.Five years ago, I considered researching a book about the future of public education. My great-great niece, Anna, was a baby. Now she is a big girl in kindergarten. Where does five years go?
When my great-great niece Anna is 19, in 2030, according to Ray Kurzweil, author of, “The Singularity Is Near,” she will be entering adulthood into a world stunningly different from what it is today. Five years ago, 2030 seemed a good target for a book about the future of education. Now I’m thinking a book about the future of education should focus thirty years into the future — 2046. Anna then will be 35 and ready to enter mature adulthood.
Thirty years of exponential progress in technology will produce astounding results. If Kurzweil is right, the technology thirty years in the future will be one billion times more powerful than today’s. One billion.
I write here: “Kurzweil predicts that by 2019 a computer with the capacity of a human brain will cost only $1000, by 2030 the process of ‘reverse engineering’ the human brain will be completed and by 2045 the intelligence of computers will be billions times that of today’s humans.”
To prepare today’s children for the future of intelligent machines will require a big transformation in education. It will require that the education system pursue aims quite different from the aims of the system today. The idea is to write a short book that will make a specific proposal showing how transformation could unfold in the school district where I live, Kettering, and show one vision of what a transformed system could look like. I’m considering advancing this proposal to jump-start the process.
With the emergence of the super machine intelligence described by Kurzweil, chapter one of this proposed book speculates that the need to redefine the aim of public education will become a national emergency.
Education In 2046, Chapter 1: Congress Demands That Schools Develop Human Intelligence
Eventually the force of exploding technology changed the very definition of what it means to be intelligent, what it means to be educated. In 2016, an educated person was acquainted with a wide curriculum and often specialized in a narrow discipline or profession. A well-educated person was expected to have good skills of analysis, reasoning and communication.
As technology advanced, machines came closer and closer to mimicking all of the qualities of an educated person. It became clear that eventually machines would surpass humans in all contests of intelligence and professionalism. Here in 2046, a physician robot, indefatigable in its efforts, knows each of his patients via a history of detailed data to a depth of understanding rare in human physicians. It is thoroughly up-to-date with the latest medical research and has energy and focus beyond what literally is humanly possible. A teacher robot, for the same reasons, succeeds in getting students to master the standard curriculum much more effectively than what is possible for a human teacher. Today’s robots are self-taught. They are growing stronger and more formidable at an incredible rate.
The human response to rising machine superiority at first was to deny its significance. This denial started in 1997 after IBM’s Big Blue defeated the reigning world chess champion, Garry Kasparov, in a chess tournament. From this water-shed event there arose the practice of devaluing those aspects of cognition that machines could mimic. The intellectual skills of a chess champion are wonderful, but, these skills became to be seen as machine-like and therefore inferior to aspects of human intelligence seen as non-machine-like.
As machines imitated more and more of the human intellect, they became intellectually dominant. For machines to dominate a narrow well-defined intellectual endeavor like chess was one thing. But when it became clear that we were headed for an era when robot physicians, robot teachers, robot architects and the like would be the world champions of their fields, the threat to human intelligence became very real. There was a lot of anxiety about defining human intelligence in such a way that humans would remain in a position of superiority relative to machines.
In 2035, an Act of Congress proclaimed this official definition of human intelligence:
“Human intelligence includes all aspects of the human experience. It includes machine intelligence — like memory, reason and the capacity to communicate with understanding — but because living and breathing humans transcend what is possible for a machine, human intelligence includes human emotion and human values as well.
Human intelligence is the capacity of humans to experience and to generate love, empathy, joy, togetherness, meaning and independent thinking. Human intelligence is the capacity of an individual to grow into his or her potential to be fully human.”
This Act of Congress recognized the growing panic that unless humans could stand together united by human intelligence, the very definition of what it means to be human would be compromised. This Act of Congress called for a transformation of American education based on this definition. It called for the best thinkers in education and human psychology to redesign the system of public education so that it would best advance the development of human intelligence.
CBK tri-fold mailed to Kettering households urges a NO vote on Issue 36 — to reject, “the Commission Scheme,” and to reject, “bundling of unrelated proposals.”
