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Demand Driven Education
What could the future of search and information distribution look like? Here are two very exciting possibilities.
When was the last time you asked family and friends a question like “Do you know when King xyz ruled over England?” and if you did, how often did you get the answer “Why don’t you just google it?” or “Wikipedia is your friend!” or they may have pointed you to the useful site www.lmgtfy.com.
Depending on your age you will remember quite well how a world without Google and broad Internet access looked like. Each family had at least one encyclopedia on the shelf and depending on personal interests of the individual family members a lot of specialised books on art, archeology, history or biology and so on and so forth. In school or during your studies you had to rely on your book shelf to answer your questions. If you did not have the right book at hand, you could either buy it or more often so you needed to go to the library. Looking back it feels like I was living in the middle ages but it’s only a decade ago.
The Internet, Google and Wikipedia have massively changed the way we get information. This information may be trivial or education related. Some people say this leads to dumbing down mankind or at least the Internet itself, it might even lead to digital dementia something I will write about in another post. But today let’s take a look at how people retrieve information and therefore knowledge on the Internet.
Apparently, more and more people have started typing in so called “long term keywords” which means instead of searching for “King George V” people search for specific answers like “When lived King George V”. This says a lot about the mindset of today’s Internet users as we expect to get the right answer from our search right away. I quite like the comparison with Star Trek where crew members ask the computer all the time and get their answers instantaneously.
With this in mind specialised start-ups like eHow, HowCast, About.com and others started creating videos and how-to articles to deliver answers to those questions frequently asked by Internet users. The monetization was then done by displaying advertisements along the texts or as overlay on the videos. It all ended up in an arms race and the sites created thousands of new sites everyday, most of those with low quality content which led Google to do an algorithm change in order to filter out such so called “content farms”.
Nevertheless, it stays a fact that people type in these questions and that they expect to get an answer. I recently did a little experiment on my blog. The article with the most views is one I wrote over two years ago, still it is in the top ten articles of my blog every single month. The title says it all “How to memorize vocabulary”. I then tried out whether it was possible to recreate this phenomenon with a new article. It has the title “How to learn French or other languages in 2011” where the “How to learn French” part is the one that aims at attracting traffic through search engines. Long story short, it worked again and even pretty well.
The problem is that basically no “serious” education 2.0 or established organization took notice of this trend or dismissed it as sensationalism. For this reason people now have to cope with content only created to attract views in order to generate revenue through advertisements. That in this case the main focus is more on the question how to attract users and not so much on answering user’s questions, is obvious.
I think here is a big chance for start-ups that are serious about delivering high quality answers to those questions. The goal needs how to be to attract people via search engines in the first place but then more importantly how to keep those users and make them come back directly to the site because they trust the content and find their answers there. To my mind, Wikipedia is a good example here as many people go directly to the site to look for an answer instead of searching for it via a search engine.
This is truly a fascinating discussion and those of you interested in digging deeper into the topic might be interested in two interviews I did recently with two companies affected by the latest change in the Google algorithm, Mahalo and TeachStreet. You will listen to Jason Calacanis, the founder and CEO of Mahalo and David Schapell, the founder and CEO of TeachStreet who face the same problem but have distinct opinions and therefore come up with different conclusions for their individual companies.
What could the future of search and information distribution look like? There are two examples that excite me at the moment.
Apture either works as a browser plugin or webmasters can embed a code on their website or blog to enhance their content with the Apture feature. What it allows the visitor is to mark any word or sentence on the website and then get further information on it. This information can come from the website itself, YouTube, Wikipedia or any other source on the Internet. This is of course a great tool when reading an article that references to an information you are not familiar with. You then simply mark this part and receive further information without leaving the actual site which is great for research and learning.
Qwiki’s goal is “to forever improve the way people experience information”. Coming back to my Star Trek analogy at the beginning of this post, Qwiki delivers information in a new and engaging way with pictures, videos and spoken text pretty much like the personal computer of the future many of us were dreaming of. Like Apture Qwiki gives its users the possibility to dig deeper into the information, learning more about other aspects around the question asked. If you asked for Leonardo Da Vinci, why not learn more about the Renaissance or Florence?
Join multiple Tony and Emmy Award-winning actress Judith Light live on Big Think at 2 pm ET on Monday.
From "if-by-whiskey" to the McNamara fallacy, being able to spot logical missteps is an invaluable skill.
- A fallacy is the use of invalid or faulty reasoning in an argument.
- There are two broad types of logical fallacies: formal and informal.
- A formal fallacy describes a flaw in the construction of a deductive argument, while an informal fallacy describes an error in reasoning.
