Technology / science has given humans power that at one time would have seemed God-like. Imagine how the practices and productivity of modern farming would seem to our ancestors. This capacity for wealth creation is growing exponentially. A factory one day will have zero human workers, yet produce goods of enormous value.
Humanity, at this present time, has the capacity to produce sufficient wealth to supply plenty of quality food, quality shelter, quality health-care to every human in the world. We are failing to use that capacity and the capacity to produce wealth is rapidly increasing. The reality of enormous unused economic potential, in the face of widespread human deprivation, eventually will be huge issue.
In America, there is a huge wealth gap — between potential wealth creation and actual wealth creation — and this gap is become ever greater and greater over time. What possibly could be the objection to the production of ample wealth — if, and when, the production of that wealth has little practical cost? The advance of technology will force debate concerning these two questions:
- What are the public policies that have the best chance of activating the potential of the American economy to produce wealth?
- What are the public policies that can best provide a way for all Americans to gain wealth sufficient for a secure and prosperous future?
Making substantial changes to public policies is very difficult in our constitutional democracy. But without substantial change, our system is headed for a crash. Our big problem is that there is not sufficient citizen capacity — not enough citizens who are engaged and knowledgeable — to make our constitutional democracy work as it should. Our nation will soon be called upon to make some very hard choices and, as it is now, our democracy lacks the capacity to successfully respond. We are failing to produce community and governmental leaders who have the character, vision and creativity that is needed.
Our expensive system of public education is failing to develop the capacity of youth for effective citizenship. To meet the challenges to society caused by the explosion of technology, our constitutional democracy will need to be empowered by a vitality that is now nonexistent. The urgent need for thoughtful and engaged citizens inevitably will become more and more obvious.
The irony of the rise of technology / science that is giving humanity God-like power is that rather than becoming more important, STEM education will become less important. Civics education — the preparation of youth for active and effective citizenship — will replace STEM as the focus of public education. We have to hope this change of focus doesn’t happen too late.