The Opposite of University is Accelerator?

Perhaps this is obvious to you. If not, I’ll spell it out a bit.

The model of a university is fundamentally transmissionist, that is, it is designed to allow knowledge to flow from one generation to another, from a small group of adepts to a larger number of young people, most of whom will eventually flow out into the world, even as a smaller number of them go on to join that select elite who continue further their transmission activities. This is somewhat complicated, of course, first through exegesis and debate, and then through the composition of new treatises, and finally through research. And then there is new fundamental and applied research, particularly in science and technology, which then complicates the relation of the university to knowledge and to the social market: Where is this new knowledge to go? How best can it be commercialized? Who owns it?

I’ll be bold and suggest we’re hitting a point of breakdown, where it no longer makes sense for the myriad activities undertaken by a university — especially the creation of new technology and business innovation — to be housed within a basically transmissionist metaphor. What is needed is a new conception of what is being done, namely the creation of new possibilities and new products, services and businesses, and not merely the finessing of a new labor pool for the market. At this point, you may note, we are very much describing an incubator, and innovation hub of some sort, or as I’ve so far preferred, an accelerator.

There are still adepts and novices, but their dynamic is now very different. They are not transmitting old knowledge, but creating new possibilities together. There may still be a lot of learning going on, which is why some have tried to use the metaphor of a ‘start-up school,’ but it is oriented towards a larger goal: the collaborative creation of a new kind of value in the world. I don’t think hub, incubator or accelerator fully captures what happens in this kind of space. And of course school, college and university is also wrong, for the reasons I’ve mentioned above. We need a new term for it. I’m open to suggestions.

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