The factory is empty. Schools make factory workers. Now what?
In his manifesto on teaching and learning, Seth Godin points out that
Factories didn’t happen because there were schools; schools happened because there were factories.
The reason so many people grow up to look for a job is that the economy has needed people who would grow up to look for a job.
Jobs were invented before workers were invented.
In the post-job universe, workers aren’t really what we need more of, but schools remain focused on yesterday’s needs.
Seth Godin, Stop Stealing Dreams
In the early 1900’s the US lead the way to industry. We created something completely new: the idea of mass production, interchangeable parts, interchangeable assembly line workers. The artisan was no longer required to build cars, or toothbrushes. Through this innovation, everyone gained access to more, plenty. The result was the most prosperous century in the history of the world.
A hundred years later, the US no longer holds the monopoly on factories. We’ve led the way, and others have followed. This isn’t a bad thing. The world has raced to the bottom: who can make a toothbrush the cheapest?
Now, we are free to develop a new idea. Creative destruction is never pleasant, but I don’t think anyone would argue that they miss the jobs lost to the cotton gin.
A common theme in Utopian literature and film is that technology has reduced the need for people to do many tasks. They are no longer needed to cook, clean, perform surgery, build houses. Yet most of these stories act as warnings, not beacons of hope.
In the post-industrial utopian society, identity is lost. Everyone wears a jumpsuit. Your role in society is decided by a central authority which seeks to optimize. In many of these stories, people are given numbers rather than names.
And in every one of them, the central authority tries to keep things running smoothly by crushing art, individualism, and passion. Pretty bleak.
Fact: we live in a society that is post-industrial. Our great idea panned out perfectly and is in the process of reaching its natural conclusion. Everyone has everything (at least in terms of wants/needs of the early 1900’s, which are what industrialism can provide).
Its time to create the next great idea. What is it?
Maybe it has something to do with connection (the internet). Maybe the next great idea involves doing the opposite of what Utopia warns against.
We’re living in a moment of time, the first moment of time, when a billion people are connected, when your work is judged (more than ever before) based on what you do rather than who you are, and when credentials, access to capital, and raw power have been dwarfed by the simple question “Do I care about what you do?”
We build this world for you. Not so you would watch more online videos, keep up on your feeds, and LOL with your high school friends. We built it so you could do what you’re capable of. Without apology and without excuse.
Seth Godin, The Icarus Deception
We don’t need to fit the mold, we need artists. We don’t need more interchangeable workers, we need customizers. We don’t need teachers, we need guides to show us how to live out our passions. We don’t need to create a solution for everyone, we need to create a unique solution for someone.