I have always been a firm supporter of free education for all, as a way to democratise societies and create equal opportunities. Consequently, I went through several years of schooling until I got my PhD in economic history. When I have learned all I needed to know, I got a job as a lecturer at the University.
Several degrees and almost two decades in academia later, I decided to leave. I will not go into details about how difficult this step was or how unsupportive were most of my friends and family. Suffice to say, it took several years to gather my strength and defy social norms.
Once outside the educational system, I had to choices: a) Get another degree; something relevant to my new career, b) Use Google to find out all the information I needed. As an academic, my heart was telling me to trust Higher Education. As a rational human being, my brain was telling me to look for knowledge in the internet. Rationality won the day!
Over the past few decades I have learned how to ‘learn’. I can distinguish between reliable and unreliable information. I can assess evidence. I can recognise indications. I have the ability to distinguish complex patterns. I can analyse as well as synthesize data. what else did I need?
I certainly did not need a library. The internet changed radically the way we learn and we implement that knowledge. And Google helped us systematise it into a coherent whole. In all fairness, I am a massive fan of Google, since its beginnings. If they ever wanted an Early Adopter, they should have searched for me. I distinctly remember, when my PhD supervisor asked me in which journal I would find a certain publication, and his dismay when I answered “in Google”!
So, as soon as I was out of the university system, I used all of my skills to retrain myself for my new role; that of a successful businesswoman. I must have stayed in front of the computer for several months before I was able to make sense of all the information that bombarded me. It took me even more time to absorb them and become creative in how to create my own businesses. Now, I feel confident to spread my wings and disseminate that knowledge.
I am not claiming that Google is the only way to learn or that it is unproblematic. On the contrary, there are a lot of reasons for people, who are not used to learning, to avoid it altogether. For example, the articles may be confusing, the information could be conflicting, there are plenty of unorthodox methods going around and even more ‘disturbed’ human beings.
Despite its shortcomings, which may be overcome with a bit of careful reading and a thorough assessment of the sources, Google allows for a widespread dissemination of knowledge at the blink of an eye. Moreover, paying students are not the only cast who is entitled to access all of this useful material. Non-experts, social outcasts, citizens of the developing world and other disenfranchised groups are equally welcome to the Google community.
Beyond the democratisation of knowledge, we should not ignore Google’s contribution to cutting edge research. Reading blog and participating in forums is much more rewarding than any kind of publication. After all, the publication of research books and articles takes several years before it is complete. On the other hand, the summary or abstract of the latest scientific developments could appear immediately at the click of a button. How else would lean methodology become such a movement, before it ever hit the university’s curriculum?
Because of the above reasons I will continue worshiping Google! And yes, I will go on with my online mastermind groups on Google Hangouts.