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Jefferson Madison Debates: The Age of Star Trek?, Part 2

Jefferson Madison Debates: The Age of Star Trek?, Part 2

May 19th, 2018 // 8:09 am @

Continued from previous post. [click here to read Part 1 >>]

Crossing the Finish Line

Today, most Americans believe that, for the first time in over a century, the next generation will have a worse standard of living than the current one.[xliii] This is a source of major disillusionment for many people, who believe that their children’s peers in China will keep enjoying a better and better lifestyle.

14. The Plugged-In Dilemma. People who spend a lot of their time plugged in to electronic devices tend toward less empathy, and are less likely to read the emotions of other people as well as those who aren’t plugged in very much. It used to be that people were worried about the social skills of homeschoolers, but now the experts are much more worried about the future of social skills in general—especially among the generations that are digital natives (born after 1990).[xliv]

For example, a study “at the University of Michigan found a 40% decline in empathy among college students today (as compared to their counterparts 20 or 30 years ago), with most of this decline coming after 2000. According to MIT’s Sherry Turkle, 44% of teenagers never unplug, even while playing sports or having a meal with family or friends…. [T]here are fears that an entire generation of young people consumed by social media is struggling to listen, make eye contact, or read body language.”[xlv]

Kevin Kelly related the following story: “Friends of mine had to ground their teenager for a serious infraction. They confiscated her cell phone. They were horrified when she became physically ill, vomiting. It was almost as if she’d had an amputation. And in one sense she had.”[xlvi]

Schwab noted: “Technology and culture writer Nicholas Carr states that the more time we spend in digital waters, the shallower our cognitive capabilities become due to the fact that we cease exercising control over our attention…. ‘Frequent interruptions scatter our thoughts, weaken our memory, and make us tense and anxious.’”[xlvii]

This has real ramifications in education. The more time young people (and everyone else) spend learning online, the less likely they are to focus, dig deep, and finish reading what they start. A shallow, constantly-switching-to-another-link kind of learning is becoming commonplace. The impact on how we learn is significant.

My Job, Your Job

15. Our Leaders are Too Busy to Read. This is a serious problem. Schwab wrote: “It is not unusual for me to talk to leaders who say that they no longer have time to pause and reflect, let along enjoy the ‘luxury’ of reading…. Decision makers from all parts of global society seem to be in a state of ever-increasing exhaustion…”[xlviii] In this environment, top leaders are busy working while algorithms and AI do much of the thinking. This is the opposite of what robotics was supposed to do for is.

And the more technology evolves, the more the regular people seem too busy, too tired, exhausted, stressed and on the go. Wasn’t technology supposed to make things easier for us? It’s doing precisely the opposite. It does frequently make things more convenient—but not always better. Most people work longer hours in the Digital Age.

16. More Need for Broad Thinking. Rather than the narrow specialization of the Industrial Age, today’s and tomorrow’s technologies demand broad thinking from the regular people.[xlix] As the pace of change increases, we need to be able to more quickly and nimbly assess, understand, plan and take action. This is not something taught very often in our modern schools—which were designed in the Industrial Age and have yet to effectively move beyond it, or even seriously embrace the need for such massive reform.

17. Who owns your data from electronic devices? The provider? The cloud? The crowd that crowdsources things you participate in? The social media provider? Answer: usually not you. Ownership of more and more data is being given to providers (Facebook, Amazon, etc.), and governments routinely take over whatever data they decide they want. This is a true socializing of society. If we don’t own our data, we don’t have rights to our data, and the government eventually owns (or at least controls) it all.

18. The “Digital Rights” Movement. Many people are calling for a “new Declaration” of our rights that resonates with the digital age. One such report suggests: “Digital age citizens have rights—access to digital infrastructures, literacy, media literacy, lifelong learning, and renewed freedom of speech online without the fear of surveillance.”[l]

Whether such “rights” will gain much traction remains to be seen. But who will provide the resources to fund these “rights” and others like them? Governments? Internet providers? These are the very entities most likely to violate such rights. In many places around the world, they already are.

A Thing of the Past

Perhaps Digital Righters want global agencies or entities to provide the resources and enforcement, but this opens up a whole new can of worms. Do we actually want bigger government? At the world scale? This just doesn’t fit well will people calling for “freedom…without fear of surveillance.”

In a world with such challenges, the education of the regular people will tend toward freedom or increased dependence on elite powers.

19. Implantable Technologies. From implantable mobile phones to implantable RFID chips that track and monitor, to smart tattoos that do the same, this technology is a serious concern.[li] Is there any way to keep these things from being weaponized (“weaponized” means to be used by governments or any other entity that uses force).

