Life Key: Move away from fear, greed, and ignorance

Greed Fear Ignorance

This is kind of interesting.

MIT has this project called “ULab,” which is designed to transform higher education. That’s a pretty complex topic to tackle, because a lot of the problems with higher education come from the context of how the previous generation (the parents) defined the purpose of higher education for the current generation experiencing it (the students), and that’s a big chunk to bite off. (For example, a lot of parents tell their kids that college is about getting a job ultimately; there’s really no evidence that it’s been about that for 15-20 years, if not more. A lot of parents tell their kids it’s about “a learning experience,” but that’s extremely vague and fucking off in class on Tinder can be construed as “a learning experience too.”)

Anyway, I digress. ULab wrote a post on Huffington Post about some of their early findings and one section stands out as pretty intriguing.

The idea is around moving from “Big Data” — a fraught concept — to “Deep Data.” That sounds like a buzzword (and is one), but the idea in higher education is to provide a mechanism that “can help learners see themselves through the eyes of another, both individually and collectively.” That makes sense. That’s almost a basic thesis for what education is, no?

ULab did three live-streamed classrooms with 10,000-15,000 students from across the world; afterwards, they asked the students what their biggest concern was. Most of them said they needed to get at the material, and the interactions therein, on a deeper level. (“Deep Data”) Then the researchers asked, “Well, what’s holding you back?” The students responded and the researchers turned that into a word cloud:

Greed Fear and Ignorance Are Bad

Look at the three words that pop:

  • Greed
  • Fear
  • Ignorance

The researchers shared this with colleagues in Bhutan, and those colleagues noted something interesting: those same three concepts (greed, fear, and ignorance) are the three poisons of Buddhism.┬áThe three poisons, if you couldn’t guess from the naming convention, are tied directly to suffering in the Buddhist religion.

The broadest goal, then, is to do this:

  • Transform fear into courage
  • Transform greed into compassion
  • Transform ignorance into inquiry

That all seems to make sense. That’s kind of like a global thesis on what we should be doing with every major concept in society, from “education” right on through “leadership.”

Compassion has pretty deep ties to respect, and that’s all people at a job really want — even though it’s hard for them to get.

Inquiry has deep ties to curiosity, and I think that’s what we should be chasing when we look at building out any team.

Courage is pretty much everything, because you need it to turn thoughts (especially thoughts others can’t see yet) into real action.

Sometimes it pisses me off when you look at a base higher education situation, because honestly, “fear” and “ignorance” are pretty rampant. In the grad school program I was in, professors would threaten students with bad grades (fear), which scared them; but when they got enough complaints and didn’t want to deal with it, they’d reduce a 12-page paper divided among six people to an eight-page paper (ignorance). Now everyone is writing what, 1-1.5 pages? That’s basically four paragraphs. Way to get someone to master a topic, no? (I understand 12/6 = 2, so it’s not the greatest argument ever.)

I can’t speak to “greed,” although I think greed is fairly pervasive in every walk of life. Read this.

That second set of bullet points, then — fear to courage, greed to compassion, ignorance to inquiry — it can sound like a ton of buzzwords, yes, but it’s basically everything you want to be doing in your life, whatever role you play in the broader world.

Ted Bauer