One thing which seems to separate humans from the rest of the animal species is our seemingly unquenchable thirst for knowledge and our lack of recognition of its importance. Other species do learn but only marginally compared with us.

I have been lucky in my life that I seem to have had the opportunity to participate in formal learning at so many stages of my life. I suspect that now, at age 78, I am unlikely to take on another degree but I still have a need to learn, both from experience and more formally. Most of this desire I seem able to meet from purchasing The Great Courses but these are expensive, unless you wait for them to have a sale, as I do.

These thoughts are triggered by a program I watched on television the other night about the training of one of the people currently on the International Space Station. It took 6 years to train him for the job. There is a lot at stake for those running this program. If they get it wrong, human lives are very publically at risk. Add to that the world prestige involved in the program and they can’t afford to get it wrong.

I wish we could recognise the value of very high standards in other areas of life, where there are the same stakes but without the publicity. In the developed world we seem to accept that we finish our formal education in our early twenties, if not before, and that is it for life, even though the world is constantly changing. Beyond this short exposure to professional knowledge, we think we can learn whatever else we need to know from experience, which often means keep doing what we have done before.

Not only does this mean that we miss out on new knowledge but we continue with obsolete practices. The very high profile space program would never dare to do this.

The trouble is that this attitude tends to permeate developed society. The majority of our politicians haven’t been near formal education for decades and they think that the knowledge they learned then will carry them throughout life, regardless of the fact that they live in a rapidly changing world. Those who serve them, the public servants, are often in senior positions through longevity, rather than skill and knowledge.

We tend to compartmentalise knowledge into different areas, not realising that there is a large overlap, not necessarily in the actual knowledge but in the learning process. An inquiring mind applies itself to whatever the situation is and is helped if there is relevant knowledge it can call upon. This is where humans are headed, although painfully slowly, since our nomadic ancestors first settled in one place and realised the value of collective learning. This recognition of the value of collective knowledge is what is making the space program so successful. It’s time that as humans we realised the value of a new respect for new knowledge in every field.

Meanwhile back to my latest interest; robotics! I’ve really got my ‘L’ plates on here!