Modern education as evidence of reckless governance

You know, I don’t think responsible adults concerned about future generations would have allowed the education system to have evolved as it has.

The modern human life is remarkably difficult to start. There are literally endless detailed design factors for cultivating habits, wisdom, knowledge, and skills, forming lasting relationships, securing mentors, establishing a reputation…

As a parent of 3 & 5yo kids, I’m in constant crash course mode for how to coordinate time, money, energy, and interest toward various pursuits to give my kids a platform on which to build their lives.

It’s only really been since Freyda was born that I’ve really thought carefully about human development from birth. But it only took me a few months to grasp and internalize the key ideas of Montessori, Papert, Summerhill, etc… And to then start coming up with BETTER ideas than those of 50-100-200 years ago. And that’s what’s expected. Synthesis, improvement, evolution of ideas…

And yet, every time I step foot in a public high school (like I did this evening, while mentoring an FRC team), I am taken aback by how literally nothing has changed since I was in high school 10 years ago.

The public education system is like a time capsule — a part of the world that’s frozen in time, separated from the rest of the world by an impassable barrier of busyness.

That’s the thing… everybody’s kept too busy to look up and notice. It’s like a ship at sea that has no navigation system and no heading, but all the sailors are still timed down to the second for each of their various duties: hustling and bustling, taking notes, highlighting words, and other such important things.

When I talk to the students themselves and ask why they do what they do, the average response is a hollow laugh and a shrug of the shoulders, “because I have to, I guess.”

Only a crazy world would think that’s sane.

And only system architects who don’t respect their children or fear the consequences of incompetent leaders would allow the world to get this crazy.

Ideas by Groups vs Individuals

There’s a class of ideas that I would describe as “systemically coherent”. I.e. Fully baked. These ideas reside within ecosystems of other ideas, composing a plausible comprehensive vision of a future state.Not easy to do this — you have to understand a lot of different domains: theory and operation, present position and velocity, historical trajectory (and you need to be able to read between the lines of history… which is always merely an interpretation through someone else’s mind’s eye). And there’s inevitably black swan type behaviors which looked like nothing pre-event but ultimately consumed the entire storyline. And everything follows some probabilistic model.

Some individuals have been able to grasp narrow slices of the future within the capacities of their minds. Nikola Tesla is an archetype — known for prototyping his inventions entirely in his mind, and only after many virtual simulations, building the final article which functioned just as he expected.

These individuals develop an extraordinarily accurate and coherent set of models for how things work. And I would guess they are all constrained via visual feedback systems. I.e. They visualize the thing they’re imagining, and inspect how it responds to various manipulations. The visual feedback is the only way to transfer the amount of information needed for this mind’s eye approach to work.

Narrowness must necessarily characterize the efforts of the individual idea-maker — time is a natural limiter to the task of cultivating each detail of the idea to its perfection.

Now groups…

Groups, of course, are composed of individuals, so multiple individuals working in parallel is a reasonable starting point for modeling groups.

There are, however, several interesting ways that humans interact that enhance that simple model:

1. People change how attention is directed. If somebody just comes and sits down in your office, doing nothing but sitting there — there’s still a change in your attention. Only by imposing a mental block on the knowledge of that person’s presence — either effortfully or automatically by way of habit — will that person’s effect on your attention be diminished. And if they’re not just sitting there but rather talking… about something interesting… or about you… that clearly increases the intensity of the effect on attention.

If we were to model attention as a vector field — like the magnetic field around a 2-pole bar magnet — the presence of another person is like another magnetic pole in that system. And the resultant vector field is dramatically warped — possibly even dominated by the new pole.

An ideal magnetic vector field can be achieved by adding or removing magnetic poles of different intensities… and you can imagine adding or removing people to optimize a human attention vector field. Different activities would require different attention vector fields, so the optimal configuration of people would be task-dependent.

E.g. If the task is to dig a ditch, it is critical to have a group. Without a group, the individual attention wanders to higher-order planes of thought. With a group, there is continuous feedback: “We are a group. We are all digging this ditch. I am part of the group. I dig my part of the ditch.”

Naturally, we would also need to consider the effects of sociopathies at the individual and group level… later.

2. The effect of people on individual attention can be designed toward many different ends. In the above ditch-digging example, a collection of minds might induce individual conformity and ease the boredom which would naturally plague an individual and diminish likelihood of task completion.

