David Perell

The Future of Education

David Perell
The Future of Education

The internet will transform education. 

What follows is the best of what I’ve learned. 

The current system is rooted in conformity. Education is one-size-fits-all. It’s reactionary — oriented towards past values and past technologies. It forces us to learn the same things, in the same way, at the same place, at the same pace, at the same age.

The current system depends on extrinsic rewards. Students care too much about grades and not enough about learning. As Neil deGrasse Tyson once wrote: "When students cheat on exams it's because our school system values grades more than students value learning."

Work and education will co-evolve. Short term, project-based work will replace long-term, open-ended jobs. A job will be a task that you do, not a position that you have.

The average university lecture is already worse than the free, online option. The barriers for creating a class are virtually non-existent. Teachers can spread their ideas rapidly with relatively little capital. The three biggest constraints on teachers — time, energy, and geography — have evaporated.

Access to information is cheap, global, and decentralized. It’s free to access, copy, and re-use. We can learn from anybody, anywhere. A YouTube video can be seen wherever, whenever. No longer are we forced to learn from people who live close to us. 

The Library of Alexandria was the largest library in the ancient world. It was the capital of knowledge and learning. Today, almost all Americans own a smartphone or a computer. Each device contains the library of Alexandria. The sum total of all world knowledge. (Source:  @TheStoicEmperor)

Students will be guided by a simple maxim: Workers fall into two categories: 

  1. People who tell computers what to do
  2. People who are told what to do by computers. 

Education will be decentralized. It will not be guided by a single vision, but rather the iterative work of people everywhere.

Editing a video? There’s a class for that.

Publishing a book? There’s a class for that.

Launching an online store? There’s a class for that.

Online education inverts the learning process. In school, we start with the basics, and expand towards curiosity. Online, we start with curiosity and expand towards the basics. 

The bottleneck of learning has shifted towards motivation.

Learning will happen in batches. Spontaneous curiosity drives daily learning; timely projects drive weekly learning; long-term project drive monthly learning; long-term goals drive yearly learning.

The internet is the best school ever created. The best peers are on the Internet. The best books are on the Internet. The best teachers are on the Internet. 

As Naval Ravikant once wrote: "The tools for learning are abundant. It’s the desire to learn that’s scarce."

Schools will improve as they get bigger. They’ll benefit from rich feedback, self-correction, on-going improvement. They’ll embrace trial-and-error, they’ll welcome testing and adaption, and they’ll adopt a philosophy of iterative improvement - personalized experiences, at scale.

The line between learning and entertainment will blur. Learning demands emotion and energy.  The best professors will be inspiring, entertaining, and personality-driven. They’ll establish emotional connections with students, at scale. 

Leveraged by technology, individual professors will transcend their universities. They’ll create distinguished, one-of-a-kind personal brands, fueled by intense fandom. They’ll speak with chromatic energy, they’ll prize simplicity, not complexity, and they’ll be prolific, polarizing, and personal.

The best teachers will become celebrities.

Planning will become less important. Instead of front-loading education, we’ll acquire skills and information right when we need it — when motivation is highest. Work will begin when we're younger and learning will end when we're older.

Top teachers will be practitioners, not academics. Practitioners don’t just understand their discipline — they live it. They embody what they teach. They live at the frontier of their domain and push it forward themselves.

Continuous learning is essential.

“The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn and relearn.” — Alan Toffer