Emerging technologies, education, and the income gap

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Technologies and industries do not emerge in isolation—as science and technology professors Braden R. Allenby and Daniel R. Sarewitz observe in their book “The Techno-human Condition”—but instead are coupled with complex social and natural systems. “Coupled” means that a change in one situation, such as the emergence of a new technology, will cause changes in both the social and natural systems.1 “Complex” means that these changes are hard to predict because of the nature of complex systems. Ever-greater complexity defines today’s emerging technologies, and as they emerge, they could end up supporting a social system that emphasizes merit or instead one that makes it more difficult for low- and middle-income people to achieve success.

The question is how to create social systems that maximize the opportunity for those not at the very top of the economic spectrum to succeed. Income disparities interfere with economic growth, argues Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz, in part because talented, motivated people who could add value to society are not given a fair shake at showing what they could do.2 The “History of Technology” series published by the Washington Center for Equitable Growth over the past few months delves into where the introduction of new technologies in the recent past resulted in more equitable economic growth and sustained job creation, opening avenues for many workers to contribute meaningfully to economic growth—even though the disruptions to social systems caused by these technologies were often jarring and widespread.

In my closing essay for this series, I will hazard some thoughts about how newly emerging technologies today may play out in our social and natural systems, examining in particular how new educational systems could help ensure the wide and widening income gap in the United States is reversed rather than attenuated by the complexity of new technologies. I take some comfort from the presentation of the other papers in this series and my own view of the emerging use of telephones nearly a century and a half ago that the net result of today’s emerging technologies will be positive. Yet I also see there are other, less benign paths that our society and nation could take when one looks at today’s technologies.

The case of the telephone

Most inventors in the early 1870s thought that the “reverse salient” in communications technology was bandwidth, meaning that only two messages could be sent down the same telegraph wire at the same time.3 Alexander Graham Bell thought the transmission of speech would be transformative, and after a long series of relatively simple experiments, he obtained a patent for any device that would produce what he called an undulatory (sinusoidal) current.4 Speech was of no interest to Elisha Gray—Bell’s rival—and Gray’s backers at Western Union, nor to Thomas Edison, who developed a superior telephone transmitter but was blocked by a patent obtained by the new Bell Corporation. Western Union then turned down the opportunity to buy the fledgling Bell Corporation, and the latter’s telephone gained market share over the former’s telegraph system, especially after the invention of the switchboard.

Were telegraph operators deprived of jobs because of the switch to a new technology? Telegraph operating was a prized skill in the early 1870s, much like modern-day web design. Telegraph operators like Edison in his youth could show up in almost any city and get a job. The need for such operators declined over the period of the telephone’s growth, but telegraphy had always been a technology needed by many for occasional use—except for businesses and government—whereas the telephone was a technology needed by many and used far more often because one could do it from one’s home, not a telegraph office.

One of the best outcomes of telephony was a growth in employment for women, who had trouble breaking into the business of operating telegraphs but were far more successful at taking over the operation of telephone switchboards. Women also became heavy users of the telephone.5 So the telegraph-to-telephone transition was not disruptive for employment even though it did lead to the rise of the Bell Telephone Company and the decline of Western Union and slowly changed the way people communicated with each other.6

Telephones were originally owned mostly by the wealthy, as illustrated in 1936 when the Liberty Digest infamously predicted that Republican presidential candidate Alf Landon would defeat Franklin Delano Roosevelt in a virtual landslide, based on a poll of telephone users. That year, 60 percent of the highest wage earners in the United States had telephones but only 20 percent of the lowest earners—and those who were wealthy were more inclined toward Landon. By 1941, 100 percent of families making $10,000 or more had phones, as opposed to only 12 percent of families making less than $500. By 1970, only the poorest American households did not have phones.7 As a result, telephone polling because much more accurate.

Emerging technologies as of 2015

Carl Benedikt Frey and Michael A. Osborne, both of the University of Oxford, argue that computers have hollowed out middle-income jobs, with the lower income going to services and the higher incomes going to people who work with computers and people on functions such as management.8 This pattern will change as computers do lower-end service jobs. Websites are already replacing the function of travel agents, robots can automate manufacturing and potentially much of the fast food industry, and self-driving vehicle technology could eliminate the need for truck drivers. The roles of cashiers and telemarketers might be replaced by software that could handle a wide range of verbal queries. Even infrastructure jobs are at risk as robot manufacturing plants could build bridges designed to be dropped into place, and perhaps automated trucks could drive them there, potentially reducing the number of humans involved. According to Frey and Osborne, 47 percent of existing jobs may disappear as a result.

