This paper contrasts two types of "autodidact" located in the UK in different historical periods, which utilised different learning/research technologies to different ends. From the 1920s to the 1960s some working-class activists committed to the Communist Party of Great Britain became "educated" in Marxism (and more) through the processes intrinsic to their politics. This radical acculturation was undertaken outside the universities in consequence of both an absence of access to higher education and because of the relatively enclosed social world of British Communism. The widening of educational opportunities and the decline of political Marxism effectively extinguished this kind of autodidact. New technologies have meant that the 21st century is witnessing individuals and cyber-communities that are creating knowledge-based challenges to professional and institutional power in the face of personal/family "medical" crises. The paper outlines the characteristics of these two categories of autodidact and a new terrain of counter-hegemonic learning.