This morning I met with Ron Alban, spokesperson and leader of Citizens For A Better Kettering (CBK). Alban explained that up until late May the group had no intention of putting proposals on the ballot to change Kettering’s City Charter and it was only after the Kettering Charter Review Committee surprise proposal to modify term limits (Issue 36) that his group responded with Issues 31-35. (See: In This Coming Election, Kettering Voters Have Six Choices — Issues 31-36 — To Change The Kettering City Charter)
Four years ago, Citizens For a Better Kettering succeeded in passing two big changes to the Kettering Charter. Voters (62%) specified that the mayor and council members would be limited to two consecutive four year terms and voters (55%) reduced the pay of the mayor and council 50%.
Alban says on May 20 he learned for the first time that a mayor’s Charter Review Committee even existed and only then did he learn that this committee was recommending to eliminate term limits for the mayor and to increase the limit on Council members from two consecutive terms to three consecutive terms. Alban, in an opinion piece published in the DDN, writes,“The Council’s effort to undo term limits is deceptive and disrespectful.”
Urging a YES vote on Issue 36 and NO on Issue 31-35 is a pac called “weRkettering”. This mailing charges that “Issue 31-35 are restricting our form of government.”
Don Patterson, Kettering’s mayor, in an article published by the DDN , wrote that Issues 31-35 are, “of great concern to me.” Patterson in that article makes the accusation that Issues 31-35 “are not truly driven by Kettering residents like our Charter Review Committee was.”
Alban responded to Patterson’s accusation by explaining that in 2012 his group started in January to raise money and get signatures, but, because the work of the Kettering Charter Review Committee came in late May as a big surprise, his group had only a short time to meet a deadline to raise money and get signatures. Alban figured he would need $30,000 for a credible campaign. He requested help from a national group called US Term Limits, a 501C(4) tax exempt organization dedicated to promoting term limits nationwide. He received a grant of $10,000. He says other contributions came from Kettering residents, including a $1000 contribution from former mayor Dick Hartman and a $2000 contribution from former mayor Chuck Horn.
Alban says CBK had 60 volunteers who collected 1350 signatures in three weeks, but in order to get sufficient signatures by the deadline, CBK contracted with a company that organized paid solicitors to get the remainder of the signatures. Eventually CBK had a total of 3190 signatures — a comfortable cushion above the 1879 signatures that were required. (This is 10% of Kettering votes in the last gubernatorial election.)
Patterson in the DDN article also claimed that the changes to the Charter called for in Issues 31-35, “are unnecessary and involve the potential for significant additional cost to Kettering taxpayers If they are approved.” The additional costs Patterson referred to pertains to Issues 32 and 34.
Issue 32 empowers citizens to bring suit against the city — specifically for failure to follow the charter — providing for litigation expense if the suit wins. Alban says that Issue 32 simply assures that the charter will be followed and does not open the door to litigation concerning other matters. Alban indicates that if Issue 32 is approved, he feels that the city will comply with the charter and that there would be no need for legal action.
Issue 34 requires that every two years the city send a mailing to all Kettering residents showing the salary / benefits of 45 Kettering city employees (by job position, not name) — 15 at the top, 15 at the middle, 15 at the bottom. (The city has about 400 employees.) Patterson in his DDN article says that “the printing and postage of such a report would cost at least $10,000 per year.” Alban says that Patterson’s estimate is way off and that he feels that a more realistic cost would be only $5000 per mailing, or only $2500 per year. Alban indicates that when over 70% of the city’s budget ($100 million over two years) goes to salary / benefits, this transparency would be well worth the cost.
Issue 36 bundles six amendments into one Issue. Alban sees this as “an effort to confuse voters.” He writes, “The Ohio Constitution bans the bundling of unrelated proposals for statewide issues, but ambiguity in the law on local issues provides a loophole for local officials to get away with this practice.” Alban says, “CBK asked council members not to bundle, but they voted 7-0 to do so.”
I enjoyed my visit with Ron Alban today and I hope to continue my conversation with him in the near future. I was sorry that my camera was temporarily on the fritz and I couldn’t get a picture, but maybe next time. I also intend on contacting Mayor Patterson or other supporters of Issue 36 and continue writing about these issues in the near future.
