Like I mentioned in my wrap-up post from Friday at the Learning solutions conference, I did not care for the last keynote talk.
The keynote was given by Leonard Brody, and was entitled “365 Days From Now: Preparing for the Change Ahead”
Here are some the things he said that I disagree with:
- You can’t predict the future using the past
His main reasoning on this point is that there is so much change at the moment, that the future won’t be anything like the past. I think this is very dangerous, because the changes driven by technology are all actually controlled by social interactions. In the past, greedy people (be it power or money) used social interactions to control and manipulate the masses. Do we really think those kinds of people will treat social technologies any differently? As wise King Solomon said, “There is nothing new under the sun”. And as George Santayana said, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it”.
- Everyone on the planet has access and is connected to everyone else because the cost barrier of technology is almost zero
This is just not a true statement. We still have a significant digital divide in the US. To have access to the technology that is connecting everyone, you must be able to afford the device (hand-held or computer) and access rates. Not everyone can afford food and shelter, at least in the US, and these folks do not have the luxury to be connected to everyone else.
- Behavioral Economics is about slight of hand
Behavioral Economics is actually the marriage of economics with psychology and sociology. Some programs use it to “improve the accuracy and empirical reach of economic theory“. One of the main premises of behavioral economics is that humans have bounded rationality – which means the rationality of individuals is dependent on the information they have, the cognitive limitations of their minds, and the finite amount of time they have to make decisions (via wikipedia). This is a field with decades of research to back it up. Maybe a bit complicated to understand and explain, but deserving of a better description than a comparison to a magic trick.
- Kids today are genetically smarter, and have more mental capacity than previous generations
This claim was made with images of brain scans as “proof”, as well as a story of how kids with an electronic device tend not to pay attention to anything that is said to them. Hate to break this to you, but kids of certain ages won’t respond to an adult no matter what is in front of them. A TV, a radio, a boombox, a book.
And those brain scans? Who were they of? OK, he said one was his. Fine – what about the other one? What type of person? Where were they on the spectrum? What were they doing at the time the scan was taken? Why wasn’t any context given to support this grandiose claim that evolution has picked this latest generation to start speeding up?
Why I think it matters to speak up
I think as learning professionals we should be alarmed when someone walks in and spouts so much unsubstantiated drivel as if it were fact. I’ll go even further: I think as learning professionals in this time, in the middle of the seismic shifts that are going on, it is our responsibility to point out the recklessness of these sorts of claims.
We all supposedly do an analysis when there is an issue in the organization. Based on the analysis, we look for the intervention, which in many cases is training. Why shouldn’t we critically analyze what speakers at our conferences tell us?
We’re at a time when the roles that would traditionally defend us against information imposters are being eliminated by the move to digital. What if defense of truth and logic is one of our new responsibilities as elearning and social learning professionals?
This sort of talk annoys me because I’m very analytical. Its almost like this guy took a bunch of pop-culture buzz words and threw them all together because he didn’t know anything about education. Maybe that’s ok for Oprah, but this sort of psycho-pop babble will cause my management to throw up all sorts of new barriers for not wanting to move ahead. It makes our field, and social learning, look like a trend and not a viable tool.
I want to use social media to effectively solve problems. Because of that, I’m not interested in half-truths and forgetting about doing the hard work to analyze problems. I’m very interested in learning from the past so whatever solution I recommend will stick and change work processes for the better, for everyone, no matter their social class. I want to use social learning so that people can customize their learning to make sense to them.
I want way more than this guy was able to give us in one hour.