These changes will exacerbate the rich/poor divide because high-skill and high-wage employment is one of the classes of jobs that cannot be automated. These jobs depend on social intelligence such as the ability of chief executives to confer with board members, coordinate people, negotiate agreements, and generally run the affairs of companies.9 Before the stock market collapse in 2008, CEOs in the United States were paid on average 240 times the salary of workers in their industries—on the grounds that it took this kind of pay to attract and retain this kind of talented leadership.10 Is the social intelligence of a CEO worth this kind of premium?

CEOs benefit from what the 20th century American sociologist Robert K. Merton labeled the Matthew effect: “the rich get richer at a rate that makes the poor become relatively poorer.”11 Merton was thinking primarily about scientists; those awarded Nobel prizes get much more credit for their contributions than relatively unknown scientists who make similar contributions. As one of the laureates Merton interviewed said, “The world … tends to give the credit to [already] famous people.”12 “The world” in this case refers to the social world in which the scientists do their work, including their peers, the funding agencies, the press, policymakers, and politicians. A similar phenomenon may exist in the case of the CEO who went to the right business school, made the right connections, burnished her or his reputation at every opportunity, and finally arrived at the top.

Is what a CEO knows really 200 times more valuable than what the average worker knows? For the late Steve Jobs of Apple Inc., Bill Gates of Microsoft Corp., and the legendary investor Warren Buffett, it probably is. But then there are corporate executives like Ken Lay and Jeff Skilling, who took over a successful pipeline company they renamed Enron and ruined it because they encouraged unethical business practices that masked whether their company was really making any money.13 Similarly, Bernie Ebbers, the CEO of WorldCom, accumulated huge debts by growing his company through acquisitions until there was nothing else to acquire, and then his accountants started fudging results so the stock price would stay high.14

Indeed, in both of these cases and in many others, such as the collapse of Value America, the CEOs focused on keeping the stock price high instead of paying attention to whether their companies were actually making money.15 All were at one time or another praised as business geniuses. The social intelligence possessed by some CEOs may be the ability to create their own Matthew effects through relentless self-promotion.

Convergent technologies to enhance human performance

Nanotechnology in combination with advances in medicine, information technology, and robotics will be transformative.16 Machine learning algorithms are now trading on Wall Street at nanosecond speed, far beyond the capacity of the human nervous system, which suggests that human traders will soon be obsolete.17 Consider the possibility of reproducing organs on 3-D printers, or neural-device interfaces that allow the brain to control devices, or developing cochlear implants that enhance hearing, or extending the human lifespan through a combination of technologies, including genetic modification of human embryos.18

Or just consider what IBM’s Watson supercomputer has already accomplished, beating all but one former champion in the game of Jeopardy!—the lone exception being physicist and former Congressman Rush Holt (D-NJ). Jeopardy! requires contestants to guess the questions that produced answers visible to all players. Colloquial language and puns are often used in the answers. Speed is essential; the quickest one to identify the question wins.  Watson solves the problem by using its computing power to analyze multiple possible solutions in parallel, matching language patterns to a huge database of documents.

Watson therefore outperforms humans in the same way that its predecessor at IBM, Deep Blue, beats chess grandmasters—by exploring millions more options than a human can. Could computers someday begin to scaffold human social intelligence by, say, looking rapidly for socially appropriate responses to a query in a cross-cultural situation? Here, computational tools become expert assistants, not only in situations where mathematical or scientific problems need to be solved but also in social situations. Such enhancements could be so expensive that only the rich could afford them, turning the income gap into a capability gap so large that the rich become almost another species.

