Reform or divide

Now that job specializations are growing apace, governments of advanced countries now have the option of dividing into two populations or remaining as one.

Division always happens in a large enough population of a species if opportunities for survival become differentially graded from one end of its environment to the other. One part of the population becomes more skilful in taking advantage of one set of opportunities, gradually separating itself from the majority, while the other usually remains much as it was.

Today there is a premium on intelligence in the modern, increasingly competitive world, requiring high expertise in a growing number of specializations. If a government allows separate education systems to exist — private and state — such as occurred in England and half a dozen other advanced countries in the last 150 years, in which one is superior to the other, then an elite upper middle class population is clearly separating at the present time.

In England, initiated by a previous Labour government but continued since by Tory administrations, reform has begun but it’s difficult to judge whether they will be deep enough or fast enough. Speed of reform is, of course, important, because there has never been so much scientific research — and thus innovations — as ever before.

As there are no new consumer goods on the horizon – rich and poor alike in the advanced countries seem content with what they have now — nobody has any new ideas anyway! — then innovations will be channelled into sophisticated consumer services rather than goods — particularly in health and education — but mainly into production goods and methods. Prosaic though this sounds, it will have the effect of raising overall efficiency and thus standard of living.

Furthermore, because the bulk of scientific research is now going into biology then we will be moving away from a metals-based economy requiring high-intensity energy inputs towards a carbon-based economy, increasingly based on DNA-type algorithms needing only low intensity energy.

Not only that, but because such new materials require only atmospheric carbon dioxide and water as their main resources, goods will be now be able to be ‘grown’ in most parts of the earth which are receiving reasonable quantities of solar radiation.

Educational reforms in England are now only ten years old. It is going to need at least another 50 to judge whether they are successful. In practice, the time-slot is actually rather short compared with the rate of innovations that now impinges on us.  If educational reform is not fast enough and effective enough then the a distinctly two population England is here to stay — and intensify from now onwards.

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