The NSA stored our phone calls and email, so it’s probably pretty clear what will happen with the data from implantable tech. The real question is, what kind of education does a society need in order to empower its people to remain free even when such technologies are available to those in power?

20. The End of Privacy. It’s going to be over and done: Privacy gone. Or as Milton might have put it, “Privacy Lost.” We will live in a surveillance state. The question for our generation is: Is there any way a surveillance state can be a free nation? The answer—based on all we know from great political thinkers of the past like Aristotle, Cicero, Montesquieu, Blackstone, the writers of the Federalist Papers, Bastiat, and others—is no. Simply no. Our educational system must be up to the task of helping a nation of people overcome such a challenge.

21. Cookie Monster. Everything we do online is part of the tracking and surveillance. Kelly wrote: “Unbeknownst to most people, when you arrive at a website you arrive with a bunch of invisible signs hanging around your neck that display where you just came from. These signs (technically known as cookies) can be read not just by the website you have arrived at, but my many of the large platforms—like Google—who have their fingers all over the web.”[lii]

This information significantly strengthens the power of big business surveillance, and whatever information the government gets from these businesses (or decides to control in the future). Moreover, AI is constantly using this data to learn and profile. In the wrong hands—hacked, stolen, infiltrated by foreign governments, or used by unscrupulous or even well-meaning government agencies, etc.—this is a goldmine of power that can be used to control people.

Back to Basics…and Books

22. Reading Glasses (and other wearable tech) Connected to the Internet.[liii] We won’t have to learn much in school, the experts say, because any time a person we’re talking with says “Ottoman Empire” or “Newton’s Laws” the screen on our glasses will flash details about these things right in front of our eyes. Or, to say this truthfully, we’ll have to learn a whole lot more in schools than past generations—and memorize a lot better—because we’ll need to know if the things the Internet tells us inside our glasses are entirely accurate or skewed by current popular opinions, political correctness, or whatever Apple, Wiki-everything, the Google/Alphabet company or some other more corrupt provider of the information wants us to believe.

This technology (or Internet ear implants that tell us things, or anything like these) isn’t going to make things easier—unless we just turn everything over to Big Brother and go with the flow…

Indeed, what are the chances that governments won’t eventually control, or closely regulate and monitor, whatever such technologies are telling us? This is a massive turnover of knowledge to the few who control the online data. And in this case, knowledge truly is power.

23. The CBS/ABC/NBC Internet. For years, television programming in the United States was dominated by the three big networks. In our modern world of numerous cable channels and even personal channels on YouTube, this kind of centralized control is hard to imagine. But we may soon see something much like it—but even worse—online. As author Kevin Kelly put it:

“The more people who use an AI, the smarter it gets. The smarter it gets, the more people who use it. The more people who use it, the smarter it gets. And so on.

“Once a company enters this…cycle, it tends to grow so big, so fast that it overwhelms any upstart competitors. As a result, our AI future is likely to be ruled by an oligarchy of two or three large, general purpose cloud-based commercial intelligences.”[liv] These mega-AIs could own or control the various providers, platforms, networks and big sites, and rule them from behind the scenes. This may not happen, but it is more likely than not.

The impact on governments will be immense, since the power and resources of such entities could far outpace any single government. Indeed, the mega-AIs may dominate certain countries and use them to compete like they already do with certain corporations.

24. A New Battle. The two biggest battles of the past century have been Free vs. Authoritarian Nations and Conservative vs. Liberal philosophies. Both of these were centered in governments and nations, and the ongoing argument between Nationalism and Globalism.

The Internet Age is shifting these traditional battle lines. The new battle is between the world of nations and the emerging economic/technological world with no borders. “By its nature,” Kelly wrote, “digital network technology rattles international borders because it is borderless.”[lv] Our technologies and businesses are now largely borderless, deeply undermining the long-term legitimacy of national governments. More people are asking: “Do national governments really need to exist? Are they, in fact, causing more problems than they are solving?”

Open Space

This disconnect could evolve in various directions, but whatever happens, today’s technology can only be controlled by larger and larger governments—with increasing power. For many people, this smacks of Orwell’s big brother. It certainly means that the definition of “free” and “authoritarian” nations is in flux. The outcomes are unlikely to greatly promote more freedom. Our current mainstream educational systems are already in line with this top-down environment.