Technologies can create momentum in a direction, but they do not determine our futures. As Seth Finkelstein, programmer and winner of the Electronic Frontier Foundation Pioneer Award, notes:

The technodeterminist-negative view, that automation means jobs loss, end of story, versus the technodeterminist-positive view, that more and better jobs will result, both seem to me to make the error of confusing potential outcomes with inevitability. Thus, a technological advance by itself can either be positive or negative for jobs, depending on the social structure as a whole….this is not a technological consequence; rather it’s a political choice.19

In short, technology creates new opportunities for success and failure for a society dedicated to equal opportunity.

Bands that cannot sign with a record label can put up a website and a YouTube video and get a following. The website Kickstarter allows people to get funding for their newest ideas.  Cell phones can be used to start businesses and organize revolutions—or instead become tools for oppression and misinformation. Will cognitive aids become as ubiquitous as cell phones, with universal translators, sensory enhancements, and neural-computational interfaces available to all? Or will these technologies be priced and marketed and controlled so that only elites can obtain them?

The key is governance mechanisms that promote equal opportunity. One means is quality education for all, which would include access to these and other newly emerging technologies alongside instructions on how to take advantage of them.

Education and the income gap

“The path from poverty to the middle class has changed—now it runs through higher education,” argued journalist Jim Tankersley of The Washington Post in a series on education and economic growth and opportunity.20 Take the case of Darren Walker. He was born in a charity hospital. Head Start gave him an early jump into education and Pell grants paid much of his tuition at the University of Texas. He is now president of the Ford Foundation. “Even at 8 or 9 years old, I knew that America wanted me to succeed, [but] the mobility escalator has simply stopped for some Americans,” Walker told a reporter recently. “We fix it by recommitting ourselves to the idea of public education. We have the capacity. The question is, do we have the will?”21

The author Joshua Davis in his 2014 book “Spare Parts: Four Undocumented Teenagers, One Ugly Robot, and the Battle for the American Dream” tells how four children of immigrants from Mexico went to Carl Hayden Community High School in East Phoenix, where they formed a robotics team with the help of two dedicated teachers and won a robot competition against college teams that included one from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.22 Members of the second-place MIT team got prestigious positions. Only one of the Carl Hayden boys finished college, graduating from Arizona State University and then going back to Mexico to apply for U.S. citizenship, which he received after his case became famous. He served his adopted country by joining the U.S. Army.

Equal educational opportunity is one of the best ways to provide more options to those at the bottom of the economic ladder—if a society can guarantee access to a good education for all. According to the Pew Research Center:

On virtually every measure of economic well-being and career attainment—from personal earnings to job satisfaction to the share employed full time—young college graduates are outperforming their peers with less education. And when today’s young adults are compared with previous generations, the disparity in economic outcomes between college graduates and those with a high school diploma or less formal schooling has never been greater in the modern era.23

Poverty has the same effect. Harvard University economist Amartya Sen describes poverty as “unfreedom” because the poor have limited options. He tells the story of a Muslim who found work on a house in a Hindu neighborhood and had to go there on a day when there were anti-Muslim riots because his family lived day to day off his income. The man was stabbed in the back and died.24

Less violently, the smallest disruption in their meager incomes can cause lower-income students in the United States to drop out of college in order to find work, especially if they have already amassed significant debt from loans. And this unfreedom extends to other levels of education. In Charlottesville, I sent my three sons through public school and their education and opportunities were as good as anyone who went through one of the private schools I could not have afforded. But our schools were full of middle-class kids whose parents were committed to education and could make sure their children were well fed and dressed.

In contrast, Sonya Romero-Smith, an elementary school teacher at Lew Wallace Elementary in Albuquerque, begins the day with “an inventory of immediate needs: Did you eat? Are you clean? A big part of my job is making [the children] feel safe.”25 Fifty-one percent of public school children in the United States today live in poverty. “A child in a high-poverty school faces multiple handicaps in mastering foundational skills,” explain professors Frank Levy of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Richard Murnane of Harvard University in their book “Dancing with Robots: Human Skills for Computerized Work.” These handicaps include “a majority of classmates with weak, preschool preparation, students transferring in and out of class during the year, and a low chance of being taught by a stable set of skilled teachers who work together to improve instruction over an extended period of time.”26

Nevada just passed a law providing vouchers equivalent to the amount the state spends to educate a public school student (about $5,700) that could be applied to private school tuition instead.27 But the vouchers would not cover the cost of most private schools, which means middle-class families could move out of the public schools, leaving the poor behind.  The only fair voucher program would admit students to private schools need-blind, so the poor could go for the price of the public school stipend. Even in this situation, the poorer students would be less prepared academically, and might not make the admission requirements. The rationale for voucher programs is that they increase choice. What the proponents ignore is Amartya Sen’s maxim: Poverty reduces freedom. Vouchers therefore have the potential to accelerate the gap between rich and poor.

