I’ve been home twelve days now and people keep asking what it’s like to be back. All this pondering on life at this side of the iron curtain brought me two realizations:
Stuff needs to happen, and stuff is happening.
This week, as far as non-English articles can do so, a Dutch article went sort-of viral. It’s about a protest for more money for higher education. (These days, one really does stumble from one turmoil into the other.)
The essay, from the pen of a philosophy professor and written “with a heavy heart”, takes stand against the strike. The argument is straightforward: over here, 40% is ‘higher educated’, but “their only practical experience is that they can reproduce uselessly abstract material at a pre-determined moment”. As that knowledge quickly loses relevance, that’s (a) pointless (skill) — degrees have nothing but signal-value (in real life, that is).
Rather than pumping more money into it, we should throw out this bankrupt system with the trash.
Stuff needs to happen.
I don’t think most of us realize how different the future could be. Human progress does not relate to time in a straight line: the rate of advancement per unit of time (say, a year) doesn’t remain equal as more years pass, but human progress moves quicker and quicker as time goes on. This means that changes are getting bigger and bigger and happening more and more often. Because of this exponential growth, the world in 2050 might just be so weird compared to today’s that we hardly recognize it anymore.
Sounds crazy, huh?
“This isn’t science fiction. It’s what many scientists smarter and more knowledgeable than you or I firmly believe — and if you look at history, it’s what we should logically predict.” — Tim Urban (Waitbutwhy): The AI Revolution: The Road to Superintelligence
For example, thanks to the internet, for the first time in history, we do not need a human being to stand next to us to teach us.
In Stop Stealing Dreams, Seth Godin predicts that there will be world-class lecturers lecturing on everything to everyone with an internet connection, for free. He also foresees a transition to lifelong learning, replacing the prepare-in-college-then-go-out-and-work timeline. Similarly — and this is probably what made it go viral — the Dutch plea for reform proposed a mandatory 10-year interval between high school and academic education.
Sounds crazy? Think again.
If there’s one thing of which I became convinced this year, it is that the way in which we organize this whole society-thing of learning, doing, ‘working’, salary, welfare — it will radically transform.
Stuff is happening.
Last week, I was having a drink with a friend and we were discussing my crazy 2018: from zero to 5.5K Medium followers, podcast up and running, and my first conference talk (this is a big thing for academics). When I mentioned that I’m on track to complete the PhD before I turn 28, he looked at me and said: “Your mother would be very proud of you, you know that, right?”
Trying to avoid eye contact, I had a third realization: I can make a difference here.
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