25. New Leadership. Listen to how three different technology and entrepreneurial experts described this phenomenon:

First, as PayPal founder Peter Thiel remarked: “Every moment in business happens only once. The next Bill Gates will not build an operating system. The next Larry Page or Sergey Brin won’t make a search engine. And the next Mark Zuckerberg won’t create a social network. If you are copying from these guys, you aren’t learning from them…. Today’s ‘best practices’ lead to dead ends; the best paths are new and untried…. [I]t’s hard to develop new things in big organizations…. Bureaucratic hierarchies move slowly, and entrenched interests shy away from risk….

“A new company’s most important strength is new thinking: even more important than nimbleness, small size affords space to think.”[lvi]

Second, from Don and Alex Tapscott, authors of Blockchain Revolution: Concerning the future of the Internet, specifically blockchain technology, ‘Will the Law of Paradigms kick into effect—that the leaders of the old have the greatest difficulty embracing the new? …. Why didn’t Rupert Murdoch create The Huffington Post? Why didn’t AT&T launch Skype, or Visa create PayPal? GM or Hertz could have launched Uber, and Marriot, Airbnb…. Why didn’t NBC invent YouTube? Sony could have preempted Apple’s iTunes.”[lvii]

Old leaders seldom keep leading when it’s time for real innovation.

Third, former Senior Advisor for Innovation to the Secretary of State, Alec Ross, said: “When I’m asked, ‘What can we do to create our own Silicon Valley?” my response surprises many people: ‘You can’t,’ I say. ‘It’s too late….’ ‘What you can do, though, is position your communities to compete and succeed in those areas of innovation that are still to come…”[lviii]

Open Minds

This is true in education, in business, in government, and in societies. If we want to go a new direction—and we desperately need this in so many ways—we’ll need new leaders. If MacGyver carried a gun, he would have used it. Pouring new wine into old bottles is a recipe for one of two things: watching the new and innovative fail and spoil, or seeing the new and innovative simply try to repeat the old.

For example: “Uber, the world’s largest taxi company, owns no vehicles. Facebook, the world’s most popular media owner, creates no content. Alibaba [China’s eBay-like platform, which is much bigger than eBay], the most valuable retailer, has no inventory. And Airbnb, the world’s largest accommodation provider, owns no real estate.”[lix]

Why didn’t Enterprise, ABC/Disney, Macy’s, or Hilton provide these breakthoughs? Because they would almost surely have been hamstrung by the idea that they needed a fleet of cars, contracts with producers and actors, retail and storage facilities, and dedicated hotel buildings. These “old” rules got in the way. The new and innovative came from new leaders with fresh thinking.

Our politics and other sectors of society need the same. Otherwise, as mentioned, we’ll either spoil the new or revert to the old rules. Education needs to learn this lesson, and apply it. Right away.

26. Virality over Plaque. Indeed, the sectors in the most need of new leadership are those that are highly regulated by government(s). When an economic field enjoys light or minimal regulation, it naturally benefits from virality: “the tendency of an idea or brand to be circulated rapidly from one Internet user to another.”[lx]

When no company or product in a sector is able to achieve real virality, the sector stagnates. Instead of virality, this part of the economy develops what we might call a plaque problem. Like in the body’s blood vessels and arteries, a buildup of plaque is both unhealthy and dangerous. If it grows, it can become life threatening. Too much regulation in a field of the economy creates serious plaque buildup.

Avenues to Greatness

As the authors of Platform Revolution noted: “Banking, healthcare, and education are all highly regulated…. Emerging platforms are starting to attack this problem in an effort to create new sources of value [in these fields], but regulatory control is holding them back.”[lxi] Nations that address this head on and reduce as much regulation as they can without creating dangers for their people will lead out in 21st century banking, healthcare, and education—simply by freeing up space for entrepreneurs to improve these stagnating sectors of society.

For example, as mentioned earlier, “more people are using Duolingo to learn [an international] language than all the students in high school in the U.S. combined.”[lxii] And it works! On a broader scale, it is time for a Renaissance in American education—if only the government will get out of the way and let educational innovators and entrepreneurs go to work. A few have started, but regulation still blocks real virality.

To repeat: new leadership is needed. And this is true in politics and education more than perhaps any other sectors. Technologists proclaim that the centuries-old stranglehold of the big political parties and the old-style education system over the nation are slowing or blocking new technological changes that bring more power to voters, students, and families. It is still unclear who the winners and losers will be, but governments and educational bureaucracies tend toward increasing plaque—not dynamic virality.

