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August 17th, 2019
This episode is dedicated to London, who claims to have reached ‘peak education’.
There are a few general areas in which we can strive to be better. We can seek to be in better physical condition through exercise and nutrition. We can seek to be wealthier by making more money. And then we can also – presumably – learn, acquire knowledge and understand.
The first, physical fitness, has a limit to it. We are constrained by the physical body that we have. Different genetic make ups accord to the sort of physique a person can acquire. Someone who is 5 foot 2 inches can’t reach 6 feet through any kind of exercise.
In this respect, money and education are more alike. We can always make more money. There is no limit on this, as evidenced by the fact that the richest person to exist isn’t in the past, but in the present, and these people, along with many others grow richer every day. The success of the lottery is a great example of this belief. Imagine for a moment someone who says they’ve reached ‘peak money’ with the aim of meaning that it’s impossible for them to have more money than they have. This is simply ridiculous. Anyone could disprove this person by handing them a penny.
Education falls into a similar suit. A fifteen year old, equipped with even the most lackluster education would be like a god if he were suddenly transported to the twelfth century, or even imagine a time before Aristotle and the pre-Socratics, when this fifteen year old - with the ease only afforded by being jaded - could describe the movement and number of the planets, their general composition, the fact that on a microscopic level all things are made of atoms that vaguely resemble the structure of solar systems with negatively charged electrons zipping around a nucleus made of protons and neutrons. Imagine still further, this jaded fifteen year old before a crowd of befuddled elders listening, noticing someone in the back coughing from sickness, and then describing the nature of germs and how microbes move through air and by touch and enter the body and wreak havoc, and how our immune system which is composed of similar elements formats itself to combat the virus or bacteria. Not only this, but a fifteen year old would be able to describe what soap is, and even though your average 15 year old doesn’t know how to make soap, chances are good that this fifteen year old could probably figure it out through some experimentation.
It took the human species thousands of years to figure these things out. And if we go beyond the human race, we can say that brains that can presumably think and figure things out the way a crow can use meta-tools to solve a puzzle that contains food, have been around for far longer. As a bubbling entity itself, it took the planet billions of years to become aware of these concepts.
Imagine what kind of status would be bestowed upon this fifteen year old thrown back in time.
It’s been theorized that proto-religious leaders who were able to understand and calculate the appearance of rare events like solar and lunar eclipses gained power through this knowledge. Simply because it was impressive.
Everything looks like magic until the underlying mechanics are understood.
If you are the only person who understands something, then you look like a magician.
Now if we return to this idea of ‘peak education’. We can wonder: if a fifteen year old from the year 9,000 were suddenly transported to us today, what kind of divine magician would he appear to be?
There is only one avenue through which this can occur. Physical exercise peaks, and money, while it can yield influence and create mobility, cannot actually make you smarter, even if you try to pay people to make you smarter. It is only education that accomplishes this. But a still subtler distinction must be made here.
Aside from some research initiatives, everything that one might learn in an educational institution falls into the category of what we already know.
Attending a university is – for the most part – a giant request for information we’ve already gathered and integrated. Most educational programs are at base simply an elaborate vocabulary test, whether that means defining Godel’s Theorem or describing the function and position of the Substantia Nigra within the brain.
The cutting edge of education is ultimately self-education.
It’s a process of forming novel questions and seeking the answers by manipulating reality until reality shows you how it works in a way that no one has ever seen before.
And if you can ask a good question that nobody has ever asked before. Bonus points.
If you can answer it, then fame and fortune may await, for we will all be amazed by something that seems like magic.
To you, of course, it’ll seem like an obvious no brainer
This episode relies heavily on ideas explored in Episode 390: Question about the Question.