Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies
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The End of Education

Ben Goertzel

Cosmist Manifesto

June 26, 2010

As civilization has advanced, education has become increasingly important—and increasingly pervasive. This trend will continue until “education” as a separate categories dies, replaced for those who choose to grow by learning that thoroughly pervades life.


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Posted by angieclinton  on  06/27  at  01:58 AM

I love online education. It saves me time to study new things in time. But there are really too many online education programs on internet and it is hard to tell which is good and which is not. You need experience. I am using this website and want to select some programs. Still underconsideration. Any suggestion?

Posted by Educamation  on  06/27  at  11:09 AM

The education that matters will transition from the school to the workplace. The best, most sought-after schools will serve the needs of the industry most directly and efficiently, but the real learning that responds to the requirements of the marketplace will happen increasingly only on the job.

You don’t need the general information anymore that schools mostly provide, but specific tools for the mind to get a particular job done.

Granted, first you have to be a bit of a generalist before you can become a specialist, but the time spent on learning general vs specialized skills will be overwhelmingly on the latter since all non-specialized tasks and jobs will get automated away.

Posted by Valkyrie Ice  on  06/27  at  06:23 PM

As current “schools” do not emphasize education so much as blind obedience to authority, their end is no great loss.

Self directed learning through a dedicated “tutor” program capable of evaluating and modifying educational programs to suit individual learning behavior are definitely the way to go, allowing people to learn in their own personal “best mode” on any subject which they become interested in.

Posted by Samuel H. Kenyon  on  06/27  at  06:59 PM

The main (perhaps only) advantage left of formal education is external structure.  It’s very difficult to do a project (whether you are learning or not, but preferably you learn with all projects) without a structure external to your mind.  For instance, without a professor (or team leader) setting due dates and inquiring on status, things can drag on for a long time.  The project may never finish, or may go off course.  Certainly learning projects can go off and course and not be finished (I’ve done hundreds of those 😊)  but without finishing some things morale will go down.

Also, taking forever to do something means you learn much less than you could in the same time period.  That’s one of the reasons competitions work well in place of old-fashioned education, because they provide the structure of rules and a deadline, but everything is ridiculously accelerated and most of what you learn is applied.

Posted by postfuturist  on  06/28  at  02:39 AM

Life extension can be taught in HS; so can intro to immortalism; and if it is felt balance is needed, religious studies (as distinct from theology) can also be offered in HS.

Posted by Richard Eskow  on  06/28  at  02:26 PM

Ben, the online education and “death of education” movement(s) has a long and distinguished intellectual history.  Practitioners include Paul Goodman, the sociologist/writer who wrote “Growing Up Absurd,” Jonathan Kozol, and especially educational theorist John Holt. 

Holt was an educator who tried to reform the educational system before concluding it was flawed and fundamentally inhumane by design.  Since there was no Internet at the time, he became an advocate for home schooling - a position I believe he eventually repudiated when he saw the direction it took.

There are several elements to this movement:  Re childhood, it includes the belief that institutional education is fundamentally ineffective and dehumanizing.  Then there’s the belief that it serves to enforce economic structures designed to reduce freedom of choice and prepare people for pre-defined roles in a social hierarchy that’s meant to benefit the powerful.  Third, there’s the idea that it fails to maximize human potential.

That’s an oversimplification, of course, but that’s the gist.  Does this intersect with the stated goals of many people here?  Absolutely.  Thanks for raising the issue.

PS:  Congratulations to commenter “Educamation” for what appears to be a Dr. John reference.  The word appears in his song “I’m Qualified,” whose premise might appear to John Holt—you don’t need a degree to be qualified for some things.

Posted by William Carlton  on  06/28  at  09:40 PM

My dad is a college administrator, and he hit virtually every point from this essay during the course of a car ride this afternoon: the Ivy League online, teachers as facilitators, the imperative to adapt to new technologies, resistance from defenders of the status quo, inertia. He was just talking about his job. Says we’ll see implementation of pretty radical changes, institutionally, within the decade. Says it’s better to be “on the side of the angels”. Let information be unbounded.

Posted by TL Winslow  on  07/01  at  12:14 PM

Education is being hindered by the heavily featherbedded unionized teachers, and the rest is b.s. We need a national Apollo Project to give every student in the U.S. a free broadband Internet terminal along with a remote teacher system to allow them to study complete curricula online, then go to a reduced number of schools only for testing, social and athletic activities, maybe once or twice a week. This will allow 80% of the teachers to be laid off, and the funds freed for the new Internet-based education era.

Posted by postfuturist  on  07/02  at  12:13 AM

Excellent comment. But a compromise will almost certainly have to be made with Creationists. Say to them: if you’ll agree to keep Creationism out of all curriculum, we’ll allow comparative religious studies in every school. Quid pro quo on everything.

Posted by postfutrist  on  07/02  at  08:00 PM

...there’s no reason 21st century curricula can’t be combined with non-theological-school Religious Studies to buy off religionists (they always get their pounds of flesh); it wouldn’t technically violate church-state separation. IMO it isn’t so much teachers’ unions, the problem is more that—outside of science classes—the curriculas are oriented towards the mid-20th century or earlier. All the good teachers wont change anything if the subject matter is archaic.

Posted by south university richmond  on  08/09  at  08:32 PM

I appreciate the moral of the story.  Informal learning can be the key to the future while formal learning is still helpful but can significantly decrease the relevance the future unfolds.

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