Why Everyone Will Pursue Liberal Arts In An Automated Future

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Liberal Arts is the future.

The future, by the way, is not the future everyone talks about. It’s not about automating everything. That future is now. In that future, even automation is going to be automated. That includes engineering and math. So humanity’s future is not in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education jobs.

Or any jobs.

Yeah, automatons will need humans. Even Elon Musk admits it. But will those jobs still be attractive when far more interesting – and fulfilling – opportunities in self-examination and self exploration abound? How about when jobs become optional?

Optional jobs: that future is coming too. Maybe not for everyone at first. But it will be for everyone. And soon.

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The final frontier is not space. It’s not the oceans. It’s definitely not technology. The final frontier is human.

So, the future we’re talking about is the future coming after the automation of everything. It’s a future where humanity gets serious about knowing itself.

What kinds of education will be valuable in that future? Liberal Arts and Spirituality education. For now, let’s put spirituality aside.

Liberal Arts are the bedrock of human exploration and expression. Human exploration and expression are the real future. It always has been this way and will always be. STEM jobs are expediencies. STEM enables humanity getting on with its favorite passion: navel gazing.

Nothing fascinates humanity more than itself. We’re not going to recount humanity’s historic naval-gazing preoccupation. It’s human nature. All of civilization, from the single individual to the largest swath of humanity, is about understanding what human is and expressing that.

But humanity won’t fully know itself while preoccupied with bullshit jobs and earning a living. And yes, even some STEM jobs are bullshit.

Just because you make something doesn’t mean the making of it is worthwhile.

In an automated world, it makes no sense to preserve human jobs, when humans’ number one obsession (themselves) can keep people productive, engaged and happy well after the cows have come home, hell ices over, pigs are flying and the Rubenesque lady done sang.

Andrew Yang, democratic presidential hopeful running on a UBI platform, recently tweeted an Atlantic story decrying the end of Liberal Arts.

Yang blog

The article details an ongoing internal struggle at the University of Wisconsin. Administrators and faculty feel pressure to switch from the “search for truth”, which is what Liberal Arts are all about, to “meet[ing] the state’s workforce needs.”

It’s a confounding struggle. One that is yet to be decided.

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Why are tech jobs, or any jobs threatening Liberal Arts? Humanity can eliminate most jobs and be better for it. Yet leaders are stuck thinking jobs are what people want and need.

But they aren’t.

David Graeber a noted anthropologist, author and university professor agrees.

“[There’s] the general philosophy that work—no matter what—is always good. The one thing that the political left and right often both agree on is that more jobs are always a solution to any problem. They don’t say “good” jobs that actually do something. So when you’re a supply-side conservative saying we need to give tax cuts to job creators, you don’t talk about what kind of jobs you’re hoping to create. And then there’s the left-wing person talking about how we need more jobs to support hardworking families…”

Focusing on the high-tech future is short-sighted. Trying to maintain human jobs is too. Jobs, especially ones supplying a wage or income, are becoming as cave walls were after humans figured paper out. It’s time we start seriously looking at the real future.

That future is not jobs. Or STEM.

STEM is an interim step to the future. Of course, corporations like Intel and Apple pour a lot of money into “STEMifying” school systems. Make no mistake: these are self-serving investments. They aren’t about the future. They are about now: keeping qualified employees streaming from university campuses.

Nothing wrong with that.

But while corporate leaders literally shape school agendas, policy makers could be focusing on a broader topic: how to allow a civilization to go where an automated, technically enhanced humanity wants to go: where jobs are obsolete and human passion and self-actualization direct human activity, energy and focus. In other words, a spiritual future.

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STEM education investments serve corporate high tech companies most. But STEM jobs, like many bullshit jobs, are not all personally fulfilling. (Photo: Markus Spiske)

Or, policy makers can become irrelevant. Like jobs.

It’s unfair to say all corporate leaders want to phase out Liberal Arts education. It may even be unfair to say some do. The Atlantic article notes employers are loath to choose between a person with a technical background or a person with a Liberal Arts background. They want both.

But people will give up traditional income-paying jobs when a traditional income no longer stands between that person and getting their needs met.

What will corporations do then? We know. But that’s a different story.

Perhaps the paradox of the past is while employers and employees alike focus on jobs and their educational prerequisites, both may be positioning themselves to be out of whack with the future. Most of humanity is myopic. So long as they’re up on the latest sports score, movie, or presidential tweet, they’re good.

Meanwhile the visionaries get on with making the impossible possible. The old saw fits here: Those who say it can’t be done shouldn’t bother those doing it.

Keep busy binge-watching Blindspot.

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Total automation may not come suddenly, but for some it’s going to seem that way. The “some” are those who didn’t see it coming and thus didn’t prepare. They’ll swear it happened over night. Like streaming video.

The good news is, the way we are structuring society, with healthcare, education, shelter and more provided to all at no cost and with the ability for anyone to do virtually anything and generate wealth for themselves, even the unprepared will be just fine.

Properly applied, a Liberal Arts education can enable one to fully explore their human potential. But people can’t properly apply said education when they are too busy “earning” a living. Earning a living is mankind’s greatest fallacy.

And a big reason so many try to preserve jobs. They believe the falsehood. That’s why we’re offering humanity a different approach. We think a better one.

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