The new Venture Countries of tomorrow

If nation-states have any sense at all then they are already planning to reform their educational systems ahead of a world of increasingly sophisticated goods and services. Not mass-produced consumer goods and services. They are already maxed out for rich and poor alike. The new era is of highly customised teaching and health care methods depending on an individual’s genes and epigenes. Countries may have to turn to another method of selecting their creatve personnel, not necessarily from their own culture,

The classic case is that of Srinivasa Ramanujujan (1887-1920), considered by many to be amog the most brilliant mathematicians ever, born into poverty in India and initially self-taught, he was finally invited to Oxford by Hardy. He solved 3,900 equations, many of which were considerable to be insoluble. Tragically, he dies at an early age of tuberculosis.

Soon, however, with cheap smartphones and tablets, we will have hundreds of thousands, if not millions of sub-30 year-old intellectuals of Ramanujujan’s stature around he world, not necessarily in mathematics but anywhere in the whole scientific canon. By coincidence one of the leaders in this is also an Indian, Anant Agarwal, in charge of Massachusett’s Institute of Technology’s edX system. Many other universities are already involved in teaching over the Internet and many will follow. Some charge fees, others are free. MIT’s edX is free but will charge a small fee for a diploma.

MIT’s edX will also cater for part- or micro-qualifications. What Agarwal has discovered so far is that a great deal of the teaching and correcting is done by the students themselves. My own reading in anthropology suggests that a group of not more than six will be the most efficient self-learning group, one of their number becoming its effectual teacher — rather like the Monior Schools in Victorian England.

And there will be no shortage of methods of delivery, Google, Facebook and Amazon are three of those who are seriously developing ideas of geostationary satellites, balloons and solar-power drones to deliver the software.

In any case, with or without the support of sponsoring colleges and universities, posses of brilliant young people will be congealing around specific subjects. Even ultra shy individuals such as Ramanujan or Paul Dirac need groups of friends, supporters, sponsors and, ultimately, investors.

The new and successful countries of tomorrow will not necessarily be those that are already high in the scientific discovery game and win all the Nobel prizes so far — Germany, Britain, Netherlands and America — but those that also take a close interest in the thousands of self-learning groups that might well be springing up all around the world.

Countries of tomorrow will have to become more like Venture Capital businesses, having to assess thousands of ideas for every one that can be taken further. However, unlike Venture Capital businesses which want fully sprung management teams as well as the idea, Venture Countries are going to have to be generous in giving the young people their head without immediate expectations.

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