My name is Lauri and I’m the Co-founder and former Head of Sales of a startup called Panda Training. By saying “former” I’m not implying that the company does not exist anymore or I’m out, rather because of our very drastic operational pivoting and dropping the subscription fee on our platform I don’t know what kind of a sexy title I should use that refers to my exact role, as “Sales” refers to a man who asks for money in exchange for something (which I don’t do anymore). Of course, I could title myself with what I would like to be, which should go like “A person who wants to make positive impact on people and the society by reforming the education phenomenon and engaging relevant for the cause people for co-creation”. Unfortunately that doesn’t fit my business card.
I have been continuously inspired with all the great articles my colleagues and the thought leaders of education and training industry have been writing and this time I would like to contribute myself with something that is healthy to do every now and then; questioning the paradigm.
This paradigm which now enters as the black cat on the table is actually something very universal and humane, almost like a basic need: the deep-rooted belief that we know what the f- is going on around here and what comes next. As wise Socrates once said to his fellow Athenians: “I only know I know nothing”, to pinpoint that the only way to transcend our limitations and the capacity to understand we have to first accept our limitedness. And well, in the end they did poison him for being a bad influence.
History in itself showcases a continuum of the clashing belief systems forced by different institutions and authorities. They appear in the forms of religion, culture, leaders, ways people think, speak, behave, live and even die. These belief systems are kept up by the people who live up to these beliefs and institutions benefiting from them, who refer to their beliefs as “Truth”, “Knowledge”, “Reality”, “This is just how things are”, etc. Of course, it would be false if I would state that the world works this way to the absolute (and deliciously ironic) as on the other side of the coin, there has always been a co-existing trait of mankind which has beautifully enabled us to evolve over the current status quo; the ability to question and learn.
The ability to question and learn was carried on as a torch of enlightenment from the ancient times through ages and generations of wise men, philosophers, alchemists, non-conforming scholars and alike. Sometimes this torch was lighting in stability, sometimes it had to dim it’s light a bit not to reach the sight of the eyes threatened by its existence. Then at around the 18th century in Western Europe it burst into flames stronger than ever after a long, collective change and reformations on political, philosophical, economical and theological level: the Scientist, the idea of a rational man finally becomes THE openly accepted status quo! After new direction is set, the torch of enlightenment is passed on first to the privileged and later, with the help of industrial revolution and public school system, in a popularised form to everywhere in the "civilised world”.
Some generations pass by, we experience world wars, develop basic human rights, fly to space, a clash happens between two major economic ideologies struggling to co-exist, one rules another out, everyone's supposed to be happy and we were supposed to experience a similar ending like in Star Wars VI: The Return of The Jedi (shame on you if you don’t know what I’m talking about now). Then nothing interesting takes place during the first half of the 90’s (if you don’t enjoy rap-music) and suddenly there happens one of the most major transitions in human history in a blink of an eye: the Internet and the digital age. We start co-existing with a completely different dimension that reflects all the information of the original, physical reality, in both good and bad. Suddenly all the world is in contact with each other and oddly, the whole is too much to comprehend for mankind and little by little, most of the cultural, economical, scientific paradigms become disrupted and fragmented. We enter the Post-Modern era, where a 23- year old entrepreneur of a digital company that traffics immaterial goods in a form of knowledge sits in a hipsterish cafeteria where decoration is upside down and reads both from his laptop and iPhone news about topics like how "Elon Musk is shooting recycled rockets for some reason to somewhere", how "the Western Civilization is slowly degenerating", "we need to focus on Emotional Intelligence as AI is swiping away our data and performance driven jobs", "our children will be cyborgs", how "the real value of education is defined by commercial value measured by the number of startups/innovations generated by it", "world will burn because humans are evil and ignorant” and around me there’s a bunch of teenage girls with their pocket size supercomputers talking about fitness and Reishi tea. Suddenly you stop everything to realise you’re sitting in a void filled with a hypomanic, colourful vomit where every meaningless human need gets digitally commercialized, former TV-stars start running the biggest superpowers on Earth and along all this incredible progress the humankind becomes just more angrier and confused.
