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October 03, 2009

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Mike

This is a great lecture series. (I've already watched some of the lectures, and I'm anxious to see the rest.) As always, thank you for posting the useful information. While reading your comments, though, I was troubled by some of the unstated implications of your view of a future. You say that, "Eventually all academics should be able to create resources like this...", but that begs the question: When it fully comes to pass, how large (and how well-paid) will the group of "all academics" be?

I'm a photojournalist, and I remember vividly how a decade ago, when the internet was gaining steam, we were all told there was nothing to fear -- that the internet was creating a totally new market, so even if internet usage fees for our work were miniscule, they would be multiplied many times because there were a myriad of websites, and it would all be gravy anyway because the old magazine market would still be there. We were entering a golden age for journalists! Of course, just the opposite has happened. The old market collapsed and now there are fewer of us who are able to make a living. Our ability to assert our copyright has been terribly undercut, and the principles underlying a fee structure that had been built up over more than half a century completely fell apart in only a few years. And now the entire newspaper industry is collapsing! It's ironic that, in an "information age," professional journalists are being decimated.

So when videotaped lectures and distance education really take off, how many human beings will be able to afford spending their lives in the pursuit of knowledge? (And what will this mean for the future of knowledge?) I'm afraid the same thing that happened in journalism will soon happen in academia. There will jubilant cheers by some praising the democratization of learning, and there will be enormous suffering by those trying to dedicate their lives to it.

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