My favorite chapter in “Why the Net Matters” is Chapter 6, Cultivating Human Capital. Regular readers might recognize this as one of my favorite topics. Human Capital refers to knowledge and know-how, which is key to the success of any country. The chapter begins by discussing the benefits of crowd sourcing. For example, fold.it tackles the computationally difficult problem of protein folding by turning it into a game played by thousands. CSTART.org, which stands for Collaborative Space Travel and Research Team is an open-source development to get a manned craft to the moon. CSTART is a non-government, non-profit, collaborative space agency with the mission of “space exploration, by anyone, for anyone.
There are so many resources on the net for cultivating human capital. There is the Wikipedia. There is MIT’s open courseware that is open to any self-learner. Rice University launched Connexions (cnx.org), which features 17,000 modules woven into 1,000 collections for levels from children to professionals, in fields ranging from electrical engineering to psychology. Also there is Khan Academy. By no means is this an exhaustive list.
Massive Online Open Courses (MOOCs) are being made available through many universities. Although courses are usually free, there is the matter of getting credit for successfully completed courses. These issues are being worked out. However, sometimes it is better to audit a course first, before taking it for credit. I had a friend who did this for his Calculus courses. He would first audit course, and then take it for credit. He earned straight As in these courses.
Of course, education is appreciated most by those who are growth minded. In the lingo of the health memory blog, this is transactive memory, which is knowledge available via technology and fellow humans.
It can be argued that we are much better at cultivating human capital than at exploiting human capital. Although crowd sourcing is a good example of effectively exploiting human capital, I spent my career with the privilege of working with brilliant individuals, yet this talent was not effectively exploited and frequently ignored. Bureaucracies in both government and in private companies stifle this human capital. Management does not appreciate, and sometimes cannot appreciate, this potential, so it remains unexploited. Bureaucracies excel at growing themselves rather than understanding and making use of effective human capital. Bureaucracies also adversely impact the cultivation of human capital. I’ve heard the argument, and I believe this argument, that a factor bearing a significant impact on the ridiculously increased costs of higher education is the growth of unnecessary bureaucracy. Bureaucracies need to be studied and changed so that their goal is the cultivation and exploitation of human capital rather than the growth of the bureaucracy.
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