Education

So, Gregory Johnson was asking about education:

On a tangentially related note (to firmish SF), how does education work exactly, in your universe? It has been implied in several places that skills get basically downloaded (or can be), while it still takes to age 18 or so to be educated to Ph.D. levels. What does education really LOOK like?

Well, indeed, they can be. Data-sets, skill-sets, and so forth can be downloaded across the dataweave (mnemonesis), or even pulled out of the collective consciousness (remembrance), along even with personal memory sequences (exomemories). Indeed, dynamic mnemonesis enables you to remember any data on record as if it resided in your own memory. Advanced gnostic overlays permit the download of entire partial personalities, instincts, professional mindsets, and other similar temporary mental modifications.

The problem, of course, is that just having the knowledge won’t do a damn thing for you on its own. Grab some chump off the street and download a full knowledge of, say, proteomics into him, and all he’ll get is an uncomfortably full sensation in the brain-pan. The problems are two-fold: first, learning is associative, and without something to hook onto, said knowledge will be inaccessible. Second, it is a matter of processing power. Downloading knowledge into a mind that never learned to think doesn’t suddenly enable it to, whatever its genetic gifts.

So, education – about which I am only going to speak in general terms in case I want to use it later – is much more focused on teaching people how to think than on learning facts; facts are easy to acquire. The “primary” education initially focuses almost solely on this (logic, metaphysics, epistemics), followed by a “secondary” education that is their equivalent of a liberal arts education, which provides the very broad-based core that such modules you download later can hook into, along with the lots of practice needed to synthesize the gentle art of thinking.

(It’s actually rather broader than what we’d classify under that name – the traditional strands in it could be given as Advanced Logic & Mathematics; Business, Finance, and Economics; Domestic Arts; Engineering; Ethics & Civics; Fine Arts (both appreciation and practice); History; Literature; Martial Arts (both armed and unarmed); Natural Philosophy/Science. So, y’know, that this is what they expect any reasonably educated person to have good knowledge of might explain a few things…)

As for the hows, they don’t have schools (both for reasons of population demographics and because, well, they’d be absolutely terrible at doing this kind of education, rather than the kind of fact-and-discipline-centric kind we use). Education at this level is home-based, delivered by parents, the child’s muse, and companion AIs (and, of course, mnemonetically, for raw facts). Stylistically, it’s integrated into day to day life (since learning, they find, sinks in best when it’s fun and easy). Much of it is also practically-based; children are rather more integrated into society and work, and as such learning by doing – usually in whatever eclectic things strike their fancy – forms a great part.

By the time that this period is over, its average “graduate” has the equivalent of at least a couple of degrees worth of educational achievement, albeit widely spread and electic.

Now, as for higher education, it’s similar to ours; one attends classes at (or remotely from) a university. The distinctions would be that it’s very unstructured: organized by the class, and the degree one comes out with is just a matter of total achievement, not a specific pattern; and that there is little point to lectures in their paradigm, since information is easily conveyed mnemonetically. Instead, courses concentrate on class and lab time – discussion and practice at practical application are what synthesize and integrate the mnemonetically delivered knowledge with your core self.

Also relevant reading: Powers as Programs, Skilled but Naive, Neural Imprinting.

Trope-a-Day: No Matter How Much I Beg

No Matter How Much I Beg: Instructions like this given to one’s muse (or, more reliably, and in the case of a legal Confession of Situational Mental Incompetence, a dedicated guardian AI) are the resort of the infrequently weak-willed (or psychologically superstimulus-addicted) who feel that they need to be forcibly kept away from certain temptations.  With the help of a motor shunt that lets them take over your body when necessary, this can be remarkably effective.

Trope-a-Day: Mind Hive

Mind Hive: Several – arguably, most people qualify as at least a mild form of this, since the habit of running a muse, a personal assistant AI, on your implanted headware is close to ubiquitous.  Of course, actions aren’t by consensus in that case, but the habit of turning your body over to said AI for boring maintenance-type functions while you go do something more interesting in virtuality is also close to ubiquitous, so.

But there are more than a few mental architectures that work this way deliberately, especially among native infomorphs that use ‘shells only for specific tasks and so tend to have them run by consensus of a team of specialists, rather than assuming that one-shell-per-process is “natural”.  And even relatively simple high-coordination AIs have multiple consciousness loops/narrative threads in order to multitask effectively, whereas most biosapiences only have one; of course, they share all data in real-time, so may not quite qualify.

And, of course, the “Ocean of Mind” of the Transcend is a functional soup made up of teleological threads derived from aspects of the transcended hyperconsciousness, the uploaded personalities of the dead, and instantiated expediters based on local entelechical maxima.  Thus, arguably, the Hive Mind is also the biggest Mind Hive of them all.

Trope-a-Day: Technopath

Technopath: A ubiquitous talent in the more civilized Worlds (largely because Everything Is Online, including people’s brains – usually with both regular old WiFi and a high-bandwidth laser-port in the back of the neck that interfaces with any of a large number of comfortable chairs.) This is also how the majority of people do much of their jobs – be it the botboss conducting a mechanical symphony of drones from amidst them, or a group of high-level engineers collectively managing the affairs of a vast industrial complex from the comfort of their virtuality couches, the I-think-it-and-it-happens interface is where it’s at.

Heck, in lesser matters, you don’t even have to think it. One of the advantages of having your muse – the AI in your head – read your mind and pass selected relevant data on to, say, your house brain is that it can arrange to light the fire, turn the lights down low, put on some soft music, fetch that new book you hadn’t got around to reading yet, and pour you a glass of wine before your conscious mind quite realizes that you want a quiet evening at home, much less worked through all the tedious details of how to get one.

Trope-a-Day: Hearing Voices

Hearing Voices: If a regular person hears voices in their head that aren’t themselves, that probably means they’re insane.  For any one of trillions of transsophonts, on the other hand, it means that they’re talking to their muse, that computer that lives in their head and works for them performing all manner of personal-assistant-type tasks.  And for the Transcendi, Voice of the Legion included, it may also mean that one of the archai – although that’s time to start worrying, given what it tends to mean when one of them takes a personal interest – or your Transcendent coadjutor would like to drop you a word of friendly advice.

Trope-a-Day: Computer Voice

Computer Voice: Played straight with house brains and some institutional computers that talk to everyone around.  Played somewhat straight with muses, terminals, and various other more personal machines, with the twist that they’re talking to you inside your own head, on a secondary audio channel that doesn’t interfere with your ability to hear.  And can pick up your surface thoughts in reply, not just your subvocalization.  No-one wants to have the cellphone-conversation social problem made 10,000 times worse by people’s personal computing devices, after all.

And the voices, even the internal ones, are generally completely customizable to the user.  After all, when you have a constant companion inside your own head, you want to enjoy listening to them, right?