastically Underestimate the Importance of Brain Breaks

A new study suggests that after learning new info, our brains continue to whir, using cognitive downtime as a virtual staging ground to process, organize, and integrate learned information.

Cohen and colleagues posit that neural replay, the “temporally compressed reactivation of neural activity patterns representing behavioral sequences during rest.” In other words, after practicing a skill, our brains rapidly cycle through the experience, compressing and imprinting the material to optimize storage and recall.

How to Raise a Reader

Good post on “how to raise a reader” but some issues with the problem statement. I don’t think the decline in reading is entirely due to screentime.

As society moves from print to pixel, we’re seeing more individuals spend too much time on screens. The interesting part is that many individuals also privileges print text over digital. That means that many would rather read a print text, as opposed to e-reader, audiobook, or video.

One key point the article also misses is that it ignores the responsibility of adults in the problem. The rationale also needs to be expanded to suggest that It’s likely that non-reading adults will raise non-reading children. If kids see their parents glued to their screens and not reading for pleasure…

What you allow is what will continue.


Very interesting infographics that detail how businesses make their billions.

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