The following is a rough transcript which has not been revised by The Jim Rutt Show or by Robert Tercek. Please check with us before using any quotations from this transcript. Thank you.
Jim: Today’s guest is Rob Tercek. Rob is one of the world’s most prolific creators of interactive content. He has designed and created interactive experiences on every digital platform, including satellite television, game console, broadband internet, and mobile networks. He provides strategic insight and advice to many companies, including Nokia, Motorola, AMD, Sony Computer Entertainment, Turner Broadcasting, PBS, CNN, Interpublic Group, and Reed Exhibitions. He is the chairman of the board of directors for the Creative Visions Foundation in Malibu, California. Welcome, Rob. In fact, welcome back.
Rob: Well, thank you very much, Jim. It’s great to be here.
Jim: Yeah, we had a great conversation back, I don’t know, a month and a half ago in EP 133, where we talked at length about his very interesting book, Vaporized: Solid Strategies for Success in a Dematerialized World. We didn’t have time to cover the section in Vaporized on education. So we agreed that today we’re going to do a focus deep dive into Rob’s ideas in that most important domain. But before we turn to education, maybe Rob could take a moment to lay out the concept of Vaporized at a high level to ground those folks in the audience who didn’t hear that earlier conversation.
Rob: Sure, I’d be happy to do that. Thanks, Jim. So Vaporized is the title of my book, which was selected as the international book of the year at the Frankfurt Book Fair in 2016. The book, Vaporized, is all about this phenomenon of replacing physical things with software. And that sounds like a perfectly obvious phenomenon, but when you start to peel it back and look at how it works, it’s rather complex. We’re talking about billions of items that are transacted through a global supply chain being replaced by software. Those digital replacements move through a completely different supply chain or value chain. And that value chain is dominated by companies who understand the control points and they are able to extract value from those control points. So a good part of my book explains the rise of companies like Google, Apple, and Facebook and so forth. These are companies that dominate the digital supply chain and control how people exchange value around digital objects or dematerialized objects.
Rob: The book looks at the dematerialized economy. One of the things that comes forward is that there’s a couple of different kinds of products that can get vaporized. A pure information product, like a song or a picture or a video, a pure information product lends itself to this. And it’s no surprise therefore, that media is one of the very first industries that was vaporized. Whereas things that require, they pertain to our physical bodies, I guess. Things like transportation and food. It’s pretty hard to vaporize those, but the services around those are already in the process of automation. We’re starting to see robots emerge that can handle some of those physical devices. So there’s a way to extract value out of those physical things and turn it into software.
Rob: But one of the interesting parts of the book at the very end is the chapter on education. Jim, when I wrote this book, I didn’t expect this to happen, but it was by far the most controversial chapter. So when people wrote reviews of my book, they would always zero in on the education chapter. It comes right at the end of the book. But one of the things I freely admit is that the whole education establishment hasn’t yet been vaporized, but I do believe it will be. I think it’s ripe for it because ultimately, education is an information product, but it’s delivered in the most cumbersome physical format right now at US colleges.
Jim: Yup, moving into that. So, yeah, that’s a great grounding. Let’s start off with what many of us have heard chatter on the internet, in magazines, on TV about some of these projections about technological unemployment. This goes all the way back to Keynes when he predicted that by 1960, we’d be working 15 hours a week. Well, it didn’t happen [inaudible 00:03:54], but it could happen in the future. Or a whole bunch of people could lose their jobs. In fact, that was recently on 60 Minutes prediction that 40% of jobs will be eliminated by AI in the next 15 years. It seems a little extreme to me, but nonetheless, there are certainly a whole bunch of jobs that will be replaced by ever improving AI and other things like robotics, et cetera. So how much of a real emergency do you believe there is around technological employment that’s going to be a real, perhaps finally the driver that will force education to reform?
Rob: I like the way you framed the question, is it an emergency? So let me state first off, that obviously there will be a significant impact on employment by artificial intelligence. My perspective on this is a little different from the norm. You’ve heard all these horror stories about mass unemployment, you referred to a few of them. I think those are scary stories that grab headlines and grab a lot of attention. Jim, this same story has been told again and again and again since the beginning of the industrial revolution, it’s the story of the last 300 years. As humans rely on machines and mechanical solutions to replace physical labor, people’s jobs were destroyed, but those people migrated to other jobs that were frankly higher and better use of their skills as human beings. So the summary there is if you do a job that a robot can do, you’re probably going to lose that job eventually. It probably will be automated.
Rob: If your job can be automated, it probably will be automated. I think that’s a safe starting point, safe supposition. Now, what kinds of jobs? The famous report, I think it was from Oxford University, the report you’re mentioning where it projected at 45% of jobs were subject to some form of displacement by robotics or artificial intelligence. Well, the jobs that can be replaced easily are those that are repetitive, predictable, routine. If your job is something that you can train someone else to do in 20 minutes, chances are pretty good that is going to get replaced. And the replacement will be a combination of two things. One is robotics, which is actually like a machine that can physically do the job. And the other one is artificial intelligence. These usually work in sync.
Rob: Often the two are used synonymously, robotics and AI, but there’s a whole other dimension that we don’t ever talk about and I don’t know why, which is simply software automation without a robot. Software automation has eliminated one hell of a lot more jobs than robots have. The world population of robots still is in the hundreds of thousands. It’s not that huge. And that’s because it’s really hard to get a robot to actually function without breaking stuff. Meanwhile, think of all the jobs that have been replaced by things like voicemail systems, receptionist jobs, people who are in customer care. Anytime you pick up a phone and call customer service, you’re not really typically dealing with a human being. Those jobs have all been replaced with software and there’s no machine, there’s no robot. There’s not even really artificial intelligence in many cases.
Rob: Now, the second part of your question is what’s coming next? If you want, we can talk a little bit about that because there is a big change coming in the next 10 years with artificial intelligence. Shall we jump right into that?
Jim: Sure. Let’s talk about it. Because I agree with you that while people focus on the obvious things like self-driving cars and warehouse robots, there’s already been some automation in what we would think of as highly cognitive work, like creating trusted states documents and the legal domain, exactly doing tax advice, both of which are at least AI assisted at this point, which reduces the need for lawyers and accountants in those domains.
Rob: That’s a really, really important point. It didn’t get rid of the lawyer. It didn’t get rid of the accountant. It just made the accountant more efficient. It made the attorney more efficient so that you’ll use a boilerplate contract that a software service like Legal Zoom can provide. But if you’re smart, you’re going to pay for an hour of attorney’s time to review that and make sure that your bases are covered. If you’re not, maybe take your chances with the robot version and see how it goes. So there is a level of disruption that you point out that’s already happening. And remember, this isn’t really involving a lot of AI yet. These are just software systems and it’s broad and it’s widespread.
Jim: [inaudible 00:07:51] short of AI, old fat, what they call good old fashion AI, but they’re not probably on the road to artificial general intelligence. I.e, they’re not powerful AI, they’re narrowed niche AI.
Rob: That’s true. Let’s set aside general artificial intelligence because that’s not even on the roadmap at this point. That’s so far out there. Well, it’s an intriguing possibility, but like-
Jim: Some people say, [inaudible 00:08:14] 10 years. One of the best experts I know will bet actual money on 10 to 15 years. I personally don’t believe it, but more like 50 years. But anyway…
Rob: Look, 10 years is a long time. I have no doubt that at some point there will be something like an autonomous system that can reason and think and be conscious and so forth. I don’t have any doubt about that. I’m not a naysayer, but in the timeframe that we’re talking about, timeframe should be about 10 years. And the reason for that is if you make it through the next 10 years, then you can deal with the following 10 years. But not a whole lot we can do about the 2030s at this stage. So in the next 10 years, I don’t think there are many serious people who think that general artificial intelligence is going to be viable. And that’s a really important point to make because you hear a lot of this hype around the singularity, how everything’s going to change, how suddenly robots will be smarter than people or computer system will be smarter than people.
Rob: As you pointed out, in certain domains, very narrow domains, that’s already the case and it’s not just chess or games like Go where an AI can trout to human being routinely. Now it’s extending to many other fields. Visual processing, the ability to interpret certain health records or certain health images, robots are routinely outscore humans on this, or I should say artificial intelligence routinely outscores humans in these features and many other categories. That’s going to continue to happen. Does it mean we won’t have radiologists? No, of course we’re going to still have radiologists. It just means radiologist isn’t going to waste their time trying to find spots on your lungs, or the doctor won’t waste his time trying to find that. They’ll just turn it over to the AI. They’ll be more efficient.
Jim: It may mean we need less radiologists. I think then that’s an important consideration.
Rob: Yeah. Or maybe healthcare will get cheaper and we’ll be able to provide service to more people.
Jim: Yeah. They’ll find a way to rip us off, but their costs might go down. But I guarantee the prices won’t. Those motherfuckers.
Rob: That is distinctly American point of view. Okay. Anyway, so I don’t think we’re arguing here. I think we both agree that automated systems are coming, semi-intelligent systems are coming. They’re not fully autonomous, which is important yet, but this is what’s changing right now. So right now, and I mean this year, 2021, dozens and dozens of companies now are focused on high speed training of autonomous systems. This is where machine learning fits in because they’re realizing you probably can’t program artificial intelligence, but you might be able to train your way to some sort of intelligence, general intelligence. The system itself, if you train it enough, will start to think. I’m not sure if that’s going to work or not, but I can tell you that people are held out on that. There’s a ton of people working on that right now.
