In the last few weeks, I experienced 2 parallel phenomena that got me thinking of this article's topic and pushed me to put down few words.
The Chinese Dream.
On November 22nd, I landed in the beautiful, culturally diverse and at times f*&ked up country of China. After my last 3-week hacker trip to China, organized by Mitch Altman in October, I got an invitation to return back to Tsinghua University and work with some amazing people who are writing the next chapter of the Chinese Education System.
The story goes that along with a new leadership, China also launched a series of new development initiatives that few years ago could be considered a taboo. People are aware that this country can not be world's cheapest manufacturing facility forever (wages go up, technology is replacing millions of low-skilled workers, people demand better life standards) so they are committed to support the next generations with a set of new learning frameworks that few countries could dream of.
While others debate on what's wrong with the education system, this country is throwing massive resources and political support at developing a new education system around the "maker / hacker culture" or what USA would call STEAM Education (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Math). Along with the national support for the maker-centered curriculum they are restructuring and building massive hands-on technology facilities and project based learning spaces, all around the country.
More importantly, they use the concept of "Holistic Human Development", shifting from how do we develop the best factory workers, to how do we facilitate the rise of a new generation that is able to think creatively, better navigate through life and solve problems on its own.
That’s exciting and, I hope, will awaken a nation of 1.4 Billion people to create amazing stuff in the near future. More free thinkers, more entrepreneurs and more China’s original brands of high-quality products and services (more awesomeness as wechat).
Personal note #1: Many things still suck and there are many opportunists who want to benefit from Government's massive investment in this new education strategy, but they move fast and improve a lot in the process. I suspect, it is not long before China gets rid of Internet blockage and, in few decades will reform its political system.
I am finishing a wonderful read by John Markoff where he documents the rise and fall, then another rise of AI (artificial intelligence) starting from the 1950s to present days. One thing that stood out, for a good part of this book, is the need to redefine our time and career choices as technology and automation are touching on most of what we experience today.
It used to be that the majority of our "not-asleep” life, we spent working. This helped us pay the bills, gave a sense of meaning and defined our social status. As technology gets cheaper and better at many previously human-executed tasks, we are left with a huge pile of time to repurpose and new ways we can reinforce our role in various human "tribes".
It’s a very exciting time, full of new discoveries and opportunities, but it’s also a tricky stage for human development, especially for young people. We are in our prime time, full of energy and in need of having an environment where we can fulfill / prove our well-deserved role as adults. If young people don't get it (job, fulfillment, social status) many turn to abusive shit or join various gangs. Educated young people from UK or Belgium who decide to make an adventurous trip to the Middle East, is just one example.
Personal note #2: My first story, surprisingly from China, shows a proactive approach to the second story. My hope is, as we get more time and let technology do the complex stuff, humans will invest the newly acquired resource into self-develop, science and ways we can be excellent to each other and planet Earth.
You may say I'm a dreamer, but I am not the only one.