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This is the full tag cloud of our posts. The curiouscat tag highlights some of my favorites.

What Kids can Learn

This is a fascinating interview discussing what children can learn if given a computer and little, if any, instruction. Very Cool. Links on the progress since this interview are at the end of the post.

Q: This is your concept of minimally invasive education?

A: Yes. It started out as a joke but I’ve kept using the term … This is a system of education where you assume that children know how to put two and two together on their own. So you stand aside and intervene only if you see them going in a direction that might lead into a blind alley.

The interview explores what happened when:

Mitra simply left the computer on, connected to the Internet, and allowed any passerby to play with it. He monitored activity on the PC using a remote computer and a video camera mounted in a nearby tree.

What he discovered was that the most avid users of the machine were ghetto kids aged 6 to 12, most of whom have only the most rudimentary education and little knowledge of English. Yet within days, the kids had taught themselves to draw on the computer and to browse the Net. Some of the other things they learned, Mitra says, astonished him.

Continue reading

Diplomacy and Science Research

Today more and more locations are becoming viable for world class research and development. Today the following have significant ability: USA, Europe (many countries), Japan, Canada, China, Brazil, Singapore, Israel, India, Korea and Australia (I am sure I have missed some this is just what come to mind as I type this post) and many more are moving in that direction.

The continued increase of viable locations for significant amounts of cutting edge research and development has huge consequences, in many areas. If paths to research and development are blocked in one location (by law, regulation, choice, lack of capital, threat of significant damage to the career of those who would choose such a course…) other locations will step in. In some ways this will be good (see below for an explanation of why this might be so). Promising new ideas will not be stifled due to one roadblock.

But risks of problems will also increase. For example, there are plenty of reasons to want to go carefully in the way of genetically engineered crops. But those seeking a more conservative approach are going to be challenged: countries that are acting conservatively will see other countries jump in, I believe. And even if this didn’t happen significantly in the area of genetically engineered crops, I still believe it will create challenges. The ability to go elsewhere will make those seeking to put constraints in place in a more difficult position than 50 years ago when the options were much more limited (It might be possible to stop significant research just by getting a handful of countries to agree).

Debates of what restrictions to put on science and technology research and development will be a continuing and increasing area of conflict. And the solutions will not be easy. Hopefully we will develop a system of diplomacy that works, but that is much easier said than done. And the United States will have to learn they do not have the power to dictate terms to others. This won’t be an easy thing to accept for many in America. The USA will still have a great deal of influence, due mainly to economic power but that influence is only the ability to influence others and that ability will decline if diplomacy is not improved. Diplomacy may not seem to be a science and engineering area but it is going to be increasingly be a major factor in the progress of science and engineering. Continue reading

The Future is Engineering

Do Great Engineering Schools Beget Entrepreneurism? by Brent Edwards provides two great links.

How to Kick Silicon Valley’s Butt by Guy Kawasaki:

Focus on educating engineers. The most important thing you can do is establish a world-class school of engineering. Engineering schools beget engineers. Engineers beget ideas. And ideas beget companies. End of discussion.

If I had to point to the single biggest reason for Silicon Valley’s existence, it would be Stanford University—specifically, the School of Engineering. Business schools are not of primary importance because MBAs seldom sit around discussing how to change the world with great products.

Why Startups Condense in America:

You need a great university to seed a silicon valley, and so far there are few outside the US. I asked a handful of American computer science professors which universities in Europe were most admired, and they all basically said “Cambridge” followed by a long pause while they tried to think of others. There don’t seem to be many universities elsewhere that compare with the best in America, at least in technology.

Both essays make many excellent points – read them! Continue reading