Another collection of minds might act as the sensors and actuators on a rocket, which keep it flying straight in the midst of turbulent airflow. I.e. Each individual relies on the capabilities of the other members of the group in order to focus on its own specialty. Another analogy: It is very difficult to climb up a flat wall — not so difficult to climb 2+ walls facing each other. 2+ minds facing each other can give birth to an idea none could have summoned individually.

3. The capabilities of the individuals in a group cannot be harvested without well-tuned interfaces between group members. The full package of communication includes the quality of mental models being externalized, the precision and concision of words and imagery used to represent those models, the emotional packages in which the words are ferried, the tonal modulation and gestures used to express those emotions, and the clarity of the audio/visual medium to express it all from transmitter to receiver.

4. Well-designed attention vector fields + interpersonal interfaces are then augmented or attenuated by environmental factors. E.g. Cluttered vs clean work spaces, High vs Low noise environments, etc. Individuals can more or less control their environments, but not so with groups, necessitating a careful design of rules. All systems of rules fail, but the better ones fail gracefully. I.e. There is no cascading fall-out from the failure — the system maintains a state of control.

5. The group is always changing, so the next design question addresses the dimension of time. How will the group change over time to ensure perpetuity of the work-in-process and the group’s defining vision and mission? There are many historical examples to initiate our model-building. Sculptures, monuments, and other public artworks have long been used as a medium for inducing remembrance. External memory stores preserve historical narratives. Naturally, those narratives get simplified and often deified over time, and that requires its own control system. However, the technique remains useful for perpetuating a vision through time. Oral re-telling or visual re-enactment of those stories presents a potentially more dynamic medium. The combination of static artifacts/monuments and dynamic re-tellings could serve to ensure ongoing critical re-evaluation of the vision and its historical legacy.

6. Humans bond. And those bonds perform work on the system. A mother protects her child at cost to herself (and possibly others). Families are incubators for the young. Communities work together to improve and sustain their joint living conditions. Under certain circumstances, strangers will form quick bonds and protect each other from harm — typically under high-stress, often in the pursuit of a high-emotion, shared goal. Even rivals will unite when necessary.

Plenty of biological explanations for the phenomenon, but there are more interesting questions… What is the capability signature of a bonded group and how is it distinct from an unbonded group? For now, we might just say a bonded group is *more* capable than an unbonded one. As a pop culture reference, the entire premise of the MCU blockbuster The Avengers was that an unbonded group could accomplish very little while a bonded group could do the seemingly impossible. And that bond was, in fact, orchestrated by the group’s architect, depicted making machiavellian use of the unfolding events.

Bootcamps and other physically-demanding environments are designed to produce, among other things, camaraderie. Abstracting from that example, we would surmise that human bonds form primarily by way of shared suffering.

Shared suffering in service to a shared cause is even better. Hence Race for the Cure® and other such inventions.

Interestingly, the positive affective feedback loop resulting from interpersonal bonding can lead to a misattribution of goodness to any event of shared suffering in service to a shared cause. Like warfare. War is hell, and yet many servicemembers miss it afterward. The bonds that form between warriors seem to transcend their hellish context.

On the civilian side of things, the premise of the reality show Survivor was televised, extended competition between teams. Shared cause was simple: beat the opposing team and win the prize. Corporate team-building exercises seek to reproduce the same effect on a limited scale.

The group designer must then consider, given particular constraints, how to induce bonding within the group.

More later…

I think there is a way to do edtech software properly — it just typically isn’t.

Not the best treatment of the subject, but it’s current:

Note: In this context, personalized education is technology-based — i.e. students run drills on 1-to-1 devices (usually laptops) via software like Khanacademy, et. al.

Quick nuance point: Not all edtech software is created equal. The models of the developmental stages of expertise employed by nearly all such software platforms are misguided. E.g. Successful completion of drill exercises is conflated with mastery of the intrinsic concepts. That is simply not the case. A metalworker can run a press brake operation without understanding much about the metal or the machine. Similarly, a student can “run” an equation like F = ma without understanding its history, its area of validity — or even what the symbols (F, m, and a) represent conceptually.