Alban predicts that the public will support the efforts of Citizens For A Better Kettering. He is predicting that Issues 31-35 will be approved and that Issue 36 will be rejected.
These signs, paid for by Citizens for a Better Kettering, are popping up in my neighborhood.
The local group known as “Citizens for a Better Kettering” is presenting Kettering citizens the opportunity to change the Kettering City Charter in five different ways. The group got the signatures needed to place Issues 31-35 on the ballot.
The sixth way to change the charter is via approving Issue 36 — written by a city appointed “Charter Review Committee.” Among its seven revisions of the charter, Issue 36 calls for the elimination of term limits for the mayor and for an increase in the limit of Council members from two terms to three.
In 2012, Citizens for a Better Kettering worked to pass two issues — issue 28 (approved by 62%) limited the council members and the mayor to two consecutive terms of four years each and issue 29 (approved by 55%) reduced the pay of the mayor and council members by 50%. (See this October, 2012 post: Kettering Council Splits On Endorsing Issues 28 / 29 — Tea Party Members vs Majority.) Issue 36, if approved, would reverse the term limits that Citizens for a Better Kettering got approved just four years ago.
For more information see: Ron Alban, Citizens For A Better Kettering, Disputes Claims By Kettering Mayor Don Patterson Concerning Issues 31-35
Issue 31 (Limits power of Council to propose amendments)
- This Charter may be amended at any time in the manner provided for by the Constitution of Ohio, provided that Council may not propose any amendment hereto that seeks to alter, abolish or otherwise amend any provision in this Charter that addresses or concerns term limitations (Section 3-10), compensation (Section 3-5) or initiative, referendum and recall (Article IX). Any proposed amendment to this Charter, whether proposed by Council or by initiative, shall be submitted to the electors of the city only at a general election.
Issue 32 (Empowers citizens to force city to comply with charter)
- Enforcement of Charter Provisions. Any resident or taxpayer of the city shall have standing to seek the enforcement of any provision of this Charter or to restrain any action contrary to or in violation of this Charter through the filing of any legal action in an appropriate court. If said resident or taxpayer is successful, either through the entry of judgement, prompting a modification of the action or omission prior to the entry of judgement, or otherwise, then said resident or tax payer shall be entitled to an award of costs and litigation expenses, and the attorney prosecuting said action shall receive a reasonable compensation for such services.
Issue 33 (Opportunity to Speak at Council Meetings)
- Prior to consideration of or vote upon any proposed ordinance or resolution, Council shall provide all residents or taxpayers of the city a reasonable and equal opportunity to speak on any proposed ordinance or resolution during the course of and as part of each meeting at which such proposed ordinance or resolution will be considered or voted upon.
- Council shall ensure that the record of proceedings of its meetings include a fair and accurate summary of the comments made by any person during the course of any public meeting.
Issue 34 (Every two years residents to be mailed report on cost of 45 city employees)
- With respect to (i) the fifteen full-time employees with the highest total taxpayer costs (ii) fifteen full-time employees surrounding the median total taxpayer costs; and (iii) the fifteen full-time employees with the lowest total taxpayer costs, the City Council shall issue a report setting forth the following information: (q) the position title of each such employee; (b) the total wages paid by the city to each such employee; and (c) the monetary value of the city’s portion of all benefits provided to each such employee
- The foregoing report: (i) shall contain no other information or statements other than specifically provided for herein (ii) shall be issued by the City Council no later than April 15 of each odd-numbered year based on data for the preceding calendar year based on data fro the preceding calendar year, and (iii) shall be transmitted by postal mail to each residence within the city in which any registered voter resides.
- As used herein: (i) “full-time employee” shall be limited to those employees who were employed on a full-time basis for the entirety of the proceeding calendar year; and (ii) “total taxpayer costs” shall mean, with respect to each individual employee, the sum of the total wages paid by the city and the monetary value of the city’s portion of all benefits provided to the employee.
- The Clerk of Council shall: (i) post the foregoing report on the city’s internet site; and (ii) post and timely update on the city’s internet site all collective bargaining agreements and employment contracts to which the city is a party.
