Critical Thinking: Prelude
Whether we like it or not, an 'educational' deathblow seems to be on the horizon: The university time-tested gatekeeper-of-knowledge model with its one-way-ticket promise to a solid middle-class life may be seen to fall apart irrevocably.
Maybe this will be an outcome of a badly constructed monetary experiment [i] with its accompanying rampant stupidity, endemic cronyism, inability to face reality, and strait-jacketed bureaucracy. Maybe this will be a painful moment of self-reflection for educational institutions leading to a profound reassessment of the function of education in society. Maybe this will be happening against a backdrop of increasingly sophisticated technologies freeing up yet more personalizable content, freeing up yet more networking opportunities and freeing up yet more time to potentially think innovatively. And, maybe this will be the moment effectual and cost-effective e-learning technologies with improving human-focused artificial-intelligence capabilities will be playing a more central role in a more competency-based great-unbundling [ii] educational transition.
However, a single rather fuzzy 21st century skill [iii] stands out as being of the utmost importance to e-learning, to our future prosperity and even to our survival as a species: the skill is critical thinking.
Thus this article takes an off-the-wall look at what this skill might be (generically), and aims to ‘sow some critical-thought seeds out there’ for the reader.
The Article: Critical Thinking In Spidery Prose
There she was — a state-of-the-art killing machine in the middle of an existential crisis: Was the spider world, she thought, an inherently-fickle, uncontrollably-vicious and doomed butchery-arena, or was it something that could transfigure beautifully into a spidery-love-web of universal unitedness?
She breathed out despondently extruding silk from her spinnerets and looked down at her sticky web.
“Wow! What the hell happened last night?” she said to herself as she wobbled on all eights over what looked like ground husks of pulpy arachno-body parts.
“Holy smoke! I’ve got to cut down on nectar bingeing,” she said to herself remorsefully, and then in a swirl of pheromones added, “those douche-bag he-spiders really are a bunch of losers. They prance around, zigzagging all over the place, gesticulating and showing off their hairy legs. And every time I speak to one of them, I feel like killing ‘it’.”
At which point, the glint of the sun on the morning dew caught the attention of her complex posterior lateral motion-detecting eyes and her anterior median telephoto-like swivel eyes also started detecting something.
And there he was: spider techno-nerd in all his eight-eyed nerdy splendor.
“Hi! I’m he-spider,” he said.
“What the ‘eff’ do you want?” she said.
“Well that was a rather unfriendly salutation,” he said.
“Listen up buddy, you're on my web now, and I don't have to be polite; I’m going to ask you four questions, and if you don’t want to turn into spider-manure, tread carefully,” she said.
“And one more thing,” she said, “my name is Ms She-Spider, and please remember it really pisses me off when he-spiders call me honey butt, yummy mummy or spider girl.”
He nodded nervously.
“Here are the four questions,” she said.
“If you met the right she-spider, do you think you could love her?” she said believing love was mostly misunderstood.
“Absolutely,” he said.
“How much would you love her?” she said.
“With all my spider heart,” he said.
“For how long?” she said.
“Forever,” he said.
“For heaven’s sake, really?” she said.
“Yeah, I’d be loving her in spider-heaven too,” he said.
“And why would you love her?” she said.
“Oh crap, she’s smart,” he thought to himself in a panic, “she goaded me in with three easy questions, when all-along she just wanted to know how I might answer the poetic ‘why’ question.”
But he-spider, whose crisp honesty had left him friendless, had observed that those who got ahead in the spider-world were not, on the whole, the ‘epitome of kindness and genuineness’.
“Should I just make something up?” he thought to himself.
Thereupon he started to ponder what constituted critical thinking realizing his spider world was possibly doomed for the lack of it. There was a price to pay for everything in life he thought: a price for saying what you thought, a price for not saying what you thought, and a price for not being able to think at all. Critical thinking, he surmised, was borne in pain. It was furious and fearless. It was the meaning of life and love. It was the thing that would help to spin a spidery-love-web of universal unitedness too. Creative thinking, on the other hand, was something else he thought: it did not necessarily presuppose a noble outcome.
“Come on, what’s your answer?” said she-spider.
But at that moment he couldn't answer the question as he felt incapable of unbolting the steely chains of social conformity manacled to his critical-thinking mind; consequently, he believed he had no choice but to change the subject as tactfully and as quickly as possible.
“If you allow me to digress a moment, I’d like to say that if you were talking about technology, it is much harder to say ‘how long’ you would love a technology, rather than ‘why’, ‘whether’’ or ‘how much’ you might love the technology,” he said.
“Take VR for instance, I do understand it has a growing list of applications [iv] and I do know that some spiders have got a real hard-on for it,” he said.
“You what?” she said feeling a little befuddled.
