Monday, September 16, 2013

The future is just around the corner....and some of it isn't pretty

As our capacity to measure everything grows exponentially, and as we collect the data from such  measurements, and compare, collate, publish and make decisions on that data, everyone in our North American, if not western world culture will be judged comparatively, and dispassionately, even crudely, and finally on their performance, no matter the tasks they perform.
Just as baseball, hockey, football and all other professional athletics measures all participants, and bases their evaluation and salary and retention and final judgement on the data of those measurements, all occupations will eventually come under the same kind of scrutiny.
So, lest anyone think he or she is outside the scope of such data-mining, if we think we have micro-management now, we "ain't seen nothing yet"!
With education being delivered over the internet, and the natural ability to take tests administered by the computer, including computer grading, playing a significant role in educational success, those who best fit the kind of educational measurement that clearly will tilt toward objective testing instruments, (leaving aside the formidable and worthy essay) will score best in such a system, thereby preparing them for extensive measurement by employers, by investors, and by social and political systems which will come to value highest those with the highest scores.
Those individuals who "fit" into such a circumference of data-gathering, data-mining, data-analysis and rewards based on such a system will clearly have a distinct advantage over those who do not fit into such a scheme. And identifying both those who do, and those who don't fit the new paradigm will begin very early in a child's learning curve.
Who sets the tests, and what cultural norms are built into their sample questions, in all subjects, along with the time allotments and expectations embedded in the instructions of those tests will all become highly significant, so significant in fact that the future lives of the next several generations will hang on such variables, and less on the local school, school board and faculty of the local education system.
Interacting with the computer screen in order to learn, while already being integrated into the current classrooms in North America, will continue and will move even more rapidly, as our capacity to write programs for individualized learning modules grows. Following the instructions of the computer could well become one of the most important skills to be inculcated into learners of the next decade and beyond. And for that to happen, we will need instructors who, themselves, have already submitted to the rigors of such learning, so that they are best prepared to pass those skills along to their students.
Of course, there will also be a need for a battalion of writers who can frame the skills in language that young children can and will comprehend, apply and pass on to their students.
The spectre of universal standards for all human tasks, including the precision with which those tasks are performed, the time it takes for the task to be performed perfectly, the notion that not only will our health records be accessible to the whole health care system, but our daily, weekly, monthly and annual work performance reports could be available to any employer who wishes to see them will render most current applications of personal confidentiality obsolete.
We are rapidly moving toward a society in which the have's care minimally, if at all, about the have-nots, and armed with more data, the have's will then have evidence on which to premise their already growing confidence, arrogance and insouciance, and the division of society will grow even deeper.
It is as if the technological revolution in which we are encased is taking over the lives of those who just happen to be alive when the revolution is reaching its peak. And that process appears, at least to this observer, to be one of unstoppable, tsunami-like proportions.
Are we, in fact, more than just in appearance, becoming the slave of the technology which has been unleashed upon us? Are we ready for the implosion of expectations that could be summed, "If the computer can do it, then what are we waiting for?"
Just because the computer can do something does not mean that we should all bow down to that fact and withdraw from the playing field completely....and yet.
Those who hire and fire depend on the reduction of costs of production and distribution and will therefore have more to say about whether or not they incorporate the latest technology into their businesses. Those who hire and fire, being also the 1% who have benefitted from 95% of the economic gains recorded since the recession of 2008, will grow not only in wealth but also in political power, rendering the bottom 99% even less relevant to the legislation, tax rules and social and political expectations of the ruling classes, who will control the 99% even more than today.
Several decades ago, there used to be a slogan on posters in many secondary school guidance offices that read, "Learn to earn!" as if by getting an education, one will stand a greater chance of earning more from one's work than those who did not get a complete education.
That will be so obsolete, within a half-decade if not before. Those who follow the program, administered by the computers, and their designers and programmers, and who demonstrate a capacity to listen to computer instructions will bend their opportunity curve in the direction of predictable success, at least in revenue, status and political terms.
Those who do not "fit" will be relegated to the trash-heap of social, political, economic and cultural rejects, unless they demonstrate a level of creativity and entrepreneurism that marks them as so "star-like"...and those individuals are and will continue to be a very small minority, if not measureable in single digits.

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