According to Plato, learning is the development of ideas buried deep in the soul. In modern times, that may (or may not) be accepted as true, but one startup does want to measure how much people have actually learned and help them cash in on their wisdom.
Knowledge.io wants to leverage the blockchain to verify and record just how much a person understands almost any given subject matter. In high school or community college, a student may ace an exam on literature or social studies. However, educational institutions have varying standards that can dilute the meaning of an A grade.
Knowledge.io, which is launching an initial coin offering (ICO) in January, is rolling out Knowledge Scores, a measure of a person's mastery (or lack thereof) of a wide variety of topics. From history, math, cars, products to marketing. A user answers in-depth questions on the platform to determine if he's a novice or expert, or anywhere in between.
High scorers get rewarded with tokens, which they can save or spend in a marketplace. The founders envision a crypto token that gains monetary value as the knowledge economy grows. The team says they'll initially focus the applications in four sectors: education, advertising, employment and e-commerce.
It's easy to see the applications in education. If you're a 16-year-old programming whiz, the tokens could pay for school. Or if you're an accounting graduate, it could provide supplemental income while you wait to pass the CPA exam.
"Textbooks and videos will be ingestible and Q&A sets will be automatically generated for use in education, training, continuing education, assessment, certification, and in other areas of academia," Marcia Hales, a Knowledge.io co-founder, tells TheStreet. "Through integration with [Children's Online Privacy Protection Rule] COPPA compliance partners, children will be actively engaged in earning tokens to be applied to college tuition and other life improvement initiatives when they become of age."
But the scores and tokens can also be applied in areas where a stakeholder or client values domain expertise. That includes headhunters, hiring managers, advertisers or consulting firms.
"Employers will discover and engage with highly-skilled candidates based on Knowledge Scores for the purpose of interviewing, hiring, and career advancement in a more organized and efficient way," says Hales. "And everyone will know what their options are for employment at all times."
Giving cash to students is a concept that's been tried before. Years ago, school districts in New York and Texas provided compensation to students who excelled in reading and math. One district in Dallas gave cash to elementary kids based on the number of books they read. To earn the most income, many of the kids chose books that were the easiest and fastest to read.
In other words, even at a young age kids gamified the system to hoard cash.
In one of his lectures uploaded on YouTube, Harvard professor Michael Sandel suggests that paying kids to learn might be unethical - that there should be certain areas in civic or private life where market forces should not penetrate. Sandel, a globally-respected philosopher, suggests that natural curiosities, the drive to learn, friendships, love and even thank-you notes should not be boosted, or tainted by, financial incentives. They should be ends in themselves.
Skeptics of that argument point to the possibility of improving the learning process, even if that means using money as a tool. For decades, America's education system has been resistant to change, and influenced by entrenched interests and political alliances that prevent innovation at a time when digital and the blockchain are disrupting whole industries.
"Knowledge.io rewards people for what they know and how much they know, and it gives people the opportunity to be recognized and compensated for sharing information," says Steve Englander, a Knowledge.io co-founder. "People are able to make better decisions based on expert recommendations and reviews, all while earning Knowledge tokens for their participation - and even more tokens for overachievement."
When it comes to user adoption, kids and students could pave the way. Most certainly want to win at competitions. And do you know of any who wouldn't want to monetize what they know?
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