31 December 2007

A World of Learning: But Who Will Seize the Opportunity?

You may have seen some interesting headlines recently along the lines of "Internet Opens Elite Colleges to All," or perhaps "MIT Extends OpenCourseWare to High Schools". Or you may even have run across "Get an MIT or Yale Education Free" recently.

The Open'CourseWare Consortium provides news about Open CourseWare and online course offerings from many of the world's top universities. The OpenCulture website provides free university courses as podcasts.

With almost anyone now able to freely access online course materials that others pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to access in person, you would think that millions--even billions--of people around the world would jump at the opportunity. But will they?

Precocious high schoolers or younger who want an advance taste of higher education. Youth in isolated communities with a desire to learn, but no local opportunity. Adults with work and family obligations, but a will to understand the larger universe...... As the courses become easier to access and more varied--and as better ways of measuring achievement in the coursework are devised--these offerings may be exploited by the worldwide public on a large scale.

The problem comes when well-meaning people expect free high-quality educational coursework to revolutionise the existence of large numbers of third world peoples. As if the main thing causing the huge inequalities between countries and continents is the lack of educational opportunities in poorer countries. As if.

A minimum IQ of 115 is required to take advantage of a good university education. For some coursework an IQ between 125 and 135 is required. For the developed western world, where the average IQ is close to 100, perhaps 30% of people would benefit. But in the undeveloped third world, the average IQ is almost always below 90. The number of people in most third world countries who could actually take advantage of advanced university courseware is quite small. But at least they are trying.

Here at Al Fin, we look toward a future where the population of interest has an average IQ of at least 150. Using advanced genetic engineering techniques and a growing knowledge of how to develop human cognition from the earliest moments of development, significant boosts in the average population IQ should become possible in a matter of a decade or two. But by then, almost everything in these courses will be obsolete in one way or another.

In the meantime, denizens of Al Fin will continue to look for the best sources of information, for the best approaches to learning and teaching. So that when, finally, we can get that boost of intelligence we crave, we can fit an astounding amount of useful and well-coordinated knowledge in these small wetware brains.


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Blogger Will Brown said...

Here at Al Fin, we look toward a future where the population of interest has an average IQ of at least 150.

What the hell am I doing here then? :)

I'm going to be real picky about the delivery system chosen to dose me with the required amount of cognitive stimulant necessary to get me into that rarified intellectual neighborhood. I have a gun; no steel pipe of any dimension should even be considered.

Tuesday, 01 January, 2008  
Blogger al fin said...

It should be no problem getting you in that neighborhood, Will. The people I'm worried about are most university professors of social sciences, languages, political science, history, and the ethnic/gender studies departments. Getting their average IQ above 110 will be a struggle.

Tuesday, 01 January, 2008  

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