Rob: Now, this is important because to the degree that these systems become autonomous, that’s the degree to which we don’t need people. That’s where the displacement starts to occur. You don’t want to compete against the machine, you won’t win. You want to work with the machine. So it’s pretty safe to bet that in the 2020s, all of us are going to have to learn a new skill, which is how to co-exist with robots and automated systems as they begin to infiltrate all forms of work. Not all of us are good at that right now, a lot of people are resistant to it. Partly we’re resistant to it because we’ve been conditioned from the newspaper and the sensationalist headlines that robots are coming to steal our jobs and the robot apocalypse is here and it’s going to take over everything and the robots will kill us and all that stuff. These Terminator scenarios that are repeated again and again and again, that’s embedded in people’s consciousness.
Rob: People are resistant to automated systems. That’s not a really good career path. The better career path, I think, is to understand these systems and learn how to work with them. Because if you can be the master of that system, you’re going to be 10 times more effective. So think of AI as a superpower that makes you 10 times more effective in your job, or maybe 100 times more effective in your job. I’m starting to see this now. I’m starting to see individual consultants, market research firms promote themselves as powered by AI or augmented by AI. I think that’s actually pretty smart because that shift is happening right now as we speak. So I think everybody wants to be positioned that way, that I have the super power, it’s artificial intelligence. In my particular specialty, here’s how I use it. Here’s the advantages to you. No, it doesn’t cost you more. In fact, it’s a benefit to you. It saves you money because we get there faster with better data and so forth.
Rob: Anyway, this is an exciting time right now, but scary thought because it means that the job market’s going to change so dramatically that we’re going to have a lot of dinosaurs on our hands. I’m looking at baby boomers, people my age, around my age, even Gen Xers who haven’t adapted to this, they’re going to find it increasingly difficult to compete in a world where younger people who grow up with these systems have a symbiotic relationship with them, where they understand how these systems work and they have a completely different workflow. It’s harder for older people to understand how to adapt to a new workflow. So there’s a gigantic remedial education task ahead of us. And as I say, this is spreading across all industries and just about every job type now.
Jim: Yeah. So basically it raises the stakes once again on education, right?
Rob: Yeah, exactly. It doesn’t mean you’re going to lose your job tomorrow. It just means if you want to keep a career longer term, you got to go back and sharpen up your ax a little bit. You got to get some new skills.
Jim: What we’ll continue to do is do what various things have been doing since the 1970s, which is to increase the premium on so-called education. When I went off to college as a working class kid in 1971, it was a close call. A school teacher, which was where I thought I would set it as a career, paid about the same as a carpenter. Since then, there’s been quite a divergence between the blue collar and the white collar. I think last time I checked in the county where I grew up, school teachers now make about twice what carpenters make. In general, anyone without advanced education has been fucked by the economic systems since about 1975.
Rob: Yeah, that’s true.
Jim: This will only accelerate that because those who can become wielders of super powers will be worth a lot more in the job market than those who can’t. And if it requires education to reach that point, which it may or may not, we can talk about later, that the premium magic education will go up yet again, which will give those Steven bastards in the educational industrial complex yet another opportunity to raise prices, right?
Rob: We should talk about how come the tuition keeps going up and it goes up at twice the rate of inflation? That’s [inaudible 00:14:35].
Jim: More than that. Oh, it’s like craziness. I went back and checked before the call, and from the time I was in college, ’71 to ’75, if you adjust for inflation, educational cost has gone up 4X after adjusting for inflation since 1975. And that was a private elite university at a state university. It’s gone up even more than that. State universities were dirt cheap in my day.
Rob: Jim, now here’s your opportunity to tell me that the quality of the education has also increased 4X or maybe even 5X [inaudible 00:15:06].
Jim: It has not, man. Prior to COVID, I spent a fair amount of time on campuses. I’m on a science governance boards on various universities. I hang out on universities fair often, and frankly, it’s certainly not better and it’s probably worse. The number of courses people take, the intensity of the courses, [inaudible 00:15:26] a tremendous amount of grade inflation that reduces the level of effort required by the students, et cetera. So let’s be generous and say, it’s maybe no worse, but I see not a lick of sign that it’s any better. So 4X for the same damn thing, unlike healthcare, which is also going up something like 3X, but at least healthcare, and actually can do some miracles. Can actually do a whole lot of stuff that couldn’t do in 1975. Not obvious to me that education is doing anything better than it did in 1975 when it comes to its actual role of education. Now we have a whole shitload more administrators. We have way fancier dorms, we got really fancy food in the dining hall, we have first-class athletic facilities, but those really have nothing to do with the prime mission of education.
Rob: That’s it. Well, great question then, so what is the prime mission of education? This is really crucial. We know that there’s a need to educate people for a changing workforce and to equip them with skills that are going to carry them forward into their careers, but I’m not sure that’s what the university thinks their job is. I don’t know if they see it as a vocational exercise where you’re going to college for four years. Are they meant to equip you with lifelong skills that will serve you in a career? I think a lot of parents assume that’s what the kids are getting when they send their kids off to college. I’m not sure if students expect that or not. And I don’t think that university academics or the management of the universities, I don’t think that they think it’s their job to do vocational training, especially at elite universities.
Jim: Yeah, certainly not the fancy universities. The tier one research university talk to your state universities. Though the community college, I’ve also had some dealings with community colleges lately, they are very oriented towards jobs and they have no false pride about the fact that they are educating the next generation of Socrates and Aristotle. But at the fancy universities, certainly an issue.
Rob: Now, people would say, “Well, okay, what do you expect the college to do? Are they supposed to teach people how to work with robots? Are they supposed to teach people how to do a marketing job or how to be a salesperson?” No, I don’t think that’s the case at all. I think the function of higher education is to teach people how to think, to transform young minds, young undisciplined minds into adult mature minds. Minds that can focus, that can think critically, that can formulate an argument, that can handle evidence, that can come to a reasonable judgment about the quality of that evidence and make good decisions and communicate it, argue it, write about it and talk about it. I think these are key skills. They’re going to be valuable skills in the future too, because at the moment, those are not things that automated systems can do very well. Now that might change obviously as big trend towards that very skill set. But even then, that’s an opportunity for collaboration, I think, because human judgment will always be considered valuable, at least for the foreseeable timeframe that we’re talking about, the next 10 years.
Rob: The problem we’re seeing at universities is that there’s no discernible improvement on those critical thinking skills, the ability to formulate judgements and the ability to write about that. In my book, I say that we report, called Academically Adrift, and the authors are Richard Arum and Josipa Roksa. They noticed that among 45% of students, they serve thousands of students at universities. After four years of education, they found no discernible significant improvements in those skills in half of the student population. So half the students are getting some value, out of 45% are not really getting any transformation. Anecdotally, all the things you mentioned, Jim, are one of the reasons why this isn’t happening. Where are the universities putting resources? Well, they’re not putting them into the classroom. They’re not recruiting and paying teachers more. I can tell you as a person who’s been a professor, salaries for professors are not that attractive.
Jim: They’re up a bit since 1975 after inflation, quite a fair amount, but not 4X.
Rob: Yeah. Administrative salaries are, the administrative salaries are up three or 4X.
Jim: And the count even worse. I just read the other day someplace, the University of Wisconsin has basically 93 people in the department of [Waukee 00:19:30] bullshit. What the hell? 93 people, bigger than any of their academic departments.
Rob: Then the other place they’re putting it, as you pointed out, is in athletic facilities. In my book, I talk about turning education into a luxury good, because that’s what they’ve done. It’s like a spa, some universities have spa-like facilities. So you’re sending a complicated signal to young people, the 18-year-olds who attend to college, am I here to study and work and knuckle down in the library and do things that are basically boring that I wouldn’t otherwise do because they’re hard, they make me think, or am I here to party my ass off and have a fun time? If you can party like a rockstar in a hot tub at a college, why wouldn’t you? Of course, 45% of the students are going to choose that, that’s actually not an irrational decision.
Jim: If it were free, but unfortunately it’s not right.
Rob: That’s right.
Jim: Have you ever read the book, it’s an amazing book called The Case Against Education: Why the Educational System is a Waste of Time and Money by Bryan Caplan from George Mason University [inaudible 00:20:28]?
Rob: Well, I have, and I’m familiar with it. In fact, he’s an important voice. So to be clear, he’s a libertarian. He comes with a very strongly inflicted viewpoint about this subject matter and he challenges the notion that universities confer any value on their students. That is, what is the actual value? His perspective is that the actual learnings don’t amount to much, and it’s very hard to measure them. All those experiential things like better athletic facilities and inspire-like features, those are just intangibles. Even something like the network of relationships that you develop, even that he would consider an intangible. So his perspective is that 80% of the value of a college diploma is the signaling value that it sends to the marketplace. So when you come out of a college and you graduate with a degree, that diploma sends a signal to future employers that you’re a person who can handle complex abstract thinking and make reasonable conclusions and intelligent judgments about it. That’s what you’re paying for, is basically the seal of approval.
Jim: Well, we’ll talk about that later. That certainly seems to be the case. We had back on EP 32, Jason Brennan from Georgetown University, who also writes on this topic. Again, we talked a whole lot about how what’s really going on is signaling. As we get deeper into your ideas here, we’ll have a whole section dedicated to wrap some ideas on how to do signaling in a much more modern fashion.
Rob: Well, since I wrote the book, I had the opportunity to talk to some people who do hiring. And generally, when I speak to managers and businesses, as a consultant I talk to lots of companies, I ask them, “What do you look for in a candidate? How do you recruit?” When it comes to an engineering job, generally, they don’t really care about your degree or where you got it from. They want to see the code you can write. They want to see what you can make. In other words, they’re looking for practical skills.