I think there is a way to do edtech software properly. The key is to embed indirect assessments of misconceptions. The Force Concept Inventory of 1987 is an early example. It is a distillation of the essential understandings of a first-year physics course into a set of 30 puzzles. How the student responds to each puzzle is a probe on their existing conceptual understanding.

The idea of the concept inventory did see a period of high-interest — work was done to initiate CIs for a number of other domain areas — e.g. Thermodynamics, Signal Processing, and Strength of Materials:… as well as the bio sciences, etc.

However, it is very common for good ideas to die on the vine before they are cultivated into technologies which can be propagated into the system.

My view of the future of US education and an incomplete, expeditious introduction to the work needed:

First and foremost, the propagation of a model of education as a means of increasing the freedom of the individual and his or her capability to bear freedom’s requisite responsibility, within a context of civil cooperation. I.e. Education is not fundamentally about college & career readiness.

Some follow-on assertions

Seeking symmetry in the employment market (i.e. Present Jobs match present Skills, while Skills-in-training match best models of future Jobs) is a worthy objective, achieved by understanding the nature of human capability, in the context of future (5-10-20 years) technology and daily living.

Public overseers (read: government) aiming to increase individual freedom and responsibility would necessarily rely primarily on the efforts of individuals and groups working on their own behalf, as well as that of their children and their communities. The key, then, is to shape that action such that it is effective and convergent toward an eclectic set of success models, contextualized to each locale.

The collective education context must be re-conceived entirely — beginning with models for how the individual best benefits from time in a group context vs time alone (as well as the success factors for those groups). Each community forms its own micro-society, which in turn requires its own contextually-defined design patterns. I think the leadership gap at the micro-society level may be one of the most critical areas for innovation.

Preventative behavioral correction by cultivating bonds of human connection and constructive limbic expression. I.e. Hugs and handiwork.

More later…

Designing a child’s aptitude through environment

In 2 wks, Freyda and Arthur will begin their first formal wrestling practice (for Pre-K thru Grade 1).

After very limited wrestling-specific training under my instruction on our basement wrestling mat (i.e. 4 or 5 practice sessions over the last 2 months), Freyda has already acquired the skills of an advanced beginner wrestler.

E.g. Her duck walk is nearly flawless. She automatically applies an effective pinning combination immediately after takedown. And she seems to be able to internalize new techniques very quickly — often within a single practice session.

The presence of these capabilities together so early in a training chronology appears to present an outlier aptitude. The question is where this aptitude originated… and how might aptitude be intentionally designed?

It is my assertion, in fact, that this aptitude really *was* designed — though indirectly. I.e. It is the natural outcome of several design decisions made and implemented over the course of multiple years.

The list, in summary:

1. Playful, safe roughhousing with dad since birth: Body awareness (particularly in grappling context) + Positive psychological association — “grappling is playing.”

2. Years of regular workouts with both mom and dad: Strength + Mental toughness + Pain tolerance + Well-myelinated brain-to-muscle neural pathways — i.e. Her body does as she wills

3. Emphasis on technical precision in all aspects of training to-date, including… Calisthenics & Stretching, Soccer & Ballet, Math & Reading, Communication of information & ideas, Household tasks, etc…: Habituated practice of attention to detail, with emphasis on particular essential focal points.

4. Years of experiencing the “natural consequences” of bad grappling decisions — e.g. over-extension is met with a throw or a drag: An internal network of experiences subconsciously affirms direct training instructions. The student is rarely in self-contention… the teacher is merely structuring the presently amorphous assertions already taking shape in the student’s mind.

5. Familiar and well-liked training environment, partner, and instructor — We purchased our wrestling mat 3yrs ago, roughly the same time Arthur was born (who serves as her training partner): She has no psychological reluctance to train — she is “at home”; training is as familiar as eating and sleeping.

A learner with the above has already internalized many of the principles, habits, and affections of a good wrestler — now they must simply be refined to the particular techniques of the wrestling discipline. A child without the above will be attempting to internalize — all at once — the techniques, principles, and affections. And will be understandably bewildered.

Under the right circumstances, that bewilderment can be overcome. However, it is a much harder road for both the learner and the coach and thus much less likely to result in success. Either learner or coach will likely determine the difficulty is not worth the reward. In contrast, in Freyda’s case, the reward comes so quickly and frequently that training borders on recreation. Not quite — there’s still sufficient rigor and presence of mind so as to ensure proper habituation, but the ground is rich with potential awaiting refinement into capability.

