Published on Aug 16, 2020
Essays

The Fountain of Youth

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Is it said that the key to staying young is lifelong learning. If that is the case, then the internet is undeniably the fountain of youth. I distinctly remember the first time I used the internet as a young teenager and feeling this sense of awe. That feeling has worn off throughout the years but it still amazes me.  As the technology has matured, this ability to learn whatever you want (for free) has been taken a little for granted.  Anyone can now learn anything they want. Wanna start a company, learn a new language or develop a new skill? There are more articles, videos & resources that you can ever consume.

Of course this comes with awful things, like spreading misinformation, terrorist recruitment and hate speech. But ultimately, these are not caused by the technology, they are simply enhanced by it. These traits exist already in human nature. I look at the positive side of human nature which has this uncanny ability to continuously learn and evolve. This newfound learning capability to raise everyone’s skill level is a profound game changer.

The decentralization of everything

This free flow of information implies that every part of the economy is slowly being decentralized. The resources required to start new businesses or projects are essentially gone to zero. Chris Anderson saw this trend and discussed it in his 2009 book Free. Software is essentially encoded human language and its main attribute is its ability to be replicated at zero marginal cost. This implies that that software is radically reducing the cost of everything around us while connecting different parts of the world together (hello APIs!). The impact on the business world is essentially the story of the past 20 years. What does not get enough attention is how the fundamental nature of learning has changed.

Accelerating your career

When I meet someone earlier in their career today, let’s say early twenties, I’m often astonished at how stunningly smart and well informed they are. It’s not that people are somehow more intelligent. Rather, it’s access to relevant and timely information that gives people an edge. For the *motivated* twenty something (or sixty something!), there are no limits as what skill or subject can be learned. The technology, platforms and content are now completely at scale.  This is by far one of the most exciting opportunities for education and skill development more broadly. It literally costs nothing. The only limiting factors are time & motivation.

Controlling the firehose

With the world’s best teachers and content, comes with a dilemma. How can someone learn and not be completely overwhelmed? There are many exciting and developing areas in this space. Two interesting startups come to mind, Notion and Roam research. I’ve been using Roam for a few months and it’s a fantastic tool to capture notes and ideas. There are going to be many more companies and opportunities to emerge.

The nature of education and dare I say universities will change permanently. The geographic and time boundaries don’t make sense in a world without these constraints. Not to mention the quality & timeliness of the content. Everyone should start using tools (or develop their own) to get better at learning and curating information. There is no one size fits all.

I’m part of the last cohort of people that distinctly remember life before and after the internet. That feeling of amazement is still with me and I now realize that I’ve underestimated its potential. How we learn and evolve will dramatically improve in the coming decades. We’re still in the first grade.

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