Jim: The very best people do that, but well, vast proportion of fortune 500 companies still require a college degree for programmers, which is nuts. At the top places like Facebook and Google will no longer do because they have the skills to separate the wheat from the chafe. But your typical bank or a big retailer or something, they have no idea. So they basically say, “Oh, well, I graduated from Ohio State with a computer science degree and 3.5 grade point hours are probably fairly good.” So they have advocated and over credentialed the job essentially.
Rob: You’ve just summarized Bryan Caplan’s theory about signaling value because that’s precisely what he’s arguing. That, that diploma, encoded in that diploma is a guarantee of some promise that this person is capable of doing the job that you’re recruiting for. And that’s a shortcut for a recruiter or for a hiring manager. They can just see that diploma or they see that that person has a degree or claims to have a degree and then they don’t have to investigate further. Obviously by or be aware.
Jim: Yep, absolutely. Absolutely. So anyway, we have now a growing economic value of these credentials because of, amongst other things, first, the technological and now the AI replacement of unskilled labor and the upgrading of the capacity of people know how to use these advanced things. The universities have turned these things into excuses and opportunities to raise prices, funded by our corrupt student loan system. We’re in quite a place, the amount of student debt is now larger than the amount of auto loan debt or credit card debt in the United States. That’s a fucking scary statistic.
Rob: It’s scandalous. I think the figures are at 1.5 trillion of student debt, you can’t get rid of it. It’s toxic debt. And there’s real impact from that. Jim, when you graduate from college and you’ve got tens of thousand dollars of student loans, that’s going to affect your decision about where to go to work.
Rob: Students who graduate with student loans are inherently more conservative. They’re risk averse in a way that a student who has zero student loans will be more open to taking a risk with their career. And for the simple reason is that anybody who’s responsible about their credit score is not going to want to default. Therefore, you’re going to need to get a steady paycheck. And these days, those jobs are harder and harder to get, particularly for young graduates. So there’s a lot of competition for any job that feels like a secure stable source of income so that you can pay down student loans.
Rob: The other thing that happens is that people don’t leave jobs. So where you would expect young people to be nimble, move to cities where there’s opportunities, switch careers, go to a startup, maybe go into a new industry or something like that, where there’s growth potential, if you’re held back by student loans, you’re going to think twice before you take that opportunity. This causes students to be cautious at a time in their lives when they should actually be taking more and more risk. So the very forces that we described in the beginning of this show, that are causing so much turmoil and so much change, those forces require us to be adaptive, to take some risks, to learn on the job, to step up and maybe master some new skills. Unfortunately, the fact that student debt is going to hold a lot of people back and make them really cautious about taking that risk.
Jim: Yep. That’s an interesting statistic. Of course, this isn’t the only driver of it. But we think of ourselves as America, as a mobile society where people move to chase opportunity. The data is pretty clear since let’s say 1975, the rate at which people move across state lines period, for whatever reasons, is half of what it was in 1975, half. Well, that’s tremendous. I think part of it, two career families where to make a move, you basically have to find jobs for both, I think that’s a big part of it. But for young people, before they’re partnered up or married, or what have you, I think, as you’re saying, a whole lot of it is the inherent conservatism that comes from having this massive anchor around your neck.
Rob: Yeah. That’s exactly right. Because you can’t default on student loan. They’ll keep coming after you. I know folks who have had that problem. Another reason why labor mobility is so low in the United States and people don’t switch jobs or move so much is healthcare, because we’re the only industrial country in the world that ties healthcare to employment. It’s a stupid system. It’s actually hurting us in terms of workforce innovation and labor mobility. Because if people knew that they could get the same healthcare in another state, they would be more inclined to try something new and move to a different city.
Jim: And go to a startup. Because often startups can’t even afford healthcare. When I was doing startups, we provided top line 90% paid health insurance and it costs like $150 a month. Now it’s like 3,000 a month. [inaudible 00:26:49] ridiculous like that. You know what I mean, not quite that much, but it’s like way much more expensive. So yeah, very, very important point. A little aside here, which is the universities are, we can say, oh, the evil universities. But of course, in reality, they’ve been caught in a game theoretic trap around facilities. I don’t know about this administrator [inaudible 00:27:10], where that’s coming from. If you just went into typical university and just shot three out of four administrators at random, flip a coin twice, unless it comes up heads twice, you shoot the person, we’d probably have no discernible effect on education at all.
Jim: If you asked the professors would cost quality of education go up, cost to go down a lot. I don’t know where all these administrators came from, 4X more administrators [inaudible 00:27:33]. But facilities, it’s an arms race. Unfortunately, one college makes the move to a fancy, fancy, fancy. And if that attracts the students, which apparently it does, then the other colleges are forced to respond in the classic game theoretical trap. We often call race to the bottom and game B. In this case, it’s race to the top, who can provide the most amazing, ah, sushi bar. We used to have, you remember what college food was like, sushi bars and cold cuts, I can tell you that.
Rob: Yeah, I understand.
Jim: Colleges are unfortunately caught in this bizarre game theoretic trap.
Rob: Yeah. By the way, I don’t happen to consider US colleges or universities evil or corrupt or anything else. I think they’re caught in this dynamic that is not of their creation, but they do participate in it. Because it’s worth bearing in mind that even though the cost of tuition goes up, the actual cost of providing the education is going up even more. So those universities rely massively on their endowments and on donations and other kinds of support to offset the costs that aren’t covered. It’s also worth pointing out that the United States government in the past funded a great deal of research at the university level. By the way, that was excellent. That’s one of the reasons why we have things like the internet and satellites and mobile phones and many of the advances that we had in medical and healthcare fields. Unfortunately, the government funding for basic research at universities has also dried up.
Jim: Mm-hmm (affirmative). I don’t know, there’s still a whole lot of it. It’s more than there used to be actually. It’s moved from categories. There’s a lot more in biomedical than there used to be, huge. In the physical sciences, it’s about kept pace with inflation, but it hasn’t exceeded inflation, but it probably should have. So in aggregate, the total federal government spending on research funding is actually gone up and exceeded the growth in inflation. But that’s mostly from the disproportionate growth in biomedical.
Rob: One thing I know is that as state budgets have come under pressure, state universities have become stingier about how much of tuition they will cover. That has caused the cost of state college tuition to go up.
Jim: More than private, more than private as a percentage.
Rob: Yeah, that’s exactly right, where it’s starting to approach. A private college and the elite level in the United States, the tuition is $65,000, could be 55,000, but it’s a lot. It’s exactly double what it was when I was a student myself. That’s at an elite school. But what’s remarkable to me is that at a state school, you could pay $30,000 or $35,000 in tuition. That differential used to be way bigger. The gap between what you pay for elite private school versus what you pay for a public state school used to be much bigger. Now that gap is closing. I think that’s really troublesome because that’s a source of a lot of student debt.
Jim: Yup, absolutely.
Rob: These are people who are ambitious. Let’s bear in mind that when people are taking on student debt, there is nothing wrong with it. It’s not like credit card debt where they’re free spending, drunken, sailor type spending. These are people are making a relatively informed decision. They might not have all the information about what’s on the other side of the university degree, but they’re trying to make a smart decision to invest in themselves and they’re basically borrowing from their future earnings in order to improve their skillset. What we’re talking about is whether they’re actually getting what they’re bargaining for.
Rob: Taking on the student debt, I’m not going to quibble about that. If you want to get an education and you don’t have the resources to pay for the tuition now, well, then you’re going to borrow it to do that. That’s probably a good idea for the very reason you said at the outset, which is that if you don’t get a college degree, your earning potential is about a million dollars less over the course of your career compared to somebody who does have a college degree. That’s a really significant difference.
Rob: There’s some logic to that. The other problem though, is that people don’t get good guidance on this. I know people who’ve taken on student loans to go to university, but then they study in a degree where they’re never going to get a job. That degree doesn’t lead anywhere. You have to really think carefully. What’s on the other side of the university is a four year internship, where you’re going to be not paid. How are you going to pay your student loans? It’s going to be tough. And then you end up with a professional job that only pays 40 to $50,000 a year. You’re going to be saddled with student loans until you’re 50 years old. And that’s a reality for an awful lot of people.
Rob: What universities do not do is disclose salaries for the jobs that they train people for. They’re very happy to tell you about the people who get the great jobs, but they don’t provide any average. I don’t even know if they have that information at their disposal, but it’d be helpful because you’re talking about making a purchase here that is the largest consumer purchase you are going to make in your lifetime, apart from buying a home. So the biggest investment most people make or the biggest purchase they make as a home. We often think the second biggest purchase is a car, but that’s not true because university is the price of a car each year. It’s like buying four cars.
Jim: That’s a fancy ass car.
Rob: That’s right.
Jim: If you go to an elite university, you’re talking close to $80,000 a year all in. Anyway, this is all interesting, but what should we do about this, right?
Rob: Right. So back to Vaporize, if you go back to the Vaporize theory, the Vaporize theory is, gee, right now the university is using a physical system to deliver information. The way we’re doing it is actually we have campuses and buildings covered with Ivy and a bunch of books inside of the buildings and physical professors with dogs and stuff. Well, what if you replaced all that with information, what would that look like? Now in my book, I posited a bunch of different examples of how that might work, but that was a couple of years ago. Now we’ve had COVID-19, and everybody has begun to realize that they can work from home, they can learn from home, they can do this stuff remotely. So all of a sudden we’re all experts in working remotely.
Rob: Now, how did education fair during COVID-19? The answer, I think uniformly, is it failed? I don’t know a single parent who feels like their child got their money’s worth from their tuition when all they really painful was the Zoom call. People felt like they got ripped off. I know many students who decided to just punch out and take a year off and go do something else and just dropped out for a year because they didn’t want to spend the tuition on a Zoom call. I know many teachers, I’ve spoken to many teachers in California who had to teach remotely for either grade school or high school, and they felt that they were not adequately prepared. We’re here to say, I live in Los Angeles where the LA Unified School District was quite proud. I talked to them in 2019 and they said, “We’ve solved the digital divide. We now know that every student in the LA Unified School system has a digital device, so they can actually get ahold of the digital learning programs that we have.”
