Recently, there has been a lot of talk about Education. Some people say it good, some say it's bad, and neither side is right or wrong. At the end of the day it is obvious that education is a good thing overall, but the way it is done now might not be the optimal way in order to produce a society that is able to answer the questions of tomorrow. I would like to contribute to this discussion and introduce the notion of efficiency. To succeed in the future, we need to understand education, to cluster it and to re-prioritize segments in a way that would boost rates of consumptions and absorption, while giving more room to creativity and hands-on applications of knowledge.
The Crazy Talk
Let's face it. We, humans, are really stupid! That's right, we think we are really smart, but on the basic level we are still animals. Just because we wipe our ass with paper, doesn't make it much different from rubbing it agains a tree. Generation after generation humans have been learning, either by belonging to erudite societies or by asking a lot of question and doing experiments. The results of this learning has been documented and written on stone, paper, and now internet. I am generalizing here of course, but I hope you get the point. Years after years we have been accumulating vast amount of information and we are not going to stop any time soon.
So what's the problem you ask? We humans are infinite buckets of storage, constrained by finite time that it takes to listen, to process and finally to absorb relevant information. In fact, it's a chicken-n-egg problem. There is only so much data one can retain and there is only one way to make it better - information has to be relevant so that it gets mapped by the brain. The more relevant it is, the easier it is to store, and the more you store, the easier it gets further along.
If we want to solve challenging problems of the future, we cannot use the methods from the past, and education is certainly one of them. In my opinion, we need to understand the meaning behind everything that we learn, we need to prioritize this data and cluster it so as to maximize the relevancy. What, how and when we learn something is not as important as why we do it. Even a 6 year-old is perfectly capable of doing integrals, as long as you teach with a waffle cones and soft ice cream.
I am not arguing whether education is or is not important, it is. What I am saying is that channels of delivering information are rapidly expanding way beyond what was available years ago, and it only makes sense to take advantage of the opportunity. Learning more, in other words regurgitating vast amounts of data, will get us nowhere. The only way for the West to remain competitive in the future is by optimizing the time it takes us to learn and to deliver. Education should focus on teaching the basics that empower students to derive and infer anything more complex.
A friend recently told me about a new type of processors, which are very-very fast, but also highly inaccurate. In normal settings, they wouldn't be able to compete with traditional processors, but when bundled up together, even at a high error rate, these fast models are able to deliver accurate computations, just as quick. Much like these processors, India and China are just going to keep going until they've got enough engineers and scientists to be just as powerful. We need to disrupt in quality and by an order of magnitude, or we are toast!
I'd love to hear your thoughts on the issue!