Open Source Society

Sometime during the 1950’s television sets had begun to become widely available and fairly affordable. Noting this point as the advent of entertainment focused telecommunications; art had begun to be understood as a trivial distraction to conservative intellectuals. The vegetating trance of the television, typically allowing the mind to enter a state of ‘cruise control,’ could be attributed to the public’s low level of input towards programming. Although the Internet seems to descend from this legacy of infotainment, something quite different is going on. While television preaches endless forms of false happiness through consumerism, the design of the contemporary web aims to facilitate “creativity, information sharing, and, most notably, collaboration among users (Wikipedia – Web 2.0)” This arrangement comprises the core methodology of the Open Source Revolution that is beginning to reshape our traditions and lead us towards a new renaissance of gnosis.

Philosopher Terence McKenna, reminding us that “culture is not your friend (1999),” advises to resist the epistemological disease of autocratic content by creating our own art. Through venues such as Youtube and MySpace, music, art, film, and photography, even mildly entertaining, is now able to draw large audiences and develop into a well received meme. Further, the Wiki archetype has effectively turned the amateur into the expert. McKenna often refers to a revival of the archaic, which is set to take place as a reaction to the patriarchal model of the elite handing knowledge down, and forsaking personal revelation. The proliferation of open source programs, granting users the ability to freely edit and redistribute computer software, manifests the artistic position towards which society must move. The world is shrinking in to a global village thru mass media, and the common majority must take direct control in order to reconnect and reconcile into cosmic consciousness.

The term ‘global village’ is often used metaphorically to describe the internet and World Wide Web. Philosopher Marshall McLuhan predicted that a global village would be tribal in character. The open source operating system Ubuntu, a distribution of Linux (a prime example of free software and open source development), derives its name from the South African philosophical notion of humanitarianism. Interestingly, this juxtaposition of concept and utility represents the new archetype of culture towards which the Open Source Revolution is driving. Projects such as Wikipedia, an open content encyclopedia, are able to maintain their integrity, accuracy, and scope through an effort of community and collaboration. The Open Source Revolution lends new drive to innovation, epistemology, peer support, and ultimately an altruism that trumps the capitalist agenda of elitism. I feel that we must adopt the concept of Open Source as a new organizational model for society.

Should the open source paradigm stay confined to computer software and the internet, or should we move to adopt it as a new model for social organization?

“In a global village where we have instant access to innumerable beliefs around the world, we have come to realize the relativity of what we think”

-Walter Anderson

The Future of Education

articles about the future of education

In today’s world it is conventional wisdom that a college education is necessary to excel as a professional. Times are said to have changed, and without proper schooling one is doomed to a life of either hard labor or low-paying pencil pushing. And if you’re planning on paying for an education there is no escaping the fact that college costs are rising. Besides the hefty price tag, traditional schooling is consuming, socially and mentally, forcing a particular lifestyle upon the student. Further, the relationship between the educator and the educated maintains a certain depravity, as a professor holds a figurative gun to the student’s head (any false moves may lead to a career crippling F). But is there an alternative?

In a recent editorial featured in the New York Post (April 23, 2008) Thomas Sowell attributes the high cost of college to two reasons: “People will pay what the colleges charge, and colleges have little incentive to reduce tuition.” He explains that unlike most markets, where lowering prices attracts business, in the academic world the government is ready to step in to pick up the slack. A university would loose millions per year in government money if they lowered tuition. Considering the position that today’s young people are placed, where the arduous task of completing a degree is coupled with unfair prices and a dire necessity, which will affect the rest of their life, it is fair to say that they have us by the proverbial balls.

In an article which I recently compiled I attempt to imagine the direction of coming educational paradigms. It quickly becomes obvious how the talent of great minds may be ignored due to lack of proper credentials. Our current scholastic system bespeaks the Tory elitism representative of Western culture. Perhaps the stereotypical role of an experimental, bohemian college student is effected by the sharp contrast of the academic organization. While it is clear that the classroom is continuing to evolve, it will be necessary for the vintage activist spirit of the student to lend guidance to new educational trends that shifts to a liberal method of intellectual maturation.

So where is the classroom going? I can say with a great deal of confidence that virtual technology will play a leading role in the future of education. Already most colleges and universities offer distance learning programs (online classes). Some colleges, such as the University of Phoenix offer completely virtual degrees. Hybrid courses, in which physical meetings compose only a third of the course time, are also becoming popular. This model moves the educator from the head of the classroom, handing knowledge down, to a guiding medium. This new role forces a teacher to not merely present knowledge, but to be sympathetic in facilitating its acquisition.

Despite the advantages of a virtual classroom, the heavy price still lingers overhead. In overcoming this obstacle towards an open, intellectually progressive society we must embrace the idea of autodidactism.

Being self-educated sounds harder than it is. Some of the most important figures in history have been non-traditionally educated (including Socrates, Benjamin Franklin, Alan Watts, and Mark Twain). It means having a choice in subject matter, moving at your own pace, and it’s free. Its relevance towards the shifting educational paradigm can be attributed to the dawn of the information age, coupled with the open content movement. Considering resources available today, it has never been easier to be self taught. Wikipedia alone serves as an ocean of open knowledge. Various colleges, including MIT, offer ‘open-courseware,’ which include lectures, videos, and notes for entire courses for free. E-books, language courses, podcasts, and dictionaries have all become openly available in a spectrum wide enough to cover anyone’s interests. Even aspiring musicians can learn basics of instruments, theory, and entire songs through online tablatures, sheet music, and video lessons. Rather than growing around current structures, we should move to evolve the system to fit our needs and goals.

Additional Resources:

“I have never let school interfere with my education”
-Mark Twain

“In the first place God made idiots. This was for practice. Then He made school boards.”
-Mark Twain

The PH.D Octopus by William James

“It is interesting to imagine the direction of the classroom and forthcoming educational paradigms. I imagine that within the next twenty years the physical classroom will become obsolete, only to be replaced by an autodidactic virtual environment. The role of the teacher will shift from dictating at the head of the class, to more of a supervising librarian that directs the flow of the program in a very yang manner.”