Still, even the most viral sector, platform, provider, company, brand or product is still ultimately controlled by someone—or a group of “someones”. Until the digital revolution can give the people as a group real teeth in the face of economic and power elites, freedom and the kind of education that prepares a truly free citizenry will remain in peril, and nations will continue their path toward decline.

Halting the Fall

Together these trends paint an interesting and challenging picture. The era of Star Trek technology hasn’t quite yet arrived, but we’re certainly not in Kansas anymore. Things are changing rapidly, and this epoch of change is right now just in its childhood. Get ready, because the teenage years are just ahead!

Indeed, in all of this, education plays a central, even pivotal role. Such technological advancement makes great education in the great books and great ideas, and the corresponding abilities of most citizens to think independently and innovatively, lead, and initiate, even more important than ever before. We need Results-Based Learning. We need education that works.

The future will be dominated by whichever groups become the most effective learners, adapters, and innovators. If this is centered in a small, powerful group of elites, they will rule. If it is made up of larger numbers of the regular people, in contrast, we will live in a society dedicated to freedom and opportunity for all.

Education matters. Moreover, the kind of education we give our children matters—not just for them individually, but for the future of our entire society. Only great education can get us where we want to go.

NOTES (includes notes from previous post)

[i] Schwab, 15, 147-148; see also Kevin Kelly, The Inevitable, 2016, 50-51; Brynjolfsson, 14-20; See Sam Smith, “The Truth About the Future of Cars,” Esquire, April 2016, 69-74; Erin Griffith, “Disconnected,” Fortune, August 1, 2016, 44..

[ii] See Smith, 69-74.

[iii] Scwhab, 15; see also Brynjolfsson, 36-37; Kelly, 53.

[iv] Schwab, 15, 22, 161-167.

[v] Andrea Smith, “Print Your Candy and Eat it Too,” Popular Science, January 2015, 24.

[vi] Ibid.

[vii] Schwab, 16.

[viii] Ibid., 17.

[ix] “Future of Money Defined,” Forbes, December 28, 2015, 80.

[x] Schwab, 17.

[xi] Ibid.

[xii] Kelly, 238.

[xiii] Ibid., 5.; see also David Berreby, “Duet ex Machina,” Psychology Today, May/June 2015, 60-69.

[xiv] Berreby, 67.

[xv] Ibid., front cover.

[xvi] Ibid., 66-69.

[xvii] Schwab, 21; see also 168-169.

[xviii] Ibid., 21.

[xix] Ibid., 170-172.

[xx] Ibid., 21.

[xxi] Kelly, 69.

[xxii] See, for example, Andrew Rosenblum, “Virtual Reality Meets the Public,” Popular Science, January 2015, 45.

[xxiii] See Eric Spitznagel, Men’s Health, June 2016, 144-149, 158-159.

[xxiv] Ibid.

[xxv] Ibid.

[xxvi] See Matt Giles, “Let’s Talk About Love in the App Age,” Popular Science, January/February 2016, 30-31.

[xxvii] See ibid.; see also Spitznagel, 144-149, 158-159.

[xxviii] See Spitznagel., 144-149, 158-159.

[xxix] See Giles, 30-31; see also Spitznagel, 144-149, 158-159..

[xxx] See Brynjolfsson, 52-56; Kelly, 219-220.

[xxxi] Schwab, 99-100.

[xxxii] Kelly, 72.

[xxxiii] Schwab, 149-150; see also 151-152.

[xxxiv] Kelly, 220.

[xxxv] Ibid.

[xxxvi] Cited in Tapscott, 276.

[xxxvii] Schwab, 46-47.

[xxxviii] Wassily Leontief, cited in Brynjolfsson, 178.

[xxxix] Schwab., 47-48.

[xl] Ibid., 49.

[xli] Ibid., 92.

[xlii] Tapscott, 173.

[xliii] Schwab, 13.

[xliv] See ibid., 100-102.

[xlv] Ibid., 100-101.

[xlvi] Kelly, 127.

[xlvii] Schwab, 100-101.

[xlviii] Ibid., 102.

[xlix] Ibid., 108.

[l] Tapscott, 308.

[li] Schwab, 121.

[lii] Kelly, 180.

[liii] Schwab, 125-128.

[liv] Kelly, 40.

[lv] Ibid., 5.

[lvi] Thiel, 10.

[lvii] Tapscott, 309-310.

[lviii] Ross, 187.

[lix] Tom Goodwin, in an article in TechCruch, cited in Schwab, 20.

[lx] Parker, 23.

[lxi] Ibid., 263.

[lxii] Ibid., 267.

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