The value and importance of remote learning starting in 3,200 BCE.

When someone tells me that they don’t think remote education is very good or very important, I like to remind them that two of the most important innovations in human history – the development of writing and the printing press – are actually examples of remote education technology.

Also, when someone tells me that they don’t like the idea of automating education, I like to remind them that both writing and the printing press put a lot of academics out of work. Writing put a lot of story tellers out of work, the printing press a lot of scribes.

Sometimes, I also like to emphasize how long it took for reading and writing to really catch on.

In the west, writing started to develop in Mesopotamia around 3,200 BCE. However, we only know about the philosophy of Socrates (469 – 399 BCE) because his graduate student, Plato (428 – 348 BCE), could write. He had mastered the “new” technology. Apparently, his mentor, Socrates, had not.

This academic pairing persists today. When I worked at Berkeley (1987-2007), we would always try to pair up faculty with an interest in some new technology a graduate student who had already started to master some of the technical details.

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