Saturday, January 10, 2009

Off to see the wizard

Scott McLeod spoke to a group of us Friday explaining why "the jobs you're preparing students for don't exist anymore." He put together some convincing (and scary) data showing employment trends in various sectors. Not surprisingly, the knowledge and creative sectors are taking a bigger chunk out of the available jobs.

More college! More knowledge! More creative thinking! More brains!

We live in a culture that confounds intelligence with training. Our machines are evolving far faster than we can. There are some folks who think maybe amphetamines (Adderall) and modafinil (Provigil) should be considered to improve our productivity--coffee is the new gateway drug. (Both are used in children with attention deficit disorder--even children without ADHD can "benefit", if benefit means improving test scores.)

In the dead of winter, surrounded by walls, flooded by light powered by electrons manipulated by humans, I am drawn into the fray. I float into the monitor, drawn to voices and words and images. I am mesmerized by Emerald Cities, knocking on huge wooden doors with marvelous brass door knockers, hoping my shoes are shiny enough to get me inside the walls.

I scuffed up my shoes sandals a bit yesterday. I went fishing at Poverty Beach in Cape May. The sun hung low in the sky, softened by a threatening storm, as chilly waves rolled up over my feet, the edge of white foam contrasting with pinkening toes.

Nothing and everything makes sense outside. My neocortex cedes to the limbic system; vague surges of pleasure and fear and swirling memories fill my mind, silencing the narrator who usually processes the world for me. The sharp smells--life and death at the sea's edge--remind me I am more than my eyes.

Words cannot describe the world outside. We become the conversation started long before we could speak.

On days like yesterday, I forget the Emerald City exists. On days like yesterday, I forget "I" exist.

My sandy sandals next to the sliding glass patio door remind me that even in January, living is possible.


Barry Bachenheimer said...

Forget about the addrerral for creativity...I think you discovered the newest cure: hypothermia!


Mr. D said...

I was at the conference too, and was not too pleased that we could ask no questions of those are a few I typed right after he was done so I would not forget...

Are US labor costs going to remain high relative to other countries?

What if the current economic crisis forces the dollar lower and weakens our standing in the world?

How many “creative” people can there be? How do you know it is not going to plateau as well?

If the economy recovers, there is likely to be energy shortages or at the very least, much higher energy costs. How will that affect you assumptions?

Quick and dirty, I should probably refine them, but it is what I would have said if I had the chance.

30 year projections scare me...

as an example, I overheard that some schools are teaching Mandarin. Wasn't Japan gonna take over the world 30 years ago? How did that turn out? The world is way too complex for these charts to be dictating ed policy...

doyle said...

Judging by the energy level of the presenters at the conference, caffeine seems sufficient.

My feet are ridiculously impervious to the cold. The rest of me, however, likes to keep toasty.

@Mr. D,
I agree it was a little frustrating that we had no real conversation with Dr. McLeod, but I think his points served well as an appetizer to the meat of the conference. You might consider asking your questions on his blog.

I'll take a stab at some anyway:

1) We cannot continue to "grow" economically as we have--there are finite limits to resources.

2) Just about all of us can be creative, though most of us will not be able to gain sufficient cash this way. We WILL be able to gain a happier life, though.

3) Up until WWII, we managed to get by on a lot less--most of the world still does. Real economics ultimately get down to what you can take (and give back) to the ground.

What we're doing economically now will now work in the long-term. A big chunk of the current job market requires wiping someone else's arse--won't kill us to learn how to wipe our own.

(Might even be a plus....)

Barry Bachenheimer said...

we had given Dr. McLeod strict instructions to keep it to 5 we wouldn;t upset the timing for the rest of the conference. With our sound glitch, we killed the 10 extra minutes we had built in. Sorry!

I will however forward your questions to him and post a response on my blog at