The same is true for state universities, which are subsidized to provide a merit-based path to higher education. But even a top public school student from Virginia who gets into the University of Virginia may have trouble paying for it because the state, like many other states, has drastically reduced its support to all of its universities and colleges.28

But education is not only important for the economy, it is also important for security. Back in 1947, the President’s Scientific Research Board advised that “the security and prosperity of the United States depend today, as never before, upon the rapid extension of scientific knowledge. So important, in fact, has this extension become to our country that it may reasonably be said to be a major factor in national survival.”29 The security issue in 1947 was the emerging Cold War. The launch of Sputnik by the Soviet Union furthered the emphasis on science education, but focused it more on graduate education: To beat the Soviets, America needed to have elite scientists and engineers.

The civil rights era brought a renewed emphasis on lower-income students.30 But in 1980, the Reagan administration cut back on funding for lower-income students to attend college.At the present time, federally guaranteed loans have become the most available support for lower-income students, which encourages these students to begin college but drop out when the first financial emergency occurs. Between 2004 and 2012, there was a 70 percent increase in both the number of students taking out loans for college and the average outstanding balance for each student.31 The Lumina Foundation has developed a Rule of 10: Families should pay for college with 10 percent of their discretionary income saved over 10 years, and students should work 10 hours a week in college. But college costs have risen 45 percent over the past decade while household incomes have declined by about 7 percent.32

Student debt can affect decisions about when (and whether) to buy a home and get married, and can also delay putting aside money for retirement. If the education results in a better job, then the investment was worth it, but for those trying to rise out of poverty, loans impose a significant additional burden.

Is distance education a solution?

Distance education has the potential to lower the barriers to education by allowing a student from virtually any part of the world to take a course from a top-ranked university for free. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology, for example, has an Open Courseware website.33 This kind of education is reminiscent of the great Open University programs in the United Kingdom, which used to be broadcast free over the radio. Alas, obtaining an online degree from the Open University now costs roughly $8,000 a year.

At the other end of the education spectrum, Sesame Street in the United States has produced educational benefits similar to Head Start programs, though the former cannot replicate the latter’s family support and health benefits.34 Yet if Sesame Street can provide valuable, free education for preschoolers, could distance learning do the same for adults? Universities including Stanford University and the University of Virginia are providing free courses over the Internet, as are companies such as Udacity, Inc., Coursera Inc., and edX Inc. But no one has figured out a revenue model that will at least cover the costs of these courses, which include faculty and graduate teaching assistant hours and continuously evolving technologies.35

At universities, at least some classes or modules should be directed toward future workforce capabilities. The adaptations could vary with majors. For humanities majors, it might be sufficient for them to gain knowledge about emerging technologies and how to work with them. For engineers, it might be sufficient knowledge to work with those with business, law, and humanities backgrounds. This ability to work across disciplines is referred to as T-shaped expertise, where the vertical bar of the T is expertise in a discipline like history or computer science and the horizontal bar is additional disciplines whose language and practices the T-shaped expert can understand. Team-teaching across disciplines and interdiscipinary projects are two ways of enhancing both T-shaped expertise and the ability to acquire it.36 Universities have become increasingly bureaucratized and siloed in ways that make such collaboration more difficult.

I teach a seminar37 that includes students from parts of Virginia too far for them to commute to campus.38 They join the course online, and participate as fully as possible in the discussion. The courses are writing and speaking intensive, and one involves a role-playing simulation of the National Nanotechnology Initiative in which the students play roles that include:

  • Congress
  • Regulatory agencies like the Food and Drug Administration or the Environmental Protection Agency
  • Funding agencies such as the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA, and the National Science Foundation and National Institutes of Health
  • Established companies and entrepreneurial startups
  • University laboratories
  • Non-governmental organizations such as the Project on Emerging Technologies at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars
  • A NanoPost newspaper

The simulation requires students to set short- and long-term strategic goals for the National Nanotechnology Initiative and then play roles involved in achieving those goals.

