Is There Intelligent Life On The Internet

‘Fire Of Knowledge?’ by Gloria

iGoogle: The Beast Turns Into Beauty

2 May is My Day Of Denial. George Siemens denies the death of the guru (1 May 2007, ‘To be weary of one’s own ideology,‘elearnspace), Oliver Schwabe denies the wisdom of the guru (26 April, ‘The guru is dead, long live the network,’ InsideKnowledge), and I deny both.

On My Day Of Denial, iGoogle comes up on my browser, on my Google Homepage, and I can’t deny that this Beast has successfully transformed itself into Beauty while the Yahoo Homepage has successfully transformed itself into shelves. iGoogle has the impact; Yahoo hasn’t the clue. (I gave you the clue last time, here, pointing out that ‘Google Redefines Creativity.’)

Oliver Schwabe avers that the network has supplanted the guru when it comes to knowledge, such as the Entovation Network on knowledge management, London Knowledge Network on collaborative advantage, and the Value Networks Consortium on value network analysis. George Siemens argues that networks themselves have gurus. ‘The difference is that the network guru is subject to feedback and holds her/his position based on continued valuable contributions’ from links. I say that Oliver is looking at the forest and missing the trees, while George is looking at the forest and differentiating the trees into entirely different species. In my mind’s eye, the independent guru is still there and is no different from the network guru who may in fact have been independent before. A different and powerful Duo Guru, if I may call them that, are Edward de Bono & Robert Heller (Thinking Managers). And so I say that the death of the guru has been slightly exaggerated.

Notwithstanding, all that is barking at the wrong tree, if I may mix my metaphor. Independent or networked, the more important question to ask is: What type of a guru do we each need?

To consider that, consider this: All of the above touches not only on computers and gurus but also learning and therefore teaching. I’m a writer and editor who’s hooked on computers like some people are hooked on drugs; I’m also a teacher at heart, having studied to be one and passed the very first (Philippine) teacher’s exam to boot, 1965 (80.6%, in case you ask). I’m concerned about how schools and computer experts and computer corporations and computer networks are teaching us, or trying to.

They all proceed from the assumption that they are gurus and they have to teach us. Given undecipherable computerese, they have a point there. Yet, in the first place, these gurus were the ones who gave us computerese and can’t talk any other way. I call that eating your cake and having it too.

I say that true gurus are not made by men (embracing women) but by people growing into such roles (of independent gurus, Steve Jobs is one). No, Oliver, they are not made by consensus or agreed-upon merit or utility (ergo, William ‘Bill’ Gates is not one); rather, they are made to last beyond their lifetime (Albert Einstein is one) on their own merit, or they are made to last only within a lifetime (Marc Andreessen is one) when they happen to be not outsmarted but outmarketed.

In the old school, the guru is the one anointed person or computer or node in a network; in the young school, the guru is the network itself. Old School guru Microsoft says the PC is the computer; young school guru Sun Microsystems says the network is the computer; younger school open source guru Linus Torvaald might say distributed intelligence is the computer.

Is the computer the guru? The guru is the one dispensing wisdom, distributing intelligence. That is the classical wisdom. That is good for mysticism, even for commercialism, but not for idealism, not even for realism. We do not learn just because we are told. And what we are told is not necessarily intelligent. A dossier or a database is not necessarily intelligence.

In the first place: Is there intelligent life on the Internet? Let us google for it now. For all we know, it might be all artificial!

I’m a teacher at heart and by education; while I’m not in the classroom anymore, I have always been interested in intelligence. Since the Internet is really multi-media, we might be kind enough to call it, to borrow from Harvard psychology professor & educator Howard Gardner, ‘multiple intelligences’ – but that would be without understanding.

Howard Gardner wants to ‘teach understanding’ while creator of ‘lateral thinking’ Edward de Bono wants to ‘teach thinking.’ Gardner is the technical guru, De Bono is the mentor guru. The T guru says, ‘Just do it!’ The M guru says, ‘Think about it.’

Now that we can tell one guru from another, we can go back to the Internet. So, all those networks are T gurus, not to mention Microsoft and OpenOffice online or offline. These gurus know everything.

So, who then are the M gurus? My surprising answer is that Google is one of them. This guru doesn’t know anything! Which makes it the perfect guru. You ask your own questions; it helps you find some answers and, failing in that, it helps you break down your question into searchable parts. Unlike Yahoo Answers or Wikipedia, Google gives you search results, not answers to your questions. And always, it invites you to search for more.

What Google does is think of the student (me) and find ways and means to help him think – and make the searching and the thinking as pleasant as possible. iGoogle is as pleasurable as can be – I can add the stuffs I want and those that I enjoy having. Try it sometime if you haven’t. (I wrote about Google’s Genius before in the American Chronicle, 11 February 2006.)

Give me a non-guru guru like Google anytime!

I have to learn to think on my own. That is the only way I can be taught. In a real sense, Google helps me think.

When we think of teaching through the personal computer, we should think of the person, not the computer. For example, Microsoft keeps insisting that it knows what people want about word processing, so every now and then it keeps bloating and offering a newly made-up Microsoft Word and continues to offer this programmer’s program to the non-programming public. It’s all so technical, no matter the claim that it’s all so intuitive. And OpenOffice keeps imitating Microsoft Office while Windows keep imitating the Mac! A guru I admire is Steve Jobs – he keeps reinventing himself and in the process, us. We have no need for gurus if they can’t get over their bright ideas. In the meantime, Google keeps reinventing the Search.

No, George, there is no intelligence in the computer, and there is no distributed intelligence in the Internet. There is no intelligence in nodes, even nodes that become central, that acquire an unusually large number of links – what they have is popularity, not genius. There is no intelligence in databases; there is no intelligence in artificial intelligence. There is only intelligence in the head that thinks.

Yes, like learning, intelligence is not a noun; it’s a verb, yes, like the journey is the reward. There are a million gurus in the Internet – who do you listen to? Your own guru in your own head. What we should be learning is how to think, not simply watching agog, not simply listening awe-struck, not simply reading avidly.

So, neither the computer nor learning is about the guru; neither is it all about the network – it’s all about thinking. So, George, you can be weary only if you’re always thinking the same things.

So what about thinking? I don’t mean the ‘higher order thinking skills’ that schools teach: comparing concepts, problem-solving, critical thinking, thinking with rules (try Marymount School). They are the same banana, all critical thinking or logical thinking or thinking with reason or scientific reasoning. The only truly higher-order learning is creative thinking. That is why we think of God as Creator.

We learn truly only from our own Eureka! Moments. Remember how Archimedes solved the riddle of the golden crown in which the king suspected the goldsmith of stealing some of the gold off it? Archimedes found the solution when he wasn’t looking for it, when he was bathing in water, not logic. Likewise, while Albert Einstein’s E-mc2 is logical, he didn’t derive it by reasoning – he derived it by insight.

Yes, the image you see is that of a tire burning along the road somewhere in Quezon City. No, there is no such thing as the fire of knowledge; there is only the fire of knowing – you cannot learn fire by just being told about it, shown it. Hardly does anyone teach generating insights on our own, hardly teach creative thinking, unlike Edward de Bono who theorizes lateral thinking, unlike Ray Bradbury who practices free word association, unlike Rudolf Flesch who teaches how to liberate your own mind so that you can think more, write better and speak best.

If you are truly learning, you will feel it in your heart that the best is yet to be! So, grow old along with me?


Copyright 03 May 2007 by Frank A Hilario
Researched for, written, organized-reorganized & formatted via Microsoft Word 2003.


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