Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Holocaust Remembrance Day and the Generational Transfer

One of my fears, when I became a parent, was that my children would never have the opportunity to meet or hear from a Holocaust survivor at an age where the memory would become strong.

Knowing that we are in a transition to an era where the living witnesses of the horrors of that terrible time and those who directly experienced it are dwindling to zero, I am acutely aware of the burden that will fall upon the generations of the future.

Given the amount of Holocaust denial that already occurs, it's essential that my kids' generation internalizes the lessons as much as possible. 

As tonight begins the Holocaust Remembrance Day, we attended an event where Felix Nicinski (oral history)  (and another article about his story) spoke of his experiences in ghettoes, slave labor camps, concentration camps, and on the run throughout Germany and Poland during the years of World War II.

It's never easy to hear the stories and we'll never understand the Holocaust in its entirety (tonight I learned a new fact- there were over 42,000 different places that the Germans used to incarcerate Jews in one form or another over the whole of Europe during that time).

Still, it was meaningful that the kids had a chance to remember the 6 million who perished through the words of one who persevered and survived.

Hopefully, this night will stay with them so they can do their part to ensure the lesson of "Never Again!"

Friday, April 21, 2017

College May Be Causing You to Lose Out On Career Readiness

It's graduation season for college seniors.

It's also the time of year when high school seniors (for the most part) decide where they want to go to college.

So, since this blog is often about recognizing and adapting to changing paradigms, it's as good as time as any to bring this one up.

The primary catalyst for this post is Tom Friedman's excellent new book, Thank You For Being Late. (Go buy it now. I'll wait.)

Ok, thanks for coming back. So, let's talk about the "idea" of college and, naturally, we'll connect it to blockchains. Stay tuned for that.

The Original Paradigm

It's not really new to say that, for years (probably since the end of WWII) the basic social contract in America was- "to go college, get a good job."

Implied within that was, "if you finish high school and you graduate college, your formal education is pretty much done and you are in pretty good shape for a solidly middle-class lifestyle."

Essentially, a college degree was a signal to an employer that "yes, this person is responsible enough to show up at 9, leave at 5, and get the job done by following orders/processes."

Broken Paradigm

As we've all seen, however, the last part of that implied contract "solidly middle-class lifestyle" is far from a guarantee these days.  It's under assault by offshoring, robotics, Artificial Intelligence, and more.

Yet, while the second half of the equation isn't holding, it doesn't feel like society (for the most part) has started to question the first part of the equation, the input of "college."

Now, on this blog, I've been on a "Higher Ed" is broken rant for a LONG time, but I'll recap my main points here.
  1. a traditional liberal arts education IS a good thing and should be valued
  2. the Return on Investment on most college degrees is sub-optimal
  3. the debt burden prevents young people from exploring, innovating, and being as creative as they can at the time in their lives when they have the most flexibility
  4. college doesn't really prepare most people for today's working world
  5. there are some exceptions-but they are exceptions
Why The Paradigm Is Broken

At this point, I'll let Friedman take over:

"Another big challenge is the way we educate our population. We go to school for twelve or more years during our childhoods and early adulthoods, and then we're done. But when the pace of change gets this fast, the only way to retain a lifelong working capacity is to engage in lifelong learning. There is a whole group of people -judging from the 2016 election- who did not join the labor market at age twenty thinking they were going to have to do lifelong learning...and they are not happy about it."

Sadly, our colleges (and I've seen this in hiring or not hiring many recent college graduates over the past few years) do not prepare students for today's rapidly changing world.

Friedman calls it "The Age of Accelerations." Accelerating technology (Moore's Law), markets (globalization), and Mother Nature (climate change) that are SO fast, it recalls the Darwinian that only the most adaptable survive.

Accelerating technology (Moore's Law), markets (globalization), and Mother Nature (climate change) that are SO fast, it recalls the Darwinian that only the most adaptable survive.

A powerful anecdote he tells is that when he began his journalism career in the late 1970s, he used a typewriter, which was essentially the same device that had been used for nearly 100 years.

In the 40 years since, the number of technologies he's adapted to, used, and moved beyond is quite long.

And it's getting faster.

Meanwhile, our society is fixated upon traditional college degrees that rely on "broadcast" methods of teaching (lecturer to student) and are centered in a place, instead of recognizing that now, the BEST lecturers from everywhere are available anytime and that learning can be customized and skills can be mastered anywhere.

What's more, tenure creates complacency (under the guise of academic freedom) and no one dares question spending on education, so colleges/universities raise their rates over and over again, knowing that the money will keep coming.

It's like The Big Short...but worse. Or should I say, bigger,

Bottom line: College-as we have it today- in the US is, for the most part, utterly failing the students who are counting on them to prepare them for the world of the future.

The Emergent Paradigm

Here's where blockchain fits in.

If you really want to go deep (and you should) read this excellent article about the Blockchain Revolution in Higher Education.

The major takeaway here is that the combination of micro-customizable learning and blockchain-based certifications that can prove competencies or skills in an immutable and personally portable way offers the possibility of a full-blown "enlightenment" type explosion coming to the industry.

It not only levels the playing the field, giving access to many, it actually raises the playing field for everyone.

You aren't bound by an institution. Your credentials can be determined and verified by an employer.

And the value of those credentials can be measured in real-time in the market.

This is early days (which is really, really unfortunate), but at least I now feel like there's an answer to "what comes next?

My Advice to Students Today

Sadly, most of society hasn't recognized this yet so you're in a transition period. A few things then.

One, don't overspend on college, particularly for a liberal arts degree. (Engineering and CompSci are an exception where name brands like MIT, Carnegie Mellon really deliver value).

Yes, there's some 'brand lift' from attending a top tier school, but I skeptical that the ROI will be there. If you get a scholarship, go for it, but be intentional.  Your parents graduated college before the Internet was a "thing."  Don't accept their paradigm blindly.

Most likely, getting a college degree makes sense, so think cost-benefit and then CRUSH IT.

On top of that, OWN your education. Think about how to become a lifelong learner. That's critical.

Thursday, April 06, 2017

How a 6th Grader Understands Blockchains

Last week I shared how Paco was doing a project to design a Utopia. He and his teammates decided to run it off a blockchain.

With his permission, I am sharing their presentation.  Pay attention to slides 2 and 7.