Rob: That sounded great. But what happened during COVID-19 is that the parents needed those devices to do their jobs. So they kicked the kids off the computer, they kicked the kid off the smartphone. In some schools, 25% of students failed to complete their education last year. This is a crisis. It hasn’t really been dealt with, it hasn’t been addressed. Some schools are talking about adding an additional 10 days next year to try to catch up. That doesn’t seem smarter. One thing one school teacher told me is she said, “Everybody should just repeat. And the students who feel like they’re ready to go next grade, let them go. But for those who want to repeat a year, we should just let them repeat a year because we don’t feel like we had the educational outcome that we wanted.”
Rob: All this is a long-winded way of saying that COVID-19 forced all of our learning systems, all of our education systems to deal with remote education, to deal with essentially what I call vaporized education. And we failed across the board. Maybe there’s a few incidents of success, but generally speaking, it was not a good outcome across the board. This is disastrous. The worst part in my view is that it was not unforeseeable. First of all, a pandemic was something that was well predicted for 20 years. So there’s no reason not to be prepared for that, but also with universities, I’ve been telling universities now for 10 years that they need to begin to develop remote learning and not because of a pandemic, but because they’re going to be able to extend and reach many more people.
Rob: If you zoom out past the United States and look at the world right now, there are two billion people who need to be educated and they’re not going to get education at the level that university in United States can provide. They’re never going to set foot on a university campus in the United States. And yet those people require that kind of skill in to compete on the global level, because we now have globalized workforces. Now that you can work anywhere, placeless employment is possible. Now it means that you compete against a global workforce. We need to train all those people. The way you’re going to get that done is not by building more college campuses and having a lot more professors and more dogs and more books and more Ivy and so forth. That’s not the way to do this. The way we’re going to do this is with software. And it could even be self-learn so people could teach themselves.
Rob: Now, the great news since I wrote my book, is that the number of free resources for education has absolutely skyrocketed and people are using them. One great example, which isn’t in my book, I should have included it, is YouTube has turned into… YouTube is many things to many people, but one of the things that YouTube does really well is any subject that you want to learn about, you can find a YouTube video on, it’s free. This is rather remarkable. In the history of humanity, a resource like this has not existed. So there are resources available for people who want to learn on their own.
Rob: Now, is that the same thing as a college degree? There’s a great question. Is that equivalent to the college degree? Clearly not. Clearly not in the eyes of someone who’s hiring, clearly not in the eyes of somebody who’s purchasing. Yet more and more and more workers are starting to realize that the four year college degree isn’t enough to get you through a 40-year career. They’re starting to realize that you have to do a lifelong learning commitment and you have to continuously upgrade your skills. This is where vaporized education is incredibly valuable. It’s for people who are already working, who realize, I need a new skill, I got to upgrade. I got to learn how to master this piece of software. I got to learn how to master this workflow. You can take a course. And sometimes the courses are short and they’re very cheap, often free.
Jim: Yeah, absolutely. I recently had that experience. I wanted to upgrade my Unity 3D programming chops to do a specific set of things.
Rob: Great software, man, great product.
Jim: I’ve used it in the past for doing some scientific work, but nothing what I would call publishable game quality. And I said, “I want to think about possibly doing game in this area.” And I was like, I got to get some upgrade on the 2D side of the 3D program. I spent 80 bucks for a Coursera course in the domain, which sucked. It was terrible. The guy was in comprehensible, it moved way too fast. It didn’t provide good references. What a waste of money? With that, I just said, “What I should’ve done originally was jumped on YouTube.” And I quickly found a half a dozen videos that in less total time and for free, taught me more than what I needed to know. So as the highlight for you that, absolutely, YouTube, if someone would curate it, if one could have a guide through it somehow for people, anything you want to know, of course, we all know you want to figure out how to get a peanut butter and jelly sandwich out of your VHS, look on YouTube, and all the how-tos. That’s just how you do everything now, is YouTube
Rob: Jim, you touched on a really important point. So you’re absolutely right. The resources are out there, but they’re not curated in a way that makes them easy to find. What there is a great need for is someone who can be your knowledge navigator, who says, “All right, look, I’ve looked at all the courses on Unity. I’ve looked at everything that’s available. Unity has a huge website called Learn, where they have programs that will teach you how to use their tools as well. So someone can look across all of that stuff and guide you to the exact course that you want, or at least give you a shortlist of courses you should consider. And maybe also explain why, because maybe there’s a couple prerequisites that would help you be mastering the material even faster or better. You wouldn’t know that as a new user, so you need someone to explain it to you.
Rob: That curatorial process, that function’s not here yet. I think it’s a great big opportunity for anyone who’s listening, because that’s true across every discipline, whether it’s learning a musical instrument or a foreign language or how to cook or where to travel. There’s a lot of learning that we need to do to understand how the modern world works and guidance there could be great. But the other thing you mentioned, I think it’s important to circle back to, is how bad Coursera and Udacity courses are. And I agree with you. When those companies got started, they had the grand ambition of scaling up what was known as a MOOC at that time, a massively online open course. The original MOOCs were created in Canada and they were multimedia and they were collaborative and participatory.
Rob: However, when Udacity and Coursera launched, they found that the efficient way to do this, the industrial approach to scaling up education was to simply hire a good lecturer, put them in a lecture hall, stick a camera in the back and videotape the guy. Now, we all know you don’t need the internet. We all know that learning from video is very poor. Retention is very, very poor. We also know that participating and learning by doing is one of the best ways to retain information. So where I think Udacity and Coursera went wrong is that they think just transmitting the information is how people learn. That’s not true. That’s a video. That might be entertaining, that might be fun. It’s entirely passive and you retain very little of it. Far better would be something participatory. And I’m interested in things where peers teach each other. I think this is another huge opportunity.
Rob: What would be really great for you is if you could get a mentor who knew how to use Unity tools. There’d be an opportunity for Unity to pair you up with people who are expert level or even intermediate level who can just teach you. We see this again and again at university where students teach each other. Eric Mazur is a professor at Harvard. I think I cite some of his work because he’s been very much at the forefront of this idea of pure teaching. He calls himself a reformed lecturer. So what Eric Mazur learned is that the less he talks in the classroom and the less he relies on lecturing, the more he encourages students to share information and teach each other in their own words, with their own examples and their own metaphors that make it more relevant to young people today. Well, he found that would make him much more successful as a professor, have much better educational outcomes. If you think about it, what is a university lecture? A lecture, it’s the oldest way of teaching that we have at universities. It predates the book-
Jim: University of Paris, 1100 AD. Right?
Rob: Exactly. When books were scarce and expensive and handwritten, they were chained to a desk and someone would read to the room. It’s what’s called an auditorium. You’re there to listen and the lecture is reading. A lectern is where you read that book. That’s because books were scarce. Once books became printed and widely distributed in 1450 and thereafter, the need for a university lecture was less and less and less. And yet that’s our classic paradigm. What’s weird to me is that Coursera and Udacity, having coded that ancient practice of a lecture into this modern delivery system of internet education, and it completely misses the mark. I think they could be 10 times more effective if their lectures were replaced by interactive learning programs. Speaking of which, we should talk about VR for a second, because I’ve had the opportunity since I wrote my book, to look at VR for education, VR for training and VR for actual school education, and it’s remarkably effective.
Rob: We hear a lot about VR for games. The general take on virtual reality is that it hasn’t been very effective or it’s a permanent sunrise where the sun never fully rises on the industry and people haven’t adopted it, and no one’s going to wear a headset to entertain this stuff. We hear all that stuff. That’s true. Although now this equipment’s gotten so much better, particularly Oculus equipment has gotten incredibly good. Facebook pumping something on the order of $10 billion a year into the field. They’re making it good, they’re really committed to virtual reality. But as a result now, there are a number of games that do make money. That’s growing nicely. It’s actually promising, but what people are overlooking is education.
Rob: I think the potential for education in VR is enormous. And the reason for it is simply this, it’s entirely experiential. You’re in the system. You are experiencing it firsthand. VR education that I’ve experienced is unforgettable. When we talk about how much do you retain? I think it might be the most powerful mechanism ever invented to transmit skills and cause people to retain them far more effective than watching a YouTube video or watching a lecture on Coursera.
Jim: Yeah. Interesting. I’ve gotten back into VR. I dab a little bit in VR, back in the mid ’90s, I got to know Jaron Lanier and he and I chatted a fair amount about it, we looked at [inaudible 00:43:43].
Rob: That’s the OG VR.
Jim: Yeah, that stuff was terrible. But lately I’ve been playing with the new Oculus, not the Rift, the Quest Two, I think is amazing. In fact, we did what might be the first VR podcast using the Oculus Quest Two, it was not my show because I don’t do video show, but a guy invited me on his podcast and we got to be friends. He said, “Let’s do a second one that’s in VR.” And I said, “Oh, why not?” So I did it and it was surprisingly good. I didn’t get nauseous or sick or anything else. I played around a little bit with the Quest Two games. No, I hadn’t frankly found any of them that made me come back for more, but give us a pointer to someplace that has some good educational content for VR.
