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Accessible education is better than democratized data.

I just said this on Twitter: “Accessible education is better than democratized data.”

Social media people are enchanted with the tech and their use of it. Grandiose claims abound about the “democratization” of information due to the internet’s proliferation. Social media people claim that the (seemingly) unfettered access to information on the web will bring down academia, traditional business models and the whole of Eastern and Western culture. Students will eschew the Ivory Tower for self-schooling, businesses that don’t catch on to “the conversation” will die embarrassing deaths, and we’ll all be connected to each other across country borders.

The fact is, every new technology was touted at its inception as the “answer” to elitism, to class boundaries, to poverty. In Nick Carr’s latest book The Shallows, he spends the first hundred pages or so on historical philosophy, trying desperately to place this notion in the time line. Societal structure may be molded a bit differently, but education is still esteemed, tried and true business models still work, and we mostly connect only with people of very like minds online (see Going to Extremes by Cass Sunstein). A whole bunch of data online isn’t going to get me the heart surgeon I need, or the long-term investment plan I want, or the diverse circle of friends I should have to keep me reasonable. It’s better to make education, given by other educated individuals, accessible to more people than to just pile up a bunch of facts and make them available to anyone with internet access.

Dan Ariely’s new book, The Upside of Irrationality, chronicles how we overvalue our own creations. We are so totally biased for our own ideas that we not only fail to see the merits in others, but we assume that everyone shares our value in our ideas. Step back, take stock. Know where we, the internet generation, sit in history. Don’t get carried away with our own invention of the Internet and accessible data. Real democracy comes with real education.

-Christine Cavalier

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