Now please don’t get me wrong, I don’t have the intention or right to judge. Post- modern age just came so fast, with all it’s confusion and distortion and is by no means BAD in itself, it just demands a couple of major changes in our fundamental perception in order for us to adapt; flexibility of both mind and institutions, supplemented with a healthy dose of critical thinking. The Artist and the Philosopher re-organising reality. The question “what if” followed by “why".
Heavy and annoyingly abstract statement? Let Martin Hilbert, PhD of Communications from Davis University of California open up the context:
"While world storage capacity doubles every three years, world computing capacity doubles every year and a half. In 2011, humanity could carry out 6.4 x 10^18 instructions per second with all of its computers — similar to the number of nerve impulses per second in the human brain. Five years later, computational power is up in the ballpark of about eight human brains. That doesn't mean, of course, that eight people in a room could outthink the world's computers. In many ways, artificial intelligence already outperforms human cognitive capacity (though A.I. is still far from mimicking general, humanlike intelligence). We’re going from an information age to a knowledge age."
Knowledge age. Sounds cool, but what does it actually mean? Well, even though epistemologists (philosophers of knowledge) have been fighting about the subject for centuries, to settle with something tangible we’ll go with the definition of global information authority, Wikipedia. "Knowledge is facts, information, and skills acquired through experience or education; the theoretical or practical understanding of a subject.”
So, knowledge is about understanding of a subject. If so, the more information there will be the more flexible and critical we need to grow in order to be successful and flow along the changes. To stay open for immersing ourselves in the new, relevant subjects in the sea of information while ignoring the stuff that doesn’t matter, that distracts. However, as change just keeps accelerating and more subjects arise, it becomes incredibly hard to stay on top of this. We’ll start having these meta-difficulties, such as “How can I know what I should know?” Well, my answer is you can not as in hyper-complex relationship of multiple factors the rightfulness of a decision can only be showcased in retrospection. Until a certain point, which many experts believe to be A.I.
With A.I, things get interesting (duh) as in theory it should be able to monitor the hyper-complex relationship of multiple factors in a form of data, in real-time. The information it would have we could call “knowledge”. However, it’ll take us some time to get to that point, so what should we do in the meantime? Live day to day, wallowing with poorly justified ignorance of the mythical “good old days" and hope things turn out the best way possible? I suggest an alternative.
If in the big picture we can’t estimate what information is relevant now and especially in the near future, instead of trying to force an inaccurate outcome we should shift our attention to improving our processes, which in the context of knowledge are called “learning”. If we would on a collective level put 100% effort on transforming ourselves into life-long learners, incredible stuff could happen. We wouldn’t be limited anymore to a box of a subject we are not sure will stay relevant, we would be able to grow along the changes. At this point someone might argue that “yeah it’s easy for you kids as your brain is still growing and sucking in new information like a sponge, I can’t keep up with this anymore”. This, however is a common myth debunked by neurologists as our brain keeps adapting all our lifetime, IF it is constantly challenged. So, the problem most probably is not our limited abilities. The problem is our limited attitude.
For learning to be as efficient as possible we have to take into account many affecting factors (which i’m sure we collectively ignore) as the industrial age classroom method is more of a joke that no one is unfortunately laughing at. It seemed to stick due to it’s efficiency in terms of volume, not in learning retention, engagement, outcome and many other factors most of us are not aware of, as we don’t focus our effort on looking at places no one sees. In my next article, I would want to dwell a bit deeper into the micro-revolutions of learning sector to see what interesting subjects there are for us to learn about (very clumsy pun, sorry). Thank you for your attention, please comment below what kind of thoughts this might have brought you.
Live long and keep learning.