My friend works as a Kindergarten teacher, and from time to time she takes the young children to visit a local farm. There, the farmer asks the kids where their food comes from. For them, milk, honey or bread all come from the same place: “the supermarket”.
At first, you may think this anecdote is pretty funny, but it does give a certain insight into our disconnection from knowledge. After all, do you really know how your electricity is generated? Or where your water comes from, before it pours out of the tap?
On the one hand, this is good news. The fact that these issues are “solved” and we don’t really need to know everything anymore is freeing up time and space in our brains and allows us to focus on more important problems. In many regards, we are standing on the shoulders of giants. Specialization has made it possible for us and our labor to advance, so that today, only 2% of the population are farmers, compared to what was over 90% some 200 years ago.
The problem is that knowledge becomes so far removed from us, that at some point it might become very hard, if not impossible, to retrieve. Imagine for a second that all farmers suddenly vanished - how long would it take for the rest of us to pick up where they left off? And how long to be able to sustain the necessary supplies again? To give you an idea, just look at what happened when this guy tried to create a simple sandwich from scratch!
This knowledge disconnection gap gets bigger and bigger with the advent of even more modern technologies. 30 years ago, a soldering iron and a basic knowledge of electronics could spark your interest in building your own computer in your mom’s garage. In fact, the first wave of PCs was really designed for creators. Those inquisitive people became the driving force of the modern information age.
Today, your dad cannot simply pick up a wrench and fix your car anymore. It takes a mechanic and his laptop. So we are limited by the increasing complexity of things, our lack of understanding, and also by closed systems created by manufacturers. While their primary goal is to control the user experience, they also strive to create shorter lifecycles and teach consumers to throw old things away instead of repairing them. I highly recommend watching the adventure of Kevin Lynagh, who tried to build his own cellphone. How can something we use everyday without questioning its provenance be so complex to understand for one individual? (Also see fairphone for a refreshing new take on a phone made out of LEGO-like building blocks).
What bothers me the most is that further down this road, almost all aspects of our life will limit us to our role as consumers instead of creators. We will inevitably become dependant on other people’s knowledge so that one day our children won’t even bother to think about tackling any problems themselves because “there is already an app for that”.
In fact - nowhere is this example more prominent than with Apple products. It would appear that one of the most successful companies in the world is built on the fact that we are all happy to sacrifice curiosity and flexibility for plain convenience. The inventor of the computer mouse himself, Doug Engelbart, believed that Apple’s approach was overly simple when he compared it to a tricycle: “You don’t need any special training to operate a tricycle, and that’s fine if you’re just going to go around the block,” he said. “But if you’re trying to go up a hill or go a long distance, you want a real bike. The kind with gears and brakes – the kind that takes time to learn how to steer and balance on.”
If you drive around using gears and brakes, you automatically start asking important questions like “how does that work?”. Those lead to understanding, knowledge and eventually improvement. But if your bike is “consumer only” and you are not allowed -or able- to look under the hood you won’t grasp what is actually happening. Over time the knowledge disconnection grows, and you lose interest, because you “don’t understand it anyway”.
The downfall of our society will eventually happen if the lack of available know-how has crossed a threshold where it is no longer possible to maintain the ever-increasing array of infrastructure, systems and dependencies. Due to our highly globalized supply chain, we are also prone to losing access to critical components (think processors, batteries, rare metals, etc.) that we aren’t capable of building or producing ourselves anymore.
It also dramatically improved the broadness and quality of educational material. Most importantly, the internet democratised knowledge and learning. Once you are connected, you are no longer dependant on having a good teacher or a well-stacked library nearby. Using modern search engines and platforms, the most popular content automatically bubbles to the top - and you can also find even the most niche topics easily within seconds.
While it is not possible to put a number on this explosion in productivity, it also comes with a great danger: “why bother learning, if any fact can be instantly produced using any smartphone?”. Also, many people blindly accept the content of the top 10 search results as uncontested truth and definite best answers to given questions - despite the fact that such systems are far from perfect and easily susceptible to manipulation. But who is there to teach us how to deal with this?
Sadly, in my own personal experience, our school system does a poor job adapting to these changes. It is simply not built to digest the enormous amount of available knowledge or the blazing speed of technological advancement. Instead of helping students navigate the maze to find their passion, they are rushing everyone through a standardized body of knowledge. Everything is setup to consume and reproduce other people’s patterns and ideas. What would be needed instead are teachers who craft a guided experience of individual knowledge discovery.
