The Usefulness of Useless Knowledge

Maria Papova:

In a 1939 essay titled “The Usefulness of Useless Knowledge”, Abraham Flexner says that curiosity is what has driven the most important discoveries of science and inventions of technology. Which is something very different from the notion of practical or useful knowledge, which is what we crave. We want a concrete answer to the question, but at the same time it’s this sort of boundless curiosity that has driven most of the great scientists and inventors.

Makes me feel a lot better about reading so much.

I wonder if curiosity is something that can be nurtured. Kids are naturally curious, so why not introduce them to programming at a young age to get them curious about technology?

Angel Investing

Closed two angel investments this week. PayrollHero is a web and mobile app that streamlines payroll processes and automates employee clock in clock out. 8 Villages is a is a mobile platform linking farmers to their communities of peers and business partners. I’ve been talking to the founders of both companies for some time now, and am really pleased to finally be investors in their startups. As with most early stage investments I recognise that both of these are high risk investments, but obviously I have enough belief in the product and the team to want to put money on them. I sometimes get asked how I choose which startups to invest in, and I think it really boils down to the idea and the people behind the idea. Is this something people want? Can the team translate the idea into an actual product? How big is the market? How scalable is it? How adaptable are the founders? I think these are all questions potential investors need to ask themselves before making an investment. 

I am not professing to be a seasoned angel investor. A lot of this is new to me as well, and I’m learning all the time. The great thing about angel investing is that you get to meet smart, high energy people who are passionate about what they are doing, and along the way you learn about different industries and different markets. At the end of the day I want to generate some returns – I have two kids (for now!) I need to put through college – but I also hope that some of the investee companies that do succeed help make the world a better place. Take 8 VIllages for instance. Maybe they won’t solve world hunger, but if they can help farmers improve crop productivity that’s more food for us and a better living for farmers.


Teach A Man To Fish, Teach A Kid To Code

Jessie D’Amato Ford:

In this day and age, technology is everywhere. From phones to televisions to tablets, etc. Twenty years ago in school we were forced to take a second language to learn – which was appropriate and necessary. Nowadays all students should be taught to code. It is part of the now and their future.

On introducing kids to programming

You just may change their life and help them unlock their potential in what is an undeniably digital future.

I concur.

Thanks Nai for sharing the article.

Why Software Is Eating The World

Marc Andreessen

Many people in the U.S. and around the world lack the education and skills required to participate in the great new companies coming out of the software revolution… many workers in existing industries will be stranded on the wrong side of software-based disruption and may never be able to work in their fields again. There’s no way through this problem other than education, and we have a long way to go.

We have a choice. We can choose to prepare our kids for a world that is increasingly powered by software, or we can pretend that the digital revolution isn’t happening. I’m making my kids learn programming. Better to be safe than sorry.

Hamsters on Wheels

Facebook’s multi-billion dollar IPO, the meteoric rise of Apple to become the most valuable company in the world, the way Amazon has changed how we buy things… it seems like technology has become cool again. As we become increasingly enamoured by tech, there is growing interest in learning programming, the language of the technology world. Programming is the new literacy, really? It isn’t enough to be able to read and write English anymore? Surely only geeks need to know how to programme – why should the rest of us care?

Our world is increasingly powered by networked computing, and software engineers create the digital universe we live and work in.

Douglas Rushkoff in ‘Program or be Programmed: Ten Commandements for a Digital Age

When human beings acquired language, we learned not just how to listen but how to speak. When we gained literacy, we learned not just how to read but how to write. Similarly as we move into an increasingly digital reality, we must learn not just how to use programs but how to make them.

John Naughton, writing for The Guardian

Our children live in a world that is shaped by physics, chemistry, biology and history, and so we – rightly – want them to understand these things. But their world will be also shaped and configured by networked computing and if they don’t have a deeper understanding of this stuff then they will effectively be intellectually crippled. They will grow up as passive consumers of closed devices and services, leading lives that are increasingly circumscribed by technologies created by elites working for huge corporations such as Google, Facebook and the like. We will, in effect, be breeding generations of hamsters for the glittering wheels of cages built by Mark Zuckerberg and his kind.

I have a 21-month old son and a 2-month old daughter. I have no desire for them to become hamsters on Mark Zuckerberg-built wheels. This is why I started Saturday Kids.