There is a law in nature that states that once a thing changes, it can never go back to the old state again.
The world is changing at a breakneck speed, and leaving behind all that is old. Can we afford to risk our education on this principle? Do we not need to change the way we are preparing the new generations?
There is a law in nature that states that once a thing changes, it can never go back to the old state again. It is called Dollo's law of irreversibility. As per Wikipedia, Dollo's law of irreversibility (also known as Dollo's law and Dollo's principle), proposed in 1893 by French-born Belgian paleontologist Louis Dollo states that, "an organism never returns exactly to a former state, even if it finds itself placed in conditions of existence identical to those in which it has previously lived ... it always keeps some trace of the intermediate stages through which it has passed."
This holds true for our brains too. Neuroscientists call it neuroplasticity or brain plasticity. Plasticity is the capacity of the brain to change with learning. When you become an expert in a specific domain, the areas of the brain that deal with that domain, becomes larger. For example, London taxi drivers have a larger hippocampus, the region of the brain dealing with complex spatial information necessary for navigating well. For bilinguals, the left inferior parietal cortex is larger.
Similarly, once some startups become famous, business models that they have disrupted become irrelevant. Even though Uber and WeWork have now lost sheen with investors and many people have written their obituaries, they have impacted mobility and workspaces in ways that ensure that the older models have been disrupted. Even though their own models are not yet completely sorted, people will not submit anymore to the tyranny of the city cabs or rigid and dull workplaces.
And this sort of disruption is extending to job fronts too. Once you have access to a search engine, you won’t go back to encyclopaedias. Once you can get answers by asking a voice assistant like Siri or Alexa, you are unlikely to return to typing out your queries. Given the current exponential rate of improvement, thanks to a large number of users, endless data and immensely better algorithms, search engines are improving at a breakneck speed to incorporate voice activation. Therefore the likelihood that most kids will need to learn typing is slowly decreasing. It might sound petty, but when compared to the fact that our school/university exams still involve writing with pen and paper, we need to change our whole approach to education in order to align our childrens’ growth with the way the world is changing.
With greater, easier, more seamless access and connectivity, the world is rapidly shrinking. It ruthlessly leaves behind all that is obsolete, be it any form of connectivity, or avenue for growth. In such a world, it would be foolish to think that only a limited access to local networks (read schools, neighborhoods, clubs) will be sufficient to foster a successful life. By the same logic, the changes we have undergone have left us in a plastic mould. And the generations we are helping to foster will lead the world. We are ourselves rapidly becoming obsolete.
Education will help us to nurture the future in its new form. What are we doing to help future generations thrive in this new landscape? A student that joins kindergarten today will graduate in the 2030’s. By then the world would have undergone an axial shift. How can we utilise outdated methods and centres of learning? We must shift the focus from what we already know, to exploring what hasn’t happened yet.
Our way of living too needs to change its entire structure to become more open and collaborative and thus remain meaningful to their members. To believe that we can remain insular from global connectedness and survive through our old rules is like burying our heads in the sand. The new world is now seamless and moving at lightning speed towards futures hitherto undreamed of.
The world has changed, the genie is out of the bottle. And we will do better if we accept this change and ensure that our actions are consistent with this changed reality.