February 22nd, 2015

4 educational resources that’ll change how you see the world

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

big history

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.

Tumblr

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.

Youtube

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

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.

thebrainscoop

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.

crashcourse

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.

TED

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!

January 11th, 2015

The Internet is a Paradise for Lifelong Learning

Seniors in an internet cafe

Online education isn’t a new thing, but in recent years it has grown in leaps and bounds, both in volume and in quality. This is great for pupils still in school: projects such as Khan Academy build on the traditional school curriculum and support students in finishing their educations. Online resources also offers more tools to educators, allowing them to capture the fleeting interest of their students with multimedia, interactive material. But it doesn’t stop there. Educational platforms targeted at more mature audiences are also available online, enabling people to keep learning throughout their entire lives: lifelong learning. And learning outside of the classroom can have a number of advantages.

The Internet is a Paradise for Lifelong Learning continued »

November 23rd, 2014

Android Wear: almost there, but not quite

Android Wear is Google’s take on what a smart watch could be. Whereas Apple’s smart watch won’t come out until early next year, the first watches running Android Wear started appearing last summer. Unfortunately, of the several models of watch that were announced the model people wanted most – the Moto 360 – was delayed quite a long time. Last week I finally got my hands on one.

Moto 360 running Android Wear

Android Wear: almost there, but not quite continued »

November 19th, 2014

Surface Pro 3: Review

In this post I will be reviewing the Microsoft Surface Pro 3. About a month ago, I got the core i5, 256G SSD, 8GB RAM version with type-cover. And I won’t make you read to the bottom to give you my overall conclusion: this device is freaking amazing! Let me tell you how came to that realization.

Surface Pro 3 with and without type cover Surface Pro 3: Review continued »

October 26th, 2014

Life without regrets

“Live as if there is no tomorrow!”

Bullshit.

Like many platitudes, this one certainly sounds enthusiastic and inspirational. But it has no practical application. If there were no tomorrow, people would be spending what money they have today, desperately trying to fit as many pleasant experiences in what few hours we had left. We’d have no regard for consequences or the state of the world around us because hey, it’ll all be gone tomorrow anyway, right?

In reality, tomorrow does come, rent will be due, and you have to be at work on time. Telling people to live as if there is no tomorrow is like teasing a draft horse for not breaking its bonds and racing off into the great wild outdoors. Our existence is not free of consequence, and no sane person would live their life as if it were. Life without regrets continued »

October 12th, 2014

What’s the worst that could happen?

Although admittedly I have lived a pretty sheltered and blessed life, I have faced some setbacks just as everybody has. I have been fortunate enough to have found some effective ways of dealing with such things. Thanks to this, I have a very robust mental health which I’m quite proud of. I want to share some of the strategies I use, in the hope that they may be of use to others. Because I would love nothing better than for all people to be happy and content. I think that any person being unhappy or depressed is simply a terrible waste if it can be avoided.

So lately I’ve been having some problems with work. This has been weighing on my mind, to the point that even during my off-time I couldn’t relax. I kept running simulations in my head of conversations I might have with my supervisors to discuss these problems: what I’d say, what they’d say. I care about what they think of me: this company is run by kind people, and they’ve been very flexible in meeting some of my earlier concerns. I worried that I’d seem ungrateful by bringing these things up, even to the point of imagining doomsday scenarios where I’d be fired in anger and never find another job again. What’s the worst that could happen? continued »

July 27th, 2014

A Walk in the Park

Methought I walked in a dream
in the park, on a lazy Sunday afternoon.
Each man and woman content
in their own world, a story of a lifetime fleetingly glanced,
side by side, a library of books read only by a few.

Yet peace shines through the covers and needs no words.
Enough to walk or rest here, together yet alone,
lifes touching without connecting
as we share a dream outside of time
of a lazy Sunday afternoon that never ended.

July 25th, 2014

Soylent: how to make your own

For my final post on my new Soylent experiment I thought I’d give you a little glimpse of how I make a batch of Soylent. The whole process takes maybe five minutes, and makes for three square meals.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I sometimes add some chocolate, strawberries or other stuff to add some flavour, but that’s optional.

So I’ve been on Soylent for over three weeks now. I think it’s safe to say I won’t be going back to only regular food any time soon. I eat Soylent for breakfast and lunch on most days, and dinner when I don’t want to bother with preparing anything. Grocery shopping has become completely optional, which saves money but more importantly is far more convenient. Also I hardly ever need to wash any dishes anymore. I feel fit and I have more regular and pleasant trips to the toilet than I’ve had in years. I have learned to put my Soylent lunch in the fridge when I get to work in the morning, or else by noon it’ll have spoiled. Other than that I haven’t had any drawbacks to speak off. In conclusion I’m all set to stay on Soylent for years to come.

July 23rd, 2014

Soylent: days seven and eight

Days seven and eight of my Soylent experience.

Not much to tell about my one week anniversary. More colleagues were interested in the subject, although none of them dared a taste. They looked at soylent.me and some other sites, and tentatively agreed that it might be convenient, but just too weird for their tastes.

On day eight I had another day off work. I finished my last Soylent for breakfast, then headed out to buy some utensils to make it even easier to prepare more. I bought a plastic container to hold the whey protein powder, a funnel so I can fill up a normal bottle with Soylent if I want, and a new pitcher (so far I’ve been storing my Soylent in the fridge in my blender jar). The plastic container turned out to work well, so I’ll pick up more of them to hold the other powders.

Once I’d brought my haul home, I mixed up a fresh batch for lunch. So far I’d been using raspberry-flavoured whey protein powder, but this time I also threw in a sample of peanut-chocolate flavour that I got free with my purchase. Turns out the peanut-chocolate flavour is far stronger, and very tasty. I’ll order that flavour for my next protein powder shipment, but that’ll be a while yet: I still have over 4 kilos of the stuff left, which should last me well into august.

I took my lunch with me in my trusty flask and once again spent most of my day outdoors. The book of the day was Delusions of Gender by Cordelia Fine. I found it very interesting, but it’s written to disprove popular science about neurological differences between genders, which I didn’t put much faith in to begin with. Still, I was surprised at the research showing how deeply ingrained our conceptions of gender are in our minds. The peanut-chocolate Soylent was tasty at first, but quickly faded into the background. All in all a very fulfilling day.

July 23rd, 2014

Soylent: days five and six

Days five and six of my Soylent experience.

Over the weekend I tried out my new recipe, but it didn’t work very well. I’m guessing that 1900kcal is just too low: I felt slow and weak. So for dinner, I cooked myself a nice tikka masala. It was especially tasty and satisfying after a few days of only Soylent. Now that I’ve tested out living on Soylent alone, I figure from now on I’ll go back to regular dinners whenever I have time to cook properly. And I’ve adjusted my recipe to 2100kcal, the same as the original.

Other than that, it’s been a pretty miserable weekend all-round. The weather is hot, I got sunburn, I could hardly sleep and the house is stifling yet marginally cooler than outside. I’m looking forward to returning to our air-conditioned office come Monday.