Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Two Related Dilemmas

          Two Related Dilemmas

          American education poses a dilemma for those who run the political system, namely; shall the people learn or not? If the people do not learn, then they become unproductive and the economy collapses; but if the people do learn, then they become productive but uncontrollable. Indeed, the more they learn, the more they want to take over!

          Recent history gives vivid illustration of this dilemma. In the 60's, we saw the post-Sputnik initiative. What was the result? By the end of the decade, Americans were walking on the moon, and rioting in the campuses! In 1980, an anti-intellectual was elected President, and a different attitude towards education took hold. The result? Much more political stability, but 40 years of stagnant median income. 

          Explosion or collapse? The ideal solution, from the 1% point of view, is a kind of golden mediocrity, where education teaches the masses just enough to work, and not enough to make trouble. The trouble is that the lines sometimes cross, and you need to know more to work than you need to make trouble; then mediocrity gives everyone trouble but no work.

          60s or 80s? In the 60s, America went to the Moon. In the 80s, America went to Hell. All in all I prefer the Moon.

          Snowden and Assange have taught us that there is a similar dilemma concerning secrecy. If internal communications of secretive agencies are not censored, then the agency risks exposure by leak; but if internal communications are censored, then the agency becomes stupid. As in the education dilemma, the operators and owners of the system face a choice between controlled collapse into stupidity and uncontrolled ascent into rebellion; and as in the education dilemma, golden mediocrity fails when the lines cross, and it becomes easier for a disgruntled agent to rebel than to report.

          In both cases information flow is a problem. From the 1% point of view, information is a kind of explosive lubricant; if it doesn't flow, then the system seizes up, but if it does flow, then the system blows up. Golden mediocrity fails when revolt is simpler than labor.

          There is a deeper problem, and it is political. Why the revolt of the informed public? Because knowledge gives power, and ends excuses.

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