Posted by: crudbasher | March 18, 2011

Education Reform is About Time – Part 2

Yesterday (Part 1 here) I talked about human life expectancy and how it has been going up quite a bit over the last 100 years. A scientist and inventor named Ray Kurzweil speculates that by 2045, life expectancy will actually add more than a year per year. This means you won’t ever die.  How this might happen is beyond the scope of what I want to talk about. The effect of this is the focus of this post. It’s all about Time.

“Time is more valuable than money. You can get more money, but you cannot get more time.” – Jim Rohn

“We don’t have an eternity to realize our dreams, only the time we are here.” – Susan Taylor

(cc) Robbert van der Steeg

The quote above from Susan Taylor is quite interesting. Throughout history poets and philosophers have comment on life’s finality and it’s brevity. It seems we never have enough time. But what if you did? What would that change? How are things changing right now? Let’s look at a few areas.


When most of the social services in the US were created last century the math mostly worked out. Take Medicare for example.

In 1967, the House Ways and Means Committee said the entire Medicare program would cost $12 billion in 1990. The actual cost in 1990 was $98 billion. – Washington Times

Why? Partly it’s because people are living much longer now. Our medical care is much more advanced but as you get older it costs more to extend a life. There are other reasons of course but that is the main one.

Social Security, Medicaid are all the same too. These three entitlements are eating the US budget.

The other financial issue is pensions. Most private companies have ditched defined benefit pensions. These are where the employer says they will pay you a certain amount a year for the rest of your life after you retire. That’s great if you can get it but it’s open ended. As people are living longer it can place a huge financial burden on the company. A former CEO of GM once said (I’m paraphrasing from memory) “I’m the CEO of a retirement plan that also makes cars”.

As I said most of these pensions are gone in the private sector. Unfortunately they are creating a large burden in the public sector. Many government workers still get pensions that have to be paid by tax dollars. This creates a large problem in bad economic times that we have now.  It’s a messy situation that I won’t attempt to solve here, but this is again caused because people are living much longer now. If you retire at 60 after working for 40 years you can expect to live at least 30 more years and maybe much more.  How does this get paid for?

Societal Changes

I think living much longer is causing many changes in society. Have you noticed how young people around college age don’t seem to be in any kind of hurry to get a career? You can argue that it’s always been like that but I think it’s becoming more pronounced. People are waiting longer to have children too. Subliminally perhaps we have felt like we have more time? Another issue is some people are retiring later, thus slowing advancement for younger people. I think this is partly responsible for how younger people change jobs a lot more often.


Now add this to the mix. Technological progress has been accelerating. Ray Kurzweil has said that we will experience the same amount of technological progress that we saw in the 100 years of the 20th century in the next 20 years. That’s staggering. People don’t see it coming because it’s never happened before. Disruptive change is like that. An arrow is hardest to see when it’s heading right for your head.

The biggest impact technology has to the longevity problem is that technology can replace workers. The current economic times are kind of weird. Businesses are reporting profits, but they aren’t hiring workers.  I think that’s because they are replacing many workers with technology instead. It’s usually a lot cheaper over the long run.

Conclusion Part 2

So here is the current situation. People are living much longer lives but much of our society was designed for a time where that wasn’t the case. Obviously some adjustments will need to be made.

Monday will come the last part where I talk about where I think education will fit in to this new societial model. (continue to Part 3)


  1. […] This is my final part of a series of postings about time and how human longevity is changing many things in the world. Today we finally get to talk about how education will be changed. Here are links to Part 1 and Part 2. […]

  2. […] Tomorrow I will explore how our society is already changing because of longer life expectancy and how it relates to education. (continue to Part 2) […]

  3. […] Reform Is About Time – Part 1  Part 2 Part […]

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