“They love ‘full immersion’ virtual reality,” he said.
“Oh,” she said smiling.
"But it's difficult for them to know how long they would really like it for," he said.
“Moreover, if you tell them that that head mounted display, aka HMD, contraption is unnatural, possibly detrimental [v], often causes cyber sickness because head-tracking technology may need specific low-latency [vi] to be effective, they get all peeved off and say nasty things about you,” he said.
“Oh dear,” she said.
“I actually really like the concept of VR, but question it on a humanistic level [vii]. Also, I’m no technophobe either; I mean I’m on the web all day, and I just love those web-design tutorials on Lynda.com,” he said.
“Are there web-design tutorials on Lynda.com? Blimey,” she said as her slender seven-part flexor-muscled legs started moving outwards hydraulically.
At that point she-spider started wondering why she had never met any critical thinkers before; it seemed to her that her world had become a gargantuan Safe Zone of brittleness, confusion and mistrust. It was a world which had become abused by the manipulative and disingenuous as well. The truth-seeking critical thinker, in her opinion, did not fit in too well and would usually end up being ostracized, until, that is, the world went completely tits up, and that for her was imminent.
He-spider looked into her glazed anterior eyes and realized she was lost in a web of spider critical thought; nonetheless, he continued talking hoping she might forget the 'why' question she had asked earlier.
“For me augmented reality or AR seems like a better idea than virtual reality though both ‘apparently’ are predicted to boom [viii]. And did you know for most of spider history, spiders have been augmenting their reality the old-fashioned way? You know, by simply using their spider brains without AR HMD technology to talk, read, imagine, dream,” he said thinking critically.
“I wonder how much it would cost to put one of those Oculus Rift VR thingamajigs on two of my posterior eyes , and one of those Microsoft HoloLens gizmos on two of my anterior eyes?” she said.
“Well, first of all, if you used that Zuckerberg ‘big-bet’ [ix] VR HMD all day you might get one hell of a headache and then probably puke up lunch. Secondly, there may be some dangers associated with using AR to get some ‘prosthetic knowledge’ or some ‘perfect contextual data in real time’ [x]: AR can impair perception [xi] can cause distraction [xii] and can have legal implications [xiii] to boot. Thirdly, with regard to AR, there’s still a lot of hype, for instance, Microsoft HoloLens, which may be a tad pricey [xiv] when it finally shows up [xv], will ‘supposedly’ have ‘world-shattering’ AR live [xvi] sports’ experience. And, fourthly, you might exceed your CO2 Energy allotment” he said.
“CO2 Energy allotment? What the hell’s that?” she said.
“Some crazy carbon-footprint idea that some crazy spider will think up to make some other crazy spider even richer and even more crazy,” he said.
She-spider paused and all of a sudden said, “But you didn’t answer my ‘why’ question.”
“What 'why' question?” he said.
“Why would you love her?” she said.
He looked sweetly into her dramatically-prominent anterior eyes, and said, “Well in that case, I would love her particularly for her ability to think critically.”
“Yes, but I think you’ve left something out,” she said tenderly.
Transfixed in a swish of critical thought, he-spider conjectured that the reason she-spider wanted to find out about the unsullied impetuousness he might have for this fictional 'other she-spider' was because of her critical thinking and not because of her mushy emotions; she-spider had understood that as belief in love could not exist without belief in trust, it was imperative to assess belief in trust through the use of her ‘four trick questions’.
He then realized something else that was even more insightful: Maybe critical thinking was in reality an artifact of the heart, maybe critical thinking was in reality the precondition of bringing some perennial universal truth yet closer, and maybe critical thinking was in reality the only way to make the spidery-love-web of universal unitedness more than a naïve dream in a vulgar world.
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- [ii] Craig, R. (2015). College Disrupted: The Great Unbundling of Higher Education. New York. Palgrave Macmillan.
- [iii] What are 21st century skills? (2016) Retrieved from https://k12.thoughtfullearning.com/FAQ/what-are-21st-century-skills
- [iv] Carson, E. (2016) We know AR and VR will be big for entertainment, but there are plenty of other industries interested in these new technologies. Retrieved from http://www.zdnet.com/article/ten-industries-using-augmented-reality-and-virtual-reality/
- [v] Della Cava (2016). In short, until we know more about the impact of virtual reality on the brain and psyche, it may be prudent to procede with caution. Retrieved from http://www.usatoday.com/story/tech/news/2016/02/02/virtual-reality-promise-and-concerns-both-loom-large-researchers/79360096/
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- [xii] Geere, D. (2015) Researchers have warned of the dangers of an augmented reality future. Retrieved from http://www.techradar.com/news/world-of-tech/researchers-have-warned-of-the-dangers-of-an-augmented-reality-future-1308379
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