Rob: Oh, I’d be very proud to tell you about the Carson Center at the University of Nebraska. I’m very proud to be affiliated with them as an advisor. This has an endowment from the Johnny Carson foundation. Of course, Johnny Carson went to the University of Nebraska in Lincoln, where he was educated. He is a huge patron of the school, particularly for the performing arts and their fine arts curriculum. Three years ago, they created a new center for emerging digital arts. Now, I’m emphasizing arts because it’s not a computer programming class, it’s not computer science, it’s not electrical engineering. However, the students work with those students, they collaborate with them. It’s quite a remarkable program.
Rob: If you consider that in the next 10 years, we’re going to have an enormous opportunity with things like digital twins, immersive 3D worlds, building digital replicas of real world systems. The ability for people to immerse themselves in entertainment. The list goes on and on. But just about every field you can think of, there will be some application either in augmented reality or virtual reality. These are not just engineering problems. These are not just software problems. They are, but beyond that, they are also huge design problems. I’m so thrilled with the program that they’ve created, the Johnny Carson Center at the University of Nebraska, because it is a phenomenally good world-class state-of-the-art program right in the geographic center of the United States. This is not a university on the East Coast. This is not an Ivy League school. This is not one of those prestige schools.
Rob: This is a regular big 10 college, and they’ve got this phenomenal state-of-the-art system to teach people. It’s designed, literally it’s designed to enable those people from the State of Nebraska and others who attend to get the skills that will equip them for the 21st century for this immersive 3D participatory world that’s coming. I’m so proud to be affiliated there. The other thing I’m working on and it’s cool, is a new project called the Virtual Film School. And this is exciting to me because it turns out I taught at the University of Southern California at the film school there. I taught digital media for a number of years. I started that program in the ’90s. At the time, I was questioning the value, actually let’s start where I started to doubt the value of higher education, because it’s a very expensive program to go to film school.
Jim: Most of the people end up working at Starbucks.
Rob: Or maybe they become an executive or maybe they become something else. Now where USC is great, the crafts like editing, screenwriting, producing, they’re excellent. And those students do go onto careers. That’s a very powerful thing. But a lot of other schools around the country would love to have a film school. They don’t have Oscar award-winning professors on the faculty there. So how can they do it? Well, the Virtual Film School is an immersive school and it’s a placeless school and it can be taught by professors from anywhere. So literally a professor can Moonlight where someone is in the industry can Moonlight and teach. Now, this is one of the cool things about virtual reality when you take education to virtual reality. The professor can be in one place, the students can all be in different places, but we all meet in a virtual space together and work together in time, but we’re not together geographically, we’re separated geographically.
Rob: As it turns out, a discipline like film lends itself to this because you can design different sets. You can show the students how to frame a shot and you can show them where to position the camera and so forth. The things that would normally be taught with schematic diagrams on a whiteboard, now you can experience them firsthand in a virtual space. So this is a very exciting thing. This is the Virtual Film School, and they’ve been running this program now at schools all over the world. In Latin America, in the middle east, all over Europe and the UK, in the United States, of course, and also in Asia, it’s quite popular.
Rob: It’s particularly popular with universities that do not currently have a film program, but they understand that visual communication is important, that people in the future will need to, in addition to being able to write, they’ll need to be able to communicate visually and make images. So schools would like to add a film program. This is a very low cost and efficient way to do it. All you really need is a VR headset and you can get started. Again, we can demonstrate the results. One of the things that’s cool about VR education is you can take the immersive class and then you immediately go out and start making films and the films are quite good. So you see an instant result. I think it’s more effective way to teach that than say, a video course that you might get on a website.
Jim: I there yet a clearing house or an equivalent of MOOCs or something like that for VR education?
Rob: None that I’m aware of. Actually, it’s an interesting point. As the whole web moves to 3D, there’s a new opportunity arising, which is how do I find anything? So it’s not too hard to imagine that as spatial computing grants hold and the 2D web turns into the 3D web, it’s not too hard to imagine that there’ll be a proliferation of websites and virtual worlds and meta verses and other kinds of immersive experiences. And the question then is, how do you find them all? Because there’ll be too many. For instance, just to frame the problem, if you look at your iPhone and you go to the App Store, there are millions of apps.
Rob: Scrolling through a list on your phone is not a very efficient way to find anything. If you know what you’re looking for and you type in the search bar, that works. You’ll find it pretty quickly that way, but you have to know in advance. That means discovery actually happens someplace else. And then you come to the store just to make the purchase, but browsing and finding stuff is a super inefficient process with mobile apps. Well, with the 3D world, that’s going to be even more confusing and more difficult. Particularly if you have to install software, if you have to download something, these are gigantic impediments. So it’s easy to see then that the world is moving to 3D and spatial computing. I think that’s a given. I also truly do believe that when the web goes 3D, it’s never going to go back to 2D.
Rob: When it flips, it’s like the mobile web, when the whole internet flipped to the mobile web, that became the primary point of access, that became the primary mode of interaction. And yeah, there’s still websites you can see on your computer browser. Those don’t go away. But the center of gravity shifted the mobile. I think the center of gravity is also going to shift now in the next 10 years to 3D and immersive experiences. But right now there’s no good mechanism for finding this stuff. It’s not limited to education. That’s a giant problem. Who’s going to be the Google?
Jim: You don’t need to be a Google for the Metaverse, right?
Rob: Yeah, exactly.
Jim: Hey, well, you young entrepreneur out there, you want to be a trillionaire, create the Google for the Metaverse? Oh, by the way, fix Goddamn streaming video while you’re at it, we talked about last night. Goddamn, does that piss me off? They keep trying to sell me yet another subscription that I don’t want and don’t need and trying to find anything. Goddammit.
Rob: It’s a really interesting point. So yeah, you’re talking about OTT video streaming services or what they call the video on demand on the internet.
Jim: That’s all we watch anymore. We now have Apple TV, Hulu, Netflix, and fortunately Amazon consolidate some of the other services. And then we had to buy HBP Plus, even though we had HBO through Prime Video, they didn’t include the plus in that, those cocksuckers.
Rob: [inaudible 00:51:03].
Jim: That’s good. So I canceled the HBO sub-service under Amazon. Now [inaudible 00:51:09] these goddamn things. It’s ridiculous. [crosstalk 00:51:12].
Rob: There’s a ton of irony here. The first one was it turns out that cable TV, flipping channels like cable TV with the remote control was actually pretty good way to discover stuff. You could just flip through channels. In retrospect, we all complained about it. We [inaudible 00:51:23] bitterly about cable TV, but at the time they actually did a pretty good job. Whereas now you’ve got these gigantic silos and they don’t inter-operate, they don’t talk to each other. So discovery across the different platforms, very difficult for the video on demand. Second thing is, remember everybody’s complaining about their cable bill. I’m paying too much because I have to pay for ESPN and I can’t even watch ESPN. Why am I paying for that? Or whatever, the bundle. That was what people complained about. Okay, so we now have succeeded in unbundling TV into these different video on demand services. And when you add up all the service fees, it turns out that’s more expensive than the cable bundle was. Cable was actually a pretty good deal in retrospect.
Jim: Well, I don’t know about that. I think I’m actually… We’re spending less than half of what we did when we had satellite TV or such. And I still command Amazon. If you’re not a TV addict, which we never have been, and you watch an hour on average a day or something, Amazon is still a wonderful way to go. You pay three bucks to watch an episode or something and you watch 30 of them… [inaudible 00:52:25].
Rob: I like the fact that they have movies day and day with the release in the theater, because candidly who wants to go to a theater? And I’m not just talking about COVID-19, the theater sucked before COVID-19 as well. The movie theaters failed to upgrade and to be competitive. Meanwhile, the TV in your living room gets better and better and better and cheaper and cheaper and cheaper each year.
Jim: Anyway, that’s enough of this aside that we both are passionate about. Let’s get back to education. So the point is there’s all kinds of stuff from which one could build a lighter vaporized university. There is some motion in that regard. You pointed a few of them in the book and we both know about few others, but nonetheless, 95% or 98% of people who think they need a college degree to make it in the world, go get one. Why hasn’t this crystallized? Why hasn’t it more specifically gone the opposite of crystallize? Why hasn’t higher education vaporized, really started to in some significant way?
Rob: Don’t look to the universities to change their business model because frankly, they’re getting all sorts of reinforcement right now from the marketplace. You talk to any elite university and they’re like, “Hey, we could replace all of our North American students with students from Asia and other countries tomorrow. And probably the grade point averages would go up.”
Jim: And oh, by the way, we wouldn’t have to give them financial aid.
Rob: That’s exactly right. In fact, that’s a dark secret of private education in the United States, is that they fleece international students for the full bill. There’s no tuition offsets or grants or any scholarship available.
Jim: Yeah, our University of Virginia is embarrassingly deep in that game.
Rob: Well, bear in mind, there’s actually a real benefit to the United States in the sense that the way we teach teaches people how to be American and how to think like an American. And that’s a tremendous benefit that we shouldn’t write that off. I’m not trying to criticize or [inaudible 00:54:16] about that. But the point I’m making is simply that there is tremendous market demand for this current product, this age old product, where the price keeps going up, as we talked about earlier. So don’t expect those folks to change. This is an industry that’s ripe for disruption. It’s exactly like healthcare. The healthcare system is not going to change on its own. There’s got to be pressure from outside. So the big question is, what is the market for the other product? Who’s going to create that, who’s going to create demand for that?
Rob: That has to come from employers. Employers need to start letting people know that a degree from a university isn’t actually going to be the thing that helps you get a job. I think that might be happening. I’m not sure, I don’t have evidence to support that, but I think employers are starting to realize that this con job of just showing a diploma as a proxy for actually doing the due diligence on the people that you’re hiring, that that doesn’t work. On other hand, a lot of jobs now are using artificial intelligence to screen applicants. That’s very common. Where you send your resume in in some robot scans through it for keywords. I think a lot of great candidates get lost in the sauce. And if you don’t have the credentials, that’s going to hurt you. You’re not going to be qualified to apply for that job.
