I don’t know if I’m being smart with my occasional “Ask me anything” or not. Perhaps I should charge for answers. I could use an old price list from a couple of decades ago — adjusted for inflation. But for now, I’ll keep all answers free. You’ve got a deal because all my answers require thought and are guaranteed correct.

Alright, Mohan Boggara’s question was (paraphrased): given the acceleration of digital technologies and the Covid situation, what will the future of education be? Since digital technologies allow easy partnership between content creators and learners, and allow flexibility in time and space, will in-class education as we know it end? And what will be the future of schools and universities?

Advances in information and communications technologies (ICT) have had an impact (mostly positive) on every aspect of our lives. It will also transform how learning happens, and will most certainly change the character of traditional educational institutions. First of all it will reduce the cost of learning materials. If you have a device such as a laptop or a tablet, you can pretty much do without hard copy books and what’s more, you have access to rich audio, video, text and graphics content. The old talk-and-chalk classroom teaching is obsolete.

I think the future model of education will decouple the twin functions of teaching and evaluating. There will be specialized agencies that don’t teach but only evaluate and certify competency. There is no pass or fail — only a certification of how well a person knows the subject. And it is not a one-time test. You get tested as often as you please. If you advanced in your learning the subject, you go and get tested to reflect that fact.

Education — especially good quality tertiary education in prestigious institutions — has become needlessly expensive. That will drive the emergence of competitive supply of education and drive the traditional teaching institutions out of business. That does not apply to the research institutions. But quite a bit of the research that is currently done in private and public universities will move to private sector for-profit corporations. This will lead to an explosive production of new knowledge.

The revolution in ICT will be the greatest revolution in human history ever — greater than the agricultural revolution and greater than the industrial revolutions of the past.

Sanjay Srivastava asked about the pros and cons of “the amount of capital in India tied up in gold” which he thinks is a waste from an overall systems perspective.

I agree that there is a problem. An astonishing 11 percent of the world’s gold is held in private in Indian households. That’s astonishing because though India accounts for 18 percent of world population, it is a very poor country. So one would expect Indian households not to have that much gold. But there’s a reason why gold is the preferred way the poor save. It is a hedge against inflation of the paper currency that governments of poor countries engage in. Inflation hurts the poor the hardest and the only way they attempt to avoid it is to buy gold.

There’s no way out of this tragic situation. If the poor could, they would rather earn interest on their savings. But they are poor and therefore lack the skills to invest in other interest-bearing instruments. So they just buy gold. That at least makes their savings in gold inflation proof. But it is a social loss.

If I could, I would fix the education system. So the poor would get an education, that would lift them out of poverty, so that they will have more savings, and they would be able to invest their savings, and thus help themselves as well as the economy.

Mango wrote, “curious to understand your opinion on a free-market based money as an escape valve for the people in response to the central banking cartel which is essentially in the business of time theft via inflation.”

Free-market based money — or private money — is a most important idea. And the technologies exist that would make it a reality. Cryptocurrencies are a step in the right direction. Of course, government-controlled fiat money is the scourge of a nation but those in government get to have fun robbing the nation by inflating the currency. So it will be hard and long fight before we see the end of fiat currency. Sorry that that’s the way it is.

Baransam1 wrote, “I will like to know your thoughts on mental-depression. Being an economist, I have seen your extensive thoughts regarding poverty. But even for non-poor, life can be hell in spite of good food, good house, good clothes and good bank-balance. Science has prolonged the average human life and provided us with more free time. Maybe we have not yet figured out how to spend the additional time. Maybe that explains the many instances of depression around us.”

I am not a mental-health expert. More like a mental-health patient. Seriously though, I am persuaded by Thomas Szasz who held that depression is just made-up crap. It does not exist. He sounds insane but he is not.

The matter of depression aside, I think that people are happier today than they were in the past. This is so because people are richer today than they were in the past. Of course, beyond a certain level of material wealth, it does not increase happiness (felt or reported.) But we are not at that level that we don’t need more wealth for more people.

Are more people (in percentage terms) unhappy today compared to say 100 years ago? I doubt it. It’s like heart disease and cancer statistics. More people (in percentage terms) die of heart disease and cancer today than 100 years ago. That could mean that today’s people are less healthy than people of the past; or it could mean that today people live long enough to die of heart disease and cancer, while in the past, they died too young to get the diseases of old age.

Alright, I am done here. No charge.


Author: Atanu Dey


5 thoughts on “Answers”

    1. Nothing exceptionable in your tweet. Seems reasonable enough. If one avoids conflicts — with others or within oneself — one is better off than otherwise. To be free of conflict is good for one’s mental health. Achieving equanimity is a good thing. It’s hard to do but it can be learned. I believe that one can learn from others. I like the advice that Desiderata gives.

      Desiderata, the plural for “desideratum” which means “something to be desired or wanted.” Years ago I came across a piece by Max Ehrman titled “Desiderata.” There is a perfection about that piece. Brief and yet packs in a tremendous amount of practical wisdom. Its simple words have the depth to provide perspective to life’s joys, sorrows, trials and tribulations. I have yet to come across any situation that could not have been referred to the piece without insight.

      My favorite lines from it: “You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars. You have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.”

      That expresses the same thought as, “The world, Govinda, is perfect at every moment.”

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Thanks for the response,
    I would push back a bit though- Absolute scarcity in money is a one time discovery which can’t be reproduced by competing ‘cryptocurrencies’. I believe that only bitcoin has the probabilistic edge to resist any takeover by nation states.

    R.Breedlove’s article here nicely describes with an apt analogy:

    Also, technological adoption’s tendency to take an exponential path and it’s gamification of human greed could work in bitcoin’s favour.


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