Author Archives: Illah R. Nourbakhsh

About Illah R. Nourbakhsh

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Fast Learning’s Failure

Periodically, a good article is published reporting on a common-sense result that, in hindsight, is entirely unsurprising. In Parenting I write about the importance of learning to learn- of developing an inquisitive and curious eye, which is about noticing and communication being privileged far and away above specific technical skills. In the current Atlantic, Erika Christakis’ article, How the New Preschool is Crushing Kids, summarizes a number of recent results regarding just how over-teaching preschool programs focus so heavily on tactical skills development in learners that, come kindergarten, the students are far less prepared to learn — to be themselves. The lesson in all this? Childhood cannot be hurried. Knowledge cannot be force-fed. Our children need the time and space to explore, to learn to have wonder about all around them, and to explore slowly, gently and with depth and clarity. None of that aligns with standardized tests, columns of skills or early literacy programmes. Let’s keep first grade out of preschool!


Immortality. Again.

First there was the Singularity. Then the 2045 Project. Now there’s Humai- a startup devoted to making people live forever, as described in this Techspot article by Rob Thubron. It seems to easy these days to confuse simulation with reality. If we mine your social web presence, and create a learning computer algorithm that mimics your responses to other peoples’ posts, does that mean you’re immortal? You laugh. But I have talked to some Singularity believers recently who claim that we are already past the Singularity! That, in fact, their electronic presence is so strong that they shall never really “die.” Interestingly, they don’t use those quotes at all.  So perhaps the reason real, living venture capitalists (or are they zombies?) are willing to invest in companies like Humai is that language is fluid. All we have to do is redefine the word “death” and the word “immortal.” Then, under new semantics, companies can indeed sell us immortality. Bob’s your uncle.