Uncredentialled people from outside the universities produce most of the world's innovation
Just a short comment to thank everyone for their insightful and thoughtful remarks. I'd like to respond in more detail, but I have a media commitment that requires travel tomorrow and a piece to file by COB Friday. Presence around here will be light to variable.
Excellent article. It is like the people with useless college degrees these days, posing as intellectuals. This is a well written article with some history and present mixed in to make some excellent points. True innovation comes from people who have critical thinking skills outside the box.
The notion that progress flows from Basic Science down to Engineering, is, as you noted a long term
conceit of scientists. The more usual route is that the engineers get something to work, the scientists go back and analyse why the thing worked, and then, armed with a better theory of what is going on, the engineers make improvements and end up with something that does it better. Then the scientists point at the recent deal and say 'look, look, engineering is downstream of theory and basic knowledge!' One of the reasons that this is not widely known, and why, for instance the Apollo program was touted as 'a triumph of science' as opposed to one of engineering has to do with the relationship that Vannevar Bush had with Roosevelt, Truman and then Eisenhower.
If the Mililtary Industrial Complex had a father it was Vannevar Bush. He tirelessly advocated for pots of government money to go for research and development -- see for instance "Science The Endless Frontier A Report to the President by Vannevar Bush, Director of the Office of Scientific Research and Development, July 1945" https://www.nsf.gov/about/history/vbush1945.htm and he knew perfectly well that what he was advocating was 'better living through engineering'. But Roosevelt, Truman and Eisenhower all had very strong prejudices against the Army Corp of Engineers, based on personal experience. It appears that some of the members of the Army Corp of Engineers weren't particularly bright. This translated into a prejudice against engineering in general. So Bush knew that the notion of handing pots and pots of tax dollars to some engineers to do engineering was never going to receive approval. Thus his pitch was, relentlessly, 'we must do it all for Science' and 'We need more Basic Science'. He writes about this in his book 'Pieces of the Action' -- which I think that all historians, whatever their period, would enjoy reading.
I think that this is why the myth that 'science comes first' is so enduring. Vannevar Bush was one of the best and most successful myth-makers of the 20th century, and this was one of his.
Great piece. On a personal note, it's really depressing to be the first generation in your family to get past o-levels, let alone go to uni, and find out just how pointless much of it is.
"University" acts like a pyramid scheme in some ways. Where I live, the Uni is the biggest employer, especially for admin staff (studentification is a real thing and a big problem imo, but that's a different essay).
The uni demands degrees for quite basic jobs, possibly to capture plenty of its own graduates and therefore boost its stats (over x% of our graduates get jobs after their degree, send your kids here!). I remember an ad for a PA job, approx £23k p.a., they wanted a first class degree. Absolute piss-take. We're seemingly trapped in a constant state of qualification inflation. Qualiflation, if you will. A waste.
For a regime seeking to perpetuate itself the great challenge is how to suppress talent where it is not needed and how to counterfeit the appearance of merit where it is. The present system does this effectively enough.
Merit gets its chance only when the survival of the regime is at stake. Without a serious, imminent, threat, the system will go on as before. People will grumble.
The pious frauds of higher education are transparent enough. The institutions that count are aware of the problems and are starting to recruit technical trainees with serious ability straight from high school. The fixation with credentials will misdirect the attention and energy of midwit drones and the terminally naive.
It is worth remembering that the big pushes for expanding higher came after WW2 and then after the end of the Cold War. The first had some basis in the needs of rapidly developing economies, the second was a ruse to make up for wage stagnation and persistent unemployment.
I've often thought that school children would be better off learning about people like Maudsley (who started work at 12) Whitworth and Wilkinson, etc. None of them went even close to a university and are arguably key figures in the industrial revolution, which in itself has been far more important to our modern life than most of the history we study.
Indeed, we have gone too far along the path of credentialism. We are witnessing credential inflation as well. As I wrote here: https://www.lianeon.org/p/not-qualified-but-overqualified, "while the mean IQ of a graduate student in the 1960s was 114, that fell to 105.8 by the 2000s. For undergraduates, the mean IQ dropped from 111.3 to 100.4 by the 2010s. Given that, by definition, an IQ of 100 is average, a college degree now merely signals average intelligence to potential employers. A college-educated person today scores barely a point higher than a High School educated person did in the 1960s."
This, among other reasons, is why we are going to need occupation reform, to disinflate credential inflation, and change the way that we finance and operate higher education.
A response to a comment, which I think should be more visible:
Finland trumped even Blair in their desire for university take-up. A nation that fought the Soviet Union to a score draw twice when aka Russia could fight its' way to Berlin and beyond, not just out of a wet paper bag, has succumbed to fear of a Russia half the size that has been struggling to fight its' way out of a wet paper bag for 17 months and I'd argue joined NATO as a direct consequence. Switzerland has joined the UN. Countries don't get stupider but their governments and bureaucracies certainly give a good impression of doing so with this dumbing down of unis.
