The two cultures

September 20, 2006

Philosophically, the world divides into two groups which I’ll call the Blues and the Reds.

Blues believe that some things are true, no matter what. Some things stay fundamentally the same, day in and day out. Blues respect authority, because it is legitimate. You should play to win but play by the rules. Blues have confidence in experts. Blues like a clean, straight-forward, logical argument. Blues are competitive because they feel entitled to their share of the world’s incredible wealth. Blues are loyal.

In the world of learning, this group believes that the most efficient way to learn is by being taught by a great teacher. They feel thqt the basic learning methodology is to distill a topic into its very essence and drink in this elixir of knowledge. Design always trumps less precise approaches.

Reds believe that everything is relative. Truth? It depends on the context, and the context is changing ever faster. Reds question authority, because the old must give way to the new. Reds are forever trying to change the game. Reds are suspicious of experts. Reds know that nothing is as simple as it seems. Reds are cooperative because they feel there’s plenty to go around. Reds follow their passions.

Reds believe that learning is social; you learn from or with others. And that learning is learning by doing. Some topics defy distillation. You’ll never learn to ride a bike by reading about it. Experience is the best teacher, and often evolution provides a more fertile ground for learning than reductionist design. 

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