The Digital Civilization
Nicholas Negroponte’s 1995 book “Being Digital” gave a glimpse into the world we now occupy – complete with wireless, touch screens, ebooks and personalized news. In the 20 years since, digital has shifted from revolution to civilization. We now live, work and play in a digital age (to the extent our culture, infrastructure and economy allow, in that order). And like air and drinking water, being digital will only be noticed in its absence, not its presence, he explains. As we move beyond digital, Negroponte gives us another glimpse of the surprising changes and possibilities that lie ahead. He explores several forces of change that he predicts will – and some that already are – affect the planet profoundly, including extreme bionics, real artificial intelligence and connectivity as a human right.
True Innovation Shouldn’t Focus on the Outcomes – Celebrate the Process
In the developing world, we are sharing the wrong message about entrepreneurship and what constitutes success. A 12-year-old from Sierra Leone made a battery out of garbage, an achievement celebrated by many. But the accomplishment wasn’t the battery; it was the style of thought that led him there. When we become focused on the outcome and attach our work to it, we find ourselves resistant to trying new things and putting forth our best, innovative efforts. Nicholas Negroponte, drawing insight and inspiration from personal experiences throughout the globe, delves into why this is and how we should instead attach worth to effort – making the innovation process itself exciting and rewarding regardless of outcome.
Creating a More Peaceful Planet through Technology
Global access to the “digital world” – by children and poorer nations – carries unprecedented potential to bridge education divides, transform learning and improve skills for the globalized economy. Nicholas Negroponte believes the results will drive local value and identity, spur global understanding and ultimately, create a more peaceful planet. He discusses the impetus behind his pioneering One Laptop per Child program and his more recent reading experiment in Africa as examples of how technology is transforming education while helping break down national borders.
Righting the Wrongs of How We Learn
What if we have learning all wrong? The industrialization of schooling, says Nicholas Negroponte, has replaced our natural wonder of learning with an obsessive focus on facts. We treat knowing as a surrogate for learning even though experience tells us it is quite possible to know about something while utterly failing to understand it. Compounding this, he says, is our fatally flawed belief that anything can be taught and there is a perfect way to teach everything. The lesson doesn’t just apply to children or to developing countries either. In a provocative discussion, Negroponte ponders how our world would be a better place if we focused less on measuring what we tell people and more on understanding how they discover.
Technology: Always Think of the Provocative
The history of innovation is testimony to questioning assumptions and given truths about our world. Particularly in technology, Nicholas Negroponte provokes questions today about how students are better taught through technology – not the way you probably think – or questioning the prevailing condemnation of genetically modified foods to nuclear power are based on wisdom or short term considerations. Consider that at the times when Negroponte was advocating the creation of MIT’s Media Lab, underwriting Wired magazine, authoring “Being Digital,” a New York Times #1 bestseller, to starting the initiative to give poverty-stricken and education-deprived children computers, the worldwide consensus was, on each occasion, opposed to these innovations. When did an innovation ever come from consensus?