Saturday, December 28, 2013

Mean and Entitled

Paul Piff's TED talk - Does Money Make You Mean?

It's interesting at the beginning that Piff talks about that "combination of skill, talent, and luck" "that helped you win other games"... very similar to Nassim Taleb and his works Fooled By Randomness and Black Swans, where he talks about  in interviews the rich and successful most often attributed their success to - hard work, the fact they were a risk taker, or their intelligence.

As Piff illustrates in his talk, when playing a rigged game, the winners who started out with sizable, insurmountable advantages got cocky, mean, and attributed their winning to skill. 

One of my favorite examples of this is the demagogue Rush Limbaugh, who preaches hard work and "picking yourself up by your bootstraps" to the masses everyday, when he's not calling our President a Communist or women Nazi's.  Limbaugh likes to point out that he was fired 7 times from radio stations, but thanks be to god and his grit he stuck to it and made it rich... only in America we are to suppose.  But, Limbaugh fails to mention that his family had one of the first privately owned jets in the United States, and there's a courthouse named after his grandfather in Missouri - the "grit" to keep failing was considerably easier when you grew up an entitled, spoiled, self-righteous child and obviously, the result was, as Piff suggests, he got richer and meaner as the years have gone by.

We can see that these are the same cocky, entitled, mean assholes running the world today.  Convinced that by cutting subsidies to the poor they'll work harder, but taxing the rich more would make them work less... they've pulled the strings of the common folk and have pulled it off.  It's not a matter of IF social programs will be cut, it's a matter of how much they'll be cut.  The debate isn't about cutting taxes, it's about how much to cut taxes.  And folks out in the real world are busting their asses, struggling to put food on the table and all the while playing in a rigged game of monopoly.  A wonderful piece in the Guardian by George Monbiot illustrates this well - It's business that really rules us now
The last remaining refuge for most of the world is to sit in front of the telly and veg out... and as a just reward for doing so we get to watch the rich bastards on TV pick new exotic locales to live in on HGTV, and sit on the 50 yard-line at bowl games most people can't afford to attend.  It may not be in the years the current Oligarch's have left, but someday folks are going to get off those couches and recognize their is a whole lot more of us than them... I hope.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Learning how to Learn

"The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn. ”~ Alvin Toffler
"I want to give you a yardstick, a gold standard, by which to measure good schooling.  The Shelter Institute in Bath, Maine, will teach you how to build a three thousand square-foot, multi-level Cape Cod home in three weeks' time, whatever your age.  If you stay another week, it will show you how to make your own posts and beams; you'll actually cut them out and set them up.  You'll learn wiring, plumbing, insulation, the works.  Twenty thousand people have learned to build a house there for about the cost of one month's tuition in public school."~ John Taylor Gatto 
As my friend JD pointed out in an email yesterday, people of my generation are quickly learning why old men used to yell at the kids to "get off my lawn".  Their focus narrows, their world becomes smaller, and the world starts leaving them behind.  My father worked on TV's for 30 years, last Christmas my brother talked him into ditching the VCR and getting a DVR.  At 80 years old, he has yet to tape a program on the DVR, he can't figure out how it works.  I'm 45 years old, and the bitcoin thing is a mystery to me, so is nanotech, so are all my son's games like Minecraft and XBox.  Get off my lawn, with all your crazy talk about flying cars and robot's!

When thinking about how you and/or your family need to prepare for a world where change is coming exponentially, not incrementally, and where knowledge is becoming obsolete incredibly fast, I would suggest we've got to learn how to learn differently that we were taught.

Part of the ability to do so is technological and that's the easy part... at one time if you wanted to learn Algebra there were one, or maybe two, people in your neighborhood/city/community who could teach it.  Most often they were affiliated with the designated learning place in your community - the school.  Now, there are thousands of resources to learn Algebra, or history, or a foreign language, or anything else,. at your fingertips.  But, the great challenge is... the way we were taught to learn.

I flunked out of college when I first went... some six years later I graduated Summa Cum Laude.   I thought, I had learned how to learn.  In fact, I learned how to take test and study for those test.  The lessons I learned were really two:  First, I memorized more writing, than listening - so I copied my notes, the notes of good note takers, and rewrote key pieces of the text books.  Second, I learned to find out what the teacher/professors position was and spit it back to them on the test and in conversation. Neither of which, I'm convinced, are what it really takes to learn quickly and efficiently.  But, both were pretty effective at getting better grades on test.

Tim Ferriss is a leader in the field on learning skills quickly - listen to this podcast with him, Bryan Callen, and Hunter Maats discussing meta learning.  Tune into Tim's new show - The Tim Ferriss Experiment, buy his books. - One of the thing Tim talks about a lot is the Pareto Principle - "(which) states that, for many events, roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes."  Tim suggests that learning 80% of most things is good enough to be 'literate' in that skill, and in some cases takes much less time that you think it will.  We've learned in sports, and in the classroom, to drill, drill, drill in order to learn something... there may be some truth in drill, drill, drill... but you've to be sure it's the right drills, and very often it isn't mere repetition that gets you the 80% of knowledge you need about any subject.  But, my 11 year old still comes home from school with pages of math problems, and many people still go to the driving range and pound golf balls till their hands are red and callused.

What does the platform look like to make learning how to learn, and rapidly learning new skills look like?  They're not teaching it anywhere in k-16.  Access to learning opportunities has been the easy part, now we need to build systems that work on the most important piece - teaching people how to differentiate what's important and learn new skills at the same pace as innovation.