In these simulations, laboratories seek funding for technologies from the funding agencies and decide which nanotechnologies to create, in cooperation or competition with each other. Congress decides how much funding to give the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, DARPA, and the regulatory agencies, and meets regularly with its scientific and commercial constituents, considering their views. Non-governmental organizations use various strategies to encourage or block technologies. Companies try to get patents and make other groups pay to use the technologies they own.

Students build their own technology roadmap, continually negotiating about what goals ought to be included. These technologies are put on a tree similar to those used in games such as the Civilization series.39 The goal is to give the engineering students enough T-shaped expertise to work with policymakers, funding agencies, non-governmental organizations, and regulators by providing them with vicarious experience.

My distance-learning students can talk and send messages to students in the classroom, but the engagement is far from seamless and in no case can students see each other over a distance. Lowering the cost of online technologies could make courses like this into full seminar experiences that could be taken anywhere.

There are other ways to facilitate distance learning. There will always be free media—think TED talks and YouTube videos. But education is important in learning how to tell which among the proliferation of web sources are based on sound research. Those in poverty also have less access to reliable, high-speed Internet.40 How will they gain the skills necessary to benefit from online learning opportunities—even if they can find time away from one or more low-paying jobs and get to a library with a public computer? How will they be able to participate in a learning community like my nanotechnology policy class?

Students need education that fosters the ability to learn and adapt to potentially disruptive changes in the nature of work, not education that is too focused on current employment. The National Nanotechnology Initiative, for example, is premised on providing social benefits as well as scientific and technological advances—especially programs to train the existing workforce for new jobs in a rapidly growing industry.

Community colleges could play a major role in this kind of training, though efforts to date have not been very promising. Consider the example of NanoInk, a company that was inspired by the nano visions of researchers at Northwestern University and manufactured apparatus for nano applications outside of Chicago for 10 years. The hope was to establish a nano corridor in an old industrial area. To prepare workers, Oakton Community College introduced a nano-focused curriculum. But after 10 years, NanoInk’s major backer pulled out, concluding that the financial returns were too slow and would continue to be too small.41 The students who had taken the nano curriculum at Oakton Community College did not graduate into a local nano economy where their skills would be at a premium.

Education needs to prepare students for a lifetime of learning, gaining new skills and knowledge to shape the opportunities created by the emergence of new sociotechnical systems. Support for this kind of adaptability should come from industry as well as government. IBM Corp., for example, is supporting conferences on education for T-shaped expertise.42 Chieh Huang, the CEO of Boxed, a mobile commerce startup, will pay college tuition for the children of his employees out of his stake in the company.43

But all of these efforts are no substitute for federal, state, and local funding of education: Support for universities, secondary and primary schools in most states is lower than before the Great Recession of 2007–2009.44 These funding cuts have also hurt state economies because of widespread layoffs of teachers and staff members as schools shrink their budgets. Education cannot correct all lack of freedoms experienced by those in poverty;45 however, as the co-evolution between technology and society accelerates, the value of education also accelerates.

—Michael Gorman is a professor in the Department of Engineering and Society at the University of Virginia, where he teaches courses on ethics, invention, the psychology of science, and communications. He worked for two years as a program director in the Science, Technology & Society program at the National Science Foundation and is president of the International Society for the Psychology of Science and Technology.

End Notes

1. Braden R. Allenby and Daniel R. Sarewitz, The Techno-Human Condition (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2011).

2. Joseph E. Stiglitz, The Price of Inequality: How Today’s Divided Society Endangers Our Future (New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 2012).

3. Thomas P. Hughes, Rescuing Prometheus: Four Monumental Projects That Changed the Modern World (New York: Pantheon Books, 1998).

4. “Alexander Graham Bell’s Path to the Telephone,” available at http://www2.iath.virginia.edu/albell/homepage.html.

5. Claude S. Fischer, America Calling (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1992).

6. W. Bernard Carlson, “Entrepreneurship in the Early Development of the Telephone: How Did William Orton and Gardiner Hubbard Conceptualize this New Technology?”, Business and Economic History 23 (2) (1994): 161-192.

