I have been writing over the past several months about the conflict between pioneers of the future and prison guards of the past. As I describe in my new book, Breakout, there is an old order of bureaucrats, regulators, and lobbyists who use their power to prop up the past and block the future in field after field. Today, I want to share updates on two fronts: transportation and learning.
The biggest news out of the Geneva Auto Show this week is Apple’s mobile operating system for cars, which will bring Siri to models from a dozen manufacturers. But even Siri is primitive compared to the latest in automotive technology from Google, which has developed cars that drive themselves on public roads for hundreds of thousands of miles with no accidents. Most of the major car companies are now racing to create self-driving cars of their own.
This is an important breakthrough with huge implications for auto-safety, since nearly all accidents are the result of human error. Replacing a human driver with a competent computer could virtually eliminate traffic accidents: the computers’ attention doesn’t wander, they don’t suffer from declining health, and they don’t drive drunk.
What does the federal agency in charge of assuring auto safety have to say about a technology that could save millions of lives? As Don Howard and Mark Mills wrote in the Wall Street Journal recently:
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)...is putting the brakes on the driverless revolution. In 2012, Kevin Vincent, the agency's chief counsel, went so far as to call it ‘a scary concept’ for the public.
NHTSA envisions years of further research and ‘does not recommend at this time that states permit operation of self-driving vehicles for purposes other than testing.’ Four states have already passed laws allowing the testing of self-driving cars—Florida, California, Nevada and Michigan. But if states pass legislation legalizing the public sale and use of self-driving cars, NHTSA says it will intervene to ‘evaluate their relationship to Federal Motor Vehicle Standards’—an unsubtle threat
Howard and Mills also note that NHTSA has resisted for years issuing standards for vehicle-to-vehicle communication that could let cars “talk” to each other to prevent accidents, and is only now finally getting around to “considering” the issue.
Of course, NHTSA’s behavior isn’t completely irrational in these cases. After all, if we legalized cars that could drive themselves almost perfectly and would almost never get into accidents, we wouldn’t need a giant bureaucracy to write thousands of pages of auto safety requirements.
Shutting Down Job Opportunities
The other update from the frontier is in learning. One of the major themes in Breakout is the importance of rethinking education for the 21st century so that people can learn affordably what they need, when they need it to get a job.
A number of “coding boot camps” for teens and adults transitioning to new careers have popped up in California to meet exactly that need. For a few thousand dollars (which is often covered by scholarships), these learn-to-code camps bring aspiring computer programmers up to speed with everything they need to know to get a job. And some camps, such as Hack Reactor, place nearly all their students in jobs at top-tier technology companies.
But California’s Bureau for Private Postsecondary Education is threatening to shut these programs down unless they submit to the agency’s demands that they be regulated like colleges. According to VentureBeat:
These bootcamps have not yet been approved by the BPPE and are therefore being classified as unlicensed postsecondary educational institutions that must seek compliance or be forcibly shut down....The bootcamps fear that they will go bankrupt as regulatory processes can take up to 18 months.
As the founder of Hack Reactor told the publication, “I would like to be part of a group that creates those standards....However, what that looks like and what makes sense for our schools is not necessarily going to fit in the current regulations.”
The bureaucrats might be better off taking Hack Reactor’s classes themselves, rather than spending their time trying to drive out of business organizations that are making hundreds of teenagers, women, and minorities employable in high-paying jobs.
These stories about the battle between pioneers of the future and prison guards of the past are just two of the latest examples of a fight that is taking place in nearly every industry. Send me your own examples of pioneers and prison guards in the comments here.
P.S. Autographed copies of Callista's new children's book, Yankee Doodle Dandy, and my new book, Breakout: Pioneers of the Future, Prison Guards of the Past, and the Epic Battle That Will Decide America’s Fate are now available in the Gingrich Productions store. Order both books today!
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