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Posted on EVANNEX on December 27, 2021, by Matt Pressman

Elon Musk believes that today's schools can be vastly improved. He has donated, generously, to make a good education available for all. In addition, he also created a small private school, Ad Astra, for the children of SpaceX staff and others who desire an innovative (albeit unusual) curriculum. 

Above: Elon Musk and his son "Lil X" (Twitter: Elon Musk)

Although technology has helped to transform learning, Musk has voiced concerns surrounding too much information (and disinformation) via social media, bogus news, etc. This is especially pervasive for children as too much screen time tends to bombard kids' "airwaves" — oftentimes filling their minds with, for lack of a better word, nonsense.  

In a podcast with Joe Rogan, Musk vented about the negatives of social media, “Particularly Instagram... [with people faking] they are way better-looking than they really are and they are way happier-seeming than they really are.” He also tweeted, "Just don’t like Facebook. Gives me the willies."

A few weeks ago, Elon followed up, "The overarching problem is that we need better mental firewalls for the information constantly coming at us. Critical & first principles thinking should be a required course in middle school. Who wrote the software running in your head? Are you sure you actually want it there?"

Musk has spoken at length on using a first principles framework for learning. However, he hasn't explained the concept surrounding "mental firewalls" and how to build them in your head. Recently, he provided some context for a few ways to better protect young minds against insidious influences. 


How? Well, with this tsunami of information coming at us 24/7, we tend to develop some unhealthy "biases" that can cloud our thinking. Mitchell Van Homrigh reported in the New Zealand Herald that Musk revealed a fascinating infographic that "should be taught to all at a young age" so that our cognitive biases can be better understood.

For example, the infographic included authority bias which is described as "we trust and [are] more often influenced by the opinions of authority figures" and the spotlight effect which makes us overestimate how much attention people are paying to our own behavior and/or appearance.

There are other biases to be wary of — take the Google effect (aka digital amnesia) which happens when we easily forget information that's quickly at our fingertips via search engines. Or, the gambler's fallacy which occurs when we think future possibilities are affected by past events.

It makes sense that Musk is concerned about children and how they learn. At 50 years old, he's father to five teenage sons with his ex-wife Justine Wilson and, more recently, another son named X AE A-XII with a partner at the time, the musician Grimes. "Lil X" was recently seen sitting his lap at Time Magazine's Person of the Year awards ceremony.



Source: New Zealand Herald; Infographic: Elon Musk via Twitter

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