The Opportunity of Automation
“Ideally, what should be said to every child, repeatedly, throughout his or her school life is something like this: ‘You are in the process of being indoctrinated. We have not yet evolved a system of education that is not a system of indoctrination. We are sorry, but it is the best we can do. What you are being taught here is an amalgam of current prejudice and the choices of this particular culture. The slightest look at history will show how impermanent these must be. You are being taught by people who have been able to accommodate themselves to a regime of thought laid down by their predecessors. It is a self-perpetuating system. Those of you who are more robust and individual than others will be encouraged to leave and find ways of educating yourself — educating your own judgements. Those that stay must remember, always, and all the time, that they are being moulded and patterned to fit into the narrow and particular needs of this particular society.” – Dori Lessing in The Golden Notebook
Automation will make most jobs obsolete. Rather than mourn the loss of the 9 to 5, we should see this as an opportunity to liberate humanity from the need to work for somebody else to survive. Coupled with universal basic income, it should be seen as a chance for every individual in society to more fully realize their potential.
To do so we will also need to redefine and reform education. Today it is a means to an end, a way of getting a job; but education should be seen as a lifelong quest and automation enables us to take this view. No longer will we need to confine ourselves to learning one tiny branch of knowledge or developing one particular skill, instead we will each be able to examine what really matters to us and explore all the variety that life has to offer.
Education reform could also enable us to improve our democracies. Democracy relies on the wisdom of crowds, but our crowds are no longer wise because most people don’t have time to learn about all of the issues at stake in each election so they vote based on a handful of issues that they think are most important to them. Rather than producing leaders who inspire, this has led to populist strong men who appeal to our fears.
We do not have to be stuck in this paradigm forever; automation and universal basic income along with education reform have the potential to give us the time and the tools we need to be able to make more informed decisions.
The biggest leap could come from incorporating the blockchain to enable a return to direct democracy where everyone has a say in every issue they deem relevant to them instead of the present system where we exercise what little political rights we have by casting a vote every few years to pick someone to make decisions for us.
Reform Has Begun
All of this relies on having an education system that gives everyone, children and adults alike, the tools, knowledge and skills needed to contribute and engage in society.
Each of us can now leverage emerging technologies to learn anything from anywhere, and which gives anyone access to some of the best teachers on the planet. Virtual and augmented reality could also soon be used to create enriched learning environments that are more captivating than any classroom ever could be.
Some schools are already catching on and have begun implementing sorely needed change in the classroom. One such school is High Park Day School in Toronto where they have gotten rid of traditional classrooms, rote based learning, and curriculum geared around testing and grades. Instead they have small integrated classrooms with students of varying age ranges that are built on project based learning assignments where students learn and apply skills like 3d printing and software design starting from as young as grade 1.
As Amanda Dervaitis, the Principal and founder of High Park Day School states…
“At a systemic level, I believe we are focusing on the wrong markers of “success” which end up driving curriculum development and policy. The focus is on the fundamentals – reading, writing and math, and improvement plans work towards strengthening these areas to increase “success”. However, we should be focusing on the skills identified that are needed for success in today’s global and technological world; critical thinking, collaboration, communication, computational thinking, global digital citizenship, etc.
The lack of tech curriculum integration should be particularly concerning. Right now, you can graduate from high school in Ontario without having taken a single tech or computers course! Schools are increasing access to use of computers, tablets, etc. in the classroom, but it’s not enough to interact with computers at a consumer level in school. We need to implement technology curriculum (computational thinking, coding, systems, etc.) so that students have a deep understanding of computer technology and are more prepared for a technological future.
The size of our schools and school systems is impeding the development of skills (on a personal level) and progressive programs (on a board/systems level). The factory model no longer serves our students’ needs and the changes in our world have out-paced the potential of our school to support them. Every industry is in an “adapt or die” situation with the advances of technology. The ministry itself will not “fail” as a system (as there is no competition to contend with), however, our education system will fail our students, and society in the end.”