Friday, November 13, 2015

Second Machine Age Highlights

Sharing a few highlights from The Second Machine Age: Work, Progress and Prosperity in a Time of Brilliant Technologies by Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee.

Now comes the second machine age. Computers and other digital advances are doing for mental power—the ability to use our brains to understand and shape our environments—what the steam engine and its descendants did for muscle power

We’re heading into an era that won’t just be different; it will be better, because we’ll be able to increase both the variety and the volume of our consumption. When we phrase it that way—in the dry vocabulary of economics—it almost sounds unappealing. Who wants to consume more and more all the time? But we don’t just consume calories and gasoline. We also consume information from books and friends, entertainment from superstars and amateurs, expertise from teachers and doctors, and countless other things that are not made of atoms.

Progress on some of the oldest and toughest challenges associated with computers, robots, and other digital gear was gradual for a long time. Then in the past few years it became sudden; digital gear started racing ahead, accomplishing tasks it had always been lousy at and displaying skills it was not supposed to acquire anytime soon.

As Moore’s Law works over time on processors, memory, sensors, and many other elements of computer hardware (a notable exception is batteries, which haven’t improved their performance at an exponential rate because they’re essentially chemical devices, not digital ones), it does more than just make computing devices faster, cheaper, smaller, and lighter. It also allows them to do things that previously seemed out of reach.

The old business saying is that “time is money,” but what’s amazing about the modern Internet is how many people are willing to devote their time to producing online content without seeking any money in return

Another school of thought, though, holds that the true work of innovation is not coming up with something big and new, but instead recombining things that already exist. And the more closely we look at how major steps forward in our knowledge and ability to accomplish things have actually occurred, the more this recombinant view makes sense.

Perhaps the most important ideas of all are meta-ideas—ideas about how to support the production and transmission of other ideas.

The theory of recombinant innovation stresses how important it is to have more eyeballs looking at challenges and more brains thinking about how existing building blocks can be rearranged to meet them

Advances in technology, especially digital technologies, are driving an unprecedented reallocation of wealth and income. Digital technologies can replicate valuable ideas, insights, and innovations at very low cost. This creates bounty for society and wealth for innovators, but diminishes the demand for previously important types of labor, which can leave many people with reduced incomes

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

What's Your Focus

Just love the following explanation form the Spark Truck:

Are you focused on STEM? Do you want to encourage kids to go into engineering fields?

We have nothing against STEM or engineering, but no, this is not our primary focus. We want kids to develop confidence in their ability to creatively tackle any problem. If a child’s passion lies in engineering, then we’re happy that our having shown them laser cutters and 3D printers was able to reinforce that, but we think that this mindset is equally applicable to whatever career a child will choose—be it science, arts, or the humanities. We don’t want to take someone whose talents and passions destined her to be a world-famous composer, and convince her that she should be a physicist instead. We want kids to form the courage to pursue their curiosity into whatever field it might lead. Since our background happens to lie in design, we are most familiar with the tools and methods of the design field, and teach using those tools and methods, but we can just as easily imagine a truck going around teaching baking, or improv theater, with the same creative neurological benefits.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Most Likely to Succeed

Sharing a few highlights from Most Likely to Succeed: Preparing Our Kids For the Innovation Era by Tony Wagner and Ted Dintersmith.  

It’s quite striking that, almost without exception, the great contributors to civilization were educated as apprentices, not as note-takers

In short, the United States picked the wrong goal and failed at it. We opted to chase South Korea and Singapore on standardized test performance (a race we never had a chance of winning against children who spend every waking hour cramming for the tests) instead of educating our youth for a world of innovation and opportunity (a race that plays to our strengths)

Albert Einstein, who had his share of struggles with school, said, “The formulation of a problem is often more essential than its solution.” As administrators, faculty, boards, and parents debate strategic goals,In short, the United States picked the wrong goal and failed at it. We opted to chase South Korea and Singapore on standardized test performance (a race we never had a chance of winning against children who spend every waking hour cramming for the tests) instead of educating our youth for a world of innovation and opportunity (a race that plays to our strengths) they generally dive into issues around the importance of the goals listed in Question 1 above and the precise wording of their mission statement. In so doing, they skip over a more fundamental step in the process: Is our teaching approach one that actually helps our students to learn

Even better, imagine if the school looked for skills where a student could achieve excellence, and then set out on a path to create definitive life advantages for that student applicable across a broad range of careers
two of the most important skills in the innovation economy are in thinking critically (about problems, situations, markets, ideas) and then the ability to communicate (an idea, a recommendation, a plan forward) in a way that is not only thoughtful and compelling but also in a way that influences others to take action

Today, when kids have ready access to an enormous range of written material, we should encourage them to become great readers by devouring everything they can that’s aligned with their passion—whether it’s nature, sports, or Harry Potter. But if you’re designing tests, there’s no way to standardize based on students reading mostly what interests them. Once again, the education model revolves around what makes life easy for test designers, not what’s best for kids

“The key to our philosophy is to speak, and speak, and speak some more. Programs and curricula that emphasize speaking and ‘living’ the culture from the get go can create a genuine learning atmosphere (using a variety of techniques) that will acclimate students and generate a feeling of ‘being there.

Annmarie Neal is the former chief talent officer at Cisco Systems and author of Leading From the Edge. She continues to consult to senior leadership in Fortune 100 companies all over the world, and here’s what she told us in a recent conversation: Even the most elite schools do not prepare students for the reality of work as it is today, let alone what it will become in the future. Most large organizations are undergoing massive transformations as they move from industrial to innovation-economy business models. The students that thrive within today’s education systems are achievement driven, rule-oriented, compliant, linear, singular in focus (i.e., a business or engineering major). The world of work today requires future leaders to be relationship or collaboration driven, rule-defining, creative and innovative, lateral and polymathic in focus

We need to reimagine education. We have to put ourselves in the shoes of the Committee of Ten who, back in 1893, said, “Gee, we need to train millions of kids for a growing number of rote jobs in our burgeoning industrial economy.” The Committee of Ten came up with a good solution for their era. Today, we need to educate millions of kids (and adults) for the innovation era. How do we do that?