Update 25/9/2010: some good news! @khanacademy awarded $2m from Google as part of 10^100 project http://is.gd/fqTy6 Sal, you deserve it! ♥
The internets is full of surprises. Every day something interesting comes out, and you feel like sharing links and stories. Facebook, Twitter, Google reader and alike have made this process fairly easy, so we do it quite often. But every now and then, you stumble upon something extraordinary, and boy you feel like taking the time to write a blog post about it.
In this case, it's not just a blog post. I shared this story everywhere I could possibly imagine: I posted it online, I talked with all my friends about it, and I presented it during my weekly podcast. Gather round children, this is the story of a man who is devoting his life for the benefit of all humanity.
In late 2004, Salman Khan began tutoring his cousin Nadia over the internet in mathematics using Yahoo!'s Doodle notepad. When other relatives and friends sought his tutelage, he decided it would be more practical and beneficial to distribute the tutorials on YouTube which he joined on 16 November 2006. At the time he was a Hedge Fund analyst, making quite a lot of money and in the process of becoming a successful businessman.
Money, power, stability. What more could anyone ask for?
Purpose. The conscience and the realisation that we are helping other people, building an emphatic civilisation, based on the sharing of scientific knowledge, for the betterment of humankind. Now, that's something worth waking up for in the morning.
He quit his job in late 2009 to focus on developing his YouTube channel, 'Khan Academy', full-time. Salman Khan is now considered internationally as an educator, who has produced (as of 2010) over 1600 videos elucidating a wide spectrum concepts in mathematics and the sciences in his home studio. His official channel, 'Khan Academy' has, as of July 2010, attracted more than 17 million views.
During an interview with the San Francisco Chronicle in December 2009, delineated his motive: 'With so little effort on my own part, I can empower an unlimited amount of people for all time. I can't imagine a better use of my time.' Programmes are being undertaken to use Khan's videos to teach those in isolated areas of Africa and Asia.
His videos proved popular, attracting, on average, more than 20,000 hits each. Students from around the world have been attracted to Khan's concise, practical and relaxed teaching method.
I bet you remember those times back in college, when you and your friends tried to figure out the intuition behind a concept, or how to solve a specific problem. It would take hours, four minds working non stop to find a solution, and a considerable number of headaches, when finally somebody screams "Eureka!" (or "Fuck yeah!", in some cases). He then explains the solution to the riddle to everybody else, which typically takes 10 minutes. Wouldn't it be great if you could just skip the 2 hours and have the teacher explain it in an intuitive and practical manner? I thought it was a mere dream, until I saw Khan's videos.
The whole story is absurd and fascinating at the same time. One guy who takes on MIT, Stanford, and Harvard, becoming more popular and appreciated than those established institution throughout the world? One person who wants to build the biggest online university, center for reason and science, by himself? Yep, apparently he's really doing it.
It's been a couple of years since I decided I wanted to learn chemistry. When I discovered MIT opencourseware and iTunes U I was blown away. Lessons from Stanford, Harvard and MIT recorded, available for free on the internet? Wow. I need to take some time off to learn a ton of subjects, I thought. But of course, that time never comes. I get back form work at 8 PM I feel exhausted, and while I enjoy keeping my brain working, I usually watch a TED talk or a conference from the Singularity University, but it's difficult to follow a course on Quantum Entanglement or Biochemistry at 11PM. With Khan's videos, in their 13 minutes format, I can enjoy learning any time of the day. At lunchbreak, on the train, after dinner, you name it.
The concepts are easy, very well presented, and I cannot stress this enough: it's intuitive. I've always been interested in why something happens, how does it work, what makes it work, what are the conditions under which it doesn't and so on. Anybody can apply a formula, especially computers. But can you derive the formula? Can you explain how did they came up with it? With the advent of Wolfram alpha, it becomes clear the inadequacy of the educational system. What matters most is the idea behind, the concept, the intuition.
I immediately started to follow the chemistry lessons, and I feel the excitement of discovery and understanding every time I watch one of his videos.
It all seems quite strange, but it makes a whole lot of sense if you contextualise it. The exponential growth of information technology and the advent of the free software movement lead to a groundbreaking shift in our mental paradigm: information is ever more accessible, reliable, and most of all free to all. GNU, Linux, Creative Commons, Wikipedia, Opencourseware, and now the Khan academy. It's a logical consequence of the exponential growth.
Salman expressed his desire to teach as many subjects as possible, possibly every subject. It surely crossed your mind the following question: who is this guy? What qualifies him to teach such a variety of subjects? Khan was valedictorian of his high school class and attained a perfect score in the math portion of his SATs. He has a Bachelor of Science in mathematics, another Bachelor in electrical engineering and computer science, and an Master of Science in electrical engineering and computer science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In addition, he also holds an Master of Business Administration from Harvard Business School. And he's 33. He knows what he's talking about.
All I can say for to Salman now is: thank you, thank you, thank you. Don't ever stop, I will support you in any way I can.
To all of you: spread the word. It's really something that deserves everybody's attention.
The San Francisco Chronicle reports that In a radical change to its financial aid program, Stanford University will announce today that it will no longer charge tuition to students whose families earn less than $100,000 a year. In addition, the university will waive room and board fees for students whose families earn less than $60,000 a year.
Over that last years we have seen a real switch in how we conceive education and the universities. The OpenCourseWare particularly the MIT OCW changed the idea of education. Their aim is to put all of the educational materials from its undergraduate- and graduate-level courses online, free and openly available to anyone, anywhere. Human knowledge belongs to the everyone, and should be freely accessible, like a public library, everything released under a creative commons license.
I'm glad that I can see so many people who share this view and that contribute in creating a better world. For real.
Update Sept 9 2010 - OnlineCourses.net features a full compendium of all of the free online courses available including in depth descriptions and detailed organization.
