Posts Tagged ‘animal power’

00705 From Reason to Uncertainty

October 8, 2010

Doesn’t it seem irrational that after all that, with the abounding knowledge that eLearning can make vast improvements in student learning, that almost nothing has happened. After running across a number of other similar instances over the past couple of weeks, maybe we need to move beyond rational. Stick with me for the next half dozen thoughts/ideas.

Easy multiplying and dividing: An Indian mathematician created the decimal system in 500 C.E. and it took a thousand years for European adoption.

Teacher quantification: A master kindergarten teacher’s one year effort is worth $300,000 a year in future earnings of her class.

Slim people: Corn subsidies support high fructose corn syrup in sodas.

Booming economy: Modest salaries rewards for educators and technical folks, sky rocketing bonuses for financial folks.

Innovation bonanza: We hold spelling bees for memorization instead of idea bees for fluency.

From Middle Age math charts and tables to sugar soft drinks to today’s memorization these protocols are all products of rational thought. It takes a long time for rational new ideas to take hold and a much longer time to replace them. What was OK in a pre-industrial world may not be serving us very well in the 21st century. In the 19th century the steam engine was invented and fossil fuel power multiplied animal power a thousand fold. In the 21st century we are transforming our human culture with the digital age of information and communication. First we leveraged our bodies with technological innovation, and now we are leveraging our minds with next generation technological innovations.

The age of reason was fine for the slow moving run-up to the industrial age. But for the digital age, invention driven innovation is so rapid, and systems are so complex that deterministic models are not working. Change is caused by rapid triggering of transformation. Outliers such as the Berlin Wall, the Internet, the PC and financial crisis came out of nowhere. Experts and econometric models that our incumbent culture uses to forecast the future are useless. More over, they are actually dangerous because they get in the way of intuition and innovation.

I say it’s time to refocus from reason to intuition. Change from facts we know to concentrating on what we don’t know. Learn to live in uncertainty with a loose set of empirical rules. Escape the structured world based on limited knowledge, embrace unknowns and seek out the unknown unknowns.

There are a number of professions that practice uncertainty: “piracy, commodity speculation, professional gambling, working in some branches of the Mafia, and serial entrepreneurship.*” Looks like I am in good company! I will be taking this refocus onto embracing uncertainty and intuition into future blogs.

*Nassin Taleb, “The Black Swan.” Random House, 2007

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