Education is the new oil that will drive the information revolution

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Jim Whitehurst presented on Saturday morning at the 2012 installment of TEDxRaleigh, speaking to a sold-out crowd in Raleigh’s Lincoln Theatre. Now in its third year, TEDxRaleigh has brought together local innovators, researchers and thought leaders to give local flair to a wildly successful national event.

This year’s fifteen speakers represented the diversity of Raleigh’s industries, both established and fledgling. Fitting the chosen theme of “alchemy”, TEDxRaleigh organizers asked “What are the elements, processes, and reactions that turn ideas into reality?” and received answers from a variety of sources including Larry’s Beans, Symbology Clothing, the NC Film Institute, and the BioFuels Center of NC.

During his speech, Whitehurst wove the story of the “Information Revolution” beginning with the assertion that current advances in technology will reach farther beyond gadgets, software and tangible results, ultimately affecting our lives and society. As Whitehurst described the “major players” in the Industrial and Information Revolutions, including the auto-lathe, transportation systems, microprocessors, and cloud computing, he noted an important difference that the Industrial Revolution was about making things more efficient, while the Information Revolution will hinge on more efficient use of what society has already made.

“This may sound subtle, but the results are profound. Many economists estimate that well over half of all activity is waste. In reducing this waste lies the next great leap forward in human welfare,” Whitehurst said.

Whitehurst then described different shifts that will accompany the Information Revolution, changes that would occur when rote tasks become automated and an evolving workforce will be challenged to leverage initiative, creativity and agility to create value in the workplace. “This will require an entirely new leadership paradigm, as traditional command-and-control systems are efficient at directing rote tasks, but notoriously poor at generating creativity,” Whitehurst said. These shifts, he added, would be assisted by emerging and current networks that surround us every day, as networks are able to self-organize and leverage the power of rich information to coordinate everyday activities in an efficient manner.

The speech concluded with a focus on the role of education and its transformations, where Whitehurst predicted that learning how to collaborate, taking initiative, and applying critical reasoning will shape the growth of a knowledge-capable population. “Education is the new oil”, Whitehurst asserted at the conclusion of his speech, closing with a slide of “Information = Massive Change” over an interconnected, constellation background.

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Anna Eusebio graduated from UNC Chapel Hill this May with a degree in Public Relations and Environmental Studies. She is excited to make forays into the world of open source and coding since completing her internship at Red Hat, and you can now find her in the Fedora public relations section. She is also a self-proclaimed enthusiast of penguins, Venus flytraps, and the Muppets.


I don't see the talk on the TEDxRaleigh site- any idea when it will be posted?

The talk was literally an hour ago. I'm not sure the TEDxRalelgih folks have had time to post the video's yet. So for now, we've only got the summary for you.


Hated to miss this today. Look forward to seeing more info online.

I went to this yesterday. I believe they said the videos will be posted on their YouTube channel in about 2 weeks.

It's how we USE what we have. This idea is catching on with my generation like wildfire, in ways that relate to technology AND to the general mindset. In addition to putting technology to work for me, to better my career and output, I've been seeking out secondhand items instead of buying new whenever possible -- it feels great and is an adventure! Jim's subtle revelation speaks volumes: “This may sound subtle, but the results are profound. Many economists estimate that well over half of all activity is waste. In reducing this waste lies the next great leap forward in human welfare."

"Education is the new oil" This will only be the case if the education system on all fronts confronts itself with this idea. A lot of the time research is stifled only because it does not support the systems already in place and on the ground. In a lot of instances we already know how to transform, innovate, collaborate and reason, all at cost that most institutions won't want to bear. The case in point is that I'm aware of PHDs that have left the country, because the monies offered to retain them was less than 50 grand a year. They are now all happily employed in their respective research fields by foreign competing entities.

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