Now let’s look at a situation that is not so rosy — Math.

I’ve been a bit surprised by what appears to be relatively low aptitude for numbers and arithmetic in both Freyda and Arthur.

Until just recently (the last few months), Arthur would still hold up 2 fingers while saying “three”. And it’s not for a lack of practice. I would estimate we have been counting by ones for at least a year.

Freyda appears to still be on the edge of understanding of symbolic representation of quantities. She’ll regularly confuse numbers and quantities and is often initially at a loss when presented with single-digit arithmetic. Again, not for a lack of practice. Similarly, I would estimate her first arithmetic lessons were over a year ago.

My assessment and prediction for Math is 3-fold.

1. Keeping track of quantities over ~7 at integer-level precision is not an easy task for the ordinary human mind, which must be trained with particular algorithmic and visualization techniques. Savants are considered extraordinary because these techniques are seemingly unnecessary.
2. The Hindu-Arabic symbols 0-9 and Base-10 place value are simply significant conceptual hurdles. It’s just not obvious how to manipulate these seemingly-arbitrary and mysterious symbols. Until it is.
3. Once those conceptual hurdles are breached, a flood of mathematical capability and curiosity will be loosed.

Under normal schooling conditions, that curiosity would then be slowly extinguished by way of the forced march through the context-less assimilation of esoteric techniques and examinations. Naturally, we won’t do that.

Instead, just as we might do with wrestling or some other sport, we aim toward a horizon and work our way toward it. For wrestling, we watch footage of the incredibly skilled olympic greco-roman wrestlers or judoka. Frey doesn’t understand the rules, but just by watching, she can internalize a sense of what expertise really looks like.

With the horizon set, we can begin to deconstruct the physical and cognitive skills that compose expertise in that domain. Will Freyda be Olympic material in 2028/2032? Who knows. But if we’re going to practice anyway, doesn’t it make sense to practice toward the pinnacle of achievement?

Same with Math. The pinnacle of achievement in applied math is in accurately modeling natural phenomena (e.g. Calculating the precise timing of an eclipse from astronomical models), deriving new mathematical relationships from existing axioms and proving them to be true (i.e. proofs), defining new methodology and techniques for manipulating math models (e.g. Calculus).

As an engineer, my primary use for math is in its application to design real things. However, I’m not averse to “pure math”. And certainly not to invention of new mathematical “tooling”.

Now… all this is relatively simple and straight forward. The great difficulty I’m currently working through is large-scale application of the above conceptual schema.

That, however, is my own horizon. Sorting this out for my own kids has been the first step. My work via Augment is a parallel path which will converge into larger-scale implementation.

Big picture mission: Human Capability by Design.

Thus far, I have uncovered a few essential understandings for scale-up:

1. Long-term vision and commitment on the part of both learner and teacher is a requirement for excellence.

2. Better to develop no technique than the wrong technique. I often see wrestling coaches fail to correct loose and sloppy form in beginner wrestlers. It’s a crime. That loose, sloppy technique will become automatic, and those wrestlers will forever be limited by them unless they are re-trained.

3. It is harder to retrain than to train properly from the start. Malformed techniques and habits may be reasonably effective in certain contexts and they will continually be employed and reinforced. To retrain those techniques and habits is to force the body to stop doing something it wants to do. Much harder and requires much greater discipline than to train properly from the start.

4. Internalizing a particular set of techniques is actually almost trivially easy compared to the formation of habits of mind (e.g. “Finish what you start”, “For deep understanding, seek the fine distinctions between concepts”, “Don’t be careless with your words and actions — they will revisit you”, “Ask yourself: What is the method behind your approach? Why do you expect to succeed at what you aim to do?”). Cultivating well-formed habitual self-talk, such that it becomes automatic during daily living takes years of dedicated effort — and they must be cultivated properly from the start. Malformed habits of mind are often called “self-limiting beliefs”. And those self-limiting beliefs are often the primary obstacle between the student and the desired capability. Retraining self-limiting beliefs into properly formed habits of mind requires deep personal commitment on the part of the coach. It is the most strenuous and technically difficult of all retraining tasks — intensely strenuous on all parties. And thus, very unlikely to succeed.