Rob: So this notion that we’re hung up on old credentials from the 19th century, I think is one of the problems. In my book, what I argue for is something called micro credentials. These are something that you would be able to update. You’d be able to post them on the internet. They could be queryable. So someone who’s looking at your resume on the internet can actually query them to see if they’re valid. It’s something you could post on your LinkedIn. I actually think LinkedIn ought to be in this business. Now they do own Lynda.com, which they’ve turned in LinkedIn Learning. I think there’s a massive opportunity here in issuing credentials. So for instance, Jim, you mentioned a moment ago, you took a course upping your 3D programming skills with Unity. Did you get a credential for that? Did you get any certificate that shows that you’ve gotten some skill or was there a path to such a thing?
Rob: If you took like five more courses, could you get a credential? And if not, you got to wonder like, well, wait a minute, I’m not getting the signaling value. I can put that on my resume. You don’t need to, but someone who took that course might want to let employers know that they have that skill. How does the employer independently verify? Right now, if somebody says that they have a degree from the University of Iowa, an employer is not going to question that. If they did, they could get the transcript or they could demand some verification, but typically that’s sufficient. That assertion is sufficient. The problem right now is that these online learning programs have not succeeded in credentialing and they need to solve that problem. So they’re not solving the whole problem right now. They’re delivering the education, and I’d argue in some cases it’s equivalent to or better. In many cases, it’s not yet there. It’s a cheaper, but disruptive inferior product, but much lower cost. Nevertheless, what they don’t do right now is an equivalent job of signaling the value with a credential. That’s a giant opportunity.
Jim: That seems to be a big part of it. Unfortunately, it’s a bit of a chicken and the egg problem. And that once you create the credential, then the employers don’t necessarily take it up. Until the employers take it up, it’s hard to justify spending the money to get this new credential, I think was Open Badges, I believe you talked about?
Rob: Yeah. The Mozilla Open Badge, that’s an open standard for credentials. Quite a few companies, I think like Adobe had issued some Open Badges as a micro credential. There was some motion around that. I haven’t checked to see how that’s doing lately, but it makes a good deal of sense to me. And bear in mind, the kinds of credentialing we’re talking about here, this is super pragmatic. At the beginning of this discussion, you and I were complaining [inaudible 00:57:35] all about how students are paying a lot of money for some pretty nebulous learning outcomes. Are those things even related to the needs of the job market? Well, now what we’re talking about is online delivery of very, very specific skills for very specific jobs. So in a way there’s a vacuum. Because those skills are not taught at universities.
Rob: Students graduated, they get in the workforce and they realize they need it. So they go out on their own initiative to accumulate more skills. That’s the lifelong learning commitment that I was talking about a moment ago, smart people invest in themselves and they find the time to learn these skills. Anybody that’s serious about working in the information economy in the 21st century knows that that’s a lifelong commitment because skills get outdated really fast. So we all have to upskill constantly. And the way you’re going to do that is not to go back to university. We don’t have time for that. You’re busy in your career, you’re raising a family. So you’re going to do that at night on your own time, on your phone, on your tablet or on your PC with a remote learning course, just as you did, your example of Unity’s is a good illustration.
Rob: That’s a very pragmatic skill. That’s a very career bound skill, and it should increase your market value. But we don’t do a good job with this. By the way, they do a better job than other countries. In the ensuing time, since I wrote my book, I had a chance to learn about Australia and the UK and how they do credentialing even for skills, even for craft skills, like electricians and carpenters and so forth. There are certain jobs by law that only a certain type of credential can do. So for a home electrician, basically an electrician has a set of things he can do, but then certain types of tasks, you have to have like a senior electrician or someone with a certain credential. And they just simply have credentials that are available for this. They’re provided by the schools, but they’re regulated by the government.
Rob: We don’t really have that system in the United States. Our government doesn’t get into vetting the credentials. As a result, it’s a bit of a free for all here, but that’s not true in other countries. We think there that the credential converts your effort and your expensive learning into more income. That’s the mechanism for getting paid more.
Jim: That seems like an interesting opportunity and it’s catalytic for an entrepreneur to work on the credentialing system. Do you know of any people that are trying to do something in this space in the US?
Rob: I would say that in the high-tech world, in the high-tech industry, there’s an awareness that there needs to be alternative credentialing system. I’m starting to see evidence of that from employers to the point where, Jim, they’re making it possible for prospective employees to get the credentials that they want. I want to underscore this. This is a really important thing. The number one issue you hear now in the United States after COVID-19, is we can’t find the workers that we need. You hear that again and again and again.
Jim: In every field, from a AI to flipping burgers.
Rob: Yeah, that’s right. During the pandemic, what some companies did was they gave workers or their employees access to online learning. Sometimes that was even like state schools, like local colleges, they would give them, [inaudible 01:00:35] earn extra credits and so forth there, which I think is really smart way to keep people busy, occupied and growing their skills during the pandemic. But now I think on the other side of the pandemic, what we’re going to start to see is that employers say, “Okay, we can’t find the employees that we want. We have to create the employees that we want. Therefore, we’re going to offer prospective candidates the opportunity to learn the skills that we want and we’ll see how you do.” So almost like a prerequisite to applying for a job, take this free course. That credential goes with you, whether you get the job or not, or whether you want the job or not, you can take the free course.
Rob: This to me makes a ton of sense. Companies should do this. They should invest in the workforce. They should invest in education. Most companies know it, but Jim, here’s an interesting thing and another dirty, dark secret. Have you ever done any of those online learning courses that are offered by the HR department in a corporation? I have, they’re terrible. They suck. They’re poorly produced. They’re boring. They’re tedious. They’re too slow. There’s no way for you to modify or customize it to your own time. You basically have to sit there and grind through the thing as it’s formatted. They’re the exact opposite of what I’m proposing for vaporized education. There’s no way for you to get the benefit of them in terms of it fitting your own workflow, your own style, how you want to learn what you want to learn. These are things that are imposed by HR, and typically they’re imposed in order to meet some regulatory requirements.
Jim: Tell me about it.
Rob: So you can tell it’s a hollow exercise where everybody’s just going through the motions. They’re checking off items on a checklist to show the government that they did it, but their heart isn’t into it. They’re not really looking for an educational outcome that’s positive. This is disastrous. And if there’s any CEOs listening, this is a topic that I care deeply about and I’d be happy to get into further. The typical problem is that there’s some regulatory requirements. So the people who are involved in the compliance hand the problem to the HR department, HR department goes out to the marketplace. There’s tons of commodified online learning programs that are available, they’re cheap. Often they purchase the cheapest one that’s available. No one’s really paying attention to, is this something that employees like or want or will benefit from? So it’s just another burden on the employee and no real gain and some expense.
Rob: There’s a much better way to do that now. This is a place where, for instance, and I know this is a little grandiose, but this is the thing where if you had VR learning, it would be faster, it would be way more better retained. People would learn more, they have better educational outcomes. I think people would be excited about doing it as well. It just doesn’t take much effort. It takes imagination. Unfortunately, in corporate America, in the HR department, that is lacking.
Jim: One of my brags about my business career is I somehow managed to avoid ever taking a single HR training anything. I don’t know how I managed to do it. None, zero, exactly zero. I think at least once or twice just not showed up and nobody ever dragged me to it. So I can say I’d never sat through the old school in person that I’m reading out of the handbook.
Rob: You’re not missing much.
Jim: But I have heard just what you said, that they all suck the big one.
Rob: Yeah, they’re terrible.
Jim: And talk about VR, imagine one of the ones that are taught now and for good reason, I support this. In fact, I was one of the people that brought it in at the Santa Fe Institute, which is anti-sexual harassment training. That can be done great in VR. Never, never do this. Literally, it’d be way more useful and entertaining and people would retain the information much better.
Rob: Yes. That’s the point, is when you experience it, you never forget it. I cannot describe to people how profound immersive education is, because you feel like you have that experience. In other words, when you remember it, you remember just like a memory of something that you did for the good ones. Obviously there’s tons of stuff that doesn’t reach that level. I’m not trying to say that that’s a blanket assessment. That’s a level that we can get to today with VR. I think many people who might’ve looked at VR a few years ago and discarded it because it wasn’t ready, they might want to revisit that decision today because I think that education VR is extraordinarily powerful.
Rob: We don’t need to explain how it works with a game, but the more you can make education like a game, I know that sounds really dumb, but the more we can do that in VR, the more effective the learning will actually be, you’ll have much better retained information. It doesn’t work for everything. For instance, I think you could probably teach someone how to code. For instance, the Unity program that you took might not improve, [inaudible 01:04:51] might. It might.
Jim: Oh, yeah. I can see it because you could have the code in one part of the VR space and then you could have the code running in another part of the VR space.
Rob: Yeah. Zuckerberg gave an interview recently on The Verge that was actually quite interesting because he talked all about the Metaverse and his vision for it. One of the things he talked about was collaborative working. And while I was reading that, I was thinking about education and employee education. He talked about having multiple screens. He said, “One of the problems workers have today in the knowledge economy is that they can only have one or two screens on their desk.” There’s a limit-
Jim: Or three, three is max.
Rob: Three is max typically. And he said, “What if you need five? If you have a spreadsheet on one and email on another, and then there’s the project you’re working on, and then there’s some video conferencing?” There’s a lot of cases where you could use multiple screens. Today we have multiple Windows on a single screen, but that’s inefficient because on top of each other, that’s not efficient way to do it. And he said, “Look, in VR, you can have as many screens as you need.” The very example we were just talking about, you might have one where you’re doing the work, where you’re learning the program. Another one where you see the code that you’re writing. And third, you could see the actual output of what it would look like. Those three screens would be great and that’s very possible to do so. When we think about VR, it’s not just about us play acting a scenario, like your sexual harassment training idea that you just shared. That’s one way to do it and that’s very powerful because it’s very visual, very memorable, or you feel like you experienced it.
