World Question Center

Various authors, Edge, Jan 20, 2011
Commentary by Stephen Downes

Edge is a bit hit or miss with their annual questions post to (what they call) third culture intellectuals . This year's question is, "What scientific concept would improve everybody's cognitive toolkit." You can find the answers starting here. But be warned - the answers are almost universally disappointing, ranging from such canards as "TANSTAAFL (There ain't no such thing as a free lunch)" to sceptical empiricism to "the pointless universe," with a smattering of logical and mathematical concepts in between. The answers unfailingly took the perspective this this would be a concept that other people should in some way possess or know. I would have answered "ESP." Because if we had that, we could invent ESP machines, then everybody could access everybody else's thoughts directly, and then nobody would have to learn (in the traditional sense) anything. Such an answer, though, falls outside the predictivism (and predictable) scope of the question. Via Mark Oehlert, who likes Don Tapscott's line about "Why don't schools and universities teach design thinking for thinking?" and Roger Schank's admonition that "Some scientific concepts have been so ruined by our education system that it is necessary to explain about the ones that everyone thinks they know about when they really don't."

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