I love learning new things. Now that I’m out of college, I can decide for myself what to learn and when. I’ve taught myself how to use the internet for learning, and have gotten a pretty good grasp on what’s possible.
I think that the best lessons are those that not only give you new knowledge or skills, but give you an entirely new way of looking at the world. I’ve learned a lot online, but there’s only a handful of lessons that have entirely changed my way of thinking. Perhaps they can do the same for you. So I will share them with you, in the hope that perhaps you in turn will share them with others. And maybe you will share in the comments some of the things that have changed the way you think. I look forward to reading your suggestions. Now let’s get started!
Big History is very different from traditional history education. It doesn’t focus on any particular period or region. You won’t hear about great kings or important battles. Rather, Big History considers all of time from the Big Bang, 13.7 billion years ago, until the present day.
Even more amazing is that a story that enormous has an overarching theme: increasing complexity. From an expanding universe of homogeneous matter, to stars and supernova’s, new chemical elements, to the formation of the solar system, earth, life itself, human beings, writing and culture and now technology and science. At an ever increasing pace, new orders of complexity are unlocked in a universe that ought by its nature to tend to entropy, chaos.
Big History will tell you where you stand in the vast world around you and in the great span of time. It gives you context, a context in which to position everything else you have ever learned or will ever learn. So if your goal is to gather new knowledge and understanding, perhaps this is the best place to start.
I know that Tumblr has a certain reputation as a platform for social justice. “Social Justice Warriors” have an unfortunate tendency to take everything a bit too seriously and make a fool out of themselves. They may not always articulate their ideas well, but it doesn’t make them wrong. And though SJWs may be a minority, their ideas are reflective of the new generation and are probably going to become more mainstream in years to come.
Joining Tumblr has taught me that people in our society are far more diverse than we are often told, and that what we consider “normal” is in fact rather arbitrary. I wasn’t completely unaware of this before I joined Tumblr. Growing up in the Netherlands, I’ve witnessed homosexuality become widely accepted. But reading some of the posts on Tumblr has opened up an even wider and more diverse world for me. A world where your biological sex need not determine what gender you identify as, nor what gender you find yourself attracted to, nor how you choose to behave or present yourself. Even more, some people are fluid in their gender or sexuality, or want to have nothing do with genders or sex at all. Only after seeing numerous permutations of birth sex, gender and sexuality have I come to realize that they are three distinct matters and none of them determines any of the others. And needless to say, people must be treated as equals no matter their gender or sexuality: a dream we are still far from realizing.
Tumblr isn’t an educational resource: it’s a community of like-minded people. The advantage of this is that you can learn about things you didn’t even know existed, and would never have found by yourself. So I suggest you create an account there and start connecting and exploring.
There are many educational channels on Youtube, and more appear all the time. My heartfelt thanks and respect go out to all those who dedicate their time to enlighten the world. There are many channels and video’s I could mention, but I will limit myself to those who have most changed the way I see the world.
C.G.P. Grey teaches mostly basic political theory and geopolitics. From the names and borders of countries to the structure of the US and the EU to a comparison of alternative voting systems for elections. Especially those last videos have taught me that what we think of as the ‘normal’ voting system is neither the only possible system nor necessarily the best.
Watching The Brainscoop has given me a new appreciation of museums and what they do for science and education. Its taxidermy videos have also made anatomy something that you can actually see rather than only read about. But above all, Emily makes you see science as an exciting and grand undertaking and not a bunch of dry subjects you were taught in highschool whether you were interested or not.
But towering above them all are the many videos of Crash Course. No matter what subject they take on, be it Chemistry, Biology, History or Psychology, the Green brothers and their associates will not only show you the information you need to understand the field, but will challenge you to think for yourself. The World History videos made me question what civilization is, where it came from and where it’s going. But my favourite is this set of videos from Crash Course biology that will show you the overall structure of the entire animal kingdom and how it evolved.
Last but certainly not least, nothing is as apt to change your perspective than the talks uploaded daily to TED.com. The many talks you can watch on this website have few common themes or topics. What unites them is their quality and the vision and zeal of the presenters.
TED has an archive of hundreds of talks, so let me present you with a personal selection of videos that most changed my way of thinking about the world.
I’ve always tended to think of environmental organizations in the terms in which they present themselves: lone warriors against an uncaring corporate world and the only ones to care for our beautiful mother earth. Therefore, the only solutions that will save us all are the ones they sanction. Stewart Brand doesn’t think in such romantic terms. He sees a problem and finds the best solution, even if this goes against all green doctrine.
We’re often told about the power of the internet to unite people and affect change, but watching this talk was the first time I considered concrete ways in which the internet can connect citizens with their governments. I fully agree with Shirky that this is a thing that needs to happen.
We grew up hearing about ‘The Third World’ and people starving in Africa. It wasn’t until I heard Hans Rosling’s statistics that I discovered that reality is far more complicated.
When you’re young you don’t question why there is school and why it works the way it does: it is simply a part of your everyday reality. But Sir Robinson does ask these questions, and once you start looking closely at our educational systems, they seem outdated, archaic even.
Well, that’s it
For now. I hope that some of these lessons will be of use to you, and will enrich the way you think about the world around you. Because in my experience, there is nothing more invigorating than looking at the world that seemed so simple yesterday and now turns out to be even more complex and beautiful than you had thought.
So now that you’ve heard about the things that have changed my way of thinking about the world, I hope you will share with me some of your own inspirations. Leave a comment, write a reply, send me a message. Whatever works for you. And keep sharing what you learn with others. Until we meet again!