Why School Promotes Anti-Learning
Look at this introduction
“Information is surprises. We all expect the world to work out in certain ways, but when it does, we’re bored. What makes something worth knowing is organized around the concept of expectation failure. Scripts are interesting not when they work but when they fail. When the waiter doesn’t come over with the food, you have to figure out why; when the food is bad or the food is extraordinarily good, you want to figure out why. You learn something when things don’t turn out the way you expected.
The most important thing to understand about the mind is that it’s a learning device. We’re constantly trying to learn things. When people say they’re bored, what they mean is that there’s nothing to learn. They get unbored fast when there’s something to learn. The important thing about learning is that you can learn only at a level slightly above where you are. You have to be prepared.”
On Artificial Intelligent
One thing that’s clear to me about artificial intelligence and that, curiously, a lot of the world doesn’t understand is that if you’re interested in intelligent entities there are no shortcuts. Everyone in the AI business, and everyone who is a viewer of AI, thinks there are going to be shortcuts. I call it the magic-bullet theory: somebody will invent a magic bullet in the garage and put it into a computer, and Presto! the computer’s going to be intelligent. Journalists believe this. There are workers in AI who believe it, too; they’re constantly looking for the magic bullet. But we became intelligent entities by painstakingly learning what we know, grinding it out over time. Learning about the world for a ten-year-old child is an arduous process. When you talk about how to get a machine to be intelligent, what it has to do is slowly accumulate information, and each new piece of information has to be lovingly handled in relation to the pieces already in there. Every step has to follow from every other step; everything has to be put in the right place, after the previous piece of information. If you want to get a machine to be smart, you’re going to have to put into it all the facts it may need; this is the only way to give it the necessary information. It’s not going to mysteriously acquire such information on its own.
You can build learning machines, and the learning machine could painstakingly try to learn, but how would it learn? It would have to read the New York Times every day. It would have to ask questions. Have conversations. The concept that machines will be intelligent without that is dead wrong. People are set up to be capable of endless information accumulation and indexing; finding information and connecting it to the next piece of information — that’s all anyone is doing.
On learning ( The must read section)
Everything they teach in school is oriented so that they can test it to show that you know it, instead of taking note of the obvious, which is that people learn by doing what people want to do. The more they do, the more curious they get about how to do it better — if they’re interested in doing it in the first place. You wouldn’t teach a kid to drive by giving him the New York State test manual. If you want to learn how to drive, you have to drive a lot. Most schools do everything but allow kids to experience life. If kids want to learn about what goes on in the real world, they have to go out into the real world, play some role in it, and have that motivate learning. Errors in learning by doing bring out questions, and questions bring out answers.
What kids learn in high school or college is antilearning. By reading Dickens in ninth grade, I learned to hate Dickens. Ten years later, I picked up Dickens and it was interesting, because I was ready to read it. What I learned in high school was something useless — that Dickens is awful. A ninth-grade kid isn’t ready for this. Why do they teach it? Because in the nineteenth century that was the literature of the time, and that’s when they designed the curriculum still used in practically all schools today.
I don’t think there should be a curriculum. What kids should do is follow the interests they have, with an educated advisor available to answer their questions and guide them to topics that follow from the original interest. Wherever you start, you can go somewhere else naturally. The problem is that schools want everyone to be in lockstep: everyone has to learn this on this day and that on that day. School is a wonderful baby-sitter. It lets the parents go to work and keeps the kids from killing each other.
Learning takes place outside of school, not in school, and kids who want to know something have to find out for themselves by asking questions, by finding sources of material, and by discounting anything they learned in school as being irrelevant.