7. Fischer, America Calling.

8. Carl Benedikt Frey and Michael A. Osborne, “The Future of Employment: How Susceptible Are Jobs to Computerisation?” (2013), available at http://www.futuretech.ox.ac.uk/sites/futuretech.ox.ac.uk/files/The_Future_of_Employment_OMS_Working_Paper_0.pdf.

9. Ibid.

10. Natalie Sabadish and Lawrence Mishel, “CEO Pay in 2012 Was Extraordinarily High Relative to Typical Workers and Other High Earners” (Washington: Economic Policy Institute, 2013), available at http://www.epi.org/publication/ceo-pay-2012-extraordinarily-high/.

11. Robert K. Merton, Social Theory and Social Structure, Free Press, 1968, p. 7.

12. Ibid, p. 57.

13. Kurt Eichenwald, Conspiracy of Fools: A True Story (New York: Broadway Books, 2005).

14. Lynne W. Jeter, Disconnected: Deceit and Betrayal at WorldCom (Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2003).

15. J. David Kuo, Dot.Bomb: My Days and Nights at an Internet Goliath (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 2001).

16. Michael E. Gorman, Erwin P. Gianchandani, and James C. Spohrer, “Brave New University: How Convergence Might Transform Academia.” In Mihail C. Roco and others, eds., Convergence of Knowledge, Technology and Society: Beyond Convergence of Nano-Bio-Info-Cognitive Technologies (Cham, Switzerland: Springer, 2013).

17. Scott Patterson, Dark Pools: High-Speed Traders, AI Bandits, and the Threat to the Global Financial System (New York: Crown Business, 2012).

18. Chinese scientists tried to edit the gene related to a hereditary blood disorder; they used human embryos that had been fertilized by two sperm, meaning the embryos were not viable. Splicing succeeded in half of the embryos, but almost none contained the new genetic material. Disturbingly, mutations were induced in other genes.

19. Aaron Smith and Janna Anderson, “AI, Robotics, and the Future of Jobs,” Pew Research Center, August 6, 2014, available at http://www.pewinternet.org/2014/08/06/future-of-jobs/.

20. Jim Tankersley, “The College Trap that Keeps People Poor,” The Washington Post, December 15, 2014, available at http://www.washingtonpost.com/sf/business/2014/12/15/the-college-trap-that-keeps-people-poor/.

21. Lyndsey Layton, “Majority of U.S. public school students are in poverty,” The Washington Post, January 17, 2015, available at https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/education/majority-of-us-public-school-students-are-in-poverty/2015/01/15/df7171d0-9ce9-11e4-a7ee-526210d665b4_story.html.

22. Joshua Davis, Spare Parts: Four Undocumented Teenagers, One Ugly Robot, and the Battle for the American Dream (New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2014).

23. Pew Research Center, “The Rising Cost of Not Going to College,” February 11, 2014, available at http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2014/02/11/the-rising-cost-of-not-going-to-college/.

24. Amartya Sen, Development as Freedom (New York: Anchor Books, 2000).

25. Layton, “Majority of U.S. public school students are in poverty.”

26. Frank Levy and Richard J. Murnane, “Dancing with Robots: Human Skills for Computerized Work” (Washington: Third Way, 2014), available at http://content.thirdway.org/publications/714/Dancing-With-Robots.pdf. For more on the lack of stable teachers, see: Emma Brown, “High-poverty schools often staffed by rotating cast of substitutes,” The Washington Post, December 4, 2015, available at https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/education/how-can-students-learn-without-teachers-high-poverty-schools-often-staffed-by-rotating-cast-of-substitutes/2015/12/04/be41579a-92c6-11e5-b5e4-279b4501e8a6_story.html.

27. Lyndsey Layton and Emma Brown, “The ultimate in school choice or school as a commodity?”, The Washington Post, June 3, 2015, available at http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/education/in-nevada-school-choice-on-steroids-and-a-breakthrough-for-conservatives/2015/06/03/3cdd2300-09ff-11e5-95fd-d580f1c5d44e_story.html?hpid=z4.

