Why MOOC?

Andrew struggles to recall what his original post about MOOC's tried to say and produces this. 

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Generation Z -- are you ready to clean up the mess?

Millenials and baby boomers are going to leave you with a huge mess. Below are some statements, not facts. You can ignore them or you can take some time to think about what it means. Each statement isn't necessarily that powerful by itself, but when you put them together...

Despite the amazing progress in technology we still have hunger, homelessness, and poverty...even in developed countries. (Is it better? Yes, but it really should no longer be an issue.)

People are going to live longer and there will be more of them. The population will be around 8 billion in roughly 10 years.

47% of jobs will be automated by 2034 (The Economist).

Less jobs, more people, even worse income inequality...

Key resources will only become more scarce and/or more unevenly distributed...UNLESS

You have the resiliency, creativity, wisdom, and courage to ask the right questions, challenge assumptions, learn, and collaborate at levels we haven't even imagined.

Why?

Without dramatic and systemic changes in education and the government worldwide, life is going to get a lot tougher. The current education system isn't preparing you for it and the government is even less prepared.

 

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How do you prepare your kids for a future that's never been less certain?

First, Jeremy Howard does a great job illustrating what machine learning is and what it's capable of.  My only critique of Jeremy Howard's TED talk is that he leaves the big question till the end without pursuing any options of what the future should or may look like. He mentions changes in social and economic structure are necessary, but doesn't explore what kinds of changes these are and what it may look like. Nor does he offer any words of cautions or things to look out for. He leaves it to the audience, perhaps so people like me can speculate.

The only thing that is certain is that the future we imagine and the future that comes to pass are going to be different. 

I take 2 things in particular from his talk.

One, it would seem that the only thing that cannot be automated at this point or in the very near future are disciplines rooted in creativity. While machines can generate text by analyzing images or some other input, it doesn't seem like they can write a poem, story, etc quite yet. This also seems like something that is only a matter of time. If machines can learn and start randomly putting unrelated ideas together, what's to stop them from eventually developing a creative capacity? Especially if they can experiment and iterate quicker than humans? What I mean is maybe it is difficult to try and tackle creativity for machines with a one-prong approach at the front end. What happens when that effort is combined with another learning algorithm that assesses other creative works on the back end? At some point they would learn what makes good writing, art, etc or they could even offer several alternatives based on different tastes and points of view. 

Given that many service industries and functions can and will be automated over the next 2-3 decades, what do you do as a parent? What are considered "secure" industries or functions now, won't be by the time children come of age. And at that point, the current educational system is too rigid and narrow focused. Many may be completely unprepared to adapt. 

Are schools asking these questions?  Are enough parents asking these questions? Are schools even focusing on the right skills for their students in periods of only increasing uncertainty?  Are they working together to design a more flexible approach to education?

We seem to be on the cusp of an educational revolution, at least when it comes to technology, and that is very exciting. This is great for extending the reach of quality education to those who would otherwise be hard pressed to find such an opportunity on their own. Quality courses are available online with absolutely no charge or very little cost in terms of what you receive, I'm thinking Coursera, edX, and NovoEd to name a few.  Even the stakeholders who have the most to gain other than employees are getting involved through platforms like Udacity where companies like facebook and Google are offering courses  directly to students/workers. This approach seems to validate that some thing is missing from higher education. 

But, I wonder, is technology even the biggest problem? 

As a parent of a toddler, these are just some of the questions always running in the back of my mind. 

 

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An award you don't want to win

The 2014 Luddite Award Winners - the states of Arizona, Michigan, Texas, and NJ (see here for the post) for blocking Tesla's attempts to sell directly to its customers. The award essentially calls out those who are opposed to new technologies. 

The NRA took second place for their opposition to smart guns. 

In both cases this is a matter of continuing the status quo. I have another musing on Tesla that very briefly explores both sides, here.

I will probably tackle the NRA issue in a later musing or blog post. Some research needs to be done on what the arguments are for the NRA's stance, but some questions that people, including myself, are asking include:

  • how many school/public shootings need to occur before we do anything? 
  • what does the rest of the world think when they hear about these stories? 
  • what is it going to take to for change to happen?
  • if smart guns (and diligent background checks) aren't part of the answer, then what is? 
  • is it possible to design a system that prevents the tragedies from ever occurring...without smart guns and background checks?

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Cyber-bullying, youth suicide, and the 14 year old dedicated to stopping it

I originally intended for these daily musings to be short, but…sometimes the topic warrants more.

Over the weekend I saw yet another saddening headline about a youth suicide. I will spare the details, but like so many others in recent times there was cyber-bullying involved.

Cyber or not, bullying of any kind has always bothered me. That’s not to say that I have never been guilty of bullying another person. I like to think that it wasn’t a big part of who I was during my youth, since I was so busy trying to get better at soccer, school, and video games. If anyone from my grade school days would like to comment otherwise, I invite you to leave a comment or get in contact with me.

I have been on the other side as well. Luckily, that was in the early to mid-90’s, so the internet was painfully slow and bullying was limited to analog. Since the bully was older and in a different class, it was also limited to recess. As I reflect on it, I was even luckier in that the bully was more of a 1-on-1 kind of bully rather than one who gets others to participate. I don’t know a whole lot about cyber-bullying, but I know a fair amount about social media and this is where I imagine cyber bullying can be dangerous.

Side-question: I’m curious if the cyber-bullying is an extension of in-person efforts or limited to the internet.
 

Once a post is out there, it must be very easy for others to jump in. Even more concerning, with the ubiquity of technology and social networking it’s probably very hard for the victim to ignore. It was this thought and my recent entrepreneurial awakening that made me wonder if there are any efforts to thwart cyber-bullying, particularly on a preventive scale.

This led to something amazing.

Given my affinity for the show @midnight on comedy central, I started my google search with the simple query, “anti-troll.”

Side-note: Before this post I thought trolls and bullies are one and same. However, I think there is a slight difference, not that it really matters since both behaviors are off-putting. Trolling is when one “makes a deliberately offensive or provocative online posting with the aim of upsetting someone or eliciting an angry response from them.” Bullying on the other hand I think is more targeted and can stretch over an extended period of time.

Back to the matter at hand…one of the first results you will see is that a 13 year old, Trisha Prabhu, has developed an effective and preventive software for cyber-bullying. Her thought process, the scope of her research and testing, and execution is impressive. Prabhu determined that current solutions don’t address the issue until the damage has already been done, a particularly keen observation.

Here’s a link to her project, Rethink. It should come as no surprise that she’s interested in neuroscience and the brain.

To sum up, Prabhu developed a “Rethink” system that triggers an alert mechanism that gives the poster a second chance by offering an opportunity to re-think their words and the potential effects. Her research sourced from ikeepsafe.org explains that this process hasn't been fully developed in adolescent brains.

Her abilities don’t stop there. She recently gave a TEDxTeen talk this past October.

 

Well done Prabhu. 

Hopefully, we see her efforts soon. Look out for her Chrome plug-in extension, app, and whatever else she comes up with. 

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