5. The “village”, properly instantiated, is still the only way to raise a child. This is because one human does not possess sufficient expertise to accommodate the child’s entire set of learning needs. However, most villages are poorly instantiated, and expertise is neither cultivated or employed in the average child’s training path. The typical professional adult is not equipped with methodology and techniques to mentor and train the young — and the typical professional teacher is not equipped with domain expertise… or really the methodology for mentoring and training the young. I actually don’t think this is the most common state of man, historically or geographically. I think it was likely far more common for hunter/gatherers to render their skills to their children, because their children were expected to be contributors to the survival of the group from an early age. In the modern era, I expect there are fewer and fewer admirable instances of mentoring communities. However, there are bright flashes in time and place in which systems and processes properly activate the capabilities and attentions of the old to cultivate the young.

6. Technology will augment trained practitioners of capability growth methodology and techniques but humans will always be needed to train humans due to affective feedback loop. Mentorship is naturally hierarchical in that one person instructs another (though it need not be oppressive, and it is also not permanent). Until humans are no longer humans, they will not bend to mentorship by machine. They will only bend to mentorship by respected, trusted humans.

7. Shared adventure is one contextual component of the ideal training ground.

More later, probably…

Modeling the precursors to accomplishment

Accomplishment seems to be a natural result of internalization and coordination (sometimes conscious but mostly unconscious) of Effortful control + Creative release.

Effortful control is the holistic capacity to operate the human machine — all systems: physical, mental, emotional. It is to Know thyself & Heal thyself. It is both the knowledge and habituated action to maintain an internal state of control. And until the actions are largely habituated, the coordination is sloppy — and not in control.

Creative release tends to follow effortful control — it might even be considered its reward. Effortful control is consciously employed by high-performers to consistently “set the stage” for creative release. The best of the best are well-tuned to perform because they are buffered internally from the outside stimuli by way of their habituated effortful control mechanisms.

Creative release is observed from the outside as equivalent to the accomplishment itself. It is the culminating performance on the reality tv talent show. It can appear effortless, magical, astonishing.

On the inside, from the performer’s PoV, creative release is observable in each small breakthrough leading up to that culminating performance. It is the daily cleverness to overcome a select set of difficulties and the parallel consolidation of a “second nature” tool set of concepts and skills.

The outside and the inside briefly join together in that culminating performance. And we call that accomplishment. And it sets a new precedent in that category. Collectively, we shift the adjacent possible upwards and there is a new field of potential targets for our ongoing study and practice.

This cycle is observable in any domain area — though it’s not usually a public, worldwide performance as in the Olympics. Often it is far more parochial — inside a company or possibly an industry.

The cycle feeds affect back to both the performer and the audience, which elicits further action to achieve higher accomplishment: “The tribe is pleased, and I am honored.”

Thus, it is only natural that children would be trained to exercise effortful control, afforded opportunities for creative release, and ultimately to experience accomplishment.

Properly coordinated, we would expect any child who is reasonably well-tended to initially cultivate a broad set of skills, and experience junior-level accomplishments — entirely parochial, but nevertheless induces the necessary affective feedback.

Gradually, there would emerge a set of skills and activities which more readily lead to accomplishment, either due to better training from the adults tending the child or due to the child’s own aptitude. And voila — we have uncovered a body of skills which, if the child carries on as they have been, will likely be cultivatable to higher and higher accomplishment — possibly even on the world’s stage.

Currently, this intuitive model for cultivating human accomplishment seems to be an add-on to the institution of public education. Naturally, the more involved (and typically wealthier) parents will ensure their children are engaged in extracurriculars — which typically do conform to this model.

An Epiphany about raising a child as an Entrepreneur: 2 Premises & 10 Implications

The most accomplished Entrepreneurs & Inventors are disproportionately those who grew up operating primarily “outside the system”. Orphans, Low-performers in school, Social outcasts, Dropouts… This phenomenon reached some prominence via Gladwell in his book Outliers.

Note that this is a particular cross-section of “successful” people: Entrepreneurs and Inventors — people who broke new ground and moved their discipline (and possibly all of humanity) forward.

I always thought this “lost loner” conditioning pattern referenced by Gladwell primarily produced a mental toughness, making an individual less risk-averse and thus more willing to “jump ship” from the standard mold of career-building to a more uncertain, but promising approach. I.e. Fear wouldn’t hold them back from a logically smart but high-risk action.

