Our children will enjoy in their homes electrical energy too cheap to meter.
Lewis L. Strauss, Chairman of the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission, 1954.
Over the past decade, a different sort of free has emerged. The new model is based not on cross-subsidies - the shifting of costs from one product to another - but on the fact that the cost of products themselves is falling fast. It's as if the price of steel had dropped so close to zero that King Gillette could give away both razor and blade, and make his money on something else entirely.
Education has a rude shock coming unless it gets ahead of this change and figures out how to become less of an institution and more of a platform. I hear a lot of universities talking proudly these days about their going interdisciplinary within their own institutions - that is, enabling two departments to finally start working together offering courses. But that's not nearly far enough; that's like a media company talking about synergy. What they need to do instead is start thinking past their ivied walls to work with other universities and with networks of teachers and students, not to mention alumni who leave with knowledge and gain more knowledge they could and should share.