citizen sensemaking

Finland has taken a private-sector initiative to introduce people to Artificial Intelligence and turned it into a state-supported program to train 1% of the population.

“The idea has a simple, Nordic ring to it: Start by teaching 1 percent of the country’s population, or about 55,000 people, the basic concepts at the root of artificial technology, and gradually build on the number over the next few years.” —Politico 2019-01-02

This is a good idea and nobody could find fault with an educational program that helps citizens understand types of technology that affect much of their lives. But is it enough? Is it merely treating symptoms instead of looking at systemic factors? Is the long-term objective of the Finnish government to train 1% of citizens in 100 different things, so that all of them know something about a specific field that someone else has considered important?

“Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.” —Old Adage

Or is the real objective of any democracy to foster an aggressively engaged and educated citizenry?

Teach people to learn for themselves how to fish and they can learn anything else for a lifetime. —Harold Jarche

If I wanted to know more about AI, I would first review the video produced by the CEO of Nokia (thank you again, Finland). It is a prime example of helping make the network (country) smarter. Then I would reach out to my professional network. I have been connecting to other professionals over the web for two decades. It has only cost me time, and in return I have a rich network to draw upon. I personally know five people who work for or owned AI companies, two in North America and three in Europe. I also know several mathematicians. I can contact them and ask specific questions, such as where can I learn more about machine learning, or what is deep learning? I trust these contacts. Some I have known for over 15 years. I think my network has deeper knowledge than many university courses.

“We learned that individual expertise did not distinguish people as high performers. What distinguished high performers were larger and more diversified personal networks.” —Rob Cross, et al (2004)

If we want to prepare citizens to adapt to the digital network era, providing courses will help, but not enough. Things are changing too quickly. Whatever is decided in advance as a needed skill or competency is already behind the times. Countries need to enable networks of citizens to seek out knowledge, make sense of it on their terms, and share it. Learning is about making connections.

The personal knowledge mastery framework was created in order to meet a need — stay current in my profession. It works. But it takes time to develop mastery, hence the name. PKM could also be called citizen sensemaking. It is how we individually and collectively make sense of our world, harnessing the power of networks, transparency, and democracy.

“The more I am out there chatting to clients, the more I realise that your PKM approach is the number one critical skill set.  Any way I look at it, all roads seem to end there.  It is the foundation.  That’s why I thought this is where they need to start – and not just the employees – everyone including the managers.” —Helen Blunden

Mastery requires extensive implicit knowledge that is not available in textbooks but developed through experience. It demands networked learning, as no individual can know it all. Mastery is based on core principles, not rules. It eschews routine procedures and instead builds and uses models for sensemaking. All citizens have to master sensemaking, not just temporary skills deemed necessary by corporations or governments. Democracy in the network era is when citizens continuously decide what and how they learn.


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