I realized this morning that, while true, that’s probably not the most prominent factor at play.

Rather, the experience of being chronically “adrift” (meaning, nobody is writing your life’s script for you) actually trains a capability of finding, vetting, and securing “anchors” in a continuously new, uncharted domain. It’s a skill set. I.e. Being chronically “lost” as a child and young adult is a training ground for the skill to get “un-lost”.

And, of course, that’s the fundamental activity of entrepreneurship and invention. Getting un-lost. I.e. Continuous study and consolidation of knowledge and security about new territory — weighing a complex system of risks & rewards and acting appropriately in real-time.

It makes sense that those who spent their formative years on a personal mission to get un-lost (initially to avoid repeating traumatic experiences) would have foundational mental skills and behaviors to build on for larger-scale activities of that type.

2 Premises

1. Getting “un-lost” is a skill set like any other, beyond mere mental toughness — and an abandoned or otherwise outcast child naturally builds it out of necessity.

2. That skill set has the potential (often not realized) for continued growth beyond mere personal security. I.e. Entrepreneurship & Invention.

10 Implications

1. To employ this concept in an educational context (e.g. As a parent seeking the best future for their child) bears inherent risks. I.e. The child can’t learn to get un-lost without actually being lost in the first place — or at least to “feel” lost.

2. Being or feeling lost is traumatic and dangerous to the child — by definition, the child is responsible for their own safety, and they may not succeed. Allowing a child to experience trauma and danger appears to outsiders to be irresponsible and is met with cultural resistance.

3. The child will, however, eventually need to bear the responsibility of getting un-lost — repeatedly. They will inevitably face this trauma and danger. So the parent does not actually face a choice between safety and danger. It’s a question of danger now or danger later.

4. An inexperienced adult will face fewer dangers than an inexperienced child (bigger, less obviously vulnerable, etc.), so a case could be made for these experiences to occur later. However, the compounding effects of a fully-guided childhood leads to formation of other behavior patterns — many of which are destructive. One of the worst offenders is “wasting time” and “boredom”. Nobody is bored when they are lost and scared. Chronic safety tends to lead to a habit of time-wasting and boredom. And I’m not talking about day-dreaming or other “life of the mind” activities, which have inherent value — I’m talking primarily about continuous stimulation of the pleasure center. Many ways to do this now, but the most common for kids and young adults are gaming and social media — both are simulations of the real world which typically lack proper feedback channels to regulate behavior. Often by design. (Obviously, there are ways to use both of these technology groups beyond mere pleasure center stimulation, as I’m doing with the broadcast of this essay).

5. Sports and other non-school recreation are the primary way most modern people develop the mental skill of getting un-lost — if they develop it at all. Sports simulate the effects of being lost and getting un-lost, and they naturally support rich feedback channels. Though even most sports programs are poorly implemented, especially in the formative years of youth sports — coaches are often not competent in developing the elements of physical and cognitive expertise which enable players assemble their own scripts in real-time as is needed. Mediocre techniques and bad habits are tolerated — and then made permanent via continuous practice and reinforcement. And the response is either to accept poor performance and smooth it over with “you did your best” — which is bull shit — or to attempt to marionette the players into winning performance, which is obviously a mockery of the purpose of the sport.

6. We can design educational environments more effectively if we apply a coherent set of principles. Real innovation in human learning and development has largely been abandoned, I think, in favor of other technology domains with higher return on investment of effort. In education, you are rewarded for delivering high test scores (an imaginary metric of present capability and future success), despite a system of universally-recognized, built-in constraints and difficulties. Like the matadors who don’t get gored by the bull, educators with successful classrooms (particularly in regions of poverty) are applauded as incredibly skillful, heroic outliers.

7. Those of us who aim to sidestep much of the difficulties posed by schooling are mostly lost. There is a parochial and largely unimaginative homeschooling undercurrent, a red-headed stepchild charter school network (i.e. Mostly disliked by public school leaders, yet still beholden to many of the same rules as the rest of the “family”), and a promising, yet ultimately disappointing body of private schools, which serve primarily to ensure your child is surrounded by others of his or her social caste. Thus, being lost — we must get un-lost by assembling a body of scientific principles, methods, and techniques. And this will likely be done on an individual level — with scale-up very carefully designed so as to avoid the same pitfalls as the above-mentioned alternatives.