“Authoritarian states can produce excellent science.”
🇺🇸 government isn’t Authoritarian in any sense of Centralized Authority. More of a free for all scramble for money, status, lawsuits, denunciations.
It’s rather like the French Assembly with the denunciations by borderline personalities with the soul of Murat but not his courage. No Danton, no mob, no pikes, no storming of the Bastille. Brats smashing up Starbucks then Daddy’s lawyers get them out of jail.
It’s sort of Performance Artist playacting at Bastille Day. They don’t have the Balls or physical strength to see it through.
The real enforcement mechanisms are The Media, which functions as our ghey fake KGB. The STASI economic side is people in their same Striver group get cancelled and have to go on Substack; but you see LW and the rest needed to be dead or in a labor camp for this to work, for L Ws tormentors to be safe. They’re not safe. They know they’re not safe, they know they’re weak cowards.
In 🇺🇸 the man with skills and a Don’t F with me attitude can always change jobs or start his own business (I became an LLC in 5 mins and $1500 for tax purposes, the filing took about 30 days but they handled it).
Not to mention if you have skills and a work ethic you’ll be fine IF you’re not so gutless as to be a doormat. Even so it will just be the office shirkers giving you their work.
Burly men especially with skills are fine. We’re waiting.
The only real danger is these idiots sensing their out, maybe dead or worst of all having to work 🤣 is they fire the Nukes in some Nero order. Possible, getting less likely. In nuclear war terms the most dangerous year for humanity was 2022.
You’re looking at the family tragedies shrieking at the prospect of living on their own merits.
You’re also looking at a fire sale.
Want an Ivy Degree? Sure ! 🤦🏿♂️
Want Roe overthrown? DONE!
Want factories back? TIDAL WAVE, the 2 biggest problems not enough workers, running out of real estate ( you need transportation, water, power, labor base). But these are the right problems! CHIPS Ahoy!
Want a check for being black?
Look it’s Perestroika and Glasnost all over again, with aging cowards and pederasts instead of aging killers of the USSR.
Look if Brezhnev were Gay = 🇺🇸
Charlotte Iserbyt is notable among those describing the long agenda of mis-education in America, and to paraphrase Bertrand Russell from his third autobiography, if memory serves, schooling seemed relentlessly committed to trying to prevent people from thinking well. Add fluoride to water, and subject virtually every person alive today from birth to relentless mass media crap, and we graduate to the contemporary tendency to make sure that kindergarten children are exposed to adult sexual perversion, in lieu of alphabets and numbers.
But there is hope. 'Blue collar'-ish truckers by the thousands drove thousands of miles in the Canadian winter and occupied parts of Ottawa peacefully, inspirational for much of humanity, made the city safer, cleaner, funner, to the outraged consternation of many highly educated Canadians and fomenting in-your-face weak-kneed totalitarian-flavoured dysfunction in the governments across Canada.
The truckers had de facto advanced degrees in common sense, driving through snow and sleet with their senses alert, along with whatever other formal credentials.
“berating US police officers for not going to college. “
The police ob in _____ county FL didn’t go to my friend, because the other guy had a Masters degree. If you think that’s something look at “outside” hires for NYPD. Green Berets, PhD.
*outside the “family” 🍀.
I met the Fireman’s NYFF 🍀 society once on St Patrick’s day in Manhattan. He was head of Fireman’s 🍀 society.
He was coal black man 👨🏿.
In NYPD same deal.
And in Blood 🩸 Trades Nepotism is actually best practice.
Tom Wolfe was telling the truth, they all want to be ☘️ cops, even the DA lawyers.
Rule by the best was never Aristocracy...
🗡 this was Aristocracy
Great article! It occurs to me that the association of university attendance with “a more skilled and productive workforce” rests on the assumption that students graduate from programs that are of use to society (ex.STEM). While a liberal arts education can lead to a more rounded person, they are only useful if students are taught how to think instead of what to think. Many other programs (ex. women’s/gender/queer studies) provide no benefit to society and only benefit the individual if the graduate goes on to teach (in which case the new teacher is just perpetuating the problem).
"The fact that China can do that — it’s a genuine and successful example of what is probably best described as “authoritarian capitalism” — is a powerful counterclaim to Ridley’s “small state” argument, one that, to his credit, he tackles head-on. He accepts that China’s innovation and economic growth has killed off the Whiggish belief that economic freedom would lead ineluctably to political liberty. He then does his level best to explain how, and to sound a note of caution. Maybe Xi Jinping’s authoritarianism will kill the goose that laid the golden egg. And maybe it won’t."
The problem is the safeguard for innovators in the West (patents) has been thoroughly compromised by the intel agencies/Deep State to protect their interest, and cooperative corporate interests. The West now has the worst of both worlds, China only has half. Imagine if the West had both...