, October 05, 2022

Do we need an educated proletariat? (Hint, yes, we do)


  •   3 min reads
Do we need an educated proletariat? (Hint, yes, we do)

What is the biggest work challenge of the 21st Century? Answer: change. And to meet this challenge, we need more education— an educated proletariat is the solution.

Roger Freeman, a man who once served as an educational advisor to President Nixon and then supported the governor of California (a certain Ronald Reagan), once said: "We are in danger of producing an educated proletariat."

And the mindset that underpinned those observations from Freeman is a problem.

The world is changing

How many career changes will someone joining the workforce today have before retiring?

According to McKinsey, "30 per cent of the hours worked globally could be automated by 2030."  Few economists are predicting a shortage of jobs but must expect a massive transitional challenge risking a potential scenario of high unemployment at a time of high levels of job vacancies.

Fake news in an age of Google and smartphones

But the work transition is just one of the problems we will face.

Here is another — a sort of greatest mystery of our time. "How can we have so much fake news at a time when nearly all of us are 30 seconds from fact-checking anything we read?" It is only a sort of a mystery because, actually, the reason is something we all understand. But fake news is a problem — Orwell predicted it, and society can not survive the 21st Century if it continues.

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AI as a tool or threat

Then there is the issue of AI in our daily lives. Most of us use AI already — for example when we navigate using our phone or conduct a Google search

But we are just a few years from having personal AI assistants, always with us, always on.

Do we let AI rule us, or do we embrace it? It is either or; there is no third option.

Brain-computer interfaces

And at some point during the working lifetime of millennials and Generation Z, brain-computer interfaces will gain a mass market.

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The risks and opportunity

The Millennials, Generation Zeds, and Generation Alphas (presumably Betas - how unfortunate to be a Beta) will experience extraordinary change.

And they have to be equipped to deal with it, and a decent education is a key part. That is not to say that some people haven't left school at 16 and thrived; that is not to say it is impossible to teach yourself; that the university of life isn't a great school.

But for most of us, and most of those who are young or still to be born, the 21st Century will demand the highest possible level of education. It is not about imparting knowledge; it is about creating an enquiring mind, wiring the brain, and giving people a toolset.

This is why Joe Biden's move to introduce debt relief on student loans is essential, although it needs to go further.

And here is a prediction; by the 2040s, most people will experience a one- or two-year education whilst in their thirties or forties.

Education for the proletariat is fundamental to humanity's ability to thrive in the Century of AI, immersive reality and brain-computer interfaces — or we will face a dystopian future.

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