Okay I’m up and on the way to work, a little late. I got online after finishing my word vomit, and predictably started procrastinating on reddit and tumblr before I even posted it- and I didn’t actually publish it in the end. Silly. I underestimated how awake I would be. I knew I had to be sleep deprived even though I felt clear-headed at the start. It was one of those calm-before-the-storm moment. The wife woke up at about 845ish- I thought I’d have more alonr time. Ended up napping a little more, and now I’m going to work latee then I’d like.
There’s a time management lesson to be learned there. I systematically overestimate the amount of time and autonomy I have in a given glut of time.
We read a bunch of Paul Graham essays together last night (so romantic, right?) and I found myself revisiting a few ideas. While I do these vomits to clear my mind, I’m still on my phone, writing in sentences. I’d like to set aside quiet time once or twice a week- an hour of quiet silence with no stimuli, maybe just pen and paper.
I didn’t exercise yesterday, I think- was feeling tired- and I felt like not-exercising today too, but forcefully decided against it. Score. Little victories. I need to keep my graphs going strong and vertical. I practiced the guitar a little last night. It wasn’t the most structured practice, but I will learn and grow quickly if I practice regularly.
Thought I’d revisit education and identity-creation. Here’s the first hypothesis: anything activity that is compelling or addictive has some element of identity-creation or identity-exploration about it. I thought about this when watching a play a few weeks ago. The disparity between the quality of performances of the thespians were staggering. They were all students, but some were powerful and convincing- suspension of disbelief was near complete- while others seemed to be going through the motions, speaking the lines but not feeling them, mistaking volume for intensity (a mistake me and my bandmates made regularly as young musicians). I felt like some of them were really exploring the identities of their characters with fullness, while others were just outlines. In the User Illusion, Tor Norretranders argues persuasively that the reason a theater fanatic goes to watch plays (despite having memorized all the lines) is to witness the state embodied and transmitted by the actors. It’s the same reason we watch live music- slam poetry, jazz- to lose ourselves in the information that’s not in the words and scores. To read between the lines, to be overwhelmed in rapture.
This rarely ever happens in schools, and when it does it’s almost always serendipitious rather than by design. Because school (conventionally) is not meant to help you create your own identity or to explore others’. School is optimized for assessment, daycare and obedience training.
It’s completely rational for kids to hate school and love anime or tumblr or world of warcraft, or even cigarettes and drugs. The less room there is to explore, create and define identity in school, the more students will be drawn to whatever little freedom they have outside of it. Shakespeare, Plato, Socrates, Steve Jobs, Einstein… Everybody was doing whet they thought was fun. They were following their own curiosity.
It’s funny how obsolete school is becoming. When you put everyone through the same grinder, you make everybody largely interchangeable. This is good for the functioning of a static system but bad for the individual- you have crap negotiating power, because you are easily replaceable. Now you’re easily replaceable by cheap labour from elsewhere, and it’s such a great opportunity for them that they’re going to be much hungrier and fight much harder… and they’re going to win. They’re going to win the race to the bottom. This static system had its benefits- the cost to the individual’s autonomy was offset by the benefits to the entire system. This provided for housing, healthcare, etc.
The system is no longer static. We need people with identities. But we don’t optimize for that. We optimize for safety-seeking automatons. Paul Graham pointed out that the employer is really a proxy for the market. But employers aren’t really as great as they’re made out to be. Many employers are quickly becoming obsolete. Why not bypass the employer and go straight to the market? Why not develop skills and perspectives that make you stand out rather than fit in? You might laugh at the girls wiring dinosaur erotica but they’re making good money from it and they can do whatever the hell they like with it.
Faith in institutions has always disturbed me. I went to the opposite extreme and became a procrastinating hedonist. (I did write, though, and I did play in a band that interacted directly with fans, so the idea of making a living by selling things directly to people who want them was always on my radar.
I know I’m repeating myself a lot but it’s ridiculous how some people are struggling to find jobs and some jobs are struggling to find people.
Feeling a little tired of this topic. Feeling a little guilty for doing my regular school-is-obsolete rant without really exploring any new ground. I’m really not very interested in re-optimizing schools. I think that’s like optimizing Kodak cameras or Nokia phones (pre smartphone). I firmly believe that the future of education lies outside the traditional education system- education will be disrupted. I would put my money where my mouth is. If I had a kid, I would send her to school but I would have zero interest in her grades. Instead I’d encourage her to build stuff and put it in the international marketplace. To explore her curiosity. To write or dance or draw or anything her heart desired. I mean it. She will develop a good command of language because I will talk to her, read to her, read with her, ask her questions. This is all easier said than done of course- and I don’t have a child. And we’re not really planning to have any, as far as I can tell. But that’s how I believe things are going to turn out. I got headhunted because of my blog and I was doing that for fun, and now I have the best job I can think of- and my schooling had nothing to do with it.
Maybe this isn’t for everyone. But that’s what they said about public schools, too. Literacy for the peasant children? Insane!
(yeah, I did 3 word vomits before I got to work today. Pretty sweet.)