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Riding the Matthew Effect into Uncertainty

How Traditional Schooling Risks Amplifying Inequality in an Age of AI and Job Loss

· education,schooling,AI,robotization,loss of jobs

"Every Night & every Morn
Some to Misery are Born
Every Morn and every Night
Some are Born to sweet delight
Some are Born to sweet delight
Some are Born to Endless Night"

Auguries of Innocence

In the grit of human life, we're caught in an unyielding cycle. Call it the Matthew Effect, drawn from the pages of an ancient text. Some folks keep winning; others can't escape the wheel of loss. We often blame individual spirit or psychological quirks, but the reality is the soil from which you grow matters just as much, if not more. In this essay, we look not just across age groups but within them, using the notion of "aged diversity" as our lens. What we find adds muscle to Merton’s idea that your initial hand dealt in life compounds in value, for better or worse.

In simpleterms, the Matthew Effect is the snowball at the top of the hill that keeps gathering size and speed. If you've got friends, wealth, or just plain luck at the beginning, life's game becomes easier to play. It's not just some academic term; it's in our schools, our workplaces, our institutions. It's why the well-known scientist gets the award while the grad student who did all the work gets a nod if they're lucky.

The idea isinspired by a recurring theme found in the synoptic Gospels, specifically noted in Table 2 of the Eusebian Canons. This recurring theme is explicitly articulated in two different parables in both Matthew and Luke: "In Matthew 25:29 (RSV), the parable of the talents suggests that the one who already possesses will be given more, while the one who has little will lose even that."

"Luke19:26 (RSV) reiterates this message, stating that those who have will receive more, while those who don't will lose whatever they possess."

The conceptis also highlighted in two of the three synoptic accounts of the parable of the lamp under a bushel, although it's not mentioned in Matthew's version:

"Accordingto Mark 4:25 (RSV), having something leads to gaining more, whereas having nothing results in losing even that nothing."

"Luke8:18 (RSV) adds another layer to this concept, cautioning that how one listens could determine whether they gain or lose."

Lastly, Matthew revisits this theme outside the context of a parable when Jesus is explaining the purpose of parables to His disciples: "In Matthew 13:11-12 (RSV), it's noted that understanding the 'secrets of the kingdom of heaven' is a form of 'having,' and those who 'have' this understanding will receive more, while those who do not will lose even what they think they have."

The recurrent nature of this theme in the synoptic Gospels suggests its significance in the teachings presented.

Norman W.Storer, a guy out of Columbia, stretched the idea. He found that the same kind of inequality you see among egghead scientists happens in other systems too. The parable of talents and Jesus's other teachings are woven into this concept, hammering the point home: what you have will grow, and what you lack will diminish.

Take the experiment where they manipulated download counts. People chased what already seemed popular. Or consider careers in both science and professional sports. A few run the whole distance, enjoying long, fruitful careers, while many more wash out early. It's not just luck or skill, but the inertia from those first successes.

A more basic teaching than Christianity, Judaism is aware of this issue well before a young Nazareth rebbai has attempted to simplify a bulky and obsolete teaching to make it understanable to a wider circle of people and eliminate the unnessecary and often harmful layer of clerics from the religion: the Torah emphasizes the importance of social justice, including the fair treatment of workers, equal application of laws, and the provision of charity for the less fortunate (e.g., Deuteronomy 15:7-11). It also has the concept of "tzedakah," which is often translated as "charity" but has broader implications around righteousness and justice.

Jewish law also introduces concepts like the "Jubilee Year," a sabbatical year that happens every 50 years where debts are forgiven, and land is returned to its original owners (Leviticus 25). This could be seen as a way of resetting some of the accumulated inequalities that might parallel the Matthew Effect.

The principle of justice ("tzedek") is pervasive in Jewish teachings and could serve as a counterpoint to the kind of self-perpetuating inequalities seen in the Matthew Effect.

And it gets darker. Steven Pinker talks about a feedback loop in societies, one that makes bad places worse and good ones better. The precariousness of your environment dictates how you act, making you either short-sighted or forward-thinking. The real trouble starts when this thing gets built into the very machines supposed to be neutral. Artificial intelligence can be as biased as the data it learns from, perpetuating this Matthew Effect in ways that are subtle but corrosive.

