There is something very wrong with our cultural structure that may make it impossible to build a future with Machine Intelligence. How we operate our social structures exposes ways of dealing with each other that are not individual-centered. Too often we shut down individuals and reward leaders identified in ways that overpower the many and reward the few. Our culture is based on competition. These systems are set up to select a few winners and make everyone else the losers with little value.

Think about it! There is usually only one class valedictorian out of a class of hundreds. The myth is that by creating a competition, everyone will be motivated. In fact, it has the opposite effect. It teaches that if you aren’t in the top tier, you are a loser. This has the potential to damage one’s self-esteem and reinforces the notion that power can only belong to a limited few.

The winning football team does not motivate those they defeat. It damages the losing players hopes and dreams squelching their future potential for contribution. The winners won as a team effort, but usually only the quarterback and maybe the coach are given the accolades as winners. The rest of the individuals on the team are treated as replaceable bodies purchased at auction.

In each of these cases the hopes and dreams, talents, strengths, and the potential of individuals on both sides are ignored or shut down. In our culture if you are not a winner you are a loser and your opinion and contributions no longer count. The political party that wins an election is able to quiet the voices and ideas of the losers. Take the case of Al Gore. When the Supreme Court overturned the popular vote and gave the election to George Bush, Gore was forced into relative obscurity. We as a culture lost the benefit of a great leader.

Our ‘winner takes all’ culture perpetuates systems that lose the richness of contribution from the vast majority of people who are viewed as losers. This limits the creative participation of most citizens in the crafting of a rich and vibrant society. They are viewed as easily replaceable parts and the culture is diminished by the loss of their insight.

Entire systems have evolved over time that have devised tests and even teaching techniques which result in shaming and damaging individuals. It is obvious that the only way to overcome the bad effects of competitive systems is to introduce collaborative systems. This must start in schools where students are not placed into situations where they are competing with fellow students, many of whom are at different maturation levels, of a different sex, and have different early childhood experiences. It is not a level playing field.

Every student can be successful in collaborative systems that are focused on solving real problems that affect their lives. All members have a voice and the rich interchange of ideas results in a more inclusive process.

The plan that results has the potential to make a stronger contribution to both the individual members and the greater society. It is not limited to the world view of a single winner. From the onset, each member knows they are empowered to be heard and make a contribution.

Success is not a limited commodity. There is enough to go around. Education must empower students, not shame them or dull their brilliance. That does not mean that educators must coddle students or reduce their standards.

Learning to collaborate effectively with others and to not dwell on competition is fundamental to achieving success in this new world driven by Machine Intelligence; an intelligence far superior to our own. Corporate America is already moving to develop collaborative systems instead of the top-down dictatorial structure designed to create unthinking, inexpensive, easily replaceable workers. Only a few educators understand the gravity of this new challenge. They are stuck in the old model of career fairs and programs to enhance scores on standardized tests like the SAT and ACT. Students who follow the rules and buy into this competitive school structure are being trained as drones without a true manifestation of their individual gifts. It is these very gifts and their unique nature that will make them valued and successful in the future. Otherwise, they will quickly become redundant and replaceable by AI-driven systems.