Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Today and yesteryear

The gigantic difference between today and say, twenty, years ago, has got to be Google Search.

Before there was airplane travel, there were restrictions to what we can do to impact people far away.  It was worse before there was long distance telephone.  But with the near death of distance from cheap calls and fast jets, there was a boom in work that got done.

With computers came software.  The difference in speeds between today's toy computer and the first super computer is often forgotten, but it is a mind boggling three orders of magnitude, in favor of the toy computer.  The same improvements to automobiles would mean doing 50,000mph instead of 50mph today.  Imagine every granny having such a car.

Software on speedy computers is a super enabler.  But the super enabler is idling in waste 99% of the time while we think of things to make it do.  The limitations now, instead of being caused by vast distances, are caused by the smallness of the human brain.  There's only so much knowledge we can hold.  There's only so many tomes of encyclopedia we can look up in so many waking hours a day.  That is, until Google Search came along.

Initially, Google Search was just a different Alta Vista.  But soon it became one million professors standing by your side, 24x7 (the privacy people would say watching over your shoulders).  (I don't know whether this is not the case in the non-English speaking world. (Wow, triple negatives!))

So, the challenge now becomes who can make better use of the one million professors by your side.  Every granny and Michael Schumacher has the exact same 50,000mph car.

I have to stop here.  I need to go and consult my one million professors, lest your granny zooms past.


August 2013 update: I was introduced to this book today: Why Do I Need a Teacher When I've Got Google? during a talk on the future of learning.