With over 500 million followers and likes across the social media landscape, the NBA is well positioned to become a platform for technology innovation and education. Partnering with NSBE chapters and HBCU STEM programs and entities like Sports Technology Education @ MIT the NBA could begin in-house development of video games that would be appealing but not profitable enough for big name game development companies. MLB has gotten into the video game business(albeit for similar but different reasons) because it sees a long-term win. In-house development capabilities would also enable the creation of apps and online services that would transform NBA Nation from a single sponsor to a thriving revenue generating network. All of these things will create an environment from which a new more representative generation of owners can emerge. This effort could be kickstarted with the fine that will be levied on Clippers owner Donald Sterling!
One barrier to STEM interest in communities of color is the perception that the fields are culturally foreign and boring. Becoming aware of the African roots of gamification an increasingly important STEM building block may be one way to help correct that misunderstanding. We are not new to this game!
Games are not only fun and useful in teaching, they are also profoundly important in various fields of study including STEM because of game theory:
Game theory has come to play an increasingly important role in logic and in computer science. Several logical theories have a basis in game semantics. In addition, computer scientists have used games to model interactive computations. Also, game theory provides a theoretical basis to the field of multi-agent systems.
Separately, game theory has played a role in online algorithms.
Owari, the oldest game in the world belongs to the Mancala family of games found throughout Africa(and now the world). Some believe it is over 5000 years old, nobody disputes that it is at least 1300 years old. It continues to be mined for practical insights. Ron Eglash’s African Fractals book looks at how and why the game was developed and also explores the relationship between Owari and cellular automata. He has not been alone:
NEW or OLD?
It is a strange anomaly that the newest electronic marvel – the Digital Computer – has been programmed to play the oldest counting game. Engineers and mathematicians who have been developing a mechanical brain are fascinated by the manner in which this simple “game of intelligence” enables them to watch the evolution of automatic thinking.
Understanding the specific connections between culture and STEM can not only help engage folk, but may lead to new developments.