#ocTEL mooc – ponderings “Technology” is a force multiplier and a cost reducer (part 2)

When I did my last mooc (#edcmooc), I started wondering what technology actually was (see previous post worth reading before you read this)

At the end I said I would write a follow up post about what it means when computers reduce the cost of doing something so that is approaches zero, so here we go

Mental Tools “Cost reducer“- so (assuming that you have a smart phone) you have a calculator and spell check always, similarly you can google details about any subject you want (as Seth Godwin said in a recent talk “If something is important enough to memorise its important enough to look up”) and any thought you want to remember can be recorded.  Effectively the cost of knowing something has been reduced to the time taken to search for it (lets say 2 minutes?)

Mental Tools “Force Multiplier” again the calculator, spreadsheets for maths, plus any modelling software for seeing the effects of inputs to systems.  Similarly the ability to write down what you are thinking and edit it again and again allows you to develop your thoughts in a way you would struggle to do in your head (Thomas Edison wrote everything down).

Mental Tools “Storage” text, images, audio and video it is almost a trivial task to record and store anything now.  The only real cost still associated with this is the time cost to store it appropriately and transfer it (again these costs are decreasing)

So each human has the potential to know anything, is able to think at a level “Bare Brained” humans would struggle with and can store the results for reuse at a future date.

We now reach the really exciting change – using other humans as tools via technology!  Before computers we did this by forming a company, appointing a manager, hiring staff and  having meetings all of this took time and money.   Cory Doctorow in his book “For the Win” (click link to find book – Cory is offering it free and its great!) talks about “Coase Costs” (from the work of economist Ronald Coase) where basically a Coase Cost is anything you have to do to organise the work instead of getting on with the work (managers and meetings are often mainly Coase Costs).

What technology is doing is dramatically reducing the Coase Costs of doing something – a beautiful example of this can be found in the comments of this at the bottom of this blog post  by Nat Nelson, a group of academics are making an OER together (there are still Coase Costs they are meeting virtually and planing their work – but the Coase Costs are much lower) , now my institution can be fairly dynamic for a big Uni – but if I was doing this for work I would still be writing the business case for my line manager to approve.  They already have a session plan and some materials.

Using other humans as tools: “Communication” email, texts, mobile, social media – not only can I get a message out but I can harness others to do the same for me.  If you have ever retweeted, liked, forwarded a text or passed on one of the flipping chain emails you have done this.  The ripple view on google+ gives you a great idea of how this works.

Using other humans as tools: “Collaboration” to give someone else an “edit view” on something you are working on is now about 3 clicks in a lot of systems.

Mixed-Node Collaboration Graph

For a lot of them you can both/all edit at the same time, similarly you can (video) chat while doing it or leave comments for later.  Often anyone working on it can bring in others if they want.

There are commercial versions of this – Mechanical Turks (they have up and downsides!).  What I am more interested in is where your like minded community works on it together (see the OER example above).  This can be particularly true in education – the cost to me of giving away my creations/thoughts/session plans is a tiny bit of time posting them.  The potential gains are that other will like/feedback/improve them, plus they are all fairly likely to be sharing their stuff.  Its an easy win for all of us.

Interestingly I came across an idea from the UK Green party in the newspaper the other week, where they suggest a “Citizens Income“.  My initial reaction was “yeah right, that’s pretty impractical”, however thinking about the “Coase Costs” of traditional companies, the ease of online collaboration, the changes coming with 3D printing and the trend toward a information economy – they may actually have had an idea thats genius.  If I get the time I will write a post on it – for now, why do you think it could be clever?


5 thoughts on “#ocTEL mooc – ponderings “Technology” is a force multiplier and a cost reducer (part 2)

  1. Nat Nelson

    I love the phrase “using other humans as tools”! It sounds negative when you look at the words alone, it’s only when you know what it means that you realise how positive it is. I had never considered myself as a tool (others might have!) and I quite like it. I had a quick look at the citizens income but I still don’t get it. Aren’t they just giving out money? Maybe my brain has turned to mush from reading all day.

    1. josephgliddon Post author

      Yes superficially the citizens income is just giving out money (I think the plan is instead of unemployment benefit & for those in work most of it will be instead of the tax free earnings bit, I guess the rest will be paid for by tweaking taxes elsewhere). However I think that in the light of increasing automation (see Are Droids taking our jobs?) and increasing uncertainty about what kind of things people will be employed to do in the future – it could be really useful to have a basic amount of money that everybody gets.
      People could then try weird new ways of earning a living online and know that even if they fail they will not starve, those that succeed will pay tax. As a country we would have loads of people trying to be clever & creative in new and interesting ways, and clever and creative is going to be the thing that sells – everything boring and repetitive will be done by robots (or humans willing to be paid less than robots).
      If I am going to be used as a tool – I want to be a creative tool, not a mindless hammer 🙂

  2. Pingback: #EDCmooc – ponderings “Technology” is a force multiplier and a cost reducer | More than just Content

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