If ‘information wants to be free’ where does that leave knowledge today? Today, we live in a window of opportunity where verified, world-class experts give away ~95% of their wisdom - for free, where you can get a world-class university-caliber education online - for free, and where far too many people spend far too much free time with their computers (not so free). So why isn’t the market - heck the world - benefiting from a massive influx of MOOC enabled talent graduates from the University of Benevolent Knowledge? Three reasons:
The first, which is not unique to our times, is that many types of work require some form of familiarization or concurrent OJT to curate knowledge into an applied form of value. The second and third, which run counter to the folklore narratives of our times, is credentials actually matter and biological systems (namely adults) need to overcome some form of resistance to keep learning. The narrative of our times postulates that credentials don’t matter (at least not as much as they used to) and frequent chunks of JIT learning will effectively proxy for deeper learning which requires deliberate time away from other distractions.
To be fair the dropout of college turned next gen genius will endure without their degree, but that niche of a niche hardly constitutes a market. Plus it’s hard to reconcile increasing attention deficits with actual learning or competence in blue ocean problem solving. Ad infinitum, imagine a situation where proxies for screening job candidates are eliminated and all job applicants are assessed based upon customized simulations and prototypical outcomes? Translation: credentials have a real-world, albeit abstract efficiency purpose just like money.
I propose for your consideration the possibility that the folk narrative of our times might have a hidden agenda or, to quote Nicholas Taleb, ‘Don’t tell me what you think, tell me what you have in your portfolio?’ Credentials aren’t a problem, they solve a problem. The problem with credentials is rooted in the relevancy most legacy learning experience. Plus micro-learning isn’t a solution, all too often it’s used as a patch, a band-aid, a plaster designed to compensate for poorly executed design thinking.
Let’s not forget, back in the day, Bill Gates would take ‘think-weeks’ every year to ponder and design better ways to capture thicker and thicker slices of your thinning attention in his portfolio. So the next time you are taking a micro-course to earn a nano-credential on the topic of the serotonin benefits of abstaining from technology remember, information may want to be free, but knowledge is hard earned which is why information is a commodity and attention is like a credit card or credit default swap, i.e. a derivative of knowledge. Best to think about that latter point for a good long while, you will learn something about insurance.