Ruminating on the post I wrote this morning, last year, I did some digging and found some intriguing conceptual thinking on Nalanda University and its planned revival by a consortium of Asian nations.
Cubicle with sleeping pallet, Nalanda University, circa 5th Century AD
Columnist NK Singh and Dr Jessica Wallock write in the Financial Express,
The university’s history as a crossroads of science and humanities is equally significant: Nalanda was the hub of a knowledge network that we have yet to recreate for the modern era. The old divisions were by geography. Nalanda overcame distance by bringing together a physical community of thousands of researchers and students from Korea, Japan, China, Tibet, Indonesia, Persia, and Turkey among other countries,according to Wikipedia. Its campus, an architectural masterpiece, was
one of the first to have dormitories—fostering a community spirit.
The new Nalanda must be interdisciplinary, as also an innovation hub that explicitly engages academics, industry and policymakers and encourages them to put minds together on research programmes directed by questions from NGOs, social groups and policymakers. Garten’s editorial emphasized the importance of Nalanda as a center of academic excellence. But an innovation hub is more than a university or training facility. We must go beyond conventional definitions of excellence (publications and so on).
This is a unique historical opportunity to make a greenfield investment in a new kind of academic-industry-society cluster to promote innovation for smart growth, problem-driven research, and a holistic approach to development questions. How can this be achieved? Basically, it requires creating a funding structure and a communications infrastructure to encourage interdisciplinary research and knowledge sharing across academic and social divides.
They describe Nalanda as a new kind of innovation hub, one that will ignore the barriers of geography that previously limited the sharing of knowledge across cultural centres of learning. Echoing this is Aftab Seth, former Indian Ambassador to Japan and currently professor at the Global Security Research Institute in Japan’s Keio University. Said he,
"There was a Bangalore long ago in a place called Nalanda"…"the knowledge economy that Narayana Murthy keeps talking about" was not new to India.
In the days of what he calls the "first globalisation," when Buddhism spread to the far corners of Asia, carrying with it the knowledge of Indian art, culture, philosophy, science and medicine, the ancient university of Nalanda was the meeting place of Asia’s brightest scholars, from Afghanistan to Japan. "That is where the consciousness of being Asian was created"
While one cannot predict what will arise from this emerging focus on creating a centre of philosophy and thought, innovation and learning, based on values and systems common to nations such as Japan, China, Singapore and India; these vision statements certainly bring to mind what we said in our recent conversation on design and globalization,
The internet originally began as a way for
scientists and scholars to share their research data and collaborate
with other thinkers around the world. If a community of designers could
be created based on everything we’ve discussed – UCD, open source
sharing, brainstorming or offering a sounding board, a means to
capture, collate and share the knowledge that we all bring to the
table, what could be the ultimate potential of such a ‘network’?
The tools and resources are already there, methinks, all that is required is the what and how it will come together.