Saturday, November 04, 2006

With a friend --- first byte: post #256

I had a conversation with a friend, and among other things we commented on the state of education, mankind's level of achievement these days, and so on. I heard the following characterization, which I think is very good.

That is the distinction between "education" and "training".

Hold the thought and consider it. Train, perform repetitions... if you are to do the same thing many many times, then you might as well train for it so your defect rate is low... and then why not just build a tool to do the repetitions for you --- oh right, then we could have a code generator so it writes the program automatically for us, etc.

And you know where that goes. No thought, zero creativity, and very expensive cost of change.

Trained people put things in, because that is what they are trained to do.

Then you have to consider this. It is well known that as new parts of our brain develop, they will die off or not activate later on if they are not stimulated at the right time. In other words: do a lot of multiple choice tests while your brain is still developing, and guess what will you train yourself to do. Even worse: what you are causing yourself not to be?

So, go with an unchallenging education, and no wonder: now you have many many people having to live their lives with what in a different kind of society might be considered to be something close to irreversible brain handicap. No matter how you slice it, the point is that you just have to miss the train once, and then it's gone forever.

What is worst is that if you miss it, how would you know the difference? Your particular experience of the world will be fixed and handicapped forever. Any sort of more sophisticated perception would be something you would not even be able to think about, because you would have no direct experience of it. In other words,
  1. these more educated ways to perceive the world would not exist, as judged by whoever makes such decisions,
  2. the people that claim there are such things, and that it is possible to achieve them with proper stimulation, would be out of touch with reality, and
  3. the very few exceptional people that go through the training process, survive, and still have this ability to perform their incomprehensible "magic", are called geniuses* --- who happen to exist just by mere chance, without the slightest attribution to the nurturing environment in which they develop.
It makes me sad to realize that there is all this potential gone into the trash, all these unnecessarily handicapped lives for no good reason, just because we do not care for life enough. Besides, there is always an excuse to justify what should be seen as almost criminal. And criminal it might as well be. For example, if your kid is given a medicine and becomes cronically ill, or if a drunk driver causes life lasting paralysis because of the unspeakable negligence, wouldn't you sue the hell out of the perpetrator? Then why exactly is brain underdevelopment ok?

Alas... for when it would be convenient for us to believe whatever is wrong is actually normal and acceptable, we humans have these special gla$$ bead$ towards which we are trained to turn our heads, wag our tails and look the other way. That scene from The Wall, in which kids in school benches fall from the conveyor belt into the meat grinder, gains new meaning.

We just suck.

* Please read Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley.


Sean said...

Very insiteful. Thanks

Andres said...


Thanks for your comments. Going to your link, I found you have a Smalltalk blog. Another one for!

Good stuff,

Andres said...


I found two more Smalltalk blogs from yours. I asked Coen to add them all to Welcome to Planet Smalltalk!