[extropy-chat] Retraining (was: Turbulence of obsolesence)

Adrian Tymes wingcat at pacbell.net
Mon Apr 25 06:21:55 UTC 2005

--- Samantha Atkins <sjatkins at mac.com> wrote:
> Average intelligence people do not succeed
> in being educated into these fields even when young.

We may disagree on "can't" versus "won't" here, but I think we can
agree that is the core of the problem.

So, how do we solve it?

My suggested solution comes from the meaning of "won't" that lead to
the disagreement.  It appears that for these people to learn these
skills would violate no laws of physics, would not violate any
fundamental constraints of biology, and otherwise is technically
possible - the problem is that it fails to happen.

The usual motivating factors that one would usually assume to work in a
capitalist society - e.g., sustaining an income so one does not starve
- are failing to cause this to happen in far too many cases.

There are claims that they are of "average intelligence" and that this
somehow makes them biologically incapable of training.  These claims
appear to be unsupported by the evidence, since it has been documented
that people can and do change IQ, up and down, during their lifetimes
due in part to environmental effects, some of which are controlled by
the individual.  That said, the claims are perhaps correct with regards
to their present capabilities: i.e., they can not take to retraining
well unless and until some other circumstance is first taken care of
(which circumstance would result in raised "intelligence" by this same
metric).  So the problem then becomes identifying that circumstance:
what specific thing (not just vague "lack of intelligence") is keeping
them from picking up new skills?  What exactly, in detail, happens when
they try the same retraining that other (more "intelligent") people can
use to switch careers, that prevents them from doing so - and how can
that chain of events be prevented from going wrong?

To solve this will probably need a good knowledge of educational
methods, specifically why and how they work.  (Yes, there are problems,
but the current system is not a complete failure.)  New methods, or
maybe alterations of current methods, will be needed to meet current
needs.  There are people working on this issue, but the efforts do not
seem to be that coordinated, or usually coherent (beyond slapping a
"training" or "education" label on something that sometimes imparts new
knowledge, in search of profit or political correctness).

> Our educational institutions are a very large part
> of 
> the problem.  They are still geared to full-time programs requiring 
> years of investment to even get to the graduate level training.  Nor
> is 
> the training focused enough to easily accommodate adults seeking to 
> retrain.

This is very true.  While there are "vocational" schools, those
perhaps focus on excessively short-term items: for example, how to
write HTML as opposed to how to best communicate ideas using the Web
(which includes HTML writing and how pages look in different browsers,
but also patterns of communication, the Slashdot effect and its effect
on idea dispersal, viral marketing practices, dos and don'ts of
interactivity, and so forth).  This is not satisfactory for retraining
into any high level of competence - and the hypothetical 50 year old
we're talking about needs more than entry level wages.

> If we can truly achieve an abundant society then an adequate 
> living can be available for all whether or not they are employed.

The problem with that is, standards of abundance adjust depending on
what's available.  We live in an abundant society today, as measured by
most people of 1905 if they were given a fairly accurate picture of
life in 2005.  But we do not see it that way, because we're used to

The only general way out of this appears to be to ever increase the
abundance available, in excess of expectations.  That requires work.

> If we want people to embrace ultra high tech then we must show that 
> there is a workable way they and theirs will be able to live
> reasonably 
> well as the world changes.  If people see that obsolescence comes
> ever 
> sooner and that there is no plan for them to be ok when they are no 
> longer employable then count on real and quite rational fear and push
> back.

Very true, and the reason I brought this topic up in the first place.

> You assume that it is just a matter of the individual trying.

For a specific meaning of "trying", yes.  With enough of the right type
of effort, I posit that most individuals could suceed.  I also posit
that most individuals do not know what type of effort to apply - and,
critically, that *they do not even know how to find out*, or to find
out how to find out, et cetera.  This causes them to not "try".

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