8. It is likely that incumbent systems of education will begin to respond when an alternative has reached sufficient prominence as to threaten the extinction of its forebear. Just as automakers are now rapidly bringing EVs online… as CA considers outlawing the internal combustion engine. Now that technology has finally “ratcheted forward” on automobiles, the incumbents in that domain area are responding — which, of course, was Elon Musk’s aim from Tesla’s beginning. My hope, just as Elon’s was and still is, is that the incumbents will respond to a well-conceived, threatening alternative by copying it and competing with it directly.

9. For-profit education is not impossible, but it must be carefully guided by other motives which genuinely supersede the profit motive. Succession from one system of governance to the next is a key risk factor.

10. It’s unknown how human development strategies will integrate artificial intelligence technologies. It may serve as the enabling force to up-end of the incumbent system of education. More likely, it will redefine education for humanity. Particularly, if we succeed in joining our biological hardware with the artificial via Brain-Machine Interface. This is still sufficiently distant (barring a near-term singularity event) that it may not be too useful to plan for at the moment.

48 Daily practices and efforts for children and adults

1. Look after your immediate and near-term personal needs and those of your family.
2. Extrapolate the likely near-term future and prepare.
3. Go walkabout within your locale — at different times of day.
4. Clean up your living conditions.
5. Improve your living conditions.
6. Exceed your physical conditioning — strength, power, or volume.
7. Eat food that makes you feel physically strong and mentally sharp.
8. Externalize and Test your knowledge.
9. Ensure you understand what you are saying — and do not agree with what someone else has said unless you understand its explicit meaning and have a reasonably good sense about its implicit meaning.
10. Simplify a complex thing to its principles and develop analogies for explaining those principles to others.
11. Ratchet forward a skill set.
12. Make art — and carefully study your artful forebears & contemporaries.
13. Memorialize something worth remembering.
14. Talk about important things with a close friend.
15. Tell stories and jokes with captivating presentation.
16. Be affectionate with your inner circle.
17. Invest in a friendship you intend to keep.
18. Read for knowledge.
19. Study the human timeline.
20. Study something of no present interest and connect it to what you are interested in.
21. Consider the blind spots of your perspective.
22. Take a calculated risk to test your capabilities.
23. Do your future self a favor.
24. Build and protect a suite of revenue-generating assets (aka wealth).
25. Study a system of people, technologies, natural phenomena, and working principles — and its history.
26. Observe other people’s needs — consider multiple solution models, test hypotheses, and cultivate a superior design for economical & reliable implementation.
27. See an important thing done.
28. Study a behavioral tendency and consider its causal factors — i.e. why do you do what you do?
29. Condition your internal & external environment for continuous improvement.
30. Cultivate a physical appearance and self-presentation.
31. Improve your cognitive and physical tool sets.
32. Present a gift to a person of power and/or wisdom.
33. Be alone with your thoughts and internally examine your ideas.
34. Cultivate a public curriculum vitae.
35. Imagine the world without you.
36. Identify the prominent features of the power structures around you and safeguard your position from abuse.
37. Study your subconscious biases and safeguard against their otherwise undetectable abuses.
38. Establish refuges of the body & mind.
39. Consider your dangers.
40. Consider gruesome realities — and be grateful you’re not facing them.
41. Harden yourself to fears.
42. Reduce anxieties to those which merit immediate attention and can be addressed with systematic effort.
43. Build a reputation of leadership within multiple areas of competence.
44. Seek pleasures which inform your perspective and increase interpersonal connection — avoid those leading to isolation and ignorance.
45. Train assistants and an heir apparent.
46. Seek treasures prepared by forebears for worthy heirs.
47. Assemble a comprehensive list of items of importance to humanity — then narrow down to short list of personal concerns — then address those concerns systematically.
48. Design a system of habits, relationships, capabilities, and refuges by which you can sustain happy, productive living interminably (with expected low points due to personal tragedy).

How to build expertise

TL;DR — Expertise is relatively straight forward to develop (more detail below on the necessary conditions). The bigger question is who should develop what expertise, so as to ensure its longevity.

