The dogmas of the quiet past, are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise — with the occasion. —Abraham Lincoln, December 1, 1862
As more open courses are uploaded to itunes and youtube, people around the globe find they can play and pause the lectures without the fear of affecting the professors. Many others also point out another advantage of on-line video–you don’t have to pay an exorbitant tuition to those ivy schools. It seems the advent of internet has made excellent teachers a less scarce resource as printing press did to the reading materials.
When printing made the accumulation and transmission of knowledge no longer a priority of academia, scholars began to engage themselves in the “age of discovery” by experiment and observation. So as the internet is increasingly ubiquitous, the academic world certainly will be evolved into another storm of knowledge production.
In 2008, Google made its flu trend prediction onto the page of Nature. The searching engine found a close relationship between users’ queries for flu-related topics and the population showing flu symptoms. By aggregating data, google gave out an accurate flu alarm to public much earlier than the official monitoring institutions.
It is not a victory of information technology over the science of medicine, but it certainly illustrate a point: as more and more people move their lives into the cyperspace, by researching this intermedium between public and individual, some significant facts about our existence off-line can be retrieved in the terms of data.
Many educators celebrate the near future ushered in by the technologies— most the impediments to high-quality education will be eradicated by low-cost virtual classrooms with interacting features. But they neglect it’s also possible in the future (not so near) the knowledge itself can be of less worth as the price of labor in poor countries is right now. Fewer countries will rid itself of poverty by higher level of education, since they had no control on the traffic data produced on the internet. By investing huge money on the internet, the rich countries can gain some sort of monopoly on information about the current and future. The speculation on future market will be less a risky business, since the large feeds of data had made the predictions incredibly precise in a not so short run. The poor countries will still the locus of factories, hopefully many centers of research and development will also move to some of them, but few of them can gain control of their destiny. Being wired to the world doesn’t necessarily mean the world is equally open to every country, for the lines of connection are in some sense privately owned.
Indeed, this is a rather bleak picture about future, but some of you may have seen few omens in the financial crash since 2008.