Rob: But another one is, what else can we do with the space that we’re in, that we can’t do in the real space that we are? A third idea there that Zuck doesn’t talk about so much, but I think it’s very powerful, is the ability to bring a teacher in periodically. So let’s talk about the role of a teacher, if you’re doing self directed learning and if you’re doing basically on demand learning, self-guided, a moment ago, you mentioned that there’s a gap in the market right now where there’s not a good curator. That’s true. Now imagine if there were academy that you can join, that would aggregate the best resources, customize that for you as a service, and then on the other side, check in with you to see how you’re doing and maybe give you additional courses?
Rob: That organization could also certify and issue some completion certificate, or a signal that you actually mastered certain skills or something. Today, I’m not sure that such a thing exists. I’m sure your listeners will know if one does and then we’ll hear about it in the comments. That’d be great. I’d love to learn about it. I see that as a great big gap, because right now there’s just enormous fragmentation in this space. There’s tons of innovation. Some of it is good. It’s hard to find the good stuff because there’s a proliferation of stuff that’s not that good. Some of it’s very opportunistic.
Rob: Some people are doing the best they can with what they’ve got, which is a camera on their computer and a mic. So they’re going to just talk to the camera and that’s how they teach. Okay. It’s that great? Pushing the medium, there could be more done with this today. And then as we look at things like immersive education, some of those skills are outside of the range of the people who have the information to teach and there’s another gap. So there could be some an aggregator that brings together the best teachers, equips them to teach the best way and then finds the students and tailors that program to them. By the way, this is all stuff that universities don’t do either.
Jim: Oh yeah. As you said, why would they? They’re getting 65 grand a year, fat, dumb and happy. Why the hell would they want to break the cartel?
Rob: Positive reinforcement.
Jim: That’s the last thing they want. They’re going to be the ones that are dragged to it only by disruptive competition.
Rob: The funny thing about that is that cartel works to the benefit of lesser universities. And what I mean by that is that if you’re talking about the elite Ivy League schools or the little Ivy League schools, those schools are doing fine. If you’re lucky enough to get into one of those colleges and can afford it, you’re going to have a superb education and you’re going to come out with a superb career path if you want it. That’s true. But there’s a ton of other small schools, private schools, that are not at that caliber, but they’re priced the same and they market themselves the same way.
Jim: Or a bit less. But not as much less as they should be.
Rob: The discount doesn’t happen. We used to have this argument when I worked at a movie studio, about whether they should discount movie tickets. And they were firmly against the theater owners didn’t want to do it. It’s the same cost to watch a movie, whether the movie is good or terrible, it’s going to be 750 for all the tickets, which doesn’t make any sense. Why don’t they do demand based pricing or quality based pricing? Because that price is a signal of what you’re going to get. But there’s also people who are very price sensitive, who are going to college and really want to shop around.
Rob: But right now that price doesn’t work very effectively as a signal in the education marketplace because a good brochure and a fancy campus from 100 years ago and frankly, an excellent marketing person, part of that bloated administrative costs that we’re talking about a minute ago, those people can pull the wool over customer’s eyes and then they can’t discern, the shopper can’t discern whether or not that degree from that school or an education at that school is going to be the same quality as an education at a Harvard or Williams or a Berkeley or Stanford. That’s a real disservice to the customer.
Jim: That’s interesting. Well, we’re getting up on our time here. In fact, we’re over the time. We were just going to spend an hour on this, but it’s such an interesting conversation that-
Rob: I can talk to you all day. Our conversations always go off course and we talk about the Metaverse and movie ticket prices.
Jim: Oh, it’s been wonderful. I’m not complaining in this light as this has been wonderful. But I think the last I want to do is run two of my ideas by you and you can be the Shark Tank guy. Tell me why I’m full of shit. Unfortunately, the first one you’ve already talked about several times, but I have a wrinkle to it that makes it better. And that is this, I actually wrote it down. I got it in writing so I can prove I thought a bit before I heard all your ideas and you’re very, very close, which is this idea that there ought to be a service for people who want to construct their own education. As you say, a curator. And when a person who interacts with you understand where you’re at, spends a fair amount of time with you and charges you a moderate amount of money, organizes the curriculum, vectors in real teachers where necessary, or at least strongly recommends that you should buy the version of this course, augmented with the teacher, and here’s why, et cetera.
Jim: Basically, manufacturers for you, a bespoke equivalent of a pre-work set of credentials for the career you want. And then here’s the part that you didn’t have, but I think this is the clincher. This is what makes it work. So you young entrepreneurs out there want to make a billion dollars, here’s one for you, which is that the same service now becomes your agent and it’s committed to placing you in a job and oh, by the way, gets 10% of your income for the next 20 years.
Rob: Yeah. I love that part.
Jim: The last part, it’s the critical part. The agent becomes your agent and does not get paid unless you get paid right. Gets paid proportionally to what you make. So gets 10% of your W2 for the next 20 years or something like that. I guarantee you could sell the piss out of that, especially if you had any track record.
Rob: The advantage there is that that person doesn’t get paid until you get the job that you want. So they are going to be hustling, and that’s a very powerful incentive. They’re not just selling you something, they’re actually on the hook to help you get the income to pay for it.
Jim: Skin in the game, as we like to say.
Rob: The second thing is that, that goes right after the student loan problem. Because right now, the way you do is you borrow a bunch of money to buy something with dubious merit. You don’t even know if you’re going to get your value out of it on the other side. And then your task is to go convert that thing you just bought into something that drives your career. That’s very difficult. Not everybody navigates that so well. Here you’re going to have somebody, theoretically, who’s an experienced professional, who’s done it a few times, who’s going to help you, guide you, and is on the hook. Their incentives are aligned with yours.
Rob: I guess what I’m excited about, I want to hear all that is you put all those different ideas together into a nice way where the incentives are aligned. And of course, the buyers, they’re going to need to see some proof. Because you’re talking about the CAA or the William Morris Agency of talented workers of the future. I think that that’s possibly, very possibly the case. I know for instance, personally, a person does this for executives. He reached out to me when I was working at the movie studio, introduced himself, his name is Neil [Lenasky 01:12:43], he’s a great guy. He’s like, “Hey, a talent has agents. You deal with talent agencies all day long. The movie studio, how come executives don’t have agents?”
Jim: Yeah. [inaudible 01:12:50], almost launched that business in 1991 before I got sucked back into corporate America. We said, why aren’t there agents for executives? Frankly, I’m worth 5% just for my negotiating skills, tell you the truth.
Rob: Companies rely on recruiters, but a recruiter is something different than an agent. Because-
Jim: And they suck, recruiters suck and they’re very expensive. They’re idiots, most of them. Pete Kennedy, I exempt you from one of my favorite recruiters I hired lots of people through. You’re not an idiot, Pete, but most of your contemporaries, idiots.
Rob: So the notion of an agent, that’s someone who’s got the right alignment of incentives to promote you and what makes you special and to help you build up those skills and so forth. I think that’s a very powerful solution. I’d love to see such a thing happen. I also know that this happens with business school. I know someone who is a coach for people who want to get into business school and will help you all the way through with preparing all your materials and writing your essays. They don’t write them for you, but they help you, guide you. And as it turns out, the business school is actually like this because they feel that they get a higher caliber of candidate out of that process.
Jim: And better alignment, more realistic suit.
Rob: That gives us a clue about how this might get started. So you could say, okay, which companies are feeling the pain the most right now? Who’s having the hardest time filling open job recs? Okay, go to those HR departments and say, if I find candidates, will you give us a fast track to evaluate them? That’s all I’m asking for. You’re going to evaluate them. You might not take them, but just give me an open door to bring you candidates because I’ll go create the candidates. You don’t have… It solves a giant problem for the industry.
Jim: By the way, have them tell you what they want the people to know.
Rob: Yeah, exactly right. So then you would come back… There’s a precedent for this. For period of time, I was an advisor to the Charleston Regional Development Alliance, which is down in South Carolina. They had a real challenge there back in the Clinton years when we had the peace dividend, Cold War was over and the US army shut down a whole bunch of bases, including South Carolina. And they freaked out because it was 40,000 people on that base. So all the jobs in that neighborhood, it wasn’t just the 40,000 soldiers that were going to be gone. It was all the dry cleaners and car dealerships and all the other places around there.
Jim: Massage parlors, all that stuff. Right?
Rob: Well, yeah, they were worried that the economy was going to implode. So they said, “Well, we have to get moving here.” This is a bunch of business leaders that had to get moving. So they created an alliance. Among the things that they managed to do, their job was to attract manufacturing because they realized North Carolina is right next door and they got the research triangle. So they’re never going to compete on a high tech. Although now they do have a decent and thriving small high-tech center. They wanted to win with manufacturing. They wanted to attract manufacturers. So they started talking to big manufacturing companies, car makers, tire makers, and so forth. What do you need? And they said, “Well, we need graduates who have these degrees.” “Hmm, okay. We don’t have any schools that teach us stuff.” Senator Ernest Hollings actually went around and created these special technical schools where they literally let the manufacturer specify the curriculum, and the manufacturers and turns that if you produce students with these skills, we will hire them. And now they have BMW and Michelin tires and a whole bunch of other-
Jim: Volvo USA is headquartered there.
Rob: Yeah. A lot of Americans don’t realize that there’s a whole sector of automotive and tire manufacturing in South Carolina, Georgia, and other parts of the Southeast Dakota.