Appeal to privacy<p>When someone behaves in a way that negatively affects (or could affect) others, but then gets upset when others criticize their behavior, they're likely engaging in the appeal to privacy — or "mind your own business" — fallacy. Examples:<br></p><ul><li>Someone who speeds excessively on the highway, considering his driving to be his own business.</li><li>Someone who doesn't see a reason to bathe or wear deodorant, but then boards a packed 10-hour flight.</li></ul><p>Language to watch out for: "You're not the boss of me." "Worry about yourself."</p>
Sunk cost fallacy<p>When someone argues for continuing a course of action despite evidence showing it's a mistake, it's often a sunk cost fallacy. The flawed logic here is something like: "We've already invested so much in this plan, we can't give up now." Examples:<br></p><ul><li>Someone who intentionally overeats at an all-you-can-eat buffet just to get their "money's worth"</li><li>A scientist who won't admit his theory is incorrect because it would be too painful or costly</li></ul><p>Language to watch out for: "We must stay the course." "I've already invested so much...." "We've always done it this way, so we'll keep doing it this way."</p>
If-by-whiskey<p>This fallacy is named after a speech given in 1952 by <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Noah_S._Sweat" target="_blank">Noah S. "Soggy" Sweat, Jr.</a>, a state representative for <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mississippi" target="_blank">Mississippi</a>, on the subject of whether the state should legalize alcohol. Sweat's argument on prohibition was (to paraphrase):<br></p><p><em>If, by whiskey, you mean the devil's brew that causes so many problems in society, then I'm against it. But if whiskey means the oil of conversation, the philosopher's wine, "</em><em>the stimulating drink that puts the spring in the old gentleman's step on a frosty, crispy morning;" then I am certainly for it.</em></p>
Slippery slope<p>This fallacy involves arguing against a position because you think choosing it would start a chain reaction of bad things, even though there's little evidence to support your claim. Example:<br></p><ul><li>"We can't allow abortion because then society will lose its general respect for life, and it'll become harder to punish people for committing violent acts like murder."</li><li>"We can't legalize gay marriage. If we do, what's next? Allowing people to marry cats and dogs?" (Some people actually made this <a href="https://www.daytondailynews.com/news/national/cats-marrying-dogs-and-five-other-things-same-sex-marriage-won-mean/dLV9jKqkJOWUFZrSBETWkK/" target="_blank">argument</a> before same-sex marriage was legalized in the U.S.)</li></ul><p>Of course, sometimes decisions <em>do </em>start a chain reaction, which could be bad. The slippery slope device only becomes a fallacy when there's no evidence to suggest that chain reaction would actually occur.</p><p>Language to watch out for: "If we do that, then what's next?"</p>
"There is no alternative"<p><span style="background-color: initial;">A modification of the </span><a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/False_dilemma" target="_blank" style="background-color: initial;">false dilemma</a><span style="background-color: initial;">, this fallacy (often abbreviated to TINA) argues for a specific position because there are no realistic alternatives. Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher used this exact line as a slogan to defend capitalism, and it's still used today to that same end: Sure, capitalism has its problems, but we've seen the horrors that occur when we try anything else, so there is no alternative.</span><br></p><p>Language to watch out for: "If I had a magic wand…" "What <em>else</em> are we going to do?!"</p>
Ad hoc arguments<p>An ad hoc argument isn't really a logical fallacy, but it is a fallacious rhetorical strategy that's common and often hard to spot. It occurs when someone's claim is threatened with counterevidence, so they come up with a rationale to dismiss the counterevidence, hoping to protect their original claim. Ad hoc claims aren't designed to be generalizable. Instead, they're typically invented in the moment. <a href="https://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Ad_hoc" target="_blank">RationalWiki</a> provides an example:<br></p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">Alice: "It is clearly said in the Bible that the Ark was 450 feet long, 75 feet wide and 45 feet high."</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">Bob: "A purely wooden vessel of that size could not be constructed; the largest real wooden vessels were Chinese treasure ships which required iron hoops to build their keels. Even the <em>Wyoming</em> which was built in 1909 and had iron braces had problems with her hull flexing and opening up and needed constant mechanical pumping to stop her hold flooding."</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">Alice: "It's possible that God intervened and allowed the Ark to float, and since we don't know what gopher wood is, it is possible that it is a much stronger form of wood than any that comes from a modern tree."</p>
Snow job<p><span style="background-color: initial;">This fallacy occurs when someone doesn't really have a strong argument, so they just throw a bunch of irrelevant facts, numbers, anecdotes and other information at the audience to confuse the issue, making it harder to refute the original claim. Example:</span><br></p><ul><li>A tobacco company spokesperson who is confronted about the health risks of smoking, but then proceeds to show graph after graph depicting many of the other ways people develop cancer, and how cancer metastasizes in the body, etc.</li></ul><p>Watch out for long-winded, data-heavy arguments that seem confusing by design.</p>
McNamara fallacy<p>Named after <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_McNamara" target="_blank">Robert McNamara</a>, the <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_Secretary_of_Defense" target="_blank">U.S. secretary of defense</a> from 1961 to 1968, this fallacy occurs when decisions are made based solely on <em>quantitative metrics or observations,</em> ignoring other factors. It stems from the Vietnam War, in which McNamara sought to develop a formula to measure progress in the war. He decided on bodycount. But this "objective" formula didn't account for other important factors, such as the possibility that the Vietnamese people would never surrender.<br></p><p>You could also imagine this fallacy playing out in a medical situation. Imagine a terminal cancer patient has a tumor, and a certain procedure helps to reduce the size of the tumor, but also causes a lot of pain. Ignoring quality of life would be an example of the McNamara fallacy.</p><p>Language to watch out for: "You can't measure that, so it's not important."</p>
A new study looks at what would happen to human language on a long journey to other star systems.
- A new study proposes that language could change dramatically on long space voyages.
- Spacefaring people might lose the ability to understand the people of Earth.
- This scenario is of particular concern for potential "generation ships".
Generation Ships<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="a1e6445c7168d293a6da3f9600f534a2"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/H2f0Wd3zNj0?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
Many of the most popular apps are about self-improvement.
Emotions are the newest hot commodity, and we can't get enough.