Galileo’s work landed him the title “father of modern physics.” He was a scientist, but his work was heavily observational based. Advanced mathematics to explain his most complex work didn’t exist until…
Newton came along. Newton built the framework of calculus, established the laws of motion and universal gravitation and performed numerous works on other topics in astronomy, optics, and various physics. He was a scientist like Galileo, but then started building new fields of mathematics.
Euler became one of the most prolific mathematicians of all time, writing more volumes of work than any other mathematician. He contributed to physics and mechanics, but did so by working out the complex mathematics for them in the form of proofs. When he needed data to prove out the realities, he would enlist the help of scientists, if he wasn’t enlisted by them to help with the mathematics in the first place.
Eiffel then wanted to apply the work of these men and others, to build the tallest tower the world had ever seen. It took creating a team of many engineers to pull it off.
Galileo did his work in the early to mid 1600s. Newton in the mid to late 1600s. Euler in the early to mid 1700s. And Eiffel in the 1800s. The point of talking about these gentlemen is to show that over time our knowledge is growing, fracturing into new fields and being turned into amazing applications. There is a rising technical overhead, as each generation has to study all the work of the previous ones. In Galileo’s day, the highest level of mathematics professors may know is geometry. Today, that’s taught in high school, or earlier even.
This ever increasing level of knowledge will lead to longer and longer educations required to reach an adequate starting point to develop on what others have done up until the current time.
What if at some point in the future, it takes someone the first 50 years of their life to reach the ability to add to a field? How do we push past that? What if it grows to an entire lifetime? How could we solve that issue before it happens?
I’ll give some thoughts, in a general sense, because each these will require their own discussion:
- Use technology to increase educational efficiency, how fast we learn.
- Be generous and start teaching each other what we know. This is is already happening, Khan Academy for example. This gives people a chance to choose when they learn the next subject, rather than waiting on the curriculum to get there.
- Develop an AI that can learn or synthesize information. Though depending on who you ask, this may be the end of mankind.
- Develop an ever more fractured number of learning and career paths leading to more specialization than ever. To pull this off will require phasing out lower skilled positions that can be automated in order to have enough people to train in more advanced fields.
This problem is something that can be seen spanning centuries. Today, far more careers exist than a century ago. Applications Engineer, Software Engineer, Electrical Engineer, Semiconductor Engineer, are all examples of jobs that didn’t exist. There is no easy solution, but at least looking at it now is a chance to start thinking about what the future could be.