Yesterday, UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak unveiled his vision for the country. I was most interested in his proposal that pupils study mathematics (UK abbrev.: maths) up to the age of 18. He said: “Letting our children out into the world without those skills is letting our children down.”
Yes, it is letting our children down, and I would go further. If we let the young generation’s maths skills wither, encouraging their dependence on apps to calculate everything, the UK can easily turn into a high-tech dystopia with no speed-bumps.
And further still: not putting maths front and center could put the UK in a dangerous master and servant situation—master being the algorithms, servant being us humans.
More books for me to write 🙂
Sure, I write dystopian fiction, with an emphasis on technology, so something like this is high on my radar. I’ve researched the negative consequences of robotics and tech, and I’ve created story worlds that illustrate it; sci-fi readers and audiences also know the dangers of uncontrolled algorithms. Tech gone mad isn’t pretty.
Sunak’s maths policy empowers the UK population to remain in control. How? Algorithms do need to be assessed and analysed, and only humans with bullet-proof maths skill can monitor them. Imagine that! Humans monitor tech. Love it!
Not everyone is a natural maths whiz, but everyone does use maths. So, I don’t get what the critics aren’t getting about Rishi Sunak’s far-sighted proposal. To all the critics, poking holes and trashing it, I say: Do you cook? Does anyone in your family cook? Most people who cook, work with maths in terms of ratios and measurements and weights.
Picture my kitchen this Thanksgiving:
One cook in the kitchen asked: “What is 350 degrees Fahrenheit in Celsius?” Everyone froze, a long silence followed. Then, all at once, three people brought out their phones and opened up a temperature app. Then, more distraction followed. We got the turkey in the oven eventually, thank God. My point is: dinner almost didn’t make it, that’s how reliant we are on apps.
You remember the class smart-ass? (Every classroom had one.) They’d say, “I’m not going to use algebra in my life, so who cares.” Five years down the line, smart-ass is reconstructing a portion of their house, saying, “Wish I’d worked harder in that algebra class.”
From the telephone systems we use to the cars we drive to the appliances in our homes, algorithms are increasingly running our lives. If humans don’t get ahead of algorithms, the algorithms will get ahead of humans.
There is zero doubt humanity is moving into a high-tech world. The questions are: Who will be in charge of the tech? Who would you like to see in charge?
I wasn’t a huge Rishi Sunak fan when he started, and I was disappointed with the Conservative Party for a time, but this policy is a vision for the country I can get behind.