As Elon Musk recently said: “I think most people can learn a lot more than they think they can. They sell themselves short without trying. One bit of advice: it is important to view knowledge as sort of a semantic tree – make sure you understand the fundamental principles, ie the trunk and big branches, before you get into the leaves/details or there is nothing for them to hang on to.”
So if we want to save the human race from a knowledge disconnection downfall in the future, let’s make sure that we raise kids who are explorers and adventurers, not only consumers. Kids who are curious, who want to take things apart and understand how the world works. Who don’t accept the next best answer from any app, but want to get to the bottom of things. Let’s help them figure out early on what they are good at and encourage them to pursue their career paths in a practical way. Let’s build products that are not dumbed down or closed up, but open and accessible.
Yesterday i was watching the YouTube recording of a gaming show. It was a commentary of some guys playing computer games (see twitch.tv for examples). Whats great about these shows is that they do a very good job interacting with their audience through the shows live chat. E.g. answering questions, running polls or even just eying the chat to get instant feedback on segments, jokes or other elements of the show.
The problem though was, that it was a recording. So when it came to a point where i wanted to take part in the action - it became painfully clear to me that this dynamic crowd and interactive action was merely a shadow of the past.
So i felt intrigued that such a show could produce the experience of me being part of a happening even when it was long done and at the same time miserable because of the lost opportunity to get involved.
The second time this happened was earlier this morning: I read through the old mailing lists in which bitcoin was born. Even though i can read through the comments and the intelligent discussions the moments in which such a crowd gets together through technology to inspire and elaborate only are alive for a short period of time.
While tLilLigheoes not forget much, knowing that i can read the archive of these shelved happenings but not take part in it any more is a new kind of misery about lost interactivity i have not experienced before.
Mit der Ajax-Technologie wurde damals die Art und Weise, wie man das Web bediente und wie es sich anfühlte, komplett verändert. Das Internet war nun keine Abfolge von Einzelseiten mehr, sondern eher wie eine Software. Flüssige Übergänge in der Navigation, dynamisch nachladende Seitenbereiche – all dies war so vorher nicht möglich gewesen. Auch 2012 gibt es mit HTML5, dem Canvas Element und CSS3 wieder einige spannende technische Verbesserungen…
"skill hunting" or how job search will happen in the future
One startup concept I’m really excited about revolves around job search. It resonates so much with me because I really think that the classic approach is broken. 9 out of 10 of the best people I hired did come through recommendations. So while there are some gems in the open job market you really need to have a lot of luck to find the right match for your team. And also the best talent is only available for a very short amount of time which requires the company to be constantly looking to not miss out.
Most likely the one rockstar that you are looking for to complete your team already has a job at the moment. So a classic response would be to go headhunting. Problem is that this is a crowded craft and very expensive as well. A rather novel approach is to try to chance the mindset of people who currently are employed. If we get them to constantly list their profiles when employed, this creates a huge new market. And hey - it can’t hurt after all to know what you are worth right?
So we are not talking recruiters sifting through a ton of linkedin profiles and cold calling you - but about people like you freely deciding to be open to arising opportunities.
There are already a few companies active in this space (e.g. jobdreaming.com or poachee.com) and I think this really will be a huge market in the future.
P.S.: on a personal note - the question “what have you done” more important than ever. This is why a lot of good programmers get picked after reviewing their code contributions to open source projects on github - or in terms of marketing, project management and other disciplines you look at what they blog about or how they answer questions on quora, stackoverflow and other platforms.
P.P.S.: the general trend should be called “skill hunting”
“Evolving Social Search Based on Bookmarks and Status Messages from Social Networks” This work evolved out of my master’s thesis. Basically I looked into how the links friends share on social networks can be used to generate personalized search results for the user.
Tweet Feedback: “@denzil_correa: Packed social search session at #cikm2011!”
marketingfish über www.echobot.de Media-Analyse, Media-Controlling, Webanalyse, Monitoring sind Begriffe für ein Thema, das immer mehr Wichtigkeit gewinnt: Die Kontrolle des eigenen Namens sowie der Kundenmeinungen zu Produkten im Internet. Bastian Karweg, CEO von Echobot, gibt im Interview mit marketingfishTV Auskunft wie sich Meinungen im Internet überwachen lassen