Jack Uldrich
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To Learn or Unlearn, That’s the Question

Posted in Education, Evolution

I am not an evolutionary biologist. I do not play one on television and, even though this is the Internet, I won't try toFrom Ape to man to computer hunchback pretend I am one. Nevertheless, I have come to the conclusion that unlearning will be an essential skill in the future because I am of the opinion that human evolution is an exponential trend. 

Let me put it another way. Until about 200 years ago the average person could expect two constants in his or her life. First, life didn't change much. If your grandfather was a farmer (or peasant) it was likely that your father was also a farmer or peasant and so were you. Moreover, you all lived life in much the same way and used the same tools and equipment. 

The second constant was that your life was short. Assuming you successfully survived the first few years of your life (and this, by the way, was no easy task), you could expect to live until the rip old age of 50.

Under such conditions it was appropriate to put a premium on learning because whatever you learned you could expect to utilize the remainder of your life.

In today's era of accelerating technological change, however, the equation has been flipped on its head. The shelf life of knowledge is growing ever shorter and we must realize that much of what we will learn will need to be unlearned shortly thereafter.

Society has not yet fully recognized the extent of this shift but it will have profound implications for how we educate ourselves and our children. I'd love to hear your ideas about: 1) Whether you agree with my premise; and 2) How you'd try to help society deal with this change. (One idea I have is that we must teach unlearning beginning in kindergarten.)

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The Future Requires Unlearning



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