making your education

When I first encountered the web I was certain it would change the world. Today there is little doubt that networked society is developing into a very different world than the pre-internet days. My personal knowledge mastery (PKM) framework developed out of a need to master the exponentially growing information flows and personal connections enabled by digital networks. I developed my own ways to Seek > Sense > Share information, knowledge, and experiences. This framework is now used by many other people around the globe. I created my PKM methods out of necessity 14 years ago. Today, sensemaking frameworks are needed by everyone. As Steven B. Johnson says, “Chance favours the connected mind”. This has never been more true in our connected world.

The writers of Age of Discovery say that we are living in a period similar to the Renaissance of the early 1500’s. “I am still learning,” Michelangelo said in his eighties. He and Leonardo da Vinci epitomized the Renaissance, pushing against traditional boundaries and expanding knowledge and understanding. The Renaissance brought wonderful new discoveries (universities, astronomy, print) as well as new challenges (the pox, war, mass slavery). Our age is bringing similar discoveries (nano materials, gene therapy, artificial intelligence) and new threats (Ebola, extremism, climate change).

Seek difference. The point is not simply to visit different places and read different things; it’s to accumulate new perspectives. We may think we do this already, but most often we don’t, not really. We visit new spaces, but do we learn to see them through local eyes? If every business trip follows the same script — airport-taxi-hotel-office-artisinal café-taxi-airport — then the answer is no.

We can all borrow from his [Desiderius Erasmus] example to live well in our New Renaissance. First, learn new languages. Yes, we can make ourselves understood most anywhere in English, but people talk about what’s important to them in their native tongue. Second, step into the communities you visit. Ride the public transit and walk through the parks; read the local headlines and twitter feeds; watch local films. Third, regularly set aside your own reasoning and get curious about how other people think. If you’ve never watched Fox news, do. If that is all you watch, change channels. Across our 24/7 media world, the news is much the same; the perspectives are quite different. Why are climate skeptics skeptical? What drives religious extremism? Why do mainland Chinese support Communist Party rule? The more we can get inside others’ viewpoints — even those we’re absolutely convinced are wrong — the richer our own values and insights will become.” —Age of Discovery

In this new age of discovery there are more risks and rewards than we have had to deal with in centuries. There are no easy answers. We all have to be actively engaged in continuous learning. As the authors, Goldin & Kutarna, say, “Don’t just get an education. Make one”.

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