Issue 35 (Vacancies on Council to be filled by election, not appointment)
- Upon Council declaring the seat of any of its members to be vacant, said vacancy shall continue until a successor is chosen pursuant to an election as herein provided.
If a vacancy occurs, the remaining members of Council shall act by majority vote to fill the vacancy on a temporary basis. That temporary appointee shall serve until commencement of the term of a successor who is elected as provided below. If a vacancy occurs, the election of a successor shall take place at the next general municipal election occurring within the city taking place more than one hundred twenty (120) days after the vacancy occurred, provided that Council may not provide for holding a special election solely for the purpose of filling such vacancy. Upon the certification of the election results by the Board of Elections, the elected successor shall take office immediately and swerve the balance of the expired term.
If, however, that term balance would be less than twelve (12) months, no such election shall be held and the temporary appointee shall continue to hold office for the remainder of the term.
Should a vacancy occur between election and taking office, the vacancy shall be filled by the newly elected council until the next general municipal election as provided by Section 3-2 of this Charter. Such newly elected council members shall take office immediately.
Issue 36: Charter Review Committee Amendment Recommendations
The Charter Review Committee for the City of Kettering has made the following recommendations for amending the Kettering City Charter:
- Sections 3-2, 3-3, 3-6, 3-8, 5-1, 5-2, 5-3, 5-4, 5-5, 5-6, 5-7, 8-3, 9-3, and 10-9 amended to replace male terms and male pronouns with gender neutral terms;
- Section 3-10 amended to eliminate term limits for office of Mayor and increase from two to three the number of consecutive terms Council Members can serve;
- Sections 4-3, 7-2, and 10-9 amended to set by ordinance the methods and technology used to give notice to the public;
- Section 5-2 and 6-2 amended to eliminate employee residency requirements;
- Section 7-13 amended to change the name and membership of the Parks and Recreation Board and set all other related matters related to the Board by ordinance;
- Sections 7-2, 7-3, and 7-5 amended to update the responsibilities of the Planning Commission and Board of Zoning Appeals and clarify who can appeal decisions;
- Section 10-9 amended to define “elector” as used in the Charter
Ray Kurzweil writes, “The future will be far more surprising than most observers realize.” Computer speed (per unit cost) doubles every year. Kurzweil believes this doubling of machine power will continue and that in thirty years computer power will be one billion times greater than now. He is predicting that by the year 2045, a machine intelligence much greater than human intelligence will emerge. This watershed event in human history is called the singularity.
Exponential growth eventually causes dramatic and sudden change. If a full glass represent the singularity, the glass now is only one-billionth full. Thirty doublings, over a thirty year period, will result in a billion-fold increase. The last few years will be astonishing. The glass will be one-thirtysecondth full, then one-sixteenth full, then one-eighth full, one-fourth, one-half, then, full. This century, according to Kurzweil, will have 20,000 years of progress compared to the progress of the last century. Science fiction predictions set hundreds of years in the future will instead become reality in the lives of today’s children.
We should not delay in preparing for the huge shock we are headed toward. If there was evidence that a epoch-ending meteor was due to hit earth in thirty years, there would be a huge amount of money and effort invested to create a plan to protect the inhabitants of the earth from this potential calamity. We would be crazy to wait until the last few years to get serious about preparation.
There is plenty of evidence that the rapid growth of technology is leading to a future that may either be very good or very bad — depending on the quality of the preparation for this future. The two interconnected ways to prepare for the future both focus on: 1) Education 2) Cooperative planning. The cooperative planning and problem solving that is needed to prepare for the future requires for humans to acquire in-depth understanding and judgment. It requires an educated citizenry prepared for meaningful civic engagement. It requires a vitalization of our constitutional democracy so that our best ideas and best leaders gain authority.
To prepare for the future, we need to put money and effort into transforming our system of public education so that it will prepare a citizenry for meaningful civic engagement. The growth in machine intelligence eventually will force the public to consider these two questions: 1) How should the purpose of public education be defined? and 2) How should a system of public education be structured to most effectively accomplish that purpose? Perceptive communities will anticipate this debate well in advance of the big crunch coming our way.