Jay Cross
Jay Cross

New blog
Links & more

Subscribe with Bloglines
Enter your email address to subscribe to Internet Time Blog.

Wake-up call
Saturday, November 26, 2005
My noggin is filling up with learning fluff from the net, the street, books, conversations, and subscriptions. think I know how Johnny Mnemonic must have felt. He's the William Gibson character with a hard drive implant in his head. If he doesn't download after a while, well, let's not go there. It's not a pretty picture.

We live in surreal times. I have no doubt but that we just passed the knee of the exponential curve of everything, the ride up the hockey-stick handle is getting faster, and soon the nose-cone of our vehicle will begin to glow from the heat. I told a professor today that our culture train is whizzing along at about 600 KPH, way past the speed where the wheels were predicted to fall off. Sorry for the mixed metaphor. It's late. And the acceleration just slammed me back in my seat.

Abu Dhabi can be truly beautiful.

We stopped by the city fish market to buy shrimp for dinner. Unlike New Orleans, here it's okay to eat Gulf shrimp.

These two guys cleaned out my pockets very smoothly, and I have lots of trinkets to prove it. In fact, I'm way out of luggage allowance and will probably send FedEx some business tomorrow. Tomorrow night I am off to Berlin. The mercury there has fallen to 32F.

For a wealthy country, Abu Dhabi has its bargains. I took a $1.25 taxi ride across the isthmus in front of my hotel, visited the Heritage Village ($1.25 admission), and later bought a nice-sized package of safran for, you guessed it, $1.25. The UAE is also an amazing national rag-to-riches story.

The photo of Abu Dhabi at left was taken about the time I was a college student. Almost all the buildings were huts made of thatched palm fronds. The sheikh's fort, in the lower right foreground, had a couple of stucco houses inside the walls. Now Abu Dhabi looks like lower Manhattan (if it had all been put up in the last 25 years. And maintained.)

These are an antique pearl scale and size-checker. Until the 1930s, the locals dove for pearls. Then the global depression and the Japanese invention of cultured pearls wiped that business out.

The Heritage Village is a mini-Williamsburg or Mystic Seaport. This fellow lowers a goatskin bag on a pully down into the well. He throws a line over the ox's hump. The ox swurls around 180 degrees and lumbers along for 15 or 2o feet. Water gushes out into irrigation ditches that water several small plots. I had just finished Verna Allee's The Future of Knowledge before I saw this. She explains how little has changed in human commerce over the years.

We could not have picked a better place for a World Cafe. The Emirati have lots of practice. I have learned the intensity of meetings in a "third place," neither work nor home, but rather a place to gather for honest conversation.

It was beginning to heat up. When it's too hot for camels to stand, it's way over my limit.

When the old, historic souk (market) burned down a while back, it was not rebuilt. I imagine a gleaming bank tower stands there now. I wandered around this six or seven stall replica. Then I walked along the road (nice Gulf breeze making it comfortable), past a few pricey-looking boats, and into the Marina Mall, the home of IKEA, Carrefour, and a nine-screen multiplex cinema. It's like walking a thousand years in 15 minutes.

This morning a woman dressed head-to-toe in black, full head scarf -- looking through the one-way gauze -- walked by me at the mall; she was jabbering into a cell phone. A more daring young woman was in black, but her skirt had a slit almost up to her waste so when she walked, you saw a flash of her scarlet pants underneath.

Things that look old-fashioned to the inexperienced eye must appear like science fiction to locals my age. Were I an Emirati, I wouldn't have gone to a local high school because when I was a teenager, the country didn't have any high schools. Growing up without running water or electricity, eaking out a living from arid, scrubby soil, and not being knowledgeable about the larger world, and twenty-five years later to be buzzing around in an air-conditioned Mercedes, inhabiting a high-rise luxury condo, parenting kids who have cell phones and computers... Can you imagine what that must feel like?

I suspect the Emirati will be better prepared for what's up ahead than the Americans. When I talk with people about the acceleration of time, they think it's some theoretical deal, like Einstein or Heisenberg. No, this is the real deal.

Five years from now, you're going to feel like an Emirati my age, shaking your head but not about to turn it down. And today, when I'm thinking about effervescent knowledge and nanotech, you have a question about how to grade informal learners? Or whether WebCT is a keeper? Or how to be sure workers are competent? Or the definition of education?

As I said, this island is really big on coffee. My advice if the accelerating pace of change does not concern you: forget that stuff. Wake up and smell the coffee.


Post a Comment

<< Home

About Us | Contact Us | Home |

Powered by Blogger

Copyright 2005, Internet Time Group, Berkeley, California