Big Dreams and Audacious Goals Attract Amazing People
In his Big Think Edge interview, Salman Khan discusses the imaginative steps that led him to creating one the world's finest online education platforms
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As a fellow graduate of Harvard Business School, I know Salman Khan is well-versed in turning good ideas into potential business opportunities. When it came to Khan Academy, however, the online education platform offering free lessons in everything from algebra to art history, Khan dreamt bigger.
We know that as a result of a psychological phenomenon called the Einstellung effect, executing a familiar solution blinds us to other, more creative possibilities. But new problems present new opportunities.
Thanks to his training in software development, Khan didn't need to rely on outside talent to begin building prototypes of Khan Academy. And once a basic scaffolding of his vision was created, he credits his longstanding devotion to science fiction as much as his business acumen for allowing him to imagine the possibilities of what Khan Academy might become. He explains in his Edge interview:
"Instead of it just being a one-off collection of videos or a one-off software app that I tried to do as a venture-backed business, maybe [Khan Academy] could be the next Stanford, the next Harvard, this new type of institution that people haven't visualized quite yet, but it could help empower millions or billions of students for the next 500 years.
And as soon as you start thinking on those scales, you go after a bigger problem and you phrase things differently and, frankly, you inspire more people. More amazing people are going to want to be part of that audacious goal."
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The 21st century is experiencing an Asianization of politics, business, and culture.
- Our theories about the world, even about history or the geopolitics of the present, tend to be shaped by Anglo perspectives of the Western industrial democracies, particularly those in the United States and the United Kingdom.
- The West, however, is not united. Canada, for instance, acts in many ways that are not in line with American or British policies, particularly in regard to populism. Even if it were united, though, it would not represent most of the world's population.
- European ideas, such as parliamentary democracy and civil service, spread across the world in the 19th century. In the 20th century, American values such as entrepreneurialism went global. In the 21st century, however, what we're seeing now is an Asianization — an Asian confidence that they can determine their own political systems, their own models, and adapt to their own circumstances.
They didn't know it, but the rituals of Iron Age Scandinavians turned their iron into steel.
- Iron Age Scandinavians only had access to poor quality iron, which put them at a tactical disadvantage against their neighbors.
- To strengthen their swords, smiths used the bones of their dead ancestors and animals, hoping to transfer the spirit into their blades.
- They couldn't have known that in so doing, they actually were forging a rudimentary form of steel.
Can sensitive coral reefs survive another human generation?
- Coral reefs may not be able to survive another human decade because of the environmental stress we have placed on them, says author David Wallace-Wells. He posits that without meaningful changes to policies, the trend of them dying out, even in light of recent advances, will continue.
- The World Wildlife Fund says that 60 percent of all vertebrate mammals have died since just 1970. On top of this, recent studies suggest that insect populations may have fallen by as much as 75 percent over the last few decades.
- If it were not for our oceans, the planet would probably be already several degrees warmer than it is today due to the emissions we've expelled into the atmosphere.
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