Humanity is getting more stupid. Two ways of counterfighting this process

Despite the bad results of the Pisa-Studies, some years ago, superficially it seems that Germany´s educational system is on the right track.

The number of high-school-graduates is increasing and the number of dropouts is decreasing (8% in 2006 and 6.5% in 2010)

From all pupils that finished school (Hauptschule, Realschule and Gymnaisum) 49% managed to get a degree that qualified them for University (allgemeine Hochschulreife) or specialized University (fachgebundene Hochschulreife).

Despite difficult economic times, Germany has spent more on education in recent years. In 2009, 165 billions and 173 billions in 2010. As a portion of GDP that is an increase from 6.9% to 7.0%.

All these numbers look good, but if you go into deeper research you ll find out that these numbers are also based on making it easier for students to pass the system.

 

It is definitely clear, that technological progress has brought society lots of advantages. 50 years ago a person that had cancer was going to die, but nowadays modern medicin has found ways to make people live longer and even safe them from dieing because of cancer. On the one hand, technological progress has made life easier, but what is the disadvantage? What is the disadvantage if we look at the capacity of our brain?

The inventor of the MindMap explains more.

Some scientist argue that technological progress makes our brain work worse and that over the course of the last 3000 years, since ancient greek, humans have stopped using their full potential of brain capacity.

But is that really true?

In order to answer that question one must consciously look at the world with open eyes. 100 telephone numbers are saved, not in our brain, but in our cell phones. Of that we know maybe 3 by heart, our own and the ones of our 2 best friends or of our parents. Most students have to learn more information in a shorter period of time. Students in technical or economic professions should know lots of formulas. But most of them are written down in a formulary, so there is no need of knowing them. The same is true for giving a presentation. Unless students rehearse the presentation they are giving countless times in order to know it by heart, they are hardly able to give a presentation without notes.

The same applies for reading. The quickest and most efficient way to learn new information is through reading. But in contrast to other topics, reading is just taught once. Take mathematics. We learn that from the first grade and are tortured by it until University. So our skills in that area improve every year, until we stop working on them.

Think about the last time you were thought how to read. It was probably in the first grade. Since then, the topic wasn’t taught anymore though more material was added. Biology, geography, history. But you were still equipped with first-grade level reading-skills. And then it started to really take off: University, apprenticeship or your job. And with the invention of the internet the amount of written information increased more and more.

In fact, 10 years ago, information (and a big part of that written information) increased 30% per year, doubling every three years. That was ten years ago. If we moderately assume that information nowadays is just growing by 50% per year, then it would always double in less than two years. So we have more and more information that we need to learn quicker and quicker..

But what is the deal…shall we bury our heads in the sand?jim-rex-head-in-the-sand1

There two ways of how you can access your brain´s full potential, both of them shall be examined here:

If it was possible to travel through time, then the ancient Greeks coming to our present time, seeing how we use our memories, they would be very disappointed. Am i exaggerating?

 

The Greeks were experts at using their brain capacity, to give endless speeches, that they knew by heart, to remember everybody´s name when they celebrated and to convey information. There was nothing to write down information, so if they wanted to transfer knowledge, they need to know it.

500 years before Christ, Simonides of Ceos, a Greek lyric poet, had to give a speech at a banquette. Suddenly he was called outside, where two young men waited for him. As he had just left the building, it suddenly collapsed and everybody in the building died. The two young men were Castor and Pollux, two divine twins that wanted to save Simonides because he mentioned both and honoured both of them in his speech. Simonides was the only one who the collaps of the building. Unfortunately the bereaved under the ruins couldn’t even be identified by their relatives. The only one who could identify them was Simonides because here remembered exactly were each person was sitting and could recall their names.

How did he do that?

By using the first technique, that shall be discussed in this article: A Mnemonic Technique. He is the inventor of a technique called Loci, a technique that enables you to remember large amounts of data in order by placing images that represent the data into mental locations or journeys.

For example lets say you want to remember your shopping list that has 20 items on it, then you could use any route (preferred in the beginning maybe your way to school or to work, or your own home) and you attach the items to specific locations in your route.

The rules for the images that you create are as follows:

The images must be:

Big

In Colour

Weired in a way that you remember them

And you must capture it multi-sensorily, i. e. you must use as many senses as possible to see, hear, feel, smell and taste the image.

For example: The first 3 items on your shopping list are: cheese, milk and a banana and as a fixed route you use your way to school/work.

You leave the door and in front of you there is lying a big piece of cheese. You stumble upon the cheese and fall on the floor. Because you are so angry, you kick the cheese, but it is so soft that it doesn’t move. You grab it with your hand to feel it, it really feels as soft as cheese. The smell of it makes you quickly want to go to the supermarket, so you run down the stairs but the way is blocked by 500 litres of milk, present as a big wall. Since it is fluid, you decide to run through the wall: In the exact moment that you pass it, your clothes and your whole body get wet by the milk. You can even taste the milk in your mouth. It really tastes like milk. But you have managed to go through the wall to continue your way. At the place where your car is usually standing, instead of your car, there is a big apple. Suddenly you hear a big bang: That apple just exploded and parts of it have have covered your lips. You lick that apple piece from your lips and can really taste the apple on your tongue.

You could add further elements to the list and continue the journey, but for learning purposes we stop here.

The basic element of any mnemonic technique is to create pictures, so vividly that they stick in your mind and attach the pictures to a specific location. Here is a resource, that provides you more information.

A technique that can dramatically improve the way you access information is called speedreading.

It is a reading technique that enables you to double your reading speed, while still having the same comprehension or even a better one.

