Re: Random vs. Systematic Growth
Sat, 19 Jul 1997 13:37:27 -0400 (EDT)

In a message dated 97-07-18 17:34:04 EDT, Anders Sandberg wrote:

> > >It would be interesting to see if the process of becoming oneself
> > >could be aided by artificial means; so far it has been largely a
> > >random accumulation of experience and a gradual abstraction from
> > >them. Schooling is one method intended to make this process a bit
> > >more efficient, maybe some initiation rites could be considered
> > >growth tools too. Are there others reliable methods?
> >
> > By "random" you seem to mean "diverse," sort of. Surely the ideas
> > and experiences we are exposed to are more systematic than pure noise.
> "Random" might have been a non-optimal word to describe what I meant.
> You are of course right in that our experiences are not random
> (otherwise we would not be able to learn anything; and if they were
> completely ordered we would quickly learn the rules and never have to
> learn after childhood); but most of the experiences we learn from
> have not been planned as learning experiences, and might not even be
> good learning experiences (making a simple mistake when driving can
> be fatal). Hence the interest in better ways of growth. A better
> word may be "unplanned" experiences.

I have a real problem with this idea. The keywords to my problem are
"rules", "good", "bad" and "unplanned". Who sets the 'rules', who decides
which expirences are 'good' or 'bad'? (and who's ganna make their cute
little jackboots) If we plan experiences to develop children to fit into our
ideals how will they ever evolve, innovate or rebel. Imagine if 50 years ago
someone had the same idea and planned your life so that you would develop the
ideology of the time (a good little christian boy); what makes you think we
know any better? Some animals are born with the ability to walk, we learn it
from trial and error.. there's a reason for that. The less you are
programmed (which is what 'planned experience' amounts to) the more adaptive,
innovative and creative you are.

> Schools may be good or bad in different respects (and not all of them
> are Prussian either, although new forms of learning are needed) but
> they certainly help us learn a lot of things that would be very
> costly to learn on our own (like reading or writing or basic
> physics). A good education can teach us things we would have needed
> decades to learn on our own. The problem is that (by definition) they
> are best at transmitting academic knowledge and not other important
> aspects of human growth.

How long does it take a child to 'pick up' language from listening to its
parents? and how long does it take to teach a child a language at school?

The difference between learning to speak and learning basic physics is that
speaking is all around us, it is tacit learning. Physics, despite being all
around us, is not as obvious for children to simply 'pick up'. The way to
accelerate learning is to put this information all around students and let
them take it in tacitly. The toy of the future could be a holographic
projecting nano-assembler. To a little kid it looks like a bunch of brightly
coloured balls that do weird thing when pushed together. But the information
learned from using it (what structures are strong, which ones calapse, etc.)
will stay with them for the rest of their lives, not as something they
learned at school, or something they had programmed into them, but as
something obvious and easy, like the ability to speak.