Monday, August 12, 2013

Lumosity Says Tucson Isn't Among the Nation's 50 Smartest Cities — But Maybe We're Just Not Falling For Their Games

Posted By on Mon, Aug 12, 2013 at 5:00 PM

Congrats, Tucson! We're apparently in the top 100 for the smartest cities in the United States — and unsurprisingly, we're beating Phoenix (suck it, losers!). 

Unfortunately, our 68th place ranking isn't anything to crow about, in my opinion. Considering that we live in a city full of mostly-competent college students, tech geeks, engineers and all-around intelligent people, how the hell are we scoring so poorly? (And yes, I'll ignore your jokes about city council members.)

Well, for one, it seems that we're not all doing our part by taking the tests on, who put the list together based on the people using their training games.

From Lumosity's blog:

Traditional smartest cities rankings often use indirect measures—college education being the most common—to extrapolate intelligence. While there is value to this well-worn metric, most of us can agree that not only are degrees unequal across institutions and eras, but college degrees aren’t the final word on intelligence. Here in Lumosity’s local San Francisco metro area, for example, we rub elbows with college dropouts Mark Zuckerburg and Steve Wozniak—sound familiar?

So instead of college degrees, Lumosity concentrated on a new measure of intelligence: Brain Performance Index, or BPI. Generated as a number, BPI is a snapshot of a person’s cognitive abilities at the precise moment they complete a Lumosity exercise. What’s more, BPI is calculated based on data from 400 million global gameplays, making it an incredibly rich source of information available only to Lumosity. Because BPI is a more direct measure—and a potentially more accurate portrayal of actual cognitive ability—Lumosity scientists compared over 1,000,000 initial overall BPI scores to compile a ranked list of the smartest cities in America.

So, in an attempt to help raise our bell curve (and also because I like clicking things and getting points for it!) I signed up for this "Lumosity" doo-hickey, where my "BPI" was gauged using only three training games. That's opposed to the five games that full users get, because I'm too cheap a bastard to purchase the $15-per-month package that would tell me whether or not I was smarter than the average 25-year-old dork.

When I got there, I threw myself right into the fire of the games, doing fairly well (I thought) on a speed-memorization game, kicking ass at a pattern-recognition game, and doing well on a game that involved flashes of birds and numbers to gauge my attention -- or to subliminally implant Audubon Society propaganda into my mind. 

My BPI scores, based on this game: 158 in Speed, 522 in Memory and 365 in Attention. Now, what does that mean?

I have no idea.

Because I didn't pay for my membership, I have no clue. After all, Lumosity is providing a service where they gamify intelligence and allow you to compare yourself against other people in order to feel better about yourself — or, if you're terrible at first, to improve at the games and then feel better about yourself, because you got used to a game and now you're better at it than other people!

In other words, Lumosity's scheme smells like bullshit. Sure, it's fun bullshit, and it's cheaper than training your reflexes by playing Call of Duty for hours on end, but it's all still a game -- and for that matter, a game that they want you to pay $15 a month for.

Take solace in the fact that you didn't throw your money out the window to prove that you're better than other people in other parts of the country, Tucson. Hell, reward yourself with a beer! Might as well kill off some of those hard-working brain cells — call it an early retirement, maybe.

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