Kevin Kelly, Adam Savage, Norm Chan discuss continuous learning, knowledge sharing, and how tools open up possibilities

I love it when really smart people, especially those well-versed in science, technology, and DIY, sit down and ramble on about whatever's currently tickling their proverbial fancies. In this video, Adam and Norm from chat with the always-informative Kevin Kelly. While the conversation is free-ranging, there is a loose theme about learning-on-demand, knowledge sharing, and the power of tools to inspire possibilities.

Here are a few useful take-aways from the discussion:

  • Being your own signal-to-noise ratio – Kevin and Adam chuckle over instances of searching on a subject online and mainly scooping up what they've written about that subject. E.g. Kevin looking up "superorganism" for a talk he was giving and finding out that the Wikipedia definition was taken from him.
  • Adam talks about the joys of lifelong curiosity and the time that Richard Feynman and Danny Hillis were trying to have dinner together but got sidetracked when the two of them became fixated on the physics of breaking dry spaghetti (i.e., how the pieces never break cleanly in two; there's are always multiple fractures). BTW: You can find out more about this here.
  • To learn more about a product your are interested in, search for the highest price of that object on eBay to find out the broad landscape of the object, from the most expensive, feature-rich, highest quality expressions of it, on down.
  • Use the Incognito Mode on Google to experience something you are searching for without your previous interactions influencing the search algorithms.
  • The trio talks about how great it would be if YouTube's algorithms were better at taking you to new places with suggested videos (rather than the same "murder's row" of channels that you already know about). They also talk about how cool it would be if users could tweak the algorithms themselves, invoking wider choices, narrower choices, expert search, amateur search, or even the ability to pretend that you're someone else during a search).
  • They talk a bit about how the internet has lead to a great acceleration of learning, not only in the maker/DIY worlds, but in technical and scientific fields and how there are resources for learning just about anything if you're curious. This leads to Kevin discussing…
  • Learning through Journal Club videos. Journal Clubs are groups of (mainly) science, medical, and technical professionals who are part of a peer-review club. One colleague reads a paper in the field and then does a video report on that subject for the other members. Adam and Norm had never heard of these clubs. Nor had I. It strikes me as something of a professional twist on the Feynman Technique for Learning. This is where you study something and then immediately teach it to someone else, identify what you don't understand as you teach it, then you go back and fill in those gaps in your knowledge. There is clearly a benefit to having a professional who's just learned something passing it on before basic assumptions and ideas get backgrounded. To check this out for yourself, do a YouTube search on a scientific, medical, or technical subject you're interested in and add "journal club."
  • Another great tip they share: When you want to learn about something, do an Internet search on whatever it is plus "Forum" (or "Solution"). This will scoop up all of the online communities where that subject is being talked about, worked on, troubleshot, etc. by a passionate group of explorers.
  • Kevin and Adam talk about their love of hands-on videos that don't edit out the failures. There is a lot to be learned from the things that don't work. Dead ends. Spectacular failures. These failures can be far more instructive, and even more entertaining. Make more "How it went" (process) videos rather than "How-to" videos.
  • Kevin talks about the motto of his Cool Tools site, "A Catalog of Possibility," and how things like Cool Tools, Tested, Make:, Maker Faire, and tools in general can create possibilities, inspire people, even in just showing what tools are available and what they can do.