Learning Exchange & the Holiday Spirit

Happy Holidays from LRNGO!I had just finished giving a presentation on the learning exchange concept at Start Houston for the Houston Lean Startup Circle Meetup Group, when afterward someone came up to me and said it was great timing for this going into the holidays.

I didn’t really get it at first, but as she continued with her analogy, it became evident how appropriate that statement was.  It’s just that I was so used to talking about learning exchange year-round that I hadn’t thought to see the connection.

What she was referring to was how I closed my talk.  I emphasized something that people who use LRNGO already know: when you practice the learning exchange concept to learn, you can’t help but get better at teaching.

Either you get better at teaching and helping others, or no one wants to trade with you—and as they continue doing this, often people begin to see the world differently.

When they meet other people, questions like “What do you do?” and “What service do you provide?” start to become “What do you know?” and “What can I learn from you?”

Eventually, we stop seeing people in terms of what they do, and instead start seeing them in terms of what they know.  It’s a complete re-thinking of social economics.

But what really invoked the holiday spirit for her was the dynamic of the exchange itself.

Do you see the connection?

In a learning exchange, teaching and learning (giving and receiving) are completely dependent on each other. You can’t do one without also doing the other.

No matter what religion you believe or which holiday you celebrate, I doubt you receive without giving.

Even if it were possible to receive without giving in return, imagine how hollow it would seem.

You would only be participating in half of the system, and would never benefit from the results that giving brings.

Partly as a result of that conversation, the team and I are now making plans to change the user terminology and graphics on LRNGO from the keyword “Trade” to “Exchange.”

Learning is a gift, and as with the exchange of gifts, the “exchange” of learning is a more appropriate term than Trade or Barter, which simply insinuates an item or a service.

We’re looking forward to making this update along with many others, and adding a lot of exciting new features soon in 2014.

As we close out the year with users in over 200 countries, here’s wishing everyone a Happy Holiday Season.  May we all celebrate worldwide the exchange of giving and receiving together.

A Gift To Go

Go Game

I wouldn’t normally write about something like this, but I received an interesting gift this Christmas.  My family always supports my work, but often on weekends they remind me to take a little time to play—advice that too often I don’t heed.  For this reason, I opened a gift that I didn’t expect.  It was a game called Go.

I have never played and don’t even know how to play Go, but I immediately recognized the game as a central symbol in the movie Pi, by Darren Aronofsky.  I believe that movie was his first, and must have left an impression on me because I still remember both the movie and the game.  (I didn’t know what the game was called at the time, but I remember being curious about it while watching the film, and I can tell this is the one.)

The movie Pi was a surrealist psychological thriller about a mathematician who is obsessed with finding the answer to the key mathematical equation that unlocks the secret to life.  (Aronofsky is the same guy who directed Black Swan.)

Apparently Go has also been argued to be the most complex of all games when it comes to the difficulty in programming it to be played by computers. Thus far, even the best Go programs routinely lose to talented Go players of high ranking. This leads many in the field of artificial intelligence to consider Go to be a better measure of a computer’s capacity for thought than Chess.

So it must be hard to learn, right?  Well to me, this is one of the most interesting points.  It isn’t.  It’s very simple to learn the rules, and didn’t take much time to learn to play at all—way less time than it took me to learn to play Chess.  Yet they say that it can be as complex as you and the player across from you will make it, and even after just two games, I can see how that would be the case.  (Lucky for me the player across from me was learning too!)

I can see why this game would be a central symbol in the Pi movie.  Philosophically speaking, the result of a mathematical equation of life would be as simple or as complex as you make it as well.

When reading the rules and history of the game, I also noticed that Go players all have ranks.  I thought this was interesting because I recognized most of the rank names from martial arts.   It seemed like a blatant rip off, and I attributed it to the influence of martial arts in Asia where the game originated.  I was shocked (and awed) to learn that it was the other way around.  (I was “shocked and awed” after losing a significant amount of stones in a mastermind play by my wife in game two as well, but that’s another story.)

Yes, it turns out this game dates all the way back to 2000 BC in ancient China.  The game came first.  The rankings in martial arts were, in fact, taken from the game.  Now it had my attention.

A game over 4,000 years old, that so far, can’t be mastered by a computer.  I still can’t wrap my mind around that.  A mathematical game that requires the human element to master.  Maybe there’s hope for us yet.

Here’s to 2013.  Happy New Year!