Send Austin to space

Surprise: new universities are now created. Actually: no surprise. But will they make it…if they continue to think as historians like Nial Ferguson? He is one of the academics around the globe that is trying. Perhaps. But here is a much better idea; if you, today, want to vitalize the luxury version of off-line education.

A group of globally well-known intellectuals in USA have recently made an announcement; They are starting a new university, Austin. It will be located in Austin, Texas, USA.

Gosh; hell broke loose. A lot of people got upset. But I think it did so for the wrong reason.

This initiative has well-known scholars, like Nial Ferguson, the UK-historian, Larry Summers, former dean at Harvard, etc on their list. People claiming that the “real intellectual conversation” is now gone. So, they are starting from scratch again…a new university.

They should thank media, and people becoming upset, for the attention.

In just a couple of days media started to write.
New luxury car brands never made it by trying to play exactly in the same way as the existing luxury-brands.

But I don´t care about all that here. I care about their idea of “how” they want to do it.

They are trying to get back to “real off-line education”. At least that is what several of them claim ­- they have not started yet, so how would we really know?

But isn´t it strikingly how old-fashioned the people behind this initiative seem to think?

In these days of education ending up in digital times, of course it is seriously interesting to head in a totally different direction.

The more online we become, the higher value in offline.

Well, from a learning point of view, not the least concerning the topics this initiative seems to head for; they do have a point. A deep intellectual conversation between a limited amount of knowledgeable and interested people, is a great tool for learning. A well-proven methodology.

Though, of course also deep intellectual conversations can be made online.

Try SMS, or perhaps social media…then you know this.

Yes, I do know what can happen on digital channels if you start to discuss. But the people behind this initiative said they wanted specific students, not exactly everyone. And a small group of people can actually discuss relevant things online, without going bazooka.

And if the people behind this initiative not feel they could be able to have a decent interesting discussion online, do they seriously think statements like the ones they have made so far, will be enough to “control” a discussion from ending up in space when done off-line instead?

That’s, today´s competition…if we are talking about having a deep intellectual conversation.

Is not actually the whole point by a discussion that it could end up…in space?

However; a person believing that on-line education killing everything that could be called off-line education nowadays is just dead wrong.

Streaming of music never killed live performance of music. It just forced live performance of music to change shape, actually also “place”.

To overstate a bit…one could claim that live performed music, today, can prosper, but mainly only in two ways; either if it is done as tremendously big live events. Or; if really is done as small live events, unplugged even…at a much smaller place, like a small pub, instead.

It is seriously difficult to scale a small conversation.

On the other hand; the people behind Austin does not seem to care about scaling.

And if I where them, I neither would try to even scale their idea.

They just want to create a new kind of luxury brand. They are not building a MOOC.

Elvis Costello: Unplugged. Live.

When Elvis Costello, the former punk-rocker, came to Sweden and played live some years ago, he did not even bring his old band with him. He played all his songs by himself. But people loved it.

But he did not play at the same concert-hall he used to play at. He played at a small theater instead.

This is live performance of today, the “small version” that is.

The Austin-initiative seem to head for a similar kind of “position” as Elvis Costello playing live. It is an interesting business idea at this moment for a new kind of university.

But why on earth do it in Austin out of all possible places?

Sorry Austin; you might be the future for USA, but not for the globe.

A deep intellectual conversation between few people is a costly thing, particularly if you want really smart people to attend, people that have costed millions to “develop” – really good academics are costly, should be costly.

Trying such kind of strategy is like going for a niche-market, by definition. It´s about trying to bring a new luxury-brand to the market, when luxury-brand already exist.

Lexus ones managed to bring a new luxury-brand to the car-market, that already had luxury brands,. Tesla also made it, a bit more recent example. But they did it by thinking about future, and history, at the same time.

If I would have been Austin at this moment I would think in this way, instead…

Why not put “Austin” somewhere there, in Africa, instead?

Africa is the future, not USA (lets skip discussing Asia here). And these scholars already know this themselves.

It is not a new local university these people are trying to set up. Is it even the USA-market alone they are striving for? I thought, globally interesting intellectuals was thinking…globally.

And fun enough; Nial Ferguson himself, one of the people behind this initiative, is not even from USA…he is from UK – where real intellectual places like Cambridge and Oxford already exist.

They do not seem to have any other reason for Austin than that ‘it seems to be an interesting place’ ­ – perhaps also that Austin in itself is trying hard to get people from the west-coast of USA to move there…but that is a USA thing, not a global thing.

Well, of course Austin can be an interesting place. I really have nothing against Austin as such. And perhaps there are lot of people in USA that find Austin of interest nowadays. Good for this initiative if that is the case. But I wonder…is that really the “place” that makes a seriously intellectual person of today tick?

Why not instead join forces with Elon Musk, or perhaps Jeff Bezos or Richard Branson instead of going for Austin? At least buy some tickets to one of their future space-ship-travels.

Costly yes, really costly.

But if you said niche-market and luxury brand, you did.

Just chew on it…

You might happen to be a tech-geek, made your fortune on something related to ICT. Good for you; You are now a billionaire. And you have probably already been to places like Cambridge and Oxford, because…you have been able to afford it.

At least; these are the places that pop up in your head if I would ask you about “interesting intellectual places”.

So, why on earth would you now like to send your kids to Austin?

This…is a cool place for helping you grasp philosophy, global politics, history today

Just imagine how cool it instead could be; sitting there in a space-ship, looking at the globe, perhaps even having your children with you (yes…you yourself join), as well as some of the real intellectuals living today, and learn something of importance.

Seriously; what other place could be better suited?

You can afford it. And of course; you can also afford paying these intellectuals to join you.

Well, this space-ship idea might be a bit faaaar to luxury than the market that Austin is heading for. But you said luxury brand, didn´t you? And if this idea just was a bit to much for you…I just suggested Africa, didn´t I?

There is really nothing wrong with the business idea of seriously knowledgeable people starting an “old fashioned new, and off-line-based, university” during these digital days. Actually; On the contrary. It is a great idea. By why do it in the “old fashioned way”?

Just send Austin…to space.

Or, could actually this business idea already be in the process of being developed by people like Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk and Richard Bransons…all by themselves?

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