28. From 2008-2014, Virginia joined 47 states in cutting spending on higher education. See: Michael Mitchell and Michael Leachman, “Years of Cuts Threaten to Put College Out of Reach for More Students” (Washington: Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, 2015), available at http://www.cbpp.org/research/years-of-cuts-threaten-to-put-college-out-of-reach-for-more-students.

29.  President’s Scientific Research Board, 1947, vol. 1, p. 3.

30. Lawrence E. Gladieux, “Federal Student Aid Policy: A History and an Assessment,” available at https://www2.ed.gov/offices/OPE/PPI/FinPostSecEd/gladieux.html.

31. William G. Gale and others, “Student Loans Rising: An Overview of Causes, Consequences, and Policy Options” (Washington: Brookings Institution, 2014), available at http://www.urban.org/research/publication/student-loans-rising/view/full_report.

32. Lumina Foundation, “A Benchmark for Making College Affordable: The Rule of 10” (2015), available at http://www.luminafoundation.org/files/resources/affordability-benchmark-1.pdf.

33. MIT Open Courseware, “New Courses,” available at http://ocw.mit.edu/courses/new-courses/.

34. Jim Tankersley, “Study: Kids can learn as much from ‘Sesame Street’ as from preschool,” The Washington Post, June 7, 2015, available at http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/economy/sesame-street-and-its-surprisingly-powerful-effects-on-how-children-learn/2015/06/07/59c73fe4-095c-11e5-9e39-0db921c47b93_story.html?tid=trending_strip_2.

35. Quora, “Will the courses provided by organizations like Udacity, Coursera and edX remain free forever? If so, what is their business model and revenue stream?”, available at http://www.quora.com/Will-the-courses-provided-by-organizations-like-Udacity-Coursera-and-edX-remain-free-forever-If-so-what-is-their-business-model-and-revenue-stream.

36. For more on T-shaped expertise, see the website for the 2015 conference at Michigan State, available at http://tsummit2014.org.

37. Funded by the NSF Nanotechnology Undergraduate Education program, SES 021452.

38. For more on the distance learning program, see: “U.Va. Engineers Produced in Virginia,” available at http://www.seas.virginia.edu/acad/programs/producedinva/.

39. In “Civilization,” the players work their way up a tree of technologies, each later one dependent on some combination of earlier ones. Hunting, for example, is a prerequisite for archery.

40. Tom Wheeler, chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, has proposed to fix this problem by subsidizing access for low-income Americans. See: Brian Fung, “The FCC wants to expand Internet subsidies for the poor,” The Washington Post, May 28, 2015, available at http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/the-switch/wp/2015/05/28/the-fcc-wants-to-expand-internet-subsidies-for-the-poor/. For more details on the demographics, see: Aaron Smith, “Technology Adoption by Lower Income Populations,” Pew Research Center, October 8, 2013, available at http://www.pewinternet.org/2013/10/08/technology-adoption-by-lower-income-populations/.

41. Amy E. Slaton, “The Closing of NanoInk: What Social Scientists See,” February 24, 2013.

42. IBM, “Beyond IT: IBM’s Role in Creating the Workforce of the Future” (2009), available at http://www-05.ibm.com/de/ibm/engagement/university_relations/pdf/Beyond_IT_report_IBM_Workforce_of_the_Future.pdf.

43. Jena McGregor, “CEO says he will pay college tuition for all of his employees’ children,” The Washington Post, May 28, 2015, available at http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/on-leadership/wp/2015/05/28/ceo-says-he-will-pay-college-tuition-for-all-of-his-employees-children/.

44. Michael Leachman and Chris Mai, “Most States Still Funding Schools Less Than Before the Recession” (Washington: Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, 2014), available at http://www.cbpp.org/research/most-states-still-funding-schools-less-than-before-the-recession.

45. Education depends not only on schools open to all income levels, but also on living long enough to get to school. The U.S. infant mortality rate is higher than that of its European equivalents because of the lack of postnatal care available to families in poverty. See: Alice Chen, Emily Oster, and Heidi Williams, “Why is infant mortality higher in the US than in Europe?”, September 29, 2014, available at http://faculty.chicagobooth.edu/emily.oster/papers/imr.pdf.

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