Fathom is a system for learning.
It consists of tools and structures that anyone can use to create and develop their learning experiences.
It's also the community of people who are building and using fathom to learn together.
What is a system for learning? It's a collection of tools that work together to let people learn. A tool could be software, or a process, or a book, or anything else that supports people's learning.
We're heavily inspired by the GNU operating system. It's a collection of software, from text-editors to games, that work together to give users a computing environment that respects their freedom.
Fathom seeks do the same, but for one's learning environment. Learners should be able to assemble their own "learning operating system" that supports them in their specific goals. Each part of the system follows the unix philosophy, of doing one thing well and operating with others.
This may come off as glib or naive, so we'll try to break it down.
First of all, everyone should have the freedom to learn. That means abundant options, convenient access, and no artificial barriers.
Your opportunities to learn ought not be limited by factors such as geography, race, gender, income, or age.
It's important those opportunities extend to what people can learn. Ultimately you should have the freedom to decide what to learn, informed by and in response to the world around you.
This freedom expands the possibilities for the connections and discoveries you will make. As such, it contributes to the richness of our society.
A core part of this is giving people agency over how they learn things. People acquire knowledge in different ways, informed by their prior knowledge, their culture, the systems they have experience with, and countless other factors.
You might learn best via lectures, readings, or group study. But this sampling barely scratches the surface, and it neglects many variables, nuances, and combinations. How you learn best is uniquely personal, and the best way arrive at it is to create it yourself, learning along the way.
Fathom was conceived in late 2014 by Jared Pereira as an experiment to create an alternative educational structure to schools.
Quickly this ran into the problem of assessment. In order to create structures for learning, you need some way to capture or measure learning. So the summer of 2015 we began work on an assessment system. We drew inspiration from the incentivized consensus systems emerging from the world of blockchain technologies.
By summer 2016, a small prototype of the assessment smart contracts was ready and out in the world. In September of that year came a whirlwind but pivotal 3 days in Shanghai at DevCon 2, the second annual Ethereum developers conference. After a consequent meeting with Joe Lubin, the founder of blockchain technology company ConsenSys, Jared joined ConsenSys in October 2016.
Fathom was incubated within ConsenSys for just over two years. During that time the team grew, learned an incredible amount, and built out our smart contract system to be much more robust. We also worked on developing implementations to get this thing out in the real world, and get people using it.
In 2019, we spun out from ConsenSys to continue work toward this vision.
Fathom is an open system. It is not proprietary, but rather is free and open source. That means you are able to use fathom tools and structures freely, and for free. They are available for you to discover, use, extend, and share, as you like.
As well, we welcome and encourage you to contribute any of your ideas, tools, and structures (including even things that originated here and that you've modified) to improve the ways people everywhere can learn.
No, we're not anti-school. We're pro learning. And we want to expand the universe of options for learning. For learning anything, in any way. We think that an open, decentralized, peer-connected model opens up a lot of exciting possibilities. Fathom needn't exist in opposition to schools. And it could be that one day, schools will look more like this.
This could turn into a circular argument, an infinite loop. And there are some strong opinions out there about what people should learn and what they should be taught. We're not legislators, and we're not out to dictate or enforce what or how people should learn. We look at it in a different way -- we think that people, when given ownership over their learning, make better and more meaningful choices.
We also view learning not as an individually isolated endeavor, but one that connects you to the world. Fathom is not designed to be a siloed playground for self-directed focus, but an open social system in which everyone's learning is strengthened by the social connections, resources, and diversity of the network.
Information is more plentiful and accessible now than ever before. But our ways of learning, formally and intentionally, have not increased nearly as much. We hope that Fathom will provide people with the tools, structures, and social environment to engage in learning that is intentional, compelling, and personally meaningful. We also hope that Fathom will help people to become better learners.
That's difficult to say, and probably depends more on the learner than the age. In these earlier days, fathom might favor those comfortable with some degree of self-direction; and those interested in shaping and experimenting with their own learning processes. Another characteristic could be those who feel constrained, or underserved, and are seeking alternatives. But that is largely conjecture.
Fathom is being built for everyone, and we welcome anyone to partake and contribute. Keep in mind that it's an evolving ecosystem of tools and people. So it's strength and richness grows with your participation and input.
Please reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.