Federico Pistono is an award-winning journalist, social entrepreneur, scientific educator, activist, and aspiring filmmaker.
He is author of the book Robots Will Steal Your Job, but that's OK: How to Survive the Economic Collapse and be Happy and the Sci-Fi Novelette "A tale of Two Futures."
He routinely tours around the world, lecturing at TEDx events, conferences, universities, and symposia; such as TEDxVienna, Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo, Porto Alegre, Cologne, Vancouver, TEDxBologna, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. He was interviewed by several newspapers, radios, TVs, and magazines; among which The Huffington Post, Forbes magazine, Folha de S. Paulo (the most influential newspaper in Brazil), RAI Italian National TV, and the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies.
Federico has written several articles for newspapers and blogs regarding a variety of topics, from science, technology, Internet communities and social media, artificial intelligence, climate change, technological unemployment and the future of society. He hosted hundreds of hours of podcasts covering the impact of technology in society, activism, as well as science-related news.
At the age of 16 he was awarded a full scholarship for the prestigious United World College of the Adriatic, he then received a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science from the University of Verona. He continued his studies by completing the online course at Stanford of Machine Learning; and in 2012 he graduated with full scholarship from Singularity University, NASA Ames Research Center, Silicon Valley, whose studies included Synthetic Biology, Artificial Intelligence and Robotics, Nanotechnology and Digital Fabrication, Energy and Environmental Systems, Space and Physical Sciences, Design, Future Studies and Forecasting, Policy, Law and Ethics.
Feel free to google him for more information.
Honors and Awards
- 2012: Awarded the Young Italian Knights Award for his outstanding achievements and Social Impact
- 2012: Awarded Full Scholarship for the Graduate Study Program at Singularity University, NASA Ames Search Park, Silicon Valley.
- 2009: Winner of the International Journalism Competition on Climate Change for the COP15, European Journalism Centre.
- 2007: Winner of the "Linux-Mega-Quiz" at LinuxTag, 2007.
- 2004: Awarded Full Scholarship for the UWC (United World Colleges) Baccalaureate Programme
Articles I wrote
- io9.com - Robots will steal your job, but that’s okay: How to Survive the Coming Economic Collapse (Feb 15, 2012)
- IEET Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies - Robots will steal your job, but that’s OK: how to survive the economic collapse and be happy (Feb 10, 2012)
Articles about me and interviews
- Transparency Revolution - Some People Think I'm Crazy for Believing This... (Feb 13, 2012)
- Singularity Hub - Meet The Author Of “Robots Will Steal Your Job, But That’s OK” (Feb 10, 2012)
- GazetaOnline (Albanese) - Intervistë me Federik Pistono – koordinator i Lëvizjes Zeitgeist Italia, versione italiana (Feb 16, 2011)
- Radio Wave International (Italian) - Intervista con Federico Pistono (Nov 27, 2010)
- Movimiento Zeitgeist España (Spanish) - Entrevista con Federico Pistono, coordinator chapter Italia del Movimiento Zeitgeist y autor de la conferencia "Cos'è il Movimento Zeitgeist?" (May, 2011)
- Beppe Grillo (Italian) - Copenhagen, cronaca di un accordo fallito (Dec 24, 2009)
- La Nuova Provincia di Biella - Federico Pistono tra gli 82 blogger in sfida a Copenhagen (Aug 27, 2009)
Citations on Papers and Publications
- Alissa Shethar and Joan I. Heller Heller Research Associates, Developing Rigorous Education in the Arts to Motivate Students (DREAMS): Improving Academic Literacy in the Arts, May 5, 2010
- Paul Connett, Zero Waste: A Key Move towards a Sustainable Society, April 2007
My life - an infographic
Tired of boring text and resumes? Try this infographic.
Biography, Work and Education
Federico Pistono is a scientific educator, social activist, computer scientist, blogger, media expert, and aspiring filmmaker. In 2002, at age 16, he won a scholarship to UWCAD International College, where he received an education aimed on the sharing of ideas amongst different cultures, living away from home along with 200 students from 82 countries.
In 2007 he founded the "Grilli Biellesi", a non-profit volunteer association with civic engagement and the protection of the rights of citizens whose topics of interest are energy, information, waste, connectivity and protection of water as a right to life.
From 2008 to 2012 he worked in a media company in Verona, as Project Manager, Media Strategist, Developer, Screenwriter, and Director, focusing on new media and the role of technology in the society.
In 2009 he received his degree in computer science from the University of Verona, Department of Mathematical, Physical and Natural Sciences, with a thesis on "Open Source Implementations of Encoding Algorithms for Video Distribution in the HTML5 Era”.
In 2009 he also won an international competition for blogging and journalism organized by the European Centre for Journalism and was sent to the COP15 in Copenhagen to cover the events on the conference on climate.
On May 2009, he founded The Zeitgeist Movement Italy, a global Sustainability Advocacy Organization which conducts community based activism and awareness actions through a network of Global/Regional Chapters, Project Teams, Annual Events, Media and Charity Work to promote a shift towards a Resource Based Economic model, where the solutions arrived at and promoted are in the interest to help everyone on the planet Earth, not a select group. He held the position of national coordinator and spokesperson for about three years -- until January 2012.
On October 2011 he started writing his first book, "Robots will steal your job, but that's OK: how to survive the economic collapse and be happy"
In 2012 he won a scholarship for the Graduate Studies Program at Singularity University, NASA Ames Research Center, Silicon Valley. Singularity University is a unique interdisciplinary, international and intercultural experience, whose aim is to assemble, educate and inspire a cadre of leaders who strive to understand and facilitate the development of exponentially advancing technologies and apply, focus and guide these tools to address humanity’s grand challenges.