|Bill Davidow, author "Overconnected"|
Two recent arrivals reverberate regularly in my daily work-a-day life teaching communications. "Some is not a number, soon is not a time," is a quote from the Heath brothers' book, "Switch". It's a nice re-issue of the famous maxim: what you can measure you can improve.
The next is from "Overconnected, the promise and threat of the Internet' by Silicon Valley veteran William Davidow. His book's premise is that 'feedback loops' in computer and communications technologies accelerate flaws in financial systems and make mistakes easier to make and slower to stop. It's less a "pro and con" view of the Internet than a view from beneath the floorboards of how the Internet's changed the world's economies.
He quotes his humanities professor from college, John Adams. Adams required students to memorize years, names and places. When engineers like Davidow protested such memorization, Adams answered "I have found that the more facts people know, the less they theorize."
For teachers, this advice is a helpful reminder. In the Age of Information, it's tempting to throw out the baby with the bathwater. If Google delivers facts, dates, names in a matter of seconds, what good is reading a detailed account of a historical era or event? The temptation to turn instead to the Internet's maze of dazzling distractions is easy to understand.
The answer, of course, is context: The reason for the sudden rush of coolness and bouyancy is the pool of water you just dove into. Context gives us the reasons that the economic crash of 2008 was similar and different than the one of 1929. Knowing facts, dates, names and context is what prepares us to not repeat mistakes, but avoid them.