Now, think about our schools. Kids who catch on to reading early just keep doing better, while those who lag, lag for life. They're caught in a spiral; their failure to thrive academically starts eating into other areas of their life. This same effect has even made it to courtrooms, proving that early intervention is crucial, and the absence of it is a form of harm.

If you're one of the nodes in a network, say, the Internet, early connections make you more visible, easier to find, and so you keep making more connections.

The marketisn't free from this either. The more popular a product, the more it sells, creating monopolies not always based on quality but sheer visibility.

In the end,understanding the Matthew Effect isn't just academic. It's about identifying these unseen currents that shape our lives, for better or worse. And once we see them, maybe, just maybe, we can do something about it.

The topic presented above is a significant issue in academic and research funding, and progression of scientific research and innovation. The "Matthew effect" essentially leads to a form of social and academic inertia where those with initial advantages continue to accumulate benefits at the expense of those without.

This phenomenon has multiple consequences:

1. Reduced Diversity of Ideas: Whenfunding continues to go to the same set of researchers, there's a risk that the range of questions being explored in science becomes limited.

2. Inequality and Disparity: This cyclecan contribute to an increasing concentration of resources among a limited group of people, which can also exacerbate existing inequalities in the system.

3. Demotivation among New Entrants:Knowing that past success significantly influences future funding can deter young and potentially groundbreaking researchers from even entering the competition for grants.

4. Efficiency Concerns: If funding isnot strictly allocated based on the merit of the project but also the past success of the individual, there is a risk that money may not be used in the most effective manner possible.

5. Ethical Concerns: This system can beconsidered unfair, as it perpetuates a cycle of privilege. It's also problematic if it's not the quality of the work that determines future success, but rather past accolades.

Overall, addressing the Matthew effect in scientific funding would likely involve a multi-pronged approach that includes changes in policy, practice, and culture. Only by actively working against these entrenched patterns can we hope to create a more equitable and dynamic scientific community.

Solution: Fostering Creative and Adaptive Mindsets through Interdisciplinary Education and Real-world Problem Solving

The Program Design:

1. Interdisciplinary Curriculum:Encourage an educational system that doesn't just teach individual subjects but shows the connections between them. For example, how does literature relate to social justice, or how can math help us solve environmental issues?

2. Real-world Problem Solving: Insteadof traditional homework assignments and exams, evaluation would be project-based and focused on solving real-world problems that don’t necessarily have a "correct" solution.

3. Self-Directed Learning: Let childrenpursue their interests, even if they fall outside the usual academic subjects. This can inspire them to discover their unique path, avoiding the overcrowded
roads of established success.

4. Mentorship and Community: Engagecommunity leaders, entrepreneurs, and other non-traditional role models to mentor these young minds, showing them the array of possibilities that lie beyond conventional career paths.

5. Ethical and Critical Thinking: Teachstudents how to think, not what to think. Instill ethical easoning and critical thinking as core aspects of the curriculum.

6. Failure as a Learning Tool: Insteadof punishing failure, use it as an opportunity for growth, teaching resilience and adaptability.

7. Technology and Humanity: Incorporatelessons on the ethical use of technology, the value of uman-centric roles, and the importance of adaptability in a rapidly changing world.

Why This Is Urgent:

1. Job Market Shifts: With advancementsin AI, robotics, and automation, it's predicted that 80% of existing jobs may be obsolete in the next few years.

2. Increased Competition: As traditionalpathways become more crowded, the competition becomes fiercer, leading some to unethical practices just to get ahead.

3. Psychological Toll: The stress ofcompeting in known domains of success can take a severe psychological toll, leading to burnout, depression, and other mental health issues.

4. Global Challenges: We are facingunprecedented challenges that require innovative solutions, from climate change to social inequality.

Conclusion: A Shift in Educational Priorities

Thetraditional educational model, with its focus on rote learning and standardized testing, is ill-suited to prepare children for this unpredictable future. Schools should transition from being 'knowledge factories' to 'innovation incubators'. This involves not just a change in curriculum but also a shift in mindset among educators, parents, and students.

Instead of teaching children to navigate known paths of success, which are not only overcrowded but also increasingly fraught with ethical pitfalls and uncertainty, we should be equipping them with the tools to forge their own paths. The benefits of such an educational system go beyond job security; they encompass mental well-being, ethical grounding, and the capacity for innovative thought. With the rapid changes brought about by technology, there's no time to waste.

The time to overhaul our educational system is now.


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