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Millennials and the Pursuit
of Human Knowledge:
Another Case for STEAM
At a conference a few years ago, I
was leading what was supposed to
have been a roundtable discussion on
robots and 3D printing. But one comment early on derailed us quickly into
much more existential matters.
“The kids coming into my shop don’t
know anything,” someone said. “They
want to use their phones for everything.”
The rest of the room—filled almost
entirely with baby boomers and early Gen-Xers—nodded in agreement.
After a bit of prodding, the guy admitted that his millennial hires do
know the basic stuff—they know their math and engineering, and certainly they understand the technology. Technically, they have everything
the job requires. But, to this crowd, their lack of general knowledge and
their dependence on phones for details made them stupid.
Trivia, this group seemed to think, was intelligence. And until that
point, I tended to agree. Growing up, this was the ultimate social IQ
test—whoever could recount the most obscure facts about a thing
was clearly the smartest person in the room. That’s the same notion
that has probably kept Jeopardy! on the air for so long.
But it’s also, I realized, probably no longer true.
I pulled out my phone and threw it on the table.
“I have access to the totality of human knowledge right here,” I
told them. “What is the point of keeping it all in my head anymore?”
To illustrate the point, we went around the room and listed the last
phone numbers we could remember. Most of us could recall dozens
of digits dating all the way back to grade school. But then our memories all suddenly stopped about 10 years ago when we got our first
smartphones. The best of us could recall three current phone numbers; I only knew one.
It’s the same for everything now, I think. There’s no longer any
point to memorizing minutia, in showing off your trivia knowledge.
And our brains aren’t very good at that kind of thing anyway. But what
they are very good at is synthesis.
Humans have a very keen ability to abstract pieces of information
into a coherent whole—our brains are just story tellers at their core.
And the smartest of us, especially today, are the ones who can synthesize information the best.
This, I argued, is the new definition of intelligence. Anyone can Google a fact, but it takes human intelligence to understand the meaning
of those facts, to understand the system. For a generation of students
that grew up with unfettered access to all knowable things, this has
become the standard. The concern is no longer the things, but what
the things mean. And the best of them, the smartest people and the
most efficient workers of this generation, are the ones who excel at that
along with all their science and technology and engineering and maths.
Which brings us to the point: STEAM > STEM.
As contributor Jesse Z. Melton notes in his article, “The Case for
Adding Art in Technical Curriculums” (p 26), creativity and abstract
thinking aren’t generally taught in STEM courses—if anything they
teach the opposite. But that’s exactly what the arts do teach. And it’s
those “artsy’ concepts that matter the most in the industry today.
Adding creativity and free abstract thinking into an otherwise developed engineering brain gives us a powerful asset. It’s exactly what
we need if we’re going to find new ways to make things, new ways to
harness all of the tech and tools at our disposal, and figure out how
to succeed in this future we’re building.
Memorization doesn’t help us anymore; it’s understanding that
And so, when I look back at that weird roundtable—at which no
one learned a thing about robots or 3D printing—I think I still agree
with our conclusions: trivia is for game shows and parlor tricks; today’s
smart workers know how to think.
Oxide Remover for Stainless Steel
used in the food and dairy processing industries
Compound CR-120N is a nitric acid-based cleaner
for the removal of oxides, oxalates, and milkstone
from stainless steel dairy and food processing
equipment. This liquid, non-foaming product is
acceptable for use in food and beverage plants
as an A3 acid cleaner for use in all departments.
Tanks for Compound CR-120N solutions should
be constructed of stainless steel, acid-proof brick,
ceramic, or synthetic lining.
capable of performing any angle of prep
An electric portable pipe machining tool that is
a powerful alternative to pneumatic tools for end
prepping boiler tubes and other pipe fabrication
work has been introduced.
The ESCO MILLHOG Mini Electric Pipe Beveling
Tool rigidly mounts to the tube or pipe I.D. and
is suited for end prepping heavy-wall stainless
steel pipe and other highly alloyed metals when
compressed air is not available. Featuring a high-torque variable speed motor that spins at 19 to 66
RPM, it is ideal for beveling hard and soft boiler
tubes and pipes from 1.25-in. I.D. to 6.625-in. O.D.
and pulls a thick chip without needing cutting oils.
Capable of performing any angle of prep including compound bevels and J-preps, the beveler
uses the same proven EscoLock cutter blade
holding system as the air-powered version of this
tool. Designed for repetitive end preps, it has a
heavy-duty gear drive and all clamping components are heat treated including the draw rod.