Learning to Save the Future Rethinking Education and Work in an Era of Digital Capitalism
Mainstream economists and Silicon Valley entrepreneurs claim that unfettered capitalism and digital technology can unlock a future of unbounded prosperity, create endless high paying jobs, and solve the world’s vast social and ecological problems. Realizing this future of abundance purportedly rests in the transformation of human potential into innovative human capital through new 21st century forms of education. In this new book Alex Means challenges this view. Stagnating economic growth and runaway inequality have emerged as the ‘normal’ condition of advanced capitalism. Simultaneously, there has been a worldwide educational expansion and a growing surplus of college-educated workers relative to their demand in the world economy. This surplus is complicated by an emerging digital revolution driven by artificial intelligence and machine learning that generates worker displacing innovations and immaterial forms of labor and valorization.
Learning to Save the Future argues that rather than fostering mass intellectuality, educational development is being constrained by a value structure subordinated to 21st century capitalism and technology. Human capabilities from creativity, design, engineering, to communication are conceived narrowly as human capital, valued in terms of economic productivity and growth. Similarly, global problems such as the erosion of employment and climate change are conceived as educational problems to be addressed through business solutions and the digitalization of education. This thought-provoking account provides a cognitive map of this condition, offering alternatives through critical analyses of education and political economy, technology and labor, creativity and value, power and ecology.
Preface and Acknowledgements
Cancelling the Future
Ethics and Ideology
The Ticking Time Bomb
Education and the Common
Algorithmic Learning Machines
Displacement and Rupture
Capitalism and Mass Intellectuality
Learning to Save the Future is an elegant book that analyzes the logic of the new world of increasing complexity and interconnectivity that is digital capitalism to explore the future that depends upon the capacity of education. It is a bold vision that argues for an alternative set of values beyond a techno-economic determinism that revitalizes notions of emancipation, equality and human freedom. Alex Means has written a compelling book with wide appeal.
Michael A. Peters, Professor, Wilf Malcolm Institute of Educational Research, University of Waikato, New Zealand; Professor Emeritus, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, USA
Nervous about the future? You should be. Professor Means takes on the current dominant ideologies such as the faith that Silicon Valley and the creative class will rescue us from looming disasters resulting from technological and educational fixes that undermine our ability to think critically about the future. He deftly shows us how transforming education into a collaborative and just social process is central to avoiding a dystopian future and creating a world characterized by equality and democracy. A book to be read and reread for its many insights.
David Hursh, Professor, Warner Graduate School of Education and Human Development, University of Rochester, USA
"...the book is an important read for citizens concerned about democracy and the future of our world. Throughout the book, Means draws out the sometimes violent implications of educational solutionism, particularly how its moralization and individualization of racialized, gendered and classed structural inequities across a number of problem fields supports blaming marginalized groups for systemic inequities."
Chris Arthur, Postdigital Science and Education, 2019