(Elavalagan, Dec 11, 2020)
Throughout our known history there were dozens of civilizations that appeared from nowhere and then disappeared in ruins – all within a handful of generations.Tigris-Euphrates river/Mesopotamian Civilization, Indus Valley/Hindu Civilization, Yellow River/Chinese Civilization, Nile River/Egyptian Civilization, and Mayan Civilization are a few that come to mind. Similarly, there might have been even more dead civilizations beyond our known history.
Now, it appears that today’s incumbent alpha-nation, the mighty United States of America, may have also possibly passed the peak of its glorious days, and started its slow journey downhill.
Seeing these, have you ever wondered why these civilizations die sooner or later, instead of keeping their hard earned influence forever?
If the growth of a civilization is purely achieved by the talent of the people alone, then one might argue that the same people could have been able to maintain their achievements forever. For that, they simply had to keep doing what they had been doing. So what caused these amazing civilizations to fail in few generations?
Though there could very well be multiple causes for the fall of these civilizations, is it possible that knowledge poisoning from excessive knowledge have been one of the common reasons?And how can excessive knowledge turn into knowledge poisoning anyway?
Our early age education is a knowledge-oriented education. First, we teach the young people at least one language, the tool to communicate with, and math, the tool to quantify things. Using these two vital tools, they learn a wide variety of extended knowledge like basic science, physics, accounting, engineering and so on in the middle and high schools. Continued collection of these diverse knowledge of living at moderate scale makes one a diverse person – a person who is highly productive for the whole family and the generations beyond (the blue line in the Knowledge Depth and Diversity chart).
A diverse person with wide a variety of practical knowledge for everyday life is the best member for the whole family. This type of person can contribute to their family in every front. They are the best candidates for a self-sustainable family even with middle or lower family income. They outsource their services and they consume very little or almost nothing. They look after their growing, cooking, cleaning, fixing, grooming, and everything else as much as they can. These average activities don’t need an expert level know-how either. Diverse family members are deeply connected to the everyday lives of their kids, grandkids, great grandkids, extended families etc. They make the whole family chain continue stronger for several generations.
On the flip side, these diverse people may not lead their nation into jaw-dropping innovations and wealth making creations. Their nations are unable to reach the leading-edge tools and tricks to dominate the world. Without the leading-edge tools and tricks, their nation may not achieve the alpha-nation status of the world. Instead these nations will continue to depend on other alpha-nations for the newly marketed innovations and creations. Because of the critical dependency these nations easily become the target of the alpha nations’ economic sanctions, military attacks, sociopolitical annihilation etc.
The diversity in teaching through the educational system that started in the early ages literally ends after high school.
Beyond high school, our knowledge-oriented education turns into job-oriented education. No one goes to colleges or universities to learn things to enhance their own everyday family life. Everything we learn in colleges and universities are directly oriented to our career selection and growth. Once a job-oriented field is picked, most start to excel in that field alone, at the expense of all other fields so she/he can thrive in the chosen industry. Possibly this is the point where a diverse person turns into a single-matter expert who is very good for the country at large but may not be so good for the whole family (the green line in the chart). Of course this generalization is not clear as black and white, but at large we can see the tendency.
One of the recent high-end job postings in America says the candidate should be available 24/7/365 to work. Yes, they want the future employee to be ready to work 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and 365 days a year. A similar expectation for high-end jobs in China in these days is called 996: working 9:00 am to 9:00 pm, 6 days a week. It is an interesting example where a formerly average labor-centric China is now demanding for single-matter experts to fuel its march to become an alpha-nation.
After becoming a single-matter expert, one coupling his or her whole life to the career they are in is normal nowadays. Now, do these single-matter experts have enough time and energy to gather and apply any other knowledge or experiences provided their whole life is sacrificed to the industry they have chosen to work for? The answer is “No”.
Due to lack of time and energy, single-matter experts tend to buy all their everyday goods and services from others using the fortune they make from the single-matter expert employment. Even the smaller everyday services like cooking, cleaning, interacting with their kids are mostly outsourced. Doing so financially and time-wise may make sense for them, but the close knit family chain may fall apart over time.
The following is just a simple example to see how the demand for single-matter experts erodes an alpha-nation slowly like cancer. Single-matter expert centric companies like Apple, Facebook, Google, Intel, Snapchat, Uber, and Yahoo have been offering their single-matter expert employees egg freezing benefits. Remember only about 1.8% of the frozen eggs are ending up with live birth. But for these top notch companies the current and the near future financial quarters are more important than families and continued growth of that civilization.
Who can produce better future generations, the babies born to aged single-matter expert parents with the use of frozen eggs or the babies born to young parents with a diverse depth of knowledge? Time will answer that question. Giving birth is only a small part of grooming a healthy generation, including the future generation of single-matter experts.
No wonder why the present-day alpha nations like the United States of America are already starting to import large quantities of single-matter experts from other nations these days. But will importing single-matter experts be sustainable? Can an alpha-nation retain its alpha-nation status just by importing single-matter experts forever?
Further, we should also have a closer look at the sociopolitical decisions the single-matter experts make, outside the field of their expertise. The sociopolitical decisions and directions taken by the number one alpha-nation, the US, in these days are not painting a pretty picture at all. How can average and below average knowledge members of the media enterprises and politicians be able to divide and conquer an alpha-nation that is full of single-matter experts?
For a nation to thrive as an alpha, single-matter experts are vital. But for that nation to survive as an alpha-nation generation after generation, all-around diverse people are vital. It looks like no civilization was able to master how to balance both, so we may see history repeat itself, as no alpha-nation will be able to keep its hold forever.