Technology Makes the Future Terrifying, Especially Without Education

One of the big things we talked about in The Future of Work segment at the G7/I7 was education.  In the old days, people worried about access to education.  In the US, we went from home schooling to one room school houses with traveling teachers to full blown industrialized schooling replete with massive government funding.

Other countries are similar.  Their paths to the industrialized education complex were different, but each of the G7 countries has an educational hierarchy that resists change in some way.  They get there power from their ability to get government money, and also through bureaucratic standards that “certify” you went through a particular program which shows you are educated.

In the future, it may be less about where you went to school and might be more about what you actually know and can do.  I like to tell people that kids from the Ivy League fail as fast as kids from public state universities.

We know for certain that technology is going to replace jobs with low cognitive skills and jobs that are repetitive.  It could be one or the other.  For example, as a floor trader my job required high cognitive skill but the repetitive nature of that job was replaced by algorithms.

A thought occurred to me while listening to the discussion over education.  Why isn’t there a market for education?  Why shouldn’t the best teachers have gains from trade?  Teacher have jobs that utilize high cognition, and are NOT repetitive.  They should realize huge gains from trade in a high tech age.

Free unfettered markets always allocate resources better than anything else.

Why shouldn’t the best teachers be able to market themselves?  We know some are using technology.  MOOCs, platforms like Brilliant, and other technological advances.  Tech allows teachers to interact with more and more students.  Tutors have created whole businesses on top of web apps.

It’s my opinion that in order to really see a market based system of education, we need to blow up the education industrial complex.  Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos is on the right track with school choice. but I believe we need to think even bigger.  A lot bigger.

One idea that popped in my head during discussion was layering blockchain over an education system.  What if there was an “educoin” that students could use to take classes from individual instructors from anywhere in the world?  Why shouldn’t a Finnish math teacher be able to extract gains from trade by teaching kids outside of their classroom?

The blockchain would keep track of classes kids completed, and their achievement level in the classes. No need for an educational industrial complex system to keep track.  Chicago Booth utilizes a similar concept by giving each student points to allocate to classes they want to take.

The change in our lives is going to happen much faster than anyone thinks.  As an international society, we need to start getting way out of our comfort zones with existing hierarchy and experiment with new ways to educate the coming generation.  We can take our notion of being “terrified” to a world where we are all a lot more terrific because tech enables us, rather than eats us.


  • awaldstein

    I’m not getting this at all.

    Blockchain solves the problem for low income kids getting inspired by teachers and helped to get lunch money how exactly?

    Product of public schools and from a family of teachers.

    You’ve lost me.

  • How does this work? The info gathered during the events. How does it translated out into the world. Education is so wide open and ripe it’s amazing.. Send everybody for 2 years general education, history, great books, economic history and then into something new.

    • The I7 break out sessions created separate policy statements that were then given to the G7 representatives. They integrated those policy statements into their discussion, which then was put into their official statement.

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  • Michael J. Lotus

    “…in order to really see a market based system of education, we need to blow up the education industrial complex…”
    The process will likely be: 1. new technology, new and superior access to better teaching and better methods, 2. adoption by some schools but more by parents on a bottom-up basis, 3. sophisticated parents and children getting in first, 4. demand by others for the same new methods, 4. resistance by the existing system, attempts to create legal impediments, etc., 5. a growing demand and overwhelming political pressure to permit innovations driven by technology, 6. accelerating adoption of superior methods, sharp decline in support of existing system. Total process circa ten years. We are near the beginning of an accelerating down ramp for the old system and an accelerating up-ramp for superior methods of delivering education. Big changes will become apparent initially slowly, but at an accelerating rate. How to make this go faster? How to make money and spread the improvements at the same time? Good questions to be able to ask.