The interesting thing is, that just by reading, our ability to read does not improve. If that was the case, our grandmothers would be world champions in reading. The clue therefore is to read with another technique. For example you have a lawn  of 100 squaremetres that you want to mow with a mowing machine. And then you have another lawn that you want to mow, but this time its 2000 squaremetres large. You could either take the first small moving machine and mow the second lawn quicker, or you switch to another technique, a tractor for example. It is the same with speedreading.

Have you ever wondered how much time you can safe with speedreaeding?

On average we read 2 hours per day. That starts with checking e-mails in the morning, reading newspapers, studying for university and enjoying leisure-lecture. If we assume that a person can double its reading speed, then it would safe one hour per day.

In a week, that would be nearly on working-day.

In a month, that would be 4 working-days

In a year that would be more than one working-month

And in 12 years that would be one working-year.

So how does it work to read faster and still understand more?

To understand that, we have to go back to the point where we learned to read and examine 3 reading habits that we have developed that are hindering for our reading speed.

The first old reading habit is fixation. Fixation is the movement that our eyes do, while wandering over the page. Most people thing that reading is a fluent movement, but in order to see a word clearly, our eyes have to stop for a split-second (saccade) to fixate the page, therefore called fixation. So it works the same as a camera. For a camera in order to have a clear image it must stop, otherwise the image gets blurred. The average reader has 7-10 fixations per line. That means the eye is basically stopping on every single word. Trained speedreaders have 2-4 fixations per line, reading in groups of words.

In the first half of the 20th century, Prof. Dr. Guy Buswell from the university of Chicago examined the eye-movement of people with different reading speeds. The basic conclusion of his studies is that fast readers read in groups of words, rather than single words for themselves. Here are more details of his study:

The second old reading habit is regression. Our eyes regress, when we think that we have not understood or seen a word. The interesting thing is, a regression happens 33% of the time we are reading. That means for every three hours that you read a book, one hour you are busy re-reading a single word or a passage, because you think you have missed it. The problem is, that the logical sequence of words gets mixed, which is even more confusing for the brain.

The third and last old reading habit is auditory reassurance, in simpler terms: inner voice.

While we read, we have an inner voice that repeats every single word that we read. The problem is, that there is a certain limit to our speaking-speed, but not to our reading speed. We can read much faster than we speak and we also have the ability, not to speak everything that we see.

Read this sentence:

Mein Ziel ist es, meine Lesegeschwindigkeit zu verdoppeln!

Are you reading the sentence this way: Mein Ziel ist es Komma meine Lesegeschwindigkeit zu verdoppeln Ausrufezeichen? Probably  not. It is the same when you are driving with your car and you see a stop-sign. There is no voice in your head going “stop”, you just push the break automatically.

Simply by eliminating these 3 old reading habits, you reading speed can achieve a level, with that it will be possible for you, to read more material in lesser time.

Lots of famous people have seen speedreading as a way to bring more quality into their life:

Theodore Roosevelt was an eager reader and did not only apply speedreading to learn for his own good, but he also trained his staff in speedreading, so they could be more productive.

Other famous people worth mentioning in this context are Timothy Ferris, Author of the 4-hourworkweek and Anthony Robbins.

If you quickly want to understand how speedreading works, click here

Finally the technological progress that mankind has experienced over the last 100 years is enormous. Most inventions make life on a daily basis much easier. As humans we should not forget that our brain is something unique and that using its full potential can bring us things in life that we would not have dreamed of before. In a global and fast-changing world, mnemonic techniques and speedreading are two techniques, that make life at least as much easier as technological progress, if you can access both, you have to work less and have more quality in life.

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2 comments

  1. Very good, post. Well structured, easy to follow and very informative.
    There was one point that I often think about. But the educational system, especially in Germany doesn’t do any good to change something.

    “In fact, 10 years ago, information (and a big part of that written information) increased 30% per year, doubling every three years. That was ten years ago. If we moderately assume that information nowadays is just growing by 50% per year, then it would always double in less than two years. So we have more and more information that we need to learn quicker and quicker..”

    Information seems so easy to access, but public education seems to decrease tremendously in quality. Either you are in “Gymnasium” or “Sekundarschule” – So either you are the best or a uniform mass of future non-skilled workers? The development moves further to the generation “I don’t know the answer.”, when the teacher asked something. While the class answers: “We don’t know either.” The coolness of being dumb. I don’t really know how to explain this trend in a more euphemistic manner.
    I’m just wondering, if it can get even worse, when looking at the increase of information.

    http://www.tagesschau.de/inland/bildungsstudie106.html

    And I really was impressed reading the examples of our Greek ancestors, just amazing what they could keep in mind.

  2. I enjoyed the way your strucutred your post – also highlighting some history facts!

    “Finally the technological progress that mankind has experienced over the last 100 years is enormous. Most inventions make life on a daily basis much easier. As humans we should not forget that our brain is something unique and that using its full potential can bring us things in life that we would not have dreamed of before. In a global and fast-changing world, mnemonic techniques and speedreading are two techniques, that make life at least as much easier as technological progress, if you can access both, you have to work less and have more quality in life.”

    Technological process have indeed improved our way of research tremendously. I think utilized the right way it is an asset that can enhance our knowledge and also our brain. However the way we can easily obtain information may also lead to the fact that we don’t use our “brain power” as intensively. I think this is relative and can differ from person to person. The quality of education could definitely add an incentive or properly intergrate how to properly process this new information tool!

    This article is quite interesting in how it illustrates if technology has infact made us lazy: http://technologyuninhibited.wordpress.com/2012/02/12/does-technology-make-us-lazy/

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