How should we educate in the age of automation?

In the Guardian, George Monbiot lays out a compelling argument that the dominant mode of education in the West may have been well-suited for an industrial age, but not for a post-industrial, increasingly automated one.

In this new age, both rote physical tasks and rote mental tasks are being taken over by increasingly capable machines.  If the larger context and purposes of education have changed, why has the dominant mode of education not changed along with it?

Although not mentioned in the article, several institutions have long sought to de-regiment, de-mechanize, and genuinely humanize education: the Montessori tradition, and St. John’s College in Annapolis and Santa Fe.  Among other things, these institutions consist of meticulously-designed structures which ensure that students are exposed to what is important, but also give each student plenty of room to pursue what he or she finds most compelling.   Self-driven learning, truly curious learning, is given space to grow.

Might not these be the kinds of educational models that are most needed in an age of automation?

Training humans to be more like machines doesn’t make sense; let’s train them to be more like humans.

Read the Guardian article here: “In an age of robots, schools are teaching our children to be redundant.”


Aristotle: True leisure is not relaxation.


The Noble Leisure Project” gives an excellent explanation of Aristotle’s concept of leisure.  Far from being mere passivity/relaxation, true leisure is an activity, and an activity in which a person finds their greatest fulfillment.  But leisure is not just any activity: it consists of the activities that are most properly human.  (Determining what these activities are is one of the goals of Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics.)

In general, then, the hierarchy for Aristotle goes something like this:

relaxation -> (done for the sake of) -> work -> (done for the sake of) -> leisure (done for its own sake)

How, then, should we arrange our lives and our daily schedules, so that we have time for all three of these?

A 5 hour workday?

Here is one small company’s story of moving to a 5 hour workday, and the benefits it brought.

Relatedly, this Washington Post story describes a company called Treehouse (a tech company, no less) and its reasons for moving to a 4 day, 32-hour work week.   As one of the company’s investors said:

“The idea that working longer equals working smarter or creating more value is completely false. The most forward thinking and successful companies are realizing that giving employees more time to be creative and connected to other things besides their job creates a better and more productive employee.”


Oxford Study on Jobs Susceptible to Computerization

A 2013 study from the Oxford Martin School estimates that almost half of U.S. jobs could be automated in the next two decades.   (PDF)

Of course, whether those jobs would be replaced by new industries is a separate question.

A summary of the study by the MIT Technology Review has this to say about one of the study’s conclusions:

“The authors believe this takeover will happen in two stages. First, computers will start replacing people in especially vulnerable fields like transportation/logistics, production labor, and administrative support. Jobs in services, sales, and construction may also be lost in this first stage. Then, the rate of replacement will slow down due to bottlenecks in harder-to-automate fields such engineering.

This “technological plateau” will be followed by a second wave of computerization, dependent upon the development of good artificial intelligence. This could next put jobs in management, science and engineering, and the arts at risk.”