BOOKS, JOURNALISM AND EDUCATION
By Karl Arnold Belser
18 August 2013
I missed another significant mega-trend in my previous list of mega-trends - the digitization of books and other printed media and the distribution of this content over the Internet.
The Gutenberg Bible (about 1450 AD) was one of the first books to be printed in mass quantity using removable type and a type of automation called the printing press. The printing process caused a revolution in the distribution of information via books. It appears to have been the catalyst for the accumulation of human knowledge such as the advancement of science.
(BBC Video on Gutemberg)
A similar revolution is happening today because of computers and the Internet. Books can be created digitally and sent cheaply and quickly to anyone. The digital book can be read on a home computer or a specialized computer intended just to read books, like the Kindle from Amazon. This change is described by Seth Godin in An End to Books.
It is not just the printed page that is changing, I read that more than half of the books sold in the last year (as of August 2013) were audio books. This popularity might be explained because audio books can be read when commuting, which takes up a significant part of a person's day.
The other change is that much of the news is given by short YouTube videos like those provided by Yahoo Finance's Daily Ticker and Breakout. I personally like this type of communication because it is on-demand and I can skip any article I don't like.
I think that many people don't really like to read and would prefer to receive information via a presentation. But given that most sites today do not provide videos, I prefer to use a text-to-speech converter such as the free ReadPlease to read to me because I am visually impaired.
Journalism is the process of reporting to the general public in some form of media about what is happening in the world. It used to be that journalists wrote, but today videos and audio can be effectively used over the Internet. In addition almost anyone can offer an opinion through FaceBook or by YouTube videos.
Henry Blodget argues in Journalism Has Entered a Golden Age that even though the traditional publishing business is being destroyed, the long range effect is for the good.
There is an argument that without paid journalists one has no idea about the validity of what a writer writes. The writer needs to establish credibility. The question is: How does one Separate the chaff from the wheat?
Journalists are establishing credibility by having a BLOG, like Daniel Gross's Blog from the Daily Beast.
The most exciting prospect, which may be a mega-trend in itself, is education over the Internet. The Khan Academy video classroom is the leading example of this type of education. It's advantage is that a student can watch the videos privately and without anyone knowing so that he or she learns one hundred percent of the material. Salman Khan's book The One World Schoolhouse gives an excellent presentation of the potential in Internet education.
On-line education might be a threat to the university system in its current form, because University education has become so costly and ineffective in educating people to work in the modern society. Thus many people suspect that the cost of education is not really worth the benefit, especially if one hast to take on a huge amount of debt. This "fact" has motivated university such as Harvard and MIT to develop an equivalent and competitive system of on-line education called EdX.
I think that the most important aspect about the trends in books, journalism and education is that of self-actualization. This mega-trend might empower people to do whatever they need to do given their place in society. I suspect that this empowerment might be a new catalyst for the accumulation of human knowledge as was the printing press some 600 years ago.
Since my specialty is system architecture I observe that many of the most robust and effective organizations are distributed systems (like for example that of effective schools or government). Distributed means that each person should be allowed to see what needs to be done in their sphere of activity and take the initiative to do it with a minimum of external interference. I think that this is what the founding fathers of the United States meant by freedom and liberty. This is how I believe that the adjacent possible might get actualized.
The most fragile is an organization with tough-minded central control in which the feedback from individual people is impeded, like for example how the education systems and many of public functions of the United States are managed at this time. As a result I expect major changes in how education and government will evolve given that this mega-trend is allowed to continue.
Last updated December 8, 2013
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