Computers give humanity the power to solve some of the most critical problems our species has ever faced. However, until today, we have failed to leverage this unprecedented tool; we teach kids to be mere consumers of this powerful machine. To change this, society needs three things:
- Access to the tool
- Education in the complex skills necessary to use it
- Education in the problem-solving skills necessary to maximize the potential for human progress
At Replit, we’re making computer programming accessible and learnable for anyone, no matter their background, location, or socio-economic status. That covers points 1 and 2, but what about point 3? We need a way to offer any kid from anywhere the opportunity to learn collaboration, critical thinking, and problem-solving so they can capitalize on the promise of computers.
For this reason, I’m pleased to announce that I’m leading along with Balaji Srinivasan a new $12M investment in Synthesis, the innovative education program where kids learn to solve complex problems by playing team games.
I first met Joshua Dahn, the co-founder of Synthesis, when I visited the Ad Astra school on the campus of SpaceX. I had heard they were using Replit to learn to code and build projects, so I visited expecting a regular school. But what I saw was radical. Elon Musk hired Josh to build a lab school for his kids and SpaceX engineers–and what Josh created blew me away. Now, Synthesis is taking the most popular class from that school and scaling it up for kids from across the globe. They designed Synthesis to train supercollaborators, who can work together to solve complex problems to advance human civilization.
Last month, I was hanging out with Chrisman Frank, the CEO of Synthesis. He shared their progress with me, and I couldn’t believe what they had accomplished. They’re teaching thousands of kids the skills needed to move civilization forward. I spoke with Balaji, and we both agreed that we needed to do whatever we could to help Synthesis succeed.
Balaji notes six features that make Synthesis a particular company in his announcement. They bear repeating here:
- First digital, then physical. A full replacement for the education system will eventually require physical locations. Too many parents depend on state-run schools for childcare. However, it’s important to go digital first, then physical. Synthesis is building a networked community online and then, later, creating physical infrastructure as needed be.
- Scale what can be scaled. Today’s K-12 instruction can be decoupled into (a) curricula, (b) small group tutoring and (c) de facto childcare. While the tutoring and childcare components will continue requiring hands-on attention for each student, the curricula can be created by world class instructors and cost-effectively scaled to millions of children. That means one could have the polish of a Hollywood movie or an AAA-quality game for educational content, which is what Synthesis is working on.
- Go direct. Legacy media is incentivized to protect legacy systems. Therefore, companies offering an exit must go direct to customers and build their own distribution. Otherwise, they’ll either get politically attacked or forced to fold back into the values of the incumbent system. And so Synthesis is reaching parents entirely through social media and eschewing legacy media corporations.
- Make exit easy. Our education systems won’t reform from within. The necessary improvements require too much change. The only real solution is to create something better from the ground up that’s so attractive users can’t help but exit the old system. Something like that doesn't arise overnight - it's proved out in stages, by people gradually opting out of the current system, providing feedback and driving features, till the parallel system is better in all respects and ready for broad adoption. This, too, is part of the Synthesis strategy.
- Win and help win. Finally, the aim of education should be to train kids to grow the global pie for humanity so all can benefit. In other words, kids need to learn how to work together and succeed in a competitive environment so that they can contribute to the common good. And Synthesis believes that teaching values like this is as important as teaching calculus.
I believe that Replit + Synthesis could become the educational stack for millions of kids worldwide. In the past, kids had to go through K-12 then university education before contributing to the real world, but things are changing fast for a few reasons:
First, the traditional track isn’t available to many people simply because of where they were born. Second, the few who graduate often end up with loads of debt and little to no hirable skills. Third, and most importantly, it seals them off in school for 14+ years and then expects them to offer something productive to society.
Together, Synthesis and Replit are fixing this problem. Synthesis lets any kid anywhere collaborate with peers to practice solving humanity’s toughest challenges, like managing wildfires and colonizing space. Replit empowers these kids to learn code, turn their ideas into real solutions, and build businesses around them online.
No barriers to entry. No unnecessary debt. No more waiting.
In essence, Synthesis is the complement of Replit. To build the future, the next generation needs two critically essential skills. They need to know how to think with computers and collaborate with humans. Replit lets anyone learn the first. Synthesis allows anyone to learn the second. I can’t think of two higher leverage ways to move society forward.
If you have kids ages 8-14, you can sign them up for Synthesis here.
If you’d like to join their team, view their open positions here.