Kris Morgan, September 15, 2017
Since Universal Basic Income (UBI) in the United States would potentially fill in for wages lost to automation, it is wise to get a snapshot of where American education stands in terms of science and technology. Presumably, the labor market will be reoriented towards developing software and other tasks workers are presently unqualified to perform. What do we know about science? Per ultratechlife: “According to an MIT report, at least 216 million Americans are scientifically illiterate. There are several other reports that seem to highlight this assessment of US ignorance. There appears to be a failure in American culture and the educational system especially when an adult cannot understand basic science concepts. Where did we go wrong and what can be done about this? Believe it or not, science literacy is a matter of national security, critical for our economy and future as a competitive nation.”
By solving the mystery of our ignorance, and closing the gap, we can cultivate logical alternatives to the UBI. Perhaps the explanation of American ignorance can be solved by taking a glance at our school curriculums.
The Atlantic reported that just half of children between seventh and 12th grades attend schools that offer computer science courses, which are typically electives. It is noteworthy that according to the article, minorities are less likely to have access to computer classes, and males are more encouraged to take Computer Science courses than females.
The scientific community is not silent about this issue. Renowned physicist, cosmologist, futurist, professor, and author Dr. Michio Kaku made the following comments on education in 2016: “The United States has the worst educational system known to science. Our graduates routinely compete at the level of third world countries.” Referring to our tech sector specifically, he remarked “Without the H1B (visa), the scientific establishment of this country would collapse! Forget about Google. Forget about Silicon Valley, there would be no Silicon Valley without H1B.” The visa allows non-immigrants to work for American businesses if they have “theoretical or technical expertise in specialized fields such as in IT, finance, accounting, architecture, engineering, mathematics, science, medicine, etc.”
This lack of education is precisely what is causing many of our anxieties and support for UBI. At present, 50% of the population surveyed already favor it. It is reasonable to expect this number to grow as we see our economy decline due to war spending, quantitative easing, inflation, and the rest of government inflicted hardships. Indeed, we are facing automation earlier than we would had it not been for wage floors, regulations, and political involvement in the hiring and firing processes.
Fortunately, we have more tools than ever for self-directed education. Khan Academy, Rosetta Stone, iTunes U, books on pdf, and of course libraries, are all excellent supplemental educational resources. We can teach ourselves skills. We can hire tutors to help us and our kids learn basic programming. We can pressure our local schools to do a better job of preparing our children for the future. Many businesses offer programs for their employees to earn certificates and degrees in areas such as robotics and programming, as they do for maintenance personnel and other departments.
We need not always focus on where we disagree on education, i.e. religion’s place, or how much money teachers are being paid. The coming of automation and whether we need to be prepared for it is a completely bi-partisan issue. We all share the responsibility of making this transition easier for future generations, even if that means it is hard for us today. We should get involved in our local schools and ask “What is being done to ensure our kids have the necessary skills to thrive in the future?”
People avoid growth often times because it is time consuming, means making mistakes, and invites the possibility of embarrassment. Growth is often painful. What gets ignored due to these fears is how much better off we will be when we succeed. Within a generation, mental labor will be the norm and physical labor will be rare. We have the opportunity to permanently change humanity for the better. We either fight for a future that revolves around subsidies, with little to show for it in the long run, and remain absent from history; Or we fight for a future dependent on growth, enrich society for generations to come, and go down as one of the great generations in human history.
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