by Stephen Downes
Jan 18, 2016
Young, educated and underemployed: are we building a nation of PhD baristas?
Usman W. Chohan,
The focus of this article by a World Bank consultant is the Australian labour market, but there are some not-so-flattering references to the Canadian and American environment as well. The gist of the article is contained in the title: some 30 percent of Australian graduates are "underemployed" (and in Canada, some 40 percent). "A sizeable educational investment, both in terms of money and time, is finding unfulfilled returns in mundane work that requires none of the sunk investment in intellectual capital, an idea disparagingly called “the era of the overeducated barista'". I find it interesting to note the disciplines where this effect is most prominent: business, management, law, and humanities. The impact is bad in Australia, but "there is far less support for new graduates in Canada. In the US the US$1.3 trillion student debt is now referred to as an unmitigated “time-bomb".
Self-organization of complex, intelligent systems: an action ontology for transdisciplinary integration
These are sweeping claims, but from my perspective they are fundamentally correct: "the fundamental constituents of reality are seen as actions and the agents that produce them. More complex phenomena are conceived as self-organizing networks of interacting agents that evolve to become increasingly complex, adaptive and intelligent systems. The resulting worldview allows us to address the most fundamental issues of philosophy..." For me, the interesting questions in education and technology revolve around questions like this: what are these agents and actions? What are the principles of self-organizing systems? What sorts of systems learn more effectively? How do we understand concepts like 'knowledge' and 'learning' at all? These are links to preprints of a 2011 paper: 39 page PDF. Another copy. Read more from Francis Heylighen. Also, I found it worth while to quote at length a section on mobilization from this item in my blog.
The resolution of the Bitcoin experiment
I've discussed Bitcoin and blockchains on this website before. This article is about the failure of that system, at least in the case of Bitcoin. The reasons are on the one hand technical, but on the other hand, the result of human failure. In a nutshell, the production of new Bitcoins has essentially been monopolized - At a recent conference over 95% of hashing power was controlled by a handful of guys sitting on a single stage - and these people have an incentive to prevent growth, creating an artificial scarcity, even to the point where delays and congestion are causing the network to fail. There are measures that would fix the problem, but discussion of them has been banned in Bitcoin forums and conferences. If it reminds you of, say, the economy of New Brunswick, or any small economy dominated by a few very large companies, it should. Democracy and diversity build networks and economies; authority and centralization destroys them.
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