By Aretha Pereira
A few days ago, I was able to interview my own brother who most people would agree is an extremely interesting individual. Immediately after high school, he moved to the US by himself and is currently working with a venture production studio to develop his idea of a decentralized education network. Now that the project is well underway, I spoke to him about his inspiration, the development process and choosing not to go to college.
What is the name of your startup?
Err, we’re currently kinda still settling on one, but “Fathom” is the front-runner.
Why did you name it this?
To fathom something is to deeply understand, that’s kinda the goal we’re going for in terms of both people’s relationship to their own knowledge and to people’s understanding of other people’s knowledge.
For those of us who only know the basics of education technology, could you please explain what your startup is?
We’re building a universal system of assessment based around social consensus. The idea is to produce valid credentials for any single skill by leveraging the knowledge of people who already have that skill. However since we can’t just expect people to be effective we have to incentivize them to be accurate and to come to consensus. We do this by offering a “reward” token for good assessing. If someone wants to get assessed*, they then have to pay that same token to do so. This creates a whole economy around assessing and getting assessed, all while providing guarantees on the validity of assessments (because something of value is at stake we can expect people to behave properly). So on a macro level we’re building a economically secured system for social assessment.
*This is an assessment that assesses a person for a specific skill to know whether they have that skill so that they could possibly interact using that credential in the future.
Why did you want to go into education?
There really isn’t anything more important than education in a functioning society and our educational models today are shackling our society’s growth. If students could have systems that best enable them to learn what they need to (by whoever’s definition; them, their parents, the schools, the government, whatever) then they are going to be so much more effective, and society could progress so much faster. Right now however, because they [students] are forced to conform to the given systems, their skills and growth are being held back. This is true at basically every level of education, from high-cost private schools to low cost public schools. The problem is with the fundamental institutional-exam model of education.
What influenced your decision to go straight into developing your project right after high school rather than going the traditional college route?
A lot of things are lining up that make this kind of project possible today, and the development scene around the technology behind it is exploding. A lot of opportunities exist now that won’t in a couple years. More importantly though I don’t think there’s anything more important for me to be working on, and this is the fastest way for me to do it. Even more so, I believe that there isn’t really a separation between learning and doing, both will always be happening at the same time, so you should be doing what you want to while learning what it teaches you.
You moved from Dubai to New York to continue developing your project. Why did you feel New York would be the best place for you to be?
There’s a lot more work happening here around the technology I’m building on. It’s pretty essential to have a community and peers around you that can provide feedback and help one grow.
How and when do you think your technology will start being implemented into schools?
We want to implement it digitally, through computers. As for when, schools of any kind, probably 6 months to a year from now. However, specifically large scale national high schools or similar, much much longer, maybe 10-15 years. Schools are slow moving institutions, so the systems will have to be tested at the fringes in places that are more willing to experiment before making its way into more traditional environments.
Through this interview it’s evident that education in our world is constantly changing, and there are many people responsible for these changes, such as Jared. Hopefully, in a couple of years we’ll be able to see these changes successfully implemented and positively working for ourselves.