Towards a Literate Nation

“Give me a lever long enough, and a place to stand, and I will move the earth”

– Archimedes

To reduce unemployment, we need to lever up.

Not like Wall Street did, through debt, but like Silicon Valley does, with tools.

Leverage magnifies your actions and increases your productivity. You can get leverage through:

  • labor (people work for you)
  • capital (money works for you)
  • tools (machines work for you)

We’re trying to help labor. We don’t have much capital. We must give tools to the people.

All of the great modern tools for productivity – the printing press, the factory, the movie studio – require capital and coordination to use. The computer is the first tool since maybe the stone axe, that an individual can use to gain massive leverage, without permission from anyone else.

The modern computer can help in every endeavor – even if you don’t use a computer at work, you’ll soon carry a $50 smartphone in your pocket. You’re banking online, learning online, communicating online. The computer, and now the smartphone, make everyone more productive.

This is why Silicon Valley doesn’t have enough people, when the rest of the nation doesn’t have enough jobs.

Now computers are simpler. More ubiquitous. Cheaper. More accessible.

And we can teach people how to use computers, through computers, using tools like ShowMe, CodeAcademy, Bloc, and so on.

Let’s create the world’s first, completely Digitally Literate Society. Not a nation of programmers (maybe someday) but a nation of people who are comfortable with the most powerful tool ever invented by mankind.

Let’s do it quickly – train them in three months from start to finish. And cheaply – for free.

We can create the program at Stanford, MIT, Berkeley, Harvard, etc. We can teach basic proficiency – use online applications like Google Apps, Search, DropBox, Email, Online Banking, Travel, Ordering supplies, etc. Some basic creation – create your own web-site. Research questions. Solve problems. Learn to learn.

Google, Amazon, and Apple will loan us the tablets. Companies will pay us to have people learn to use their apps. An app marketplace where companies pay society to educate society.

Apple, Square, DropBox, Twitter have created beautiful software interfaces. iPad and Android have made the hardware accessible. Today, it is not just cheap to build a company. It is cheap to re-build a person.

Let’s create the world’s first digitally literate society. The world’s most desirable workforce. If that won’t generate employment, nothing will.

10 thoughts on “Towards a Literate Nation

  1. I heard another idea recently that made a lot of sense. We should start teaching code in high schools as a foreign language option. Spanish, French, Latin, Python.

  2. Agreed, we think learning programming languages deserves just as much attention as learning a foreign language in an age where we’re communicating with digital services more and more every day.

    That’s the philosophy behind why we built Bloc (referenced in the article)

  3. Naval this is fantastic. I’m glad I’m stumbled across your blog. I lecture kids quite often and what I tell them over and over is that they live in the greatest time mankind has ever seen. Why? Because of the accessibility of information and knowledge. Just take iTunesU and YouTube for example. Stanford offers several video taped semesters for free. The camera is literally in the classroom with the professor for the entire semester and the course material is all available for free on the Stanford website. It is also a ripe environment for innovation and entrepreneurship. It will take thought leaders like yourself and like minded entrepreneurs to get this message out and to drown out all of the dooms day chatter in the media. Thank you.

  4. Said something I’ve been trying to say but couldn’t say it in so simple words. Using this article to create a presentation, will post a link when done.

    thanks much.

  5. sstieteeconra on March 25, 2011 Hi Kim. Is it guaranteed that I´m going to make money from the first week for example? Please replay, thank you.

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