Notes politics

Chapter 19: Education (21 Lessons for the 21st Century)

What has worked in the past will not necessarily work in the future. Following the advice of people who were older than you worked better in the past because the world was more stable and predictable. But in a world where technology is rapidly and constantly reshaping economies, it is risky to follow advice that might easily be outdated rather than wise.

The need for the individual to reinvent themselves is becoming more necessary in the 21st century – and while people who are older will find it more tiresome to do so, they will be much more compelled to.

Today children are educated according to the Industrial Revolution model, they sit in square rooms with their same aged peers. These rooms consist of rows of desks and chairs and are part of a concrete building with many other identical rooms as they are lectured by adults on different subjects. These adults are paid by the government. This educational model may be outdated in this era, but we have not conceived of a new alternative that can be applied anywhere in the world.

The problem is that in a world greatly lacking in relevant advice, due to a highly unpredictable future, the easy option would be to rely on technology. But this is very risky. Technology is a very powerful tool, but it also can control you. During the agricultural revolution, a tiny elite was enriched while the majority worked all day under the scorching sun, enslaved by this technology. Similarly, technology today can enslave you and in ways that are more subtle than before.

It is easy to convince yourself that you are in control of the technology rather than the other way around. But if you think about how many hours per day you spend on a screen and how much you depend on your smartphone, you may realize that you have far less control than you think.

Should you then rely on yourself? This sounds like ideal advice, but does it work?

The truth is that we do not understand why we have the thoughts we do. They are intrusions that we take very seriously because we have been taught – by Disney films and Hollywood – to accept that these thoughts are who we are. But they are the products of ideological brainwashing, state propaganda, commercial advertising, or something gone awry biochemically.

Harari tells us that we have two options. The first is to do what philosophers and prophets have told us to do for thousands of years – it is to know thyself. But to do so, you must compete with very powerful corporations that are investing their resources into figuring out how to hack you. Once they figure out how you work better than you do, then the race is over – they will become the authority.

The second option is to happily cede authority to algorithms, relax, and enjoy the show. You are not forced to do anything about it.

But if you care about taking control over your life and will have to run faster than these companies can, and you must know yourself before they do.

To run fast, don’t take much luggage with you. Leave all your illusions behind. They are very heavy.

Read 21 Lessons For The 21st Century

"Silence is the best expression of scorn" - G.B. Shaw

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