— More Detail on the above —

Application of expertise is the most reliable means by which any individual contributes substantively to the economy of exchanges by which we all meet our needs. Luck (“right place, right time”) is a significant part of the system — but by definition, it is the exception, not the rule.

The cultivation of expertise has been studied for millennia, and is actually pretty well understood. Building expertise is really not that complicated or difficult to do, even at a mass scale, given certain conditions are true. Notice the caveat.

Conditions needed to cultivate expertise (relatively easily):
1. Establish early a child’s capacity to apply extended, disciplined effort in a self-improvement task. If this is not developed during a child’s relatively slow-paced early years, it becomes progressively more difficult to build due to the time-pressure of mounting responsibilities. Then extended, disciplined effort (particularly if joined with critical feedback on the subpar elements of the resultant work) may lead to the learner’s retreat “back to safety”. It is possible to get past the learner’s retreat, but only by applying far more substantial effort — and even then, probability of success is much lower due to the greater proportion of extraneous factors associated with life at later stages…
2. Learner is assisted early in their practice of skills to avoid forming self-limiting habit patterns. Aside: as a wrestling coach, I saw this rule repeatedly ignored via sloppy drills with little to no feedback to the learner. As the saying goes, “practice makes permanent”.
3. Learner has access to the conceptual schema of the domain (i.e. What are the essential understandings, how are they related, and how are they applied?) — better yet, they are equipped with the skill of assembling a conceptual schema from the available knowledge sources.
4. Learner is equipped with a means of self-assessment — i.e. a way of comparing their own performance to a model or exemplar. Preferably, performance feedback and assessment is immediate.
5. Learner has a context for useful application of their skill, at their current developmental stage of expertise, progressively increasing, if they are improving (as indicated by self-assessment).
6. Learner has an eclectic array of exemplars which serve as rich models for comparison against their own performance, and which normalize the seeking of higher levels of accomplishment.

All that said, I actually consider the far bigger problem to be which expertise to build. It takes a lot of time to build robust expertise — years — and the return on the learning investment follows that same track. Thus, both the individual and society benefits most from the continuous cultivation of expertise over time. From youth, then, humans should be equipped with the tools by which they might insightfully assess various expertise pathways, as they suit individual predilections, environmental benefactors/malefactors, etc.

11 ways to get on in life

1. Make things (technician, tradesman, laborer, artist)
2. Make better things (designer, engineer, inventor)
3. Make better things easier/faster/cheaper (manager, trainer, toolmaker, logistics)
4. Make things better for people (service, social benefit work)
5. Make better people (teacher, mentor, adviser, coach)
6. Make people better (nurse, doctor, surgeon)
7. Make people feel things (storyteller, entertainer)
8. Make people buy your things (sales, marketing)
9. Make & enforce rules about things (lawyer, judge, police, legislator)
10. Make knowledge (scientist, scholar, analyst)
11. Make organizations of people and things (governing authority, business owner)

Under what circumstances should practitioners’ training include experience of the outcome of their practice?

Under what circumstances is it more or less important for a practitioner’s training to include a simulation of the outcomes of their practice?
E.g.1. A Surgeon to undergo invasive surgery and the following recovery. An Insurance Adjuster, the disability claims process.
E.g.2. A Lawyer, Judge, or Jury member to undergo the proceedings of the justice system (including imprisonment).
E.g.3. A Bank Manager is presented with the same line of products as his lay customers.
E.g.4. The Senator enrolls her kids in the public elementary school that churns out 6th graders who can’t read.

My question is not whether it’s practical to simulate all the possible outcomes of a person’s practice. After all, the legal liabilities associated with imprisoning all members of the justice system may run on an infinite loop.

Rather, the question is “When is it essential for a practitioner’s training to include personal experience of the outcome of their practice?”

Even where the practitioner is already a frequent consumer of their own work and that of their peers — e.g. the auto mechanic who owns a car — they may form an idiosyncratic “double standard” where the work is judged subjectively vs objectively.

My tentative hypothesis is that a particularly well-conceived use of virtual reality and educational games would provide a simulation environment for practitioners much like the Link Trainer was used to train pilots to fly by instruments without the risk of them dying by crash on their first practice run. And any training program that does not support the practitioner’s internalization of empathy with their patron by way of simulated personal experience is substantively incomplete.