Jim: Yeah. Greenville, South Carolina, one of the big BMW, I think, is there. Right?
Rob: Exactly, right. And that’s all the result of these kinds of efforts. The point we’re making, there is simple, go to the employer, ask them, “What do you need?” And then say, “All right, if I’m bringing that to you, I’m going to work hard to bring that to you. If I bring that to you, I just need to know that you’re going to take these candidates.” They’re not going to guarantee they’re going to hire everybody, but they look at them. That’s a very reasonable deal.
Jim: Yeah. That’s all you need. Particularly if you do a great job of curating the information. And why I like my idea is as you call it, the alignment of values to everybody’s in the right direction. Me as the curator coach agent have a lot on me to make sure that you get well-educated so you don’t embarrass me when you show up at one of my employers.
Rob: With respect to the signaling value that we talked about that’s in today’s diploma, that problem goes away too here, because now the signaling value is that that agent has placed 38% or 76% of their graduates of this program have gotten really good jobs at these companies. Well, that would attract a lot of people who are questioning like, why do I want to take on all this student debt, 30, $40,000 of student debt for a nebulous degree at a school that’s not the greatest school in the world for the career I’m not even sure what’s going to be? If you could say, Hey, do this thing and you’ve got a reasonably good shot, a better than 50/50 shot of getting into the career of your dreams at a company that’s good. Quite a few people would respond to that. All right. Hit me with your other idea because I agree with you on that.
Jim: Okay. The other one that actually works with the other one, and this is an old idea that a buddy of mine had. Well, actually, we were business partners, had back when we were between ventures, we did two ventures together, which is business bootcamp. When you read Bryan Caplan carefully and Jason Brennan carefully, one of the things that will pop out for you is that one of the reasons hiring firms use four year college credentials is not because they think you actually learned anything, but that the gauntlet of showing up not being too drunk, knowing how to manage your time for four solid years is a measure of something. So it’s a gauntlet that… And we know that about 40% of the people that start a four year college degree never finish. So there is a drop, it’s like the Marine Corps bootcamp, 40% get flushed out. It does pick the 60%, when people say just the most boring, because they’re willing to plant their ass in a seat for four years.
Jim: But there’s a certain measure of some somethingness for being willing to put up with the obstacle course of four years, if you don’t want to damp that. Jason Brennan will say it quite explicitly that there’s some substantial value there. So what happens if instead of that, you intentionally designed a six month bootcamp that was designed to flunk out 40% of the people or more, maybe 50%, with extremely high pressure, six days a week, 12 hours a day? With respect to that, academic content was focused principally on making sure you had all the basics. A person who’d been in the call for textbook business, me, can tell you their dirty little secret, even Harvard offers courses on remedial math, remedial English and things of that sort. Most colleges, 30%, 40% of the enrolling freshmen take some remedial course. So essentially, make sure that anyone comes through this thing has all the basic reading, writing, mathematical skills, teamwork, entrepreneurship, leadership and followership, by the way, which is people always talk about leadership. But few people talk about followership.
Jim: Cooperation is an emergent phenomena of leaders and followers. And hopefully both of which are transient and dynamic. You run this six month intense program and you charge people a pretty penny for it, 20 grand or something like that. And that comes out with the other part of the credential, not the intellectual part, but the fact that you can go through a grueling six month process that’s full of the kinds of challenges that you will meet in the business world, which I would argue does a better job of separating the sheep from the goats. Then can you tolerate four years of boring university? That does the other part, the part that Caplan will acknowledge that the four year universities actually do do, but you can do it in a way that’s scientifically designed for that purpose and has done in six months instead of four years, for less than an eighth of the price.
Rob: It makes sense to me. It’s a little bit like a tech accelerator program. So if a startup company has gone through a tech accelerator and has been successful in that tech accelerator, seed investors are going to take it more serious. They’re going to pay a little more attention to it. There’s a higher likelihood that a seed investor will be attracted because it’s been vetted by somebody else. It’s really like you were saying.
Jim: Oh, absolutely. Y Combinator, for instance?
Rob: Yes, exactly.
Jim: If you’re a Y Combinator person, the doors are now open. Doesn’t mean you’re not going to get the boot when you talk to the VCs, but they’ll at least talk to you.
Rob: Also, you’re going to learn something just from proximity being next to all those hyper competitive people is going to instill some level of skill. I know people drop out of those tech accelerators for all the reasons you just said. They can’t hack it, they can’t cut it. They decide it’s not for them. They changed their minds, all that, but that’s great. Better to do it there than to do it once you got hired. This is a huge problem for companies. When they make a bad hire, just getting rid of a person who doesn’t fit, it’s bad for that person, it’s bad for the company. It’s expensive. When I was a student, I wanted to learn about film, but I went to a college that didn’t have a film school. I got out of college and I was working in New York and I was working in the film business, in particular with MTV, and I needed to get film schools skills fast.
Rob: Someone said to me, “Oh, you should go to NYU.” And I’m like, “Yeah, it’s two year program. I’m not going to do it. I don’t have the time. I don’t have the money.” They said, “No, they have an executive program.” It’s an executive course that was, I think it was like two months or maybe three long. And I was like, “Hmm, I could afford to do that.” It was a great program. It was taught in the evening. Some people had worked, but most of us dropped out for a couple months to do this because it ended up chewing up all your waking hours. But the first class was a lecture. And by the end of the lecture, you had a 16 millimeter camera in your hands and you were taking it apart, cleaning it, and then you put the film canister in a bag and you loaded the film. That was your camera, and the next day you shot your first film. That was day two. Day three-
Rob: Day three, we watched all the dailies of the films and they were all out of focus and overexposed and bad and poorly shot and stuff. And the guy said, “Look, I could have spent six weeks teaching all this stuff, but I figured why not just give you the camera and let you go out there and make your own mistakes. Now, do you want to learn how to do exposure properly?” “Yes, we do.” “Okay, great. I’ll tell you.” Your learning goes up. So this idea of compressing it down, taking all the air out of it, taking away the semesters and learning and the testing and all that, just shrink it down. Can we accelerate this? Can we shrink it down to a six week bootcamp?
Rob: I think it’s a really intriguing notion. Certainly that’s going to be true for some industries. I don’t know if it’s true for all, but that’s certainly going to be true for some. And I can tell you, that course that I took, the NYU Film School program, changed my career. When I came out of it, I could do any job on a set. I was completely capable. And within a year of that, I was directing TV commercials. I’m not kidding you. I had other skills working for me at that point. But that course taught me the things I needed to do to be competent on a film set. And that was all they were trying to do. We weren’t watching Truffaut movies and we weren’t reading about Hitchcock. We weren’t debating theory. We weren’t doing any semiotic discussions. If you want to do all that stuff, go to regular film school. That’s what that’s for.
Jim: Go to NYU Film School, not the executive program.
Rob: This is 100% about skill building. It’s like, we are going to transmit the skills. And it was for creative art directors at agencies and stuff, just people who need to know the lexicon of what a film school was about. Okay, that was back then. Now you can imagine a number of fields. In the beginning, I spoke at length about how artificial intelligence is coming and how it’s going to cause us all to have to upgrade our skills so that we can learn how to work with machines. You can imagine a bootcamp for this. And what’s interesting, Jim, is let’s think about what the business model for that might be. Because here, this might be something that companies pay people to go do. Where a company says, “All right, look, all of you all have to upskill and you got to do it fast and we’re bringing in a team that’s going to teach you. You can do it right in the office.”
Rob: They might even give you the space to do it. Or it could be something that people do in order to switch careers and get into more lucrative field. The two fit together nicely with each other, because you can imagine that the agent would need this program to further credentialize the people that they’re offering so that they can, with a straight face, represent to the companies that are hiring, that these people are actually capable of doing the job of working in a high pressure environment.
Jim: Yeah. We have the right stuff in addition to knowing the right stuff. Those are two separate things. Well, Rob, I want to thank you again for just an astoundingly interesting conversation here. We have covered a fair amount of the content. In fact, that got through most of the content in your book. There are a couple of the long list of stuff, which I wrote down, we might want to talk about, we didn’t get to. We talked about all the good stuff. To recap, the world is changing at a faster rate all the time. So education will become even more important than it’s been in the past for people who want to be able to make a good living. Second, higher education is fundamentally broken in terms of being overpriced, classic, bloated cartel. My words, I’m not putting these in Rob’s mouth, but he’s got to talk to these motherfuckers. Of course. I do too, I’m on all these boards of advisors and shit. Maybe they’ll fire me. I don’t care.
Jim: But the overpriced, bloated, slow moving, curriculum changes, et cetera. All the stuff is there as we talked about. VR is there, the content is there. We didn’t even talk about EDX and things that I didn’t know, Khan Academy, all the content, most of it’s there, but what hasn’t happened yet is the credentialing, which you call out. I’ve never heard of Open Badges. I went and did a deep dive after reading the book. And quite interesting, it looks like a really, really powerful infrastructure. So entrepreneurs out there, this is a trillion dollar business. Go get yourselves on.
Rob: Right on. Hey, Jim, it’s always a pleasure talking to you. We could go on for hours. I enjoyed it so much. Thanks for giving me the chance to come back and visit you and talk about my book, Vaporized, again. Thank you.
Jim: This is wonderful. Most of all these topics came out of the book, Vaporized, by Robert Tercek. It’s available on Amazon and wherever else you buy your dead trees with [inaudible 01:26:15].
Rob: All right. Thanks, Jim.
Jim: Bye, guys.
Production services and audio editing by Jared Janes Consulting, Music by Tom Muller at modernspacemusic.com.