Saturday, January 20, 2018

Digital School Days

The biggest trend I see for the future is the meltdown of governments at all levels combined with a decentralizing, individual-empowering exponential growth in technology.  States, in other words, will self-destruct while people get smarter, stronger, healthier, and freer — they will get a lot smarter, a lot stronger, a lot healthier and from this, freedom from the state will be a natural evolution.

There will be efforts to resurrect states but the attempts will fail.   Too many people will recognize the futility of trying to secure their well-being under a monopoly form of government — a government that threatens violence against nonviolent individuals such as taxpayers.  As social organizations, states are headed for extinction while technology, in spite of its downsides, will be our liberator. 

The warnings we hear from Stephen Hawking, Elon Musk, Bill Joy, Julian Assange, and others about AI’s threats shouldn’t be dismissed, but never forget: The one organization that makes any intelligence an existential threat is the State.  The most obvious example is the cartel arrangement banking achieved with the Federal Reserve Act and the incalculable wreckage the Fed has made possible.  As long as Google, Facebook, and other tech giants are kept separate from the State their power is subject to competition and other free market forces.  For more details, see The Fall of Tyranny, the Rise of Liberty

The evidence for this dual-trend is bountiful, though it isn’t always obvious.  When it is obvious, I like to call attention to it.

Which brings me to my grandson’s recent snow day off.

He’s in the seventh grade of a government middle school with relatively small class sizes.  He’s with us, his grandparents, when he’s not in school and his first-string supporters (his mom and her partner) have to work, which means we see him quite often.  This in itself is wonderful.  Like most kids he’s quite comfortable with technology.

When his mom dropped him off that snowy morning he went straight to the couch and pulled out his iPhone.  I fixed him his morning drink and went off to do some work of my own, then came back to see if he needed anything.   

Right away I knew something was off.  There were no hysterics coming from his phone, yet he was focused intently on it.   What I heard sounded like a man giving a lecture.  Then I heard music, but not his music.  His music was Spiderbait’s Black Betty.  This was Pachelbel’s Canon in D.

He was watching a Tedx Talk given by Notre Dame student Jackson Jhin.  The subject: What makes popular music popular?  Jhin discussed how predictability and variability, along with repetition, distinguished noise from music.  During his talk he took Canon and made it noise, and took the sound of a coconut hitting the ground and made it into music.  Very instructive and entertaining.  

The bigger picture: My grandson was doing his classes from home, on an iPhone, while sitting on a couch and taking occasional sips of coffee-milk.  His teachers were conducting school over the Web.  Most of his classes required little typing and could be done from a smartphone.  He did his science class from a laptop only because he could get it done faster that way.

He and the rest of the middle school were homeschooling.  He finished everything by mid-morning rather than late afternoon.  There were no school buses, parent drop-offs, parent pickups, sitting at desks in classrooms, none of the usual distractions that hurt academic performance.  No wondering what, or if, he ate during the day and whether he got enough exercise.

He was learning through instructional videos that were often entertaining and which could be played again if needed.  I found it overwhelmingly appealing.

I asked him: “Wouldn’t you like to do this every day?”

He said, paraphrasing, “Definitely.  What I would really like is take only those classes I would need for my career.”

“Which is still architecture, right?”

“Yeah.  So I would be taking engineering and math, and nothing else.  What I think would be an ideal educational program would be to devote the first five or six years of school to the broad basics, then concentrate on courses that are needed for your field.  If you wanted to expand your interests you could do it on your own.”

“I like your idea,” I said.  

I have a daughter who finished high school as a homeschooler, and with the time saved she worked in Mexican restaurants where she learned to speak Spanish fluently.  Hispanic friends tell me she speaks without an accent, too.  Her language ability is proving to be a big asset in her medical career.

It isn’t AI that is threatening the human race but the wasteful schooling kids are getting.  The benefits of homeschooling are so enormous that it’s a virtual certainty it will be the gold standard of education in the near future.  

Classrooms of the future



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