Knowledge is Free, Learning Costs You

Knowledge is power. Power is not shared. It remains institutionalized, parceled out to the few and is usually affirmed by a seal and sanction of an Institution. Knowledge had been monopolized by educational institutions, Universities and Boards. The few who had the aptitude, or the means, had access to this training and subsequent rewards. The rest languish in a vicious cycle of intellectual and economic mediocrity.

With the Internet, all this has changed. Knowledge is available in abundance. With arrival of MOOCs, this knowledge is at least a subset of what is offered in elite educational institutions. Udacity and Coursera are leading the charge here. Even before the MOOCs, there was MITs OpenEdu program. There are podcasts, websites, guides..heck knowledge flowed freely even through Torrents as ebooks and video lectures, beyond the standard Hollywood fare and porn.

With all this glut what seems to be scarce is our propensity to learn. Our curiosity has not deepened, it does not burn us yet. Our love of learning has either diminished or stayed the same. We still look to the old stimulants of economic rewards and social recognition to be nudged forward. Of course external motivations are important but the propensity to learn can be more effective when driven by a love of learning, by a desire to understand something truly, to build something of value using that knowledge.

But learning takes effort. This effort is more or less the same whether you learn from an Institution or on your own. With the glut of knowledge available online, one only needs a computer and connectivity to the Internet to join the information revolution. But what is lacking is our willingness to pay the price for learning. Guess it is much easier to pay money and have an institution declare we know something!

The time we spend on Facebook or Twitter is attention that could be purposefully spent elsewhere. Whether you wish to learn Rhetorical Composition, Systematic Program Design or Startup Engineering the best minds and generous hearts have conspired to ensure knowledge is free. You only need to pay for it with your curiosity, willingness to learn and perseverance.

What have you learnt lately?


  1. Prakash says:

    Mahesh, let me first thank for writing this. This has two folds in it. One is learn from institution or learn on your own. Secondly, the time that we spend in twitter or face book and other social networking, could be spent on learning. I agree to the later. The prior one is actually a market demand, organisations does not recognize if anyone says I learnt on my own. Not everyone have the guts like you to startup something 🙂

    • maheshcr says:

      Theivame – Thanks for comment! I see what you mean, organization/society needs proof of our doubt about that. For efficiency reasons, ignorance or laziness organizations cannot evaluate each person. A qualification is a minor social signal that helps organizations filter out the noise. But do note that qualification is just a signal not proof that we truly know something. Proof happens when we actually demonstrate that we know how to utilize that knowledge. Especially in IT, this is so easy to do. If I write a piece of code that serves a purpose and does it well, it counts much more than any paper degree I might hold.

      I understand this approach might not work for all fields as easily but it surely is possible to do more than just hold a paper degree in hand and wait for opportunities to happen. To demonstrate ones knowledge practically, to have our works be out in the open for people to see/review/use, to let the world know of our ideas/principles/beliefs and how it drives our approach to material work..all of these matter and go a long way in establishing credibility that we know what we are talking about. And in my humble view the experience of having built stuff of value is more useful than a piece of paper declaring my fitness for a given work.

      Having guts to start something is a different issue, some call it foolishness too btw 🙂

      • Prakash says:

        ” A qualification is a minor social signal that helps organizations filter out the noise. But do note that qualification is just a signal not proof that we truly know something.” – This is where I differ, organizations believes people with degree paper are qualified to prove themselves, others are not because they are not ready to take risk and allow someone to demonstrate with qualification. And this is proved to be correct in most of the cases. You are talking about exceptions. But, exceptional people will shine in any case and no body can stop it.

        • maheshcr says:

          Fair points. Especially in the Indian situation what you say is true.

        • If someone is in between, i agree those who need paper to get into some company(India). What i see from thsi post is another level of people who die for what they do. I been in to both the side, when i search job 1997 with they were rejecting my resume coz no MCA or BE, so i had finish MCA in part time and get 5 digit salary. Later in many occurrence i proved myself and demand-able resource without any such paper(msft certified i dint do, togaf i learned but did not appear for exam though i paid 60k), for me now, i choose company some extend. But neverthless i had to gone through all the journey. But for future generation this is not required, things are changing, he is talking about such subtle change that are happening…

  2. Yes, learning takes lots of efforts as well as lots of time. I feel that we do not intent mental hard work and sometimes we do not have time. So We are lacking intention as well as time.

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