Currently, knowledge is most often transmitted from a few professional (teachers) to greater unprofessional(students). After the necessary information is provided, teachers verify the level of memorization of each student through standardized exams. This one-directional transmittance of knowledge is effective for proliferating limited and definitive knowledge to greater mass. However, it teaches students to rely on the authority of professional throughout the process of learning. It deprives them of the ability to figure out what they need by themselves.
There has been attempts for new form of education since the development of Internet. Open-course movement, as represented by MOOC, is an inspiring example which intended to liberate the knowledge that was previously trapped in the towers of academia. However, even these movements are perpetuating the same one-directional transmittance from the past. It only migrated the dichotomy of teacher(professor) and student (attendee) to cyber space. Considering that it is even harder to interactively communicate through cyber space, this form is even more prone to become one-directional.
The problem is that the students who learned in this fashion are less likely to be able to lead innovation. Innovation requires discovery. Like Columbus searching for the new continent, innovators navigate through the world until they discover something truly worthwhile. During the journey, they will be faced with unknown and unexpected challenges. In this situation, the kind of knowledge they need is a glimpse of insight that brings light to the path; the insight that grows and evolves as the journey continues on. However, the current form of education only knows how to massively print information that looks like a crystal ball, something pretty on shelf. It cannot inspire the heart of people with passion; nor can it plant a seed of thought with reasoning.
If we think from the root, knowledge was never a static object but an account of changing experiences. For instance, old tales, such as bed time stories, are products of oral tradition passed down to us from generation to generation. Depending on the how the story is told, it may change character, setting, and even the central plot. This oral tradition is found not only in literature but also in other fields of studies including mathematics, technology, history and philosophy. Under the oral tradition, what we know of as eternal truth may only be a version of story told by an individual. Then, the mission of education is to cultivate good story tellers who can tell one’s own version of the story. What we need at this juncture is to restore the culture of oral tradition that provides us with the knowledge that organically grows with the learner.
To our great fortune, I believe some cultures are, either knowingly or unknowingly, already implementing this process. For example, in developer community, it is common to provide source codes on Github and run projects in open source fashion. This culture very much resembles the oral tradition in that it seeks collaboration by leaving room for modification. Like how each story teller can modify the story and tell his or her own version, software developer can interpret the code and modify a part, or the whole, of the source code. By doing so, the product of open source project is not a proprietary and static software. It generates a program that is adaptive and responsive to changing situation. Furthermore, it inspires future players to branch off of the original idea to create new projects.
Bitcoin is a great example of open source project that inspired people with the idea of cryptocurrency and blockchain. After Satoshi Namkamoto released the white paper and later its source code, Bitcoin took the journey by the help from many talented developers. Now, there are literally thousands of cryptocurrencies out there. In this way, the culture is spreading. The journey continues in a greater scale. No one knows how it will all resolve but that is not what matters. What really matters is that the blocks are being added; nodes are communicating. If you can view the whole phenomenon as an on-going tale, perhaps an epic poem of network, you may find more personal interest into the new chapter of the story.
At the current stage, however, the tales initiated by Bitcoin and the recent very foreign to the eyes of the public. The full context to the tale is not apparent to those who are not familiar with specific field of study including cryptography, computer science, or economics. In the meantime, the majority of people are left out of the story. However, I believe that there should be a way to spread the words to the greater audience. The nature of this new industry touch on humanity’s deepest problems. The issues may vary from money and value, privacy and self-sovereignty, and protocol and governance. These topics are general enough for people to form some kind of opinion. And if these discussions are conducted in the right way, it may generate insight that are helpful to people.
As an implementation measure, I would like to propose distributed sessions of bookclub based on protocol. The biggest advantage to book club is how people should read the material in advance to participate in discussion. Previously, most lectures are based on the assumption that students will not engage in with materials by themselves. For this reason, professors begin classes by reading notes or presenting slides for those who know nothing about the materials to be covered. A fruitful discussion, on the other hand, requires personal opinion based on valid reasoning. In order to form a valid opinion, one must study the topic. Reading books could serve as the reference point to form an opinion that is needed for a good discussion.
There are, perhaps, three reasons why bookclub could be become the mainstream methodology of studying. Above all, there is trust issue of those who are unprofessional. For instance, no matter how many blind people are gathered, unless they know what elephant is, it is unlikely that people will come to a conclusion that the animal in front of them is an elephant. Similarly, in a environment where it is not controlled by those who know, distributed discussion may result nothing more than a chaos like blind people stuttering through an elephant that they do not know of.
The second problem is that there is no definitive incentive for people to prolong the sessions. In the beginning, zealous students may organize a club out of third for knowledge. However, it is dubious whether zeal and good intentions alone can be enough force to lead the sessions to the end. In order to promote participants to continue leading the club, there should be definitive incentive based on set standard by which this incentives are provided. Like how previous system provided exams as the standard and license or admission as a definitive incentive, bookclubs should be able to provide their own reason to prolong in order to be sustainable.
The third problem is scalability. Considering the characteristics of discussion, the number of participant in a session is highly likely to be more limited than that of an average lecture. Assuming that all participants actually participate in a discussion, it is very likely that the number cannot exceed over fifteen people. In addition, since each session is highly dependent upon the dynamics bewteen the conductor and participants, it is difficult for some other person to expect to duplicate the same session even if they may be using the same material.
Despite all the difficulties mentioned above, I think we are ready to commit to something new; the commitment that prepares for a new emergence. I believe there are enough people who are passionate about learning and are willing to try something new. And I believe that distributed sessions of bookclub based on protocal can provide definitive incentive, and thus generate a sense of responsibility among people to commit to studying with due dilligence.
As for the problems aforementioned, the trust issue of unprofessionals stems from discrepancy of information between professionals and unprofessionals. However, in so far as a particular text is concerned, unprofessionals are able to converse with sufficient proficiency if and only if they read the text diligently. Moreover, the hurdle of experience and related information can be resolved if those who are more familiar with a particular subject become the conductor and adjudicate the session. In this manner, as long as we can assume that unprofessionals read the text, there could be a meaningful discussion during the session.
In addition, by providing definitive incentive through a protocol based on consensus, we can provide reason for people to attend. I think we could adopt incentive design mechanism of cryptocurrency for developing this model. That is to say, there can be proof of work based on participation, conducting, and providing product regarding each session. As for the incentive, we could give stronger voice (e.g right over protocol) to individual based on the quality of given proof of work. Also, there can be proof of stake where people are given right to allocate resources, and delegated proof of stake where people can recommend someone and be given incentive based on how great the recommendee performs one’s task. All in all, there are creative ways to fiddle with incentive design to let people participate more actively.
The last problem, namely, scalability issue, is rather a tricky one. The most viable option that I can think of at the moment is to utilize some of distributed session for lecture so that more people can attend for that particular session. Also, if it is possible to conduct each session in a flexible manner, it is not necessary for the same fifteen people to attend all sessions. However, this leaves a problem that sessions have to be designed well enough for people who did not attend the previous session can understand and follow the arguement. In other words, the conductor has to do more work.
The entirety of my proposal, however, is based on the assumption that there are people who are passionate about learning. In other words, the club is for those who are specified for those who are willing to try the new methodology of studying. It is yet dubious whether it can be applied to those who are not in that category. Still, as I said, it is worth a shot. If there may be anyone who is willing to try what I